Last November I was riding my bike down Fifth Street in San Rafael when I saw a turkey walking down the street.
Yes, a turkey.
He was on the sidewalk and so was I. I got off my bike so I could pass without scaring him.
As I passed, he began clucking at me. (Yes, turkeys cluck. I know that now.)
Then he began running toward me.
He came up close and looked up at me. Looked me deep in the eyes.
He clucked some more.
He was about a foot away and his head came to my knee.
It was like he knew me. (I’d never seen him before.)
To my untrained eyes he appeared to be a teenager turkey.
I said hello and then I began walking my bike away.
He clucked excitedly and ran after me.
He walked beside me. He became obviously distressed if I got too far ahead of him. The clucking would increase and he would pick up the pace so that we were walking side by side.
People in cars stopped and stared.
People across the street stopped and stared. Camera phones came out and I’m sure I appeared on many Marin county Facebook pages last November.
The turkey would stare intently at me with his little black eye on the side of his head.
He was truly LOOKING at me. He was present in a way few humans (including myself) are.
He wouldn’t let me out of his sight.
There was something oddly comforting about him.
Each time I would stop, he would stop. When I began walking, he would walk. It was the avian version of Simon Says.
I walked to a park to get him away from the speeding cars. He found a worm or something in the grass and promptly forgot about me.
I noticed that I felt more than a bit disappointed that food could get in the way of our connection.
I got on my bike slowly. I hoped he’d see me leaving and come running after me as he had all the way down Fifth Street.
He was busy looking for food.
I felt oddly alone as I rode my bike home.
I told a few friends about the experience and I thought about the turkey from time to time, wondering how he was doing.
I wondered if he’d gotten hit by a car. That thought made me very sad.
So I tried not to think about it.
Last Tuesday I was riding my bike on the Fifth Street sidewalk and low and behold, there was a turkey on the sidewalk.
I got off my bike and sure enough: he came running up to me, making a slightly deeper clucking sound than I remembered from last year.
It was him!
Same turkey. I’m sure of it. Unless all turkeys like me this much.
He was a tall adult now and last year’s drab brown feathers shown iridescent.
He was so beautiful.
He clucked excitedly and followed me as I walked my bike down the street.
People stopped and stared.
“I’ve never seen anything like that! A wild turkey following a person,” one guy said. “He really likes you.”
“Yes, I met him last year,” I replied, as though I was talking about an old friend. “Perhaps I’m the turkey whisperer,” I mused.
“Perhaps you are,” the guy said in wonder.
He took a picture of us. I smiled. Turkey looked up at me with adoring eyes.
Other people lined up on the opposite sidewalk to stare at me and Turkey walking down the sidewalk. Cars stopped and iphones came out.
We are probably on Facebook again this November. Me and Turkey.
We walked beside a retirement home and a woman who worked there came out. “That turkey peers in the window at the residents sometimes. They love him. They become animated and alive when they see him.”
“Oh, that’s sweet.” I stared at Turkey and he stared back at me, clucking.
“There are a few wild turkeys here in San Rafael,” the woman continued. “One got hit by a car last year and we had a funeral for him. A lot of people came to the turkey funeral. Everyone who came was quite upset.”
“I’m so glad it wasn’t this guy,” I replied.
“Yes, he seems to really like you.”
We walked away, me and Turkey. We stopped at the red light and then when it turned green we walked through the crosswalk.
People stared and pointed, pointed and stared. I felt a little embarrassed. Like we were famous or something. Turkey looked intently at me as we crossed the street.
We reached a patch of grass and he began rooting around for worms or bugs or whatever it is that turkeys eat.
I kept going.
I looked over my shoulder at one point, hoping he’d run after me.
But he didn’t. He was deeply focused on whatever was in the grass.