Lemuel had lived at Bart’s farm for over a year now. He’d lived there alone for a couple weeks, but finally Bart had provided him with his own harem of hens, and built him a proper turkey roost for them to live in. His hens soon began laying, and by now there was a respectable flock of turkeys living on the farm.
Bart was a reasonable man. Lemuel knew that farmers collected eggs to (shudder) eat, but Bart left enough so that now there were a lot of turkeys on the farm. Lemuel didn’t know how to count, but Kid, one of the cats from next door said that there were at least four paws worth of turkeys, whatever that meant. She'd tried to explain it to him one time, something about the number of toes on a paw meaning the number of things being counted, but it didn’t make sense to him. Turkeys didn’t have paws.
Last November Kid had given him a scare about some holiday called Thanksgiving, which was a time when humans ate lots of turkeys. She’d said that probably the reason that Bart had only brought home one turkey was that he was going to be fattened up and then killed to be eaten for this special holiday meal. Well Lemuel had taken care of that. First he’d put himself on a diet, leaving most of his food behind no matter how hungry he’d become. That was really tough, particularly since Bart had put out corn almost exclusively, instead of regular feed. Lemuel loved corn more than anything, but he’d just picked at his food, supplementing it with seed heads he found around his run.
When it came close to Thanksgiving, at Kid’s insistence Lemuel had made a run for it. Although he hadn’t really flown since he was a mere jake, Lemuel had flown over the fence surrounding the turkey run and then again to get over the hedgerow between the farm and Kid’s house. He lived under her deck for days and days, getting more and more hungry. The animals that lived with her brought him all sorts of food, but it wasn’t very good. Ziggy and Bella brought him some of their crunchy food, but Lemuel decided that turkeys didn’t really like dog food. Kid and Emma brought him some of their crunchy food, and Lemuel decided that turkeys didn’t like cat food either. He’d sneak out very early in the morning and eat every seed head he could find, and Kid brought back mouthfuls of chicken feed from Bart’s farm. That was the best, but she could only do that late at night, because Bart always thought that any cat on the farm was after his chickens. He’d probably blame Kid for killing and hauling off Lemuel, although that was absurd. Lemuel was way larger than Kid, and even if she’d caught him napping, he’d probably have been able to fight her off.
Bart had been furious when Lemuel ran off. Lemuel and Emma heard Bart calling for him at first. “Tom, Tom Turkey, where the heck have you gone?” Then they heard him say some less nice things that they didn’t even want to repeat to the others. Finally, Bart had gone door to door asking all the neighbors if they’d seen his turkey, or any sign that some animal had taken it. Since Val didn’t know that there was a turkey living under her deck, she’d said that no, she hadn’t seen the turkey, although she’d heard him a few days before. Bart finally gave up his search, but Lemuel stayed under the deck until several days after Thanksgiving.
On the Sunday morning after Thanksgiving Kid and Emma had scouted out the yard and farm to make sure that Lemuel could get home without cluing Bart in that he’d been hiding out at Val’s. They were fairly friendly as neighbors go, and Kid and Emma didn’t want Bart to get mad at Val. They might need him to help some day – like maybe to plow the driveway if there was a really bad snowstorm. When the coast was clear Lemuel took off and flew clumsily over the fence back onto the farm. It was a lot harder to do this time, as he was suffering from the turkey version of malnutrition. He landed with a thump and lay there panting. He decided that he wouldn’t even try to fly back into his run. It was too hard, and he didn’t want to give Bart any ideas on how smart he was. Humans always thought turkeys were stupid, and Lemuel didn’t want to give Bart any reason to doubt that.
There was feed in the chicken yard, so Lemuel walked over there when he’d recovered from his flight. He very politely asked the chickens if they’d share some of their feed, but they all turned their backs on him, muttering something about traitors and run-aways. So, Lemuel just sat himself down and waited until Bart came out for the chickens’ morning feeding. He’d dozed off and was dreaming about turkey hens and piles of dried corn when he felt himself grabbed roughly around his middle.
“There you are, you stupid turkey. You look like you’ve been living on air for the past two weeks. Hmmph. No matter, there’s always another year.” Lemuel was tossed back into his run before Bart turned around and walked towards his barn. He was back in a few moments with a rake, shovel and wheelbarrow. The run was cleaned out in little time, and after putting away his farm tools, Bart returned with a can of feed. He poured a small amount in Lemuel’s feed box. “It won’t do for you to gorge yourself and get sick. I’ll be back in a few hours and give you another feeding. We’ll get you fattened up yet.”
Lemuel sighed happily and began eating. It wasn’t all corn, but there was a respectable amount mixed in. As he ate he thought about the past month. Kid had probably been wrong. Bart said that there was another year, and that he wanted Lemuel fattened up. That sounded to him like he was being groomed to be the head tom of a new dynasty of turkeys – the flock to end all flocks. He finished eating and settled down for a well-deserved rest and fell asleep to dream of being surrounded by his hens with their chicks, the jennies and jakes off in the distance.
Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/barloventomagico/5036347975