One of the first animals or even people I met when I moved my horse to a new barn was a big, old ugly turkey. Her name was Lucy. She was the fattest turkey I had ever seen. She walked with a limp, kicking one foot way out in front of her while she walked. She never put her toes down on that foot, like a person who has stepped down on a thorn but has not stopped to pull it out. She was missing a lot of feathers too. It looked like something had been chewing on her. She certainly was not a pretty sight to behold. But she was friendly.
I found out later that something had been chewing on her. Rats. She had been raised to be a Thanksgiving turkey but never eaten. I don't know if she was spared or if the feasters' plans had changed. She had ended up living in a chicken house and pen with a lot of chickens. She had gotten very fat and slow. The story I heard was that the rats had been chewing on her in the night and had bitten her toes as well as pulled out some of her feathers. My friend Betty, savior to all animals, saw her and pulled her out of the chicken pen and brought her into the stable to live with the horses.
There, Lucy lived a content life. She had a few favorite horses she would visit in their stalls. She liked to let them nuzzle her feathers while she fluffed up and preened herself. She would talk to them with a soft little peeping sound. She also liked people and would come out and strut around talking to us as we groomed our horses in the sun.
There was a pair of geese that also lived at the barn. Lucy would try to follow them around but they would hiss at her and chase her off, their necks snaked out in front of them.
One day some one gave Betty a tiny, mallard duck chick. Betty put him in a little dog crate with a warming light and feather duster for comfort. As he got bigger Betty left the door to the crate open during the day while she was at the barn.
It only took Lucy a few days to find and adopt the duck chick. The chick imprinted on Lucy and followed after her with the same toes-up limp. It was funny to watch them marching along limping, little duck behind fat turkey.
One summer, after the mallard chick had left, the gander laid a lot of eggs. The geese were busy sitting on and guarding these eggs when a bunch of goslings were bought by the property owner and released in the barnyard. The geese decided they must raise the goslings so they mostly abandoned their own eggs. Lucy noticed and decided to take some turns keeping the eggs warm when the gander was off the nest with the goslings. The only problem was, Lucy was clumsy with her bad foot and would end up scattering the eggs as she got on and off the nest. The geese, funnily, seemed to realize Lucy's service and were more accepting of her than usual. None of the eggs ever hatched and in time all gave up on them.
A few months later a wild male turkey found Lucy and stayed around courting her for about two weeks. He'd drum and fan his tail for her and strut around the barnyard after her. He was not afraid or aggressive to any of us, such was his single minded attention to Lucy. I think she enjoyed being courted.
Lucy was not a looker but she had a wonderful personality. Everyone who knew her was won over by her sweet nature. Lucy was killed by a pit bull who had been let out of a car by a visitor. Her end came quickly. When the owner saw what his dog had killed he didn't seem too bothered. He saw an ugly, fat, chewed up old turkey. The rest of us who knew better, deeply grieved the loss of our unique friend.
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