• Marilyn Gardner Woods

A Wild Turkey happening...

When the front door of my daughter’s home in Valley Center opened, I froze.

The sight of her face—a blackish-purple swollen mess—horrified me making me gasp. I couldn’t move—paralyzed with concern for her. I gasped a second time and then stammered, “Honey…how…what…I…uh...are you okay?”


Her puffed up lips managed a slight smile as I regained some composure and hugged her. “Aren’t you gonna’ ask how it happened?” my daughter asked.


If I had been given Twenty Questions times a billion, I would never have guessed how she sustained the injury which I learned was far more extensive than a black eye.


My son-in-law is an enigma. Bud is the kindest, gentlest, loving man not only to Jamie, my daughter, and my granddaughters, but to me. However, he’s a hunter which rankles much of the family. A hunter, but also a big teddy bear.


Over the bed he shares with my daughter—and yes, she goes along with it—is an open-mouthed, snarled-tooth mountain lion; on the floor in the living room is an also open-mouthed snarled-tooth black bear, now a large rug, which I frequently trip over. I lost a toenail that way once.


Theirs is an inviting and eclectic home full of antiques, textiles, and treasures, the hunting trophies a significant addition. I only take note of the assorted gamebirds hanging on the walls when a Fourth of July flag, a Halloween mask or a Santa hat depending on the season is placed precariously on one or more of the feathered creatures.


It was one of these creatures—a turkey—that caused not only a facial train wreck for my daughter but also a bounty of sobs, excruciating pain, and a mild concussion. Not a Butterball turkey, but a Gould Turkey, perhaps the least known of America’s wild turkeys, and the one with the largest feet, longest legs, and widest tail span.





Bud’s souvenir turkey from the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in Mexico, preserved in full strut, abides mounted on the wall nine feet high over the arched door between the living side of the home and the spacious kitchen area. Stretched neck and white tips on the tail feathers and rump coverts separated into an eyelash appearance, the thirty-plus-pound wild bird has hung above the hallway for seven years since returning from the taxidermist.

Until it didn’t.


One morning, as Jamie made her way from their bedroom to the laundry room beyond the kitchen, just as she stepped into the arched doorway, the turkey’s wall mount broke sending it careening downward striking her head, left eye, cheek, and shoulder before knocking her flat on the ground. Its final perch—across her lower body.


Her shriek on impact brought Bud running.


It was sometime before she could laugh about the fact that Bud raced to the turkey first. His apologetic excuse? “I had to lift it off of you…”


Jamie’s face was a mess for a month. First red because of the presence of rich iron hemoglobin in the pooled blood and immediately swollen, a dark blue purple a day or two later due to low oxygen supply at the site with increased swelling, and then a gradual darkening before the entire left side of her head and neck turned a sickly yellowish-brownish bulgy mess. This lasted weeks.


Her final blow came during the purple bruise stage—eye still swollen—when Bud’s favorite aunt visited from Beverly Hills.


Jamie didn’t even fool with cover-up. She's family, for God’s sakes, she reasoned.


Throughout their lively chitchat, catch-up conversation, and multi-coursed meal, not a word was said about Jamie’s face and the accident and what might have caused it. When she could stand it no longer, Jamie asked, “Aren’t you gonna’ ask about my purple swollen face,?”


“I assumed Botox,” the visiting aunt answered. “Bruising like that not uncommon.”



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