Meet ‘Mr. Crooked’. He is one of two special needs turkeys on our farm. He was born with a deformed beak. The upper and lower portions of the beak are off set which makes it difficult for him to pick up feed or bugs or pluck off blades of grass. As a result, he is 30% smaller than all the other turkeys.
Our other misfit is ‘Janky’. Jank’s knee is deformed and he walks with a severe limp. He’s always been that way. As he has grown, his leg has increasing difficulty supporting his body. Foraging is very hard for him now and his growth rate has recently slowed.
On the whole, turkeys are a pain in the tootie. As they grow, they get into everything, including our neighbors’ gardens. They pick on the chickens and ducks and they gorge themselves on everyone else’s food. They are, without doubt, the stupidest creatures under heaven. Their only redeeming feature is they taste great with cranberry sauce.
Farming teaches me a lot about life. Sometimes it discourages me, but often I marvel at how resilient and resourceful some of God’s creatures are. I am frequently inspired by them to be a better man.
Many animals born with physical deformities simply die. They just quit. Others, like Crooked and Janky, are made of sterner stuff and find a way to overcome. These two birds have more than impressed me with their fortitude.
Despite his challenges, Mr. Crooked roams the fields with the rest of the birds, working to gather what food he can. It’s difficult, but he never gives up. He has learned to tear off plants since he can’t pluck them like the rest of the flock. He often can’t even pick up the feed pellets we put out because his beak is so offset that he can’t grip them. He will drop ten or fifteen pellets to every one he gets, but he dives in nonetheless.
I have learned that if the pellets are in a pile, he can get more because they are easier to access, so I do my best to accommodate him. He will follow me out to the rabbit pasture while the other turkeys and chickens are occupied with the feed I’ve scattered in a field for them. While I’m feeding the rabbits, I will pour little piles of food for Crooked so that he can get extra nutrition. He leaves a lot of it behind because once it spreads out he can’t pick it up, but I don’t mind. Since it’s just good rabbit feed, the wild bunnies will come along and gobble it up.
Janky can’t keep up with the other birds anymore when they go out to forage. For a while he was rather discouraged and would lay down in front of the barn and sulk. Then one day he stopped pouting and realized he didn’t have to keep up, he could just go at his own pace. He moves slowly and methodically, but he’s out foraging again. It is very impressive. Sometimes I sneak him a little extra when no one is looking.
I hate wasting feed and I would never give extra food to a lazy animal, but Crooked and Janks are the very antithesis of lazy. They work hard to overcome their challenges, so I happily assist them. I never begrudge Mr. Crooked his extra cups of expensive rabbit feed, because he has demonstrated his willingness to do his part in his own upkeep.
Similarly, Janky has earned his secret feedings by his determination to succeed.
I wish more PEOPLE would live like Crooked and Janky. I am inspired by men and women, who, despite physical or mental challenges, refuse to give up or sink into a victim mentality, but get up and fight to fend for themselves. I NEVER resent those individuals getting assistance or help along the way.
Sometimes, one of the other turkeys will spot me feeding Mr. Crooked and will come running to grab some of it. I will always shoo the greedy bird away. There is food everywhere for him. He doesn’t need the hand out, too.
I’m guessing the analogy is clear, just in case it isn’t; while I NEVER resent a helping hand or a safety net for those who need it, I get very perturbed at greedy takers and lazy ‘vicitms’ who want a piece of a pie they don’t deserve. If you can work, work. If you can hunt, hunt. If you can forage, forage. There is plenty for everyone.
Finally, to every man, woman and child, who refuses to be a victim; who gets up every day and joins the fray; you have earned my respect and gratitude. I honor you and you inspire me. I will work harder today because of you.
Now, it’s time to go feed the turkeys.