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Harlan Martin’s 7 Turkeys
by David Norris

I wish you could have met Harlan Martin. He was as tall as a tree and as thin as a blade of grass. When he told his stories, his voice would rise and fall like the notes in a symphony. He played his voice as though it were a musical instrument. And he loved life. You could hear his joy in the song of his voice, whether he was telling a sad tale or a happy one. His favorites were hunting stories, and this is one of my personal favorites from those he told me way back in the summer of 1977. Harlan was already about 70 and he is gone now, but his stories are still here.

NOTE: The author has several hundred of these interviews; he welcomes correspondence from interested publishers.


* * *

I killed seven turkeys at one time! And I had ‘em hung up in trees. I took my shoes -- I had leather strings in my boots -- I took one string out, out of my boot, and I tied them turkeys all up high, all but one -- the gobbler. I was about two miles or three from home, and I put that gobbler on my back.

Well, he didn’t weigh very much when I put him on my back. But before I got to the house, I’d done laid that thing down! I’d done cut his head off! I’d done took off his feet, and I was startin’ to pick him! He weighed about 25 pounds, and I was carrying my gun.

I just shot seven times, and I got seven turkeys. They was all huddled up. You take a pump gun, you can shoot pretty fast if you get on to it. Of course, I couldn’t do that now; I was young then.

And I tied these turkeys all up. Now it was five miles from anybody’s house back up in that way. It was over here on Meadows Creek, back in there where you go to Lake Sherwood, where you go over and down across the mountain, right where you come out on that next road. Just about a quarter or a half a mile above that is where I killed them turkeys. There wasn’t nothin but a path, just a place where you rode a horse. There wasn’t no road.

So, I tied ‘em all up in trees, and I put the old gobbler on my back, and down the road I went. I tell you, I just about had him picked afore I got there. I just cut off anything I thought would lighten that bird up.

And when I got to home, well, my brother was there. He was home from the service. He’d been back from the Army for about a year. He was sitting in the house.

I said, “Lookee here, Pal! Why don’t you get up out of there and come and get you some meat?”

And he sat there and looked at that turkey a long time afore he ever said a word. Then he said, “Now just whose turkey have you got?”

“Whose? Why, it’s mine.” And I said, “That ain’t all of ‘em either. I got some more tied up in trees back there, and we got to get up there and get em.”

So he said, “You’ve killed somebody’s tame turkey.”

“TAME turkey? Great day!”

Well, I had never paid any attention to a tame turkey, what they looked like. They all just looked exactly the same to me. But I started to think about them turkeys. They wouldn’t fly, they wouldn’t run! There must’ve been 50 of them turkeys all huddled up together, and they was all the same color, just like any old black and red turkey.

That put me to wondering.

Well, he said he’d go back up on the mountain with me. We got our horses, and we rode up there, and I showed him the rest of them turkeys. Now, I said, “You call these tame turkeys. Buddy, where did they come from? It’s five miles from here to anybody’s farm or house.”

“Well, I know that,” he said, “but they is tame turkeys.”

I told him, “Don’t say nothin’ about it then.”

We took all of them turkeys home, and we never had such a pickin’ in all your life! Hanged ‘em up in the smokehouse. Two or three days after that, I was sitting up at the barn – I don’t remember what I was doing – and a feller name of Ryder came along on his horse.

He said, “Sonny, have you seen my cattle anywhere? I’m looking for some cattle that I lost out on the mountain.”

“No, I haven’t seen any cattle.”

“And by the way,” he said, frowning, “I’m missing five turkeys.”

Oooooh, I felt like ducking down.

“But,” he said, “they probably just roamed too far away from the house.”

I said, “Maybe a fox got ‘em?”

“Could be,” he said. “A fox could’ve, but I never found no feathers or nothing as I rode down.”

"Welllll, maybe he ate feathers and all."

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WRITER’S BIO: David Norris has lived in Asia since 1985. He currently resides in Seoul, Korea, where he lectures in writing and literature for the University of Maryland University College Asia. His work has appeared in The Chariton Review, Taproot Literary Review, Poetry San Francisco, and The Dan River Anthology. David was born in the small town of Covington, Virginia, way up in the Alleghany Mountains. He left when he was 20 and has been traveling ever since.

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Read more David Norris stories at USADS -- go here:
The Ants
Sometimes We Just Have To Let Them Go
Fifty-five Minutes Past the Hour
An Antiquated Sense of Social Protocol


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