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The shaman and The Old Turkey Hunter

The shaman was over early to the old turkey hunter's shop. It was still February, but almost not. It was past time for breakfast, but still time for a second cup of coffee. This was the perfect time for going visiting in the country. No one felt obliged to offer you a plate of whatever they had anymore, and no one felt bad if you said you were still full from your own. A cup of coffee is always welcome as is the company.

"Hey there." said the shaman.

"Hey back." said O.T.

"I'm lookin' for the guy who repairs lawnmowers." said the shaman. "Is he around?"

"What's left of him," said O.T. "You're lookin' at him."

"Frightful." said the shaman. "How are my lawnmowers doing?"

"I put hay in their stalls yesterday." replied O.T. "That Snapper you got needs a new belt." By this time, the shaman had come inside. O.T. was going back to work on the chain drive on a Murray 21-inch rider that was up on the rack. There was something intricate going on, and for a moment O.T. was lost in his work. The shaman took the time to admire all the turkey beards and turkey fans hanging from the walls and off the beams of the shop. It spoke of a career as a master turkey hunter. When the shaman stood in one corner of the shop it felt like he was in church.

"Go ahead with the belt." said the shaman, "Figure on bringing back them back the first week in April." Then, with business out of the way, the shaman took a stool in the shop. "O.T, I had a dream last night."

"Was she wearin' a black bikini?"

"Nope, it was about turkeys."

"Turkeys. There's something wrong with you son."

"I dreamt I had all my turkey hunting buddies in for a big hunt."

"That sounds like fun." said O.T.

"I figure everyone has a digital camcorder these days, and I'd just invite them all to bring their equipment with them, and we'd all tape each other having a hunt."

"Count me in." said O.T.

"I figure you can give a master class." said the shaman.

"Fine. I'll do my part. Sign me up."

"I never asked you before. How do you do it?"

"Do what?" asked O.T. "By the way, the wife's probably done with the dishes already, otherwise I'd offer you some ham and eggs."

"No problem." said the shaman. "I'm still full."

"So you were saying. How do I do what?"

"Call in so many turkeys."

"Oh, that." replied O.T. "That's easy. I just use my box caller over here-- the one on the window sill. Every little while, I just pull on that and eventually the turkeys come out and I blow there heads off. By the way, you want some coffee?"

"If you got it."

"Pot's on the stove there." I got up and found my cup over by a jar of screws, still there from the last time.

"But can you tell me more about it?" I said, resuming the conversation, now with a cup of coffee to worry.

"More about it? What's there to tell?" said O.T.

"How you call them. How you take their temperature. How do you prepare for season? How do you scout?"

"How I call them is easy." O.T. walked over to the window sill. "It's cold out, so I don't know how this is going to work." O.T. opened the window and took his call from the sill and then held it out a ways and let go with a few yelps. He brought the call back in and put the window down.

"So you're a minimal sort of caller then." the shaman responded. "You're not into aggressive calling?"

"Oh," said O.T. "Some times I'll do that. Some times I'll do more."

"Can I hear it?"

"Sure." O.T. went back to the window sill.

"Are you going to put the call out the window again?" asked the shaman.

"That's the only way you get a good sound." said O.T.

"Is it okay if I go around the back of the shed and listen?"

"Suit yourself." said O.T.

The shaman went back behind the lawnmower shop and listened. O.T. did some plaintive yelping, a little of this, a little of that. After a couple more runs, the shaman heard a gobbler way off down the holler in back of the shop answer. After a bit, the shaman went back inside.

"That was incredible." said the shaman. "Did you know a gobbler was honoring your calls?"

"I wouldn't be a bit surprised. They get to doing that this time of year. I don't want to get them too worked up, otherwise they won't respond later in the year. In another couple of days, the state says you can't call to them. "

"That's just awesome. I gotta have you over -- to teach."

"Just bring 'em by here." said O.T. "I gotta work, but they're welcome to drop by with you."

"And you'll show 'em?"


"Wow! I knew that dream meant something. Thanks." The shaman thought about it for a bit. "How did you do that just now."

"What do you mean?" asked O.T. "You saw me do it."

"What was going through your mind?"

"I don't know what you're getting at."

"What were you trying to do just now."

"Make a turkey call."

"Well, I guess there's a level of subtlety there. I mean. Frankly, I can't tell the difference between you calling in the shop here and calling outside."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, if it won't wreck the call or anything, would you mind repeating what you did out there, in here-- here in the shop with the window down."

"Sure thing." O.T. walked over to the sill and picked up his call, wandered back over and sat down next to the shaman."

"Do it." said the shaman. O.T. did pretty much the same set of calls he'd done out the window. The shaman listened, but could not hear the difference.

"I'm sorry, O.T. " said the shaman. "There's just no difference to my ear."

"There won't be." said O.T. "But it makes a huge difference to the turkey."

"How so?"

"They can't hear inside the shop here." said O.T. "You gotta have the window open and the call hanging out for them to hear it right."

"So what you're saying is there's a subtle difference between the properties of the call?"

"I'm saying it ain't all that subtle."

"I'm still not following you." said the shaman. "At least I'm not hearing the difference."

"You can't hear the difference?" laughed O.T. "Son, you must be deaf. Go on outside and listen."

I went back outside to the back of the shop. First O.T. did some yelping from inside the shed. Then he threw open the window and repeated the call. Then he stuck his head out.

"Did you hear the difference now?" asked O.T.

There was a commotion down hill from the shop, down by the pond. Both the shaman and O.T. turned to see a flock of turkeys including one gobbler taking flight.

"Dang!" said O.T. "I knew that was going to happen! Come on back in the shop."

"Sorry." said the shaman when he got back in. "I didn't understand your calling was that powerful."

"Oh . . . " said O.T. "See now, those turkeys have seen you and heard my callin' them. They're about good as wrecked."


"Oh," said O.T.. "You didn't know. Besides, it'll make it more of a challenge come season."

"You will hunt that flock?"

"Oh, that 'n whatever else comes to the call."

"What's your strategy?" asked the shaman.

"Well," said O.T. "It depends wholly on the weather."

"What do you do when it rains?"

"Call about every 10 ten minutes."

"When it's windy?"

"Call a little bit louder-- about every 10 minutes."

"That doesn't sound like a huge change."

"It isn't."

"So why do you say it all depends on the weather?" asked the shaman.

"I sit here in the shop." said O.T. "I listen to WLW on the radio. They have weather on the Tens. When the weather comes on, I put down my work, take a break and go over to the window. If I don't see any turkeys, I open up and give them a call or two. If I see turkeys, I go grab my shotgun over there and blow the closest gobbler's head off."

The shaman got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"So. . . So you don't . . . So you don't ever leave the shop?"

"Sure I do." said O.T. "If I kill one, I gotta go get it. I'm not going to leave it for the coyotes. That isn't sporting."

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