Some people have gnomes in their yards.
We have a decapitated turkey carcass. We are so proud.
Were we like other residents of our town, we would have called the police, which some of our neighbors mistake for animal control. These were in a recent incident report:
- Loose horse on East Main Street.
- Dog barking at neighbor’s house.
- Large snapping turtle under caller’s porch.
- Rooster crowing in neighborhood every morning.
And, the perennial favorite, bat in driveway:
Your tax dollars at work.
“Turkey corpse in yard” would have fit right in with the weekly varmint report. But I decided to leave the body undisturbed, in hopes that whatever killed it came back for its dinner. Nature red in tooth and claw is easier to take when something gets fed.
The killer could have been a descendant of my long, lost fox; a coyote, or even a bear, the likes of which have been spotted ambling down a road one town over from me. Better them move it than me.
And sure enough, the culprit came back, while I was asleep. The next morning, the body had been moved, but only few inches.
Evening passed and morning came, and the next day, the turkey had been pushed, shoved or dragged a little bit more.
On the fourth day, one of the gnarly, dinosaur feet was missing.
And when the sun dawned on the fifth day, she was gone. Nothing left but a pile of feathers.
Given that there was no trail, no prints, no blood and no bone fragments to track — the evidence ended at the ring of feathers — my bet’s on Wile E. Coyote. I hope he’s moved on.
There is a moral to this story — there always is — but damned if I know it. Perhaps it is that things don’t always have to be buried. One creature’s rotting, decaying corpse is another’s tasty lunch. The wise and wonderful Jon Katz, with great reverence, takes the remains of his animals out to the woods, where others can feed. Had I buried the turkey, others would have died in her place that day.
This is not an argument for body farms, where human remains lie above ground so forensic scientists can study how bodies decompose. Or maybe it is. We are all food sheaths, Joseph Campbell wrote; we are made out of food and we become food when we die.
Still, there is something unsettling about leaving a dead animal to decompose in the yard or road. Care for the dying and dead is an act of reverence, too, which is why I sometimes bury a fallen bird or run-over skunk, or provide hospice for a creature mortally wounded. Human beings kill so many things, intentionally and not, in the course of a day; the body count is unimaginable over the course of a life. It seems a moral imperative that we extend a kindness, however small, when animals suffer. As its consciousness, such as it is, flickers out, the last thing that every creature should know is that someone cared, even if — especially if — the caring someone was a big, scary human.
But those are the musings of a certified animal nutjob. Entertain them at your own risk, because there’s a whole lot of pain to be had when you get too involved in the lives of animals.
Better for your mental health to observe them at a distance, safe and happy, like this turkey I spotted last week. She seems to have gotten the memo on how to stay safe.