It’s the season for turkeys, Diesel says


In my room at The Times office, with the easterly wind hammering the windows, it’s work to remember that summer is imminent. It’s been one of those springs — wet, windy, gray. The plants cringe. We wonder, will a wet, cool, foggy summer be our lot? Or a hot, humid one?

A recent visitor from Seattle, where we imagine that the weather rains and glowers all the time, said the other day that she was surprised at how dull the Vineyard palette is in spring. Her experience of rain and leaden skies in the Pacific Northwest is not the same as ours, I guess. Here the spare scrub oaks, the cold easterly driving the rain, and the flat landscape inspire gloom. There, the rain, frequent but warm, the geography, rising from the littoral to the mountaintops, the flora, varied and unintimidated, and the clouds (she said) simply inspire.

Sunday, we took a fresh pair of guests on a short cruise, from Tashmoo to Oak Bluffs and return. The wind was slack in the morning, the sky bright, and the current cooperative, so motorboat travel was comfortable enough. The Vineyard shoreline, as observed from the water, is not overcrowded, contentious, or noisy. Five Corners, the Roundabout, or the pilgrims wandering the streets of the down-Island towns are not visible. There were the beaches, of course, with sunbathers but very few swimmers attempting the 55-degree water. Excepting East and West Chop, the houses are few, half hidden by the shrubbery along the North Shore. The bluffs at East Chop may be in danger of giving way to the winter seas, but they remain sweetly impressive in their familiar Vineyard geographic modesty. They are not mountains running down to the sea, after all.

Our guests were surprised to see so many pleasure craft moored next to one another in Oak Bluffs Harbor, an arrangement that, they imagined, resembled their suburban lives back home – grilling, drinking, and chatting with the next door neighbors. To unfamiliar observers, it didn’t seem like the getaway vacations are often designed to be.

In our neighborhood, as spring turns to summer, turkeys are celebrating by procreating to beat the band. From our porch, we — Molly and I and Diesel the mastiff — watch a small heard of these hard-to-get-to-know creatures. There are two hens and perhaps two dozen young — Molly calls them giblets — prospecting in their daffy way for food in an area where hunting is forbidden. Naturally, Diesel would like to get to know them.

Diesel has a passion for the spring crop of turkeys. His daily walks are all about turkeys. His ears shuffle turkey fragrances into his big nose. He’s run turkeys up trees before, so his nose oscillates between ground hugging and treetop surveillance. He has forgotten the deer carcasses left over from fall hunting season that he somehow found during every walk in the woods months ago. It’s all about turkeys now.

But Diesel only captures dead things. Despite his imposing, toothy appearance, Diesel is a patsy. A turkey would have to turn up dead on a serving platter on the front porch for Diesel to bag it. Neverthelss, unconcerned with the weather, lacking a cell phone repeatedly intruding with an alert warning of dangerous weather and telling him to avoid flood-prone areas, he’s up early these late spring days. He’s itching to get out in the pre-dawn hours. What he’s alert to is his poacher-nabbing legacy, now lost in the evolutionary mists. Turkeys inspire in that vast, echoing cranium of his a dreamlike sense that he ought to go out and check the property.

He receives this evolutionary summons at about 4:30. I can hear him talking to himself. A low, grumbling growl signals that he’s sensed a visitor. He alternates the growl with a whine that is a plea for someone to open the door and release him to the hunt. In those restless, pre-dawn hours, as the turkeys gather around the house sneering at him, he’s as game as he was nine years ago in his puppyhood. The news for him is not good. It’s 4:30 in the morning, and his urges are just going to have to wait till seven, at the earliest.

Diesel is preoccupied. The critters are hungry and restless. But the news for the rest of us is that summer’s here, and we’ll just have to see what it has in store.