0216, South Africa
Posted May 18, 2015
Before adopting Uncle Sam, the last time that I had contact with turkeys of any kind was during my early childhood, when my grand parents kept turkeys for the table, which at the time, made me think that that was all turkeys were good for.
Fast forward many years, up to the day I was offered a midget turkey by my friend the vet, who confiscated a brood of turkey chicks from an abusive owner. I had no knowledge or experience of turkeys, but on the insistence of the vet that this was a miniature breed, I agreed to take in the little turkey until a home could be found for it. However, as so often happens with me, foster care usually turns into permanent residence, and so it was with Uncle Sam as well. The name is not meant to be derogatory: rather, it reflects the turkey's heritage, but as things usually turn out with me, the name was shortened to Sam, and that was how it stayed until he disappeared towards the end of 2014.
As far as I could remember from my childhood, turkeys have a sort of distracted, "1000 yard stare" demeanor about them, and Sam was no different. Athough he was a pristine white, and thus easily visible among the tan colored grass of the grazing pastures, he always seemed to be lost in a world of his own. There was nothing hurried about him, and I was never sure if he was actually lost, or if he would make his way home in his own time. Sam was also unflappable, just like the emus, and this trait in their natures soon made them inseparable, so if I wanted to know if Sam was was still around, all I had to do was look for the tall emus, and sure enough, Sam would be with them.
In the four years I had Sam, the only thing he could not abide was the presence of the flocks of guinea-fowl that lived in the area. It was not that he got angry or anything like that. He just gathered himself up, strolled over to the interlopers in that unhurried way he had, and told them to leave- which they very rarely did without protesting loudly. However, the guinea-fowl eventually got the message, and started avoiding my property when Sam was visible. This gave Sam and the emus an almost palpable cloak of power, because they started intimidating the chickens, but this ended when the big rooster got fed up with their bullying tactics, and delivered a kick to Sam's face that destroyed one eye. The vet removed the eye and stitched up the eye socket, but Sam was never the same after that. He seemed more lost in himself than ever before, but a strange thing happened with emus then.
Although he was a part of their gang, and was always in their vicinity, they now surrounded him, as if they realized he only had one eye and needed help to find his way around the farm- almost as if they acted as his seeing guides, and perhaps they did, who knows? Moreover, while the emus never showed aggression towards the chickens, they would now inflate their neck feathers as a clear sign of agression whenever a chicken came close to Sam. They never did this with the ducks or the geese, or anything else for that matter, but somehow the chickens recognised the gesture as a display of aggression, and kept their distance.
As time passed, I grew more and more attached to Sam, because his gentle nature reflected something I valued, which is peace, silence, calm, and above all, a live-and-let-live attitude. After Sam lost his eye, he became even more gentle and would sometimes stand staring for hours at the ducklings on the dam, before collecting his guides to go and stare at the geese as they decimated the snail population.
Sam became the symbol of the peaceful atmosphere on my little farm, and when he disappeared one day it was as if all the animals were aware that something had been lost, or broken, and could not easily be repaired. The emus felt it most keenly; they remained in their pen (which they shared with Sam) for more than a week, refused to eat, and refused to have anything to do with the world. Their pain was acute, but as is the way of the world, that too passed, and today they have a little piglet to keep them company.
As for Sam, no one knows what happened to him, and even though I posted a rather generous reward for information as to his whereabouts, or fate, no reports of a one-eyed midget turkey has been recieved to date.
Sam was something special, and I have no hesitation in recommending this breed as pets. Although I have limited experience with turkeys, I have no reason to believe other specimens of the breed would be too different from my Sam. Of course, it may be that the presence of the emus had some influence on Sam's nature and character, but then again, Sam was more likely just Sam, and if this is so, midget turkeys are no doubt one of the most rewarding pets anybody can hope to have, ever.