The Greatest Turkey Fighter Of Them All
Every year when turkey season starts, I think of Henry Ott of Jackson, Alabama. Ott, a quiet fellow highly respected in his community, has never been known for flat out lying. Like many hunters, though, I suspect he might embellish the facts a little to improve a story about turkeys. But there was one time when he didn't have to stray from it at all.
"John," he told me, " as sure as I'm standing here, the whole thing really happened."
Ott had decided to take his 13-year-old nephew, Tommy Deas, turkey hunting. Putting the boy between himself and the turkey, he began to call. " I figured the turkey would come to Tommy and he'd kill him, but it didn't work out that way. Instead the turkey came up on my end." At about 40 steps Ott poured the lead to the bird. The gobbler lay on the ground flopping. Placing his right foot on the turkey's head and his left on the feet, Ott proceeded to take out his pocketknife.
"What are you doing?" questioned Tommy.
"The game's over, Tommy," Ott said. "I'm putting this old turkey our of his misery. There's no sense in letting him suffer."
With that explanation, he pushed the blade of his knife through the turkey's head. The old gobbler spread his wings, quivered, and expired. The two hunters then unloaded their guns and prepared to carry the turkey and their empty guns from the woods. But as they went back to pick up their prize, that "dead" turkey made one flop and was up on his feet running.
"I chased him through the woods for about 40 yards," Ott remembered later. "And as I dove for him on a run, I caught him by the tail feathers."
The mighty old bird suddenly lurched and nothing but the tail feathers were left in Henry's hand. Quickhanded Ott reached again, however, and grabbed the left wing. Once more the powerful turkey fought back, and this time left Ott with a handful of feathers, a lump on his head, and blood streaming down his face.
"As I grabbed the right wing, the left wing hit me on the forehead, bloodied my face once more, and knocked me to the ground. The right foot came up next and spurred me in the top of the hand and in my palm. His left foot caught me in the leg and spurred me in three places.
By now Ott's arms were also suffering from the onslaught of those cutting spurs, but our Ott still fought back. He knew that if he failed, the gobbler would escape, die, and rot in the woods. This sportsman fought for his prize like a boxer in the last round, mustering all the strength he could to put his opponent away.
So Ott, nearly exhausted, began to give the battle his maximum effort. Finally securing both of the gobbler's feet in his hands, he stroked the air with that turkey and landed the final blow, flinging him into a pine tree.
When the battle was over, telling who had won was almost impossible. The turkey had no tail feathers, wing feathers, or breast feathers, and was covered with blood. Ott also was covered with blood--his own--and was nearly as battle-scarred as the old bird.
Many of the gentler sex may assume this is a barbaric demonstration of man's attempt to prove his superiority over lower critters. However, if we look more closely, we see that the turkey was mortally wounded and would have wondered off, died, and been totally wasted. But because of Henry's valiant efforts, the bird was preserved and made a fine meal for his family.
As legendary heroes of the past were immortalized through the singing and telling of their exploits, so the people of Jackson, Alabama, will sing and tell about the greatest turkey fighter of them all--Henry Ott--long after he has gone to that great roosting tree in the sky.