Guest Columnist

The turkeys are wild, but restraint is best on prom night

A robin flies past a wild turkey at Gardner Golf Course in Marion on Monday, May 9, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
A robin flies past a wild turkey at Gardner Golf Course in Marion on Monday, May 9, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
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Wild turkeys are having sex in my front yard. First, two deer emerged from the underbrush, grazing their way 15 feet outside my front windows. Then three tom turkeys strutted out next, stopped, and lined up facing the house, just the three of them, feathers fanned out.

Behind the three males, nine females stepped gingerly into the yard, ignoring the testosterone-laden fellas trying to impress them. Except for one. She crouched down, gave some unknown signal to one of the guys, and let him have his way. I turned away. It looked a little rough.

The good people of my generation came of age in the 1960s, an era of extraordinary change and loss of innocence on many levels and, for most of us, sex was something we only read about in magazines. I, for one, was totally smitten with a woman in London named Christine Keeler, a beauty who showed up in all the magazines after it was revealed she’d been having an affair with a British government minister named John Profumo, as well as with a Soviet spy. She had a face for which I’d have sacrificed everything. Silly but, hey, I’m from Iowa.

Today’s boys are reading about folks like Stormy Daniels and, frankly, I feel sorry for them. Check that: they are more likely looking at photos and downloading porn, not reading anything. They believe sex is something men do to women. We believed it was about love, passion and eternal life with another human. I don’t really know what to think about this but I do believe that being naive, innocent and clueless had its own rewards.

We maneuvered through a world seen mostly in black and white, colorless yet abundantly clear. It included music by the Beatles wherein they sang about wanting to hold a girl’s hand, the Beach Boys harmonizing about surfing and, of course, Iowan Andy Williams whose music to this day puts me back in my mother’s kitchen in a time when the world felt right, and new.

Prom season is upon us. Self-esteem, or lack of it, stalks the halls of our high schools. Recently I asked the woman with whom I went to prom almost 50 years ago what she remembered about it. The answer was “Not a thing.” Under most circumstances this would crush me, but she then asked me what I remembered about it. I had to be honest, answering, “Not a thing.”

Sex in the wild turkey population is one thing, quite another in the human population. I wish I could offer some sage advice here, but I cannot. I’m an old man on the brink of curmudgeon-ness, someone who was never a favorite of the girls, someone who was lucky to one-day fall for a brilliant woman who also fell for me. It happens, but not at prom. So I say to high school students everywhere: not going to prom? Good for you. Going with your buddies? Good for you.

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But if you have a date and you look forward to a time during the evening when you and your date have a few moments alone please remember the brilliant advice of a man who lobbied to name the wild turkey our national bird and an even older curmudgeon than I, Benjamin Franklin, who brilliantly wrote, “When in doubt, don’t.”

• Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book “The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press.

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