"Each friend represents a world in us,
A world possibly not born until they arrive,
And it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
I guess I was about 18 years old when I first pulled up to that old log cabin down by the river. The tattered old sign out front proclaimed, ‘Fishin Bait For Sale.’ And, I was definitely down at the river to fish.
So I parked my car, stepped out, and eagerly headed toward the old cabin’s door.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, I spotted a flurry of brown and grey feathers heading my way in the dirt, and before I realized what was going on, my legs were being pummeled by a very sharp beak. Behind that beak stood the meanest old bird I had ever seen.
I dove back into my car through the open front window, and now watched that furious old bird giving me the evil eye.
About that time, a very old man appeared on the cabin’s porch, screaming and cussing at the top of his lungs.
“Get away from that car, you old Buzzard! It’s All Right! Calm Down! And quit scarin off my paying customers!”
At the sound of his voice, this agitated old bird raced up to the old man on the porch, and unbelievably began very affectionately nuzzling his leg. The old man slowly took a few kernels of corn from his pocket, threw them on the porch, and yelled out to me, “It’s OK now, sonny, you can get out of your car. Old Buzzard won’t bother you no more.”
After I nervously got out of my car and walked up to the porch, I soon learned that the old man’s name was Nels, and that his cantankerous old guard bird was named Buzzard.
“Why did you name this old turkey, Buzzard?” I couldn’t help asking him.
“Because he’s always peckin away at my customers, and God knows I ain’t got that many. Now, what I can I do for you, sonny?”
Thus began my friendship with this old man and his most unusual pet that would last for a few glorious years.
Old Nels was a widower, a very experienced fisherman, and one hell of a story teller. I soon found myself visiting that old log cabin down by the river quite often.
Nels seemed to know just about everything there was to know about the area, having been born in these woods, and I loved listening to his stories about ‘the old days.’ He also introduced me to many of his secret fishing holes on the river, and as time went on, presented me with more and more of his marvelous handmade fishing lures.
It wasn’t very long before I asked him about his cantankerous old pet turkey.
“Funny thing; he just showed up here one day shortly after my Margie died. I even tried to shoo him away a few times, but he always come back. I guess he decided that I needed some company.
Now, old Buzzard thinks he owns the place, and me, I reckon, and he’s real protective, as you saw that first day you came by.”
I certainly had, and as time went by, I continued to marvel at the unique bond and friendship between this gentle old man and his extremely faithful old turkey.
And, as time went by, old Buzzard began grudgingly allowing me to step out of my car without attacking me. Nels told me old Buzzard began recognizing the sound of my car engine, and when I would now pull up to the cabin, this old turkey would silently stand there in the dirt, looking me over very carefully, and then wander off into the trees.
Sometimes, when old Nels and I sat on the old cabin porch drinking lemonade or swapping fishing stories, old Buzzard would hop up into his lap and actually take a nap.
But it always seemed to me that this wise old bird slept with one eye open; even in his sleep, diligently guarding his best friend. I always imagined that if I had ever moved towards old Nels in a threatening manner, that old turkey would have been up in a second, trying to peck my eyes out.
He was an extremely loyal old bird.
Very sadly to me, after a few short summers of getting to know Nels, he passed away, and his old log cabin was simply boarded up by someone.
Shortly after his death, I drove out there again, wondering what had become of old Buzzard. I never saw that old bird again. I really don’t know if he died of heartbreak at Nels passing, or if he wandered off into the woods somewhere in his grief.
I guess I’ll never know.
But I still find myself driving out to that old boarded up cabin down by the river every so often. Although seeing it now usually saddens me, it also brings back many happy memories of many extremely pleasant days I had spent there so very long ago.
Nels and Buzzard had both taught me many things about true friendship, and I feel extremely lucky to have known them. They both made me realize that friends can be any shape, size, age, or form, if we only reciprocate their friendship.
These days, when I travel out to the old log cabin, I often get out of my car and sit on the crumbling old wooden porch, and just listen. And I swear, if the wind’s just right, I can hear old Nels yelling out to his cantankerous, faithful, feathered old friend. And within seconds, I can hear that old turkey affectionately gobbling back at him.
I don’t really know if I’m hearing their ghosts in the wind, or if their voices are just echoing around in my nostalgic mind. But I do like to believe that these two old friends are still out there – somewhere – together.
©2006, Mr. Ed