Jerkle the wild turkey eats a plate of food provided by Ace in the Berkeley hills.
Jerkle enjoys a plate of food from Ace. (Ace Backwords)

I had a poignant moment at my campsite this morning. Involving those goddamn wild turkeys, believe it or not. My hated enemies. Now, I feed all the wild critters in the Berkeley hills, except for the wild turkeys. Why? Because they’re too big (40 pounds) and there are too many of the bastards (dozens of them). And if I didn’t run them off, they’d eat every morsel of cat food I put out for my cats. And frankly I can’t afford to feed a flock of turkeys. Plus, they’re goons. They regularly knock over the water dish and my cats have to go all day with no water. So I always run them off when they show up at my campsite.

Two of the turkeys in particular have tormented me for years. They were always together, like a couple. So I named them Herkle and Jerkle. And they’d show up at my campsite every morning. And they’d circle around my campsite for hours. And the second my back was turned they’d make a mad dash for the cat food dish. I’d get up and chase after them in a rage, cursing and screaming bloody murder at them, and throwing rocks and branches at them. But I could almost never hit them. They were way too fast and zipped straight up the hill on their powerful legs like the Road Runner cartoon (Only one time I did manage to hit one of them right in the ass. That turkey jumped straight up 5 feet in the air, squawking and feathers flying before she fled up the hill. Very satisfying. For once. After the thousands of times when I missed) (I’d make a lousy baseball player). 

Herkle disappeared a year ago. But Jerkle is still around (do turkeys experience loneliness??). Anyways, I was taking a nap this morning when Jerkle woke me up with her gobbling sound. They’d be more successful sneaking into my campsite as cat food thieves if they didn’t constantly make that gobble-gobble sound. But I guess it’s a compulsion with them. They can’t stop doing it. 

I get up and start to chase after Jerkle in a rage, like usual. Jerkle took off running. But after she got about 20 yards away from me, she stopped running. She sat down on the ground. And sat there for quite some time. Looking like a chicken sitting on an egg. Which was weird. She’d never done that before. 

After a while I realized why. When she tried to stand up, her legs would buckle and she’d fall right back down to the ground. I had noticed for a while that her legs were getting progressively worse. She staggered around with a bad limp that got noticeably worse over the last month, as she staggered around the woods. I realized Jerkle was on her last legs. Literally. 

To my surprise, I felt a pang of sadness as I watched her sitting there. Part of my reaction was personal. I’ve noticed my own legs have been getting progressively weaker lately. And I often wonder how much longer I’ll be able to make the trek up the Berkeley hills to my campsite. 

But it was more than that. As much of a nemesis and a pain in the ass that Jerkle could be, she’d still been a part of my life for many years. And I realized there was a bond there. I guess it’s like athletes who can be fierce rivals and hate each other’s guts all the years they’re competing against each other. But after they retire they realize there’s a strong bond there. A brotherhood. 

I packed up my campsite, and left a plate of food for Jerkle. I guess I’ll have to start feeding her now. 

But I still hate those goddamn wild turkeys!!! 

This article originally appeared on Ace’s blog, Acid Heroes.

Ace Backwords is a homeless writer and artist who lives in Berkeley, California. You can find more writing on his blogs.