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Arkansas Chapter of the CoHT . . .

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A Turkey on My Back

by Don Simons


Some years ago I met Charlie Norvell, a living historian from Tennessee, at a workshop for state park interpreters. I remember that he had two turkeys that he had skinned, preserved, and hung as if they were freshly killed. They made excellent props for living history demonstrations.

Anyway, I finally got serious about turkey hunting last April and bagged my first gobbler, a 22 pounder. I skinned it, coated it with lots of Borax, stuffed it with newspaper, and sewed it up. Then I hung it in a storage room to dry. After a couple of months Lori stopped complaining about the smell so I knew it was ready. Armed with some red, white, and blue model spray paint, I brightened the colors on his head and neck.

He made his début at the Pinnacle Mountain Rendezvous. It hung nicely from my lodge pole. On a hook nearby was a slab of smoked breast meat which I shared with a few people. Occasionally during the weekend I swung him over my shoulder for a tour of the encampment. We attacked a lot of attention.

The most common question was “Is it real?” Next was “Is that a real dead turkey on your back?” To which I would reply “Yeah, it’s real dead?”

“Is that a turkey on your back?”

“There’s a turkey on my back? GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!” Or “I’m fresh out of turkey repellant.”

One kid said to another “That’s an old turkey.” To which I said “Yeah, my bird is old too.”

One lady asked “Did you shoot it?” I replied “It was him or me.”

Another lady asked the same question. I said “Nope, he died of a heart attack.”

“Oh, you’re just being a smart-aleck.”

“I’ve been a smart-aleck all weekend, why should I change now.”

But the stuffed turkey had more value than just providing me with humorous replies. One lady was fascinated and said she had never seen a turkey with feathers still on it. Perhaps she thought they were all featherless.

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