“Good day to you, my fine feathered friend,” spoke Buck with a tip of his antlers.
“And a good day to you,” said Turkey, proudly puffing out his chest and fanning his tail feathers.
“Are you headed to the creek?” asked Buck.
“I am indeed, and my family with me.” With the wave of an extended wing, he presented the rest of his group. “My mate has never been fatter and healthier. My two sons and daughter have become fully-grown this season. We journey to the creek to gather berries for the upcoming winter together.”
Then, Turkey craned his neck to look past Buck curiously.
“Pardon me for asking,” Turkey continued, “but why is it that you do not walk along a beaten path? And why is it that your own family has not made the journey with you?”
“My sons, too, have come of age this season,” Buck explained. “They are fine, strong lads, each bearing six points. They are bright sons and intrepid explorers. They suggested that during this autumn we begin to vary our route. Thus, we have separated to distances wide enough to search the surrounding area for danger as we make our daily journey yet close enough to hear one another call should we fall into distress.”
It was Buck now who stood proudly with his own chest stuck out. The fourteen points of his antlers made a jagged outline against the clear blue sky above. Turkey stared at Buck for a moment. Then, he and his family all began to laugh loudly.
“Surely you cannot be serious,” guffawed Turkey. “You and your father before you and your father before him have taken the same path to the same creek. Now, at the suggestion of your sons, you hastily change that plan?”
Buck lowered his antlers a little and frowned. “I find it important to allow insight. When my offspring have a new idea, I encourage them to cultivate it and put it to the test. My father did this with me.”
“Your father respected tradition,” interrupted the still chuckling Turkey, “and I suspect he would be appalled at your lack of respect for it. How do you expect you offspring to learn from you, to respect you when you allow them to question tradition such.” With this, Turkey gestured to his family and they all turned from Buck to continue on their path. “I dare say we shall take our leave of you now. I would rather my own offspring not hear anymore of the ideas you deer seem to keep.” Then he fanned his tail feathers out once again as he continued proudly on his path and added sarcastically, “Good day to you, Buck.”
“And a good day to you,” Buck responded then continued on his own way. He realized this delay might cause him to reach the creek a few moments late and that his sons may be worried about his well being, so he quickened his pace.
When he arrived at the creek, he and his offspring peered out from the tree line at three well-spaced locations. Once all appeared clear, they converged on the one of them who held the center position.
“I should say, that worked splendidly father,” his eldest said.
“Yes,” added his youngest. “We scanned a wide portion of the forest before arriving here. I feel we are quite safe.”
Just then, Turkey and his family came shuffling through the brush several yards upstream. Buck and Turkey caught eyes for a moment before Turkey turned his beak up and away from Buck and his sons and waddled further away along the bank of the creek in search of berries.
“I am proud of you both,” Buck said as he turned back to his sons. “Perhaps tomorrow we will try one of the other routes you have mapped.”
The following day, they did just that. And the day after they tried yet another route as they did the next day after that as well. Each time, they emerged from the trees in a slightly different location. Each time, they saw Turkey and his family arrive at the creek, breaking a great number of branches in their wake. Each day, Turkey turned his back on Buck and his sons and ushered his family away from them to gather berries.
Then, one day, as Buck reverted back to the route that had caused his path to cross with that of Turkey, he discovered a great deal of blood and feathers along the worn path where Turkey and his family walked daily. When Buck reached the creek side, his sons noted his concern.
“Why do you look worried father?”
“I fear some danger may have befallen Turkey. Our selected rout today took me across his routine path where I saw a great deal of blood and many feathers.”
The two young deer look at one another then offered some comfort. “Perhaps it was that of a pheasant or quail,” said the younger. “Yes, perhaps old Turkey will emerge from the woods with his family as he always does very soon,” added the older.
As they drank of the creek, all three watched the tree line for Turkey, but he never arrived. Neither did any member of his family. Not his wife, his daughter nor either son.
“I fear my suspicions are accurate,” said Buck as he dropped his head.
The deer journeyed home closer together than usual and followed the path the Turkey took with his family. When they reached the site that had caused Buck’s concern, his sons huddle with him to observe the scattered feathers.
“There is no doubt something happened to them,” said Buck’s oldest son to which the other two nodded.
“There is a trail,” said his youngest son.
Buck took note of the blood droplets and the occasional feather along a corridor of broken and branches and folded down grass. It was obvious that whatever Turkey and his family had met had gone that way.
Buck and his offspring followed the trail through the dense forest. Each time they thought they had lost the path, they discovered a new spot of blood or another feather. Eventually, they came to a clearing in the wood and discovered what they had feared.
There, several human hunters had made their camp. Turkey and his family hung from a rope in the trees, dead and stripped of their feathers. Buck and his sons looked on in horror.
Buck turned to his boys and began to say, “This should teach us all a lesson. You see, my sons, Turkey ridiculed me for listening to those younger than me and daring to change tradition. Had he seen the wisdom in accepting new input instead of laughing and dismissing it he and his family might still be alive right…”
The shots rang out and all three deer shortly fell to the ground as the camp of hunters high fived one another at the great fortune that had shone upon them. While out hunting, they had not only bagged five turkeys, but also three fully-grown male deer that had inexplicably wandered into their camp.