It was a muggy and windless Virginia morning.
At the base of a tree I could not identify and with only a few hours of sleep, almost all of the energy I had was being used to keep my eyelids opened. We had walked, my friend and me, some great distance to this place and we did this because the turkeys were nearby. For two days he had been toyed with and the wind had blown and for two days the turkeys had proven smaller, at the least they had proven luckier. So, in this darkness of a place that was humid and warm and so very still, we waited.
This is a familiar place for him. His grandfather tilled this land and this is the place that for over a century, the blood and the sweat and the goodness of a farmer have grown and raised and planted and harvested. His grandmother still lives here, at 103-years old and she reminds him of the way it was when he was young.
“We kept cows here and they were fed the peanut vines to get fat,” my friend tells me.
My friend’s grandfather was special to him. He taught him how to fish and how to be in the outdoors. They would fish the nearby river and course the lands and all of this was done in pursuit of fish and game and yet really, it was more than that.
I knew that hunting this place was sacred. I knew that being in these fields and within these shadows was more than just hunting here; it was an act of remembrance and an act of honor, too.
The turkeys were vocal this day. From a distance that was deep and far and away, the turkey and his gobble were flirtations of chance and possibilities.
My friend is at my back and it is my job to call and to convince this creature of the wild, the turkey that I am desperate and convincing and inviting enough, such that it ignores all of the real turkey hens of the world and it finds us. My calls were soft. His gobble was loud. My calls were persistent. His gobble was persistent.
When I was silent, so was he. When I made the noise of a turkey, so did he. For just under an hour, this back and forth game of come-here and come-closer, ensued. The bird had been silent for a few minutes and when I called back to him, he was obviously closer.
“Get ready,” I told my friend. And so we waited and my calls were soft and from a distance down the woods, I could see the gobbler closing in to us. I softly called and he boldly gobbled and the final moments of the hunt were purposefully slowed.
After the shot, my friend was quick to the bird and I could see that his face was glowing. I also saw something that one doesn’t see too often; my friend danced a jig. In the moments following, I took some photographs and my friend posed with the bird. We admired the turquoise and the blue hues of the feathers and we studied the bird, too. It was a great moment and success really was the moment following the shot, not necessarily the shot.
My friend walked fast to the house. He was paced quickly and he was focused. It was here, on this century-year old farm, beneath towering pine trees and within the confines of a warm breeze that I saw my friend place the turkey atop an old watering well.
My friend was quiet and he was deliberate.
The previous night, his 103-year old grandmother and told him, “I hope you get one tomorrow.”
She is recovering from surgery and certainly time is a valuable commodity and I could see it in my friends face.
I asked my friend, “Where would you like to pose with your bird?”
He didn’t look at me. He just looked at the bird and the well.
“This well is very special to me for lots of reasons. It’s where my grandfather and I cleaned fish. This place means the most,” said my friend.
I took the photographs and captured the moment on film. Yet, I could tell that there was something truly authentic and special about this place. I could tell that this turkey meant something more. I also could tell that from this well, it provided more than water for the life of my friend.
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