It began as just another day on the way to school and work. Teachers Hana Baker and Tyler Slostad, along with their two children, Tova and Haakon, were loading up in the car at home to head to the school, blissfully unaware of the adventures that awaited them on their upcoming commute.
The journey began as it always has since the Baker-Slostads bought their new car: with one person getting into the car and the others hopping around in the cold outside while the person inside tried to figure out how to work the fancy, counter-intuitive unlocking system. Once everyone was inside and buckled up, the family headed off for school. Less than a minute from home, on the Heckendorn side of the Winthrop Bridge, a flock of wild turkeys burst from the trees above, and one of them clonked hard onto the roof rack of the car.
Tyler and the kids got out of the car just in time to see a 3-legged coyote running away, and a wild turkey dead on the side of the road. Hana, in the driver’s seat, could see Tyler in the rear-view mirror as he picked up the dead bird by its legs.
“Do you want me to keep the turkey?” he yelled to her. Hana thought they should leave the turkey for the coyote, but it had already run off, so the turkey was theirs for the taking.
It is at this point in the story that Hana shared with me her “completely irrational” phobia of birds flying around in enclosed spaces. “If a bird gets in the house, I immediately flop to the floor in panic,” she says. The thought of a wild turkey flapping back to life in her car was unimaginable. “Are you sure it’s dead?’ she asked Tyler.
The turkey was indeed dead, so they loaded it into the car at Tyler’s feet in the passenger seat and drove it home, where they placed it on the recycle bin to deal with later. They arrived at school a bit late, but the excuse was legit, and probably one that you could only get away with in a rural school district: “Please excuse Tova and Haakon’s tardiness to school. We hit a wild turkey that was being chased by a coyote, and we had to take it home so we could eat it for dinner.”
After school and sports, the Baker-Slostads returned home and Haakon pronounced the bird “frozen solid and really ugly.”
Tyler, who hunts grouse and knows how to butcher a bird, went to work. “There was a broken femur and a bit of bruising,” Tyler said, “but I was able to carve off the breasts, thighs and legs just like I would on a grouse. It was a nice 20-pound bird!”
That night, and for the next three, the Baker-Slostads enjoyed wild turkey soup with wild rice for dinner, while carnivores on the nearby hillsides scavenged the pickings from the carcass that Tyler took out into the wild. Just another day of country livin’!