Late one afternoon as my son and I were drifting down the Hiwassee River, here in East Tennessee, we were startled by a flock of turkeys. They flew low, just inches above the water and only a few feet in front of our boat. We counted twenty-five and we heard more up in the woods. Shortly they all landed and in a single file ran up the vine-covered face of the steep river gorge. Arriving at the top at twilight they glided one by one to the tops of the large oaks growing along the steep cliffs. This is where they spent the night protected from their predators. As night fell they clucked to each other in low soothing tones until total darkness.
Wild turkeys are large game birds but not as large as their domestic relatives, the white turkeys. The wild turkey flies with a short burst of wing beats and glides a short distance and then repeats this movement until they reach their destination. These big birds do not migrate, as do most other birds. It seems that in the past few years these big ole birds are on the increase. I have seen many of them in peopleís yards on the outskirts of our town. They always remain cautious with at least one bird on guard at all times.
Turkeys lay up to 18-20 light-brown eggs in one nest and might be laid by more than one turkey hen. Another bird that shares nests among hens is the ostrich. One explanation could be that too many nesting birds in one area would attract predators. Unlike the ostrich males though, the big tom turkeys just strut and gobble but donít share in the egg incubation business. Once hatched the little chicks are guarded fiercely by both parents. Sharp beaks, claws and beating wings are enough to frighten away all but the most persistent predators. These are very smart birds and manage to stay alive and even multiply in the face of constant danger and habitat loss.
Now, can you imagine having this big bird as the symbol of our nation? Well if Benjamin Franklin had gotten his way the turkey would have been on the official seal of the United States. I can just see Benís big ole bird with out stretched wings and a stubby claw clinching arrows. Not exactly a sight to instill confidence in a nations people is it? When the U.S. congress gathered to vote on the official seal, in the 1770ís, ole Ben offered some real good reasons to vote for the turkey. However, congress didnít see it his way and voted for the eagle instead. Even though these big gobblers are smart and beautiful, they just donít bring to mind a symbol of security and freedom for our nation. The Great American Bald Eagle with the skillful use of its powerful wings and talons gives a clear message of strength and power. Its speed and accuracy on the wing instills total confidence as a national symbol.
Our Heavenly Father sitting on His throne, surrounded by tens of thousands of angels, ready to do battle with our seen and unseen enemies, has always been a symbol of comfort for me. What is your symbol of peace and power? Let us pray that our Great Nation will use wisdom in its use of power here at home and around the world. See you on the trails.
- Uncle Burney
("McDonald Manna" May, 2007)