You come across remarkable things in the turkey woods.

My favorites are old homesteads. There’s the obvious ones with a chimney or foundation, maybe a dilapidated building or two nearly over taken by kudzu. They may have an apple orchard, some old equipment or even a cemetery. The less obvious ones might be a faint rock wall or a well that’s so overgrown you’d never know it was there unless you stumble upon it. They’re filled with history, and I can’t help but think about the farming family that used to call it home. 

I picture ornery siblings teasing one another and playing too rough with their little sister and complaining about doing chores. The boys looking like a Norman Rockwell painting, exploring hills and hollers with a beagle pup and sling shots, then later in life a single shot .22 with electrical tape around the grip and scratches in the stock. The girls doing the typical girl things like dress up and playing with dolls, and also doing some adult things, like plucking chickens and preparing dinner and working around the home. Rural kids had to grow up fast in those days. 

I picture a mother and father working hard to raise kids, crops and livestock. They prepared for the predictable, rhythmic seasons of the year by canning and cutting in the fall, prepping and planting in the spring. They also dealt with the more unpredictable seasons of life. Enduring the hard times and hard winters. Enjoying the good times and the sunny summers under the shade an old oak tree. Now the tire swing is long gone; the rope rotted away and the tire laying nearby, buried under decades of leaf litter. 

The memories never go away, but life goes on. New residents with fur and feathers eventually take over these prime spots, and turkeys in particular love them. A tom will strut in the front yard, staking claim to his dirt and defending it from those who want to take it from him. Hens will peck around in the old garden and eat grasshoppers and look out for each other. And the poults will run around with their siblings, exploring their wonderful new world and doing things that make their mother nervous. Not all that different from the farming family that used to live there.

This is one of my favorite pieces to date, and it’s called “Homesteaders.”

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