Last Call

There’s a genre of music specific to geography in this great nation of ours. The grunge scene settled in Seattle. Los Angeles is the home of hip-hop. The blues are belted out in Memphis and bluegrass is played in every holler across the Appalachians. Detroit is known for Motown and Texans are sure proud of their Red Dirt. Where I live in the heartland, most radio dials are tuned in to country stations. Not the Red Dirt country you hear in Texas, though, and definitely not the Bro country that’s coming out of Nashville these days. Here in Oklahoma, we listen to classic country. Country-and-western country. Willie-and-Waylon-and-the-boys country.

So do the birds we hunt.

I’m convinced that turkeys are the music lovers of the wildlife world. I’ve seen jakes scratch and spin like deejays on a turntable. I’ve watched hens launch themselves into each other like they were in the mosh pit of a punk rock concert. And I’ve seen toms saunter into setups like they were throwing the doors open at a honkytonk, knockout the closest jake, and then two-step with the cutest hen in the bunch. That’s exactly what happened one late afternoon last spring.

It was Ladies’ Night in the back pasture and my decoy was being invited by a group of gossiping hens to powder her nose in the ladies’ room. With all their chatter, it didn’t take long before a young jake sidled up trying to get friendly with the new girl. He trotted out every pick–up line he knew but before he could seal the deal, a drumming so loud it sounded like the idle of a diesel engine rumbled through the woods.

A stud of a tom turkey strutted in then, scattering every bird on the dance floor except for my decoy and the eager jake. The tom’s head glowed like neon in a dark tavern; red, white and blue. He had his chest puffed all the way out, and the secondary feathers on his shoulders glittered like rhinestones in the late afternoon sun. The buff colored bar across his tail fan looked like a leather hatband stretched around a black Stetson. There were sharp spurs on his boots and he sported a beard that would turn Charlie Daniels himself green with envy. 

Needless to say, when that tom cut in, that jake cut out. The newcomer spun my decoy around the dance floor, strutting and sashaying the whole time, singing at the top of his lungs. Eventually, the hens found their way back from the ladies’ room and the dance floor filled up again. They were nothing more than wallflowers, though, because this tom only had eyes for one girl – the pretty little plastic one wrapped up in his wings.

The two of them two-stepped right up until the moment a lonesome coyote hollered out last call, and as the tom tried to convince my decoy to let him drive her home, I pulled the plug on the jukebox. Everybody cleared out pretty quickly then. Well, everybody except for that tom. That tough old country-and-western bird is now singing the blues.

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