November 20, 2018

Turkey Time

        We have a flock of wild turkeys in the neighborhood, “living dangerously” as D says of them this time of year, although in fact I doubt many people in our suburban town would have the slightest idea how to get from a flock of large, intimidating birds to a Thanksgiving feast.  But if they won’t be gracing our tables, the wild turkeys do provide a touch of seasonal decor to the landscape.  The truth is that turkey has never been one of my favorite foods, so I’m just as happy to see them at the end of the street as on my holiday table.  And of course I’m happy to see them as block prints, too.  Their feathers don’t have spectacular color, despite some rich iridescence, but they do have wonderful patterns, which means they make great block prints.
        We start with Thomas Bewick, whose fine engraved details show the patterns of the feathers wonderfully.  The second wood engraving looks the most like our neighborhood birds, quite skinny.  I don’t know how much meat they actually have on them, but they really look more like dinosaurs than fat, friendly cartoon turkeys.  The final piece, by Wiktorya Gorynska, may be domestic turkeys.  The white one in particular looks more like a dinner turkey.  These are presumably both males, with their tails up, wings out, and feathers puffed for maximum glory.  The one in the foreground is the closest to what generations of American children have drawn by tracing around their hands and coloring with brown and orange.
        There are a total of 7 turkeys in this post, which is a pretty paltry flock.  Our local turkeys are usually in groups of one to two dozen, scraggling over several properties at a time as they make their leisurely way up the street.  They are generally all females, or perhaps females and juveniles, and while they are certainly not much fussed by the presence of people or cars trying to get past, they are also not very aggressive or troublesome.  I’m grateful to have them around, adding a little interest to our local wildlife, and while I’m not a vegetarian and have no objection to eating one of their cousins on Thursday, I wish them all the best.  And Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

[Pictures: Turkey, wood engraving by Thomas Bewick, presumably from A History of British Birds, 1797 (Image from Morris Library, SIUC);
The Turkey, wood engraving from The Illustrated Alphabet of Birds, 1851 (Image from Childrens Library);
Turkeys, wood block print by Wiktorya Gorynska, c 1929 (Image scanned from The New Woodcut, Malcolm C. Salaman, 1930).]

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