Though you may not realize it, "Tom" has done a lot for you over the years. Not only has "Tom" brought families together for unforgettable memories, but he has been doing it consistently for generations. "Tom" embodies a rare characteristic in that he is welcomed by almost every race, color and creed with smiles and joy. Specifically uncommon, "Tom" is sacrificial and willing to serve others at his own personal risk. His grace, power and strength have done something that politics and religion have yet to accomplish - unite and bring people together. "Tom" is not only loved and celebrated by multitudes but he is also an icon, a real showman.
Who is this one of such unheard of qualities and abilities? You may now be asking if he is a Republican or Democrat. Is he a religious figurehead or business mogul? The answer is none of the above. He not only packs tremendous influence but can run 18 miles an hour, soar over a mile and has an uncanny ear that can detect others a mile away. This isn't some comic book hero, but the bird who will park on your dining room table this Thanksgiving Day.
Some uniformed folks think the turkey lacks intelligence but to those who have viewed him in his wild habitat, the conclusion is quite different! I have hunted him for years and have been outwitted, outsmarted and outflanked more than I care to remember.
I began my quest to subdue him under the mentorship of a man named Jerry, who eventually became my father-in-law. Captivated by Jerry's unbelievable stories of the bird's intelligence and wit, I conceded to a hunt. Initially, I went out of curiosity and to develop a relationship with Jerry, but also the idea of personally harvesting a tasty meal to be enjoyed at our Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners was a temptation I couldn't resist.
Our first hunt ended about the time it began. We sat in the dark and listened to the lovesick gobblers thunder out their pick-up lines to hens sitting in the adjacent trees. The symphony of "Toms" romancing hens in chorus was a stunning sound that seemed to ricochet off every tree. Bach would have been proud! After strutting on the tree limbs they spent the night resting on, the turkeys took flight. They flew to the ground with the appearance of a B-52 bomber but the sound of an Apache helicopter. Complete with a scarf of fire-engine red around his neck and every feather standing on end, the turkeys spent several minutes of strutting around their intended dates. Although my heart was beating to the point that I could scarcely breathe, I was elated to harvest my first "Tom" turkey.
That next Thanksgiving, as we gathered around the table to pray and thank God for His undeserved goodness, I felt a different pride and gratitude as I stood with my new wife and the father-in-law with whom I shared such a great memory. One of our excursions chasing "Tom" in the woods has always stood out in my mind. My father-in-law Jerry was a great man - the kind of guy who would help anybody, anytime for any reason.
That said he was not very interested in spiritual topics. Like many, he had seen the inconsistencies in the Church and regrettably, in people like myself who claimed to follow Christ but often fell short. At six foot three, he was approachable but a deep thinker who calculated everything he heard before speaking his mind. This fact made me a little edgy on the frosty morning that I had made up mind to talk with him about a relationship with Christ.
I had often wondered if we would meet in heaven if something happened to him. His health was crumbling, and I couldn't bear the thought of his life coming to a close without me having tried to reach out. My words stumbled, in part, because of the pounding in my chest. Even though I wasn't articulate, I was genuine and raw in my concern. Jerry deciphered the intent and knew I wasn't preaching or judging. Although a little awkward, I explained how I changed from a believer about Jesus to a believer in Jesus. When it was all said and done, I was thrilled that I had waded out of my comfort zone. Hearing Jerry's gravel-filled voice proclaim his trust in Jesus, made my satisfaction complete, especially, a short time later, when I stood over his casket to say goodbye.
Jerry died a few years back but I never go into the woods without him running laps in my head. In short, I miss him and those sacred memories that are embedded in my mind. I remember those dark chilly mornings watching groups of long beard turkeys prance at our feet. I can still hear their gobble tickle my eardrums and see the sunlight trace through their tail fans. Most of all, I can feel the warmth of his smile and the way it took off the chill of an early spring morning.
I'm thankful for "Tom" and the holiday joy he has provided in the past and that, I'm convinced, he will provide in the future. But more importantly, I'm thankful for the time with Jerry. Time that I regretfully sometimes took for granted, but thankful for the memories I still hold.