We’ll eat that

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It seems we’ve gotten the reputation for being inveterate scavengers who will eat absolutely anything.

I could be wrong, but I think this is because we are inveterate scavengers who will eat absolutely anything. Which is why, when our friend Geri saw her neighbor accidentally hit a wild turkey, she called us.

Turkey plumage

“We have a wild turkey that got hit by a car,” she said. “Do you want it?”

Do we want it? Hell yes we want it.

Geri and her husband, Emory, live about a mile away from us, on the pond that abuts our pond. They live in one of those beautiful, spotless houses that make people like me, and houses like mine, look very bad. They’re also very nice people. Emory is a scientist who studies fish populations, and both he and Geri have given extensively of their time and expertise to preserve the ponds we live on.

I’ll admit, though, that our first encounter with Emory and Geri left us scratching our heads.

It was when we first moved here, and didn’t know a soul. One morning a car we didn’t recognize came down the driveway, and two people we didn’t recognize got out of it. They introduced themselves, and then asked us if we had a boat.

Well, yes, we had a boat. We had a little skiff in the pond.

Emory explained that they were in the middle of an all-out effort to eradicate purple loosestrife, an invasive species that loves waterfronts. There was a very large specimen a couple hundred yards north of us, on the water, and they needed a boat to get there so they could dig it up.

Sure, we could help with that.

“Great!” said Emory, with real enthusiasm. He opened the trunk of his car and pulled out an axe the size of Rhode Island.

We took the boat up to the offending plant, and Emory went at it with a will.

I’ll confess to being alarmed. For starters, Emory is not in the first flush of youth, and he was wielding a very heavy tool, and using it with great vigor. But I also couldn’t help but notice that we were hacking down a tree on our neighbor’s property.

“Um … Emory?” I interrupted his hacking. “Isn’t this our neighbor’s property?”

“That’s OK,” he said, with a wave of his hand. “We have permission from the town.”

“But not the neighbor?”

Not the neighbor. Emory assured me it was all above-board and legal, but all I could picture was the neighbor, whom we hadn’t even met yet, coming out and finding the people who just moved in next door standing on his dock, cutting down his bushes.

Kevin took advantage of the break in the action to take over the hacking. Although Kevin is not in the first flush of youth either, he’s fundamentally incapable of standing around watching someone else do hard work.

We managed to get the purple loosestrife out without incurring the neighbor’s wrath (I think the house was empty at the time), and we took the boat back to our house. Emory put Rhode Island back in the trunk and thanked us for our help. Then he and Geri drove off.

We have since learned that Geri and Emory are responsible citizens, friendly neighbors, and interesting people, but at the time we thought there was a real chance they were insane axe murderers.

Since we’ve learned the truth, we can go to their house without fear, so we drove over to pick up the turkey.

Emory had it in a wheelbarrow in the garage (even their garage is spotless), and we all stood there looking at it for a few moments. It was small, for a wild turkey, but its feathers were beautiful and iridescent.

“That’ll make quite a few meals,” Emory said, and shook his head with a laugh, “If you’re hungry enough.” I think he couldn’t quite believe that we’d take, and eat, roadkill. It is a testament to their generous natures that he and Geri would bother to collect the turkey, put it in their garage, and call us to see if we wanted it.

Last-minute plucker adjustments

By the time we got it home it was getting dark, so we ran an extension cord and set up the plucker inside. There was also a howling wind, so we put the propane burner in the outdoor shower, where we could use it to heat the scalding water in relative calm.

It was a good practice run for this coming Sunday, when our turkeys will meet their maker, and it went off with only one little hitch – the plucker seems to have either a weak motor or an overheating problem, or perhaps both. We’ll try and straighten it out before Sunday, but the worst-case scenario is only hand plucking, so we’ll manage even if we can’t get it running perfectly.

The plucked, cleaned, turkey is now resting in the back of the fridge. Tomorrow we’ll figure out what we want to do with it.

Anybody else out there with roadkill? We’d like to be your first call.

11/20 CORRECTION: The original post erroneously said that invasive species hacked out by our neighbors was gray willow. It wasn’t. It was purple loosestrife. Thanks, Geri, for setting me straight.

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Comments

  1. Nice line: “I could be wrong, but I think this is because we are inveterate scavengers who will eat absolutely anything.”

    What shape was the turkey in after being hit? I almost whacked a turkey last spring, a week before season started, when it was standing in the road and decided to wait until last minute to lift up and fly away – in front of me, rather than away from me. I could see his little claws barely clearing my windshield. For a moment when I saw him lift, I debated whether or not to brake. My windshield was already cracked. But not liking bruised meat, I hit the brakes.

  2. Forgive me Tamar, but I’m concerned about the potential of a hunting violation. You probably already checked Mass. regs, but here in NC it is illegal to possess wild game out of season – that includes road kill. I know you CAN collect a road-killed deer, but you have to report the accident and have a police officer sign off before you can take it home – whether your car was the weapon or not. If Mass. has a different take on things, then good on you for making the most out of some great meat that otherwise would have gone to waste.

  3. NorCal — The turkey was bruised, but not too badly. We’ll probably cut off the good bits and make sausage, and then roast the bones and leftover meat for stock.

    Jamie — I actually did check in on roadkill regulations, and they’re pretty open here in Massachusetts. It was a while back, and I don’t remember all the details, but it is legal to take anything you hit. There are certain animals (deer and fur-bearers like coyote, I think) that you have to report taking, but a turkey isn’t one of them. I think I’m in the clear.

  4. I’m filing away the fact that Kevin is “fundamentally incapable of standing around watching someone else do hard work”…

  5. Lucky you!

  6. Sam is thinking that instead of waking up before dawn during spring turkey season, he should just concentrate on getting his driver’s license and see if he has better luck on the road!

  7. Niiice… My rule on roadkiill is that I need to either a) have hit it myself, or b) have seen it hit for me to take the animal. Not a huge fan of days-old dead things.

  8. Didn’t you have venison roadkill last week! I saw a possum on the side of the road the other day… I guess I should have called you…sorry! LOL

  9. Years ago my father hit a pheasant, and that made a good supper. One other time a neighbor called and said a pheasant had committed suicide on their large window, so I went to pick it up. It turned out to be a grouse, but tasted good, too. As long as they haven’t been lying in the road for a while, I figure they’re safe to eat.