What the Cluck?! Interview with the Water Mill Turkey

Shorty the Water Mill wild turkey
Shorty the Water Mill wild turkey. Credit: Jane Kirkland

For the past six to eight weeks, or longer, Hamptons locals and visitors have been encountering what could perhaps be the wildest of wild turkeys in Water Mill. This riotous bird has been stopping traffic on Montauk Highway from as far east as the Foody’s shopping complex, and west past Cobb Road. Last week, local media even took notice of her but an interview remained elusive.

As it turns out, this very tall bird, who ironically calls herself “Shorty,” spends a great deal of time in my front yard, so I endeavored to land an interview and find out exactly what she’s doing in Water Mill. This turned out to be more difficult than expected.

While Shorty makes regular appearances in my front yard—directly on Montauk Highway west of Water Mill’s center—and she struts her stuff for all to see along, and in the middle of, this main thoroughfare, the bird is more bashful than you’d think. Each time I approached, Shorty would bolt in the opposite direction toward town. And each time, I would watch in absolute horror as she came dangerously close to the cars whipping by on their way to parts east.

Finally, a robin friend of mine, who happens to be nesting atop a column on my front vestibule, agreed to speak with Shorty and arrange a quiet tête-à-tête over cracked corn and a cheese sandwich (I decided eating turkey, or even chicken, would be a bit gauche, considering my company) in my backyard.

The robin, coincidentally named “Robin,” finally got Shorty to agree to a brief interview and, with my dogs barking at the window, we met for lunch and a little face time on Saturday over Memorial Day weekend.

Here’s how it went:

Oliver Peterson: It’s nice to finally meet you. Robin tells me you like to be called Shorty, but I’ve heard others call you Wally and even “Tsukune,” which means “chicken meatball” in Japanese.

Shorty: Barbarians. For one, do I look like a male to you? I think not. Do I look like a chicken to you? I do not. And let’s not even discuss the whole “meatball” thing. So, yeah, Shorty will do, thank you.

OP: Shorty it is. So, what’s the deal? You’ve been hanging out in Water Mill for weeks. We’ve all seen wild turkeys along the roads out here, but I don’t know of any who have spent so much time out in the open and in one area.

Shorty: Is there a law against it? Why all the hubbub, bub? Do you know how boring it is waiting for eggs to hatch? You try guarding a nest and hiding from predators all day. See if you like it.

OP: Don’t you worry about being so close to the road, about getting hurt? Heck, sometimes you just walk out into the middle of the road.
Shorty: I can’t think about stuff like that. Who’s going to hit me? Have you seen the drivers around here? They can barely stay in their lane, let alone hit me.

OP: I’m not sure that makes any sense.

Shorty: You’ve got to live and let live—let your freak flag fly.

OP: I don’t even know what that means.

Shorty: I’m representing my species here. An old dog friend of mine explained it perfectly last summer—get the people to love you, stand up and represent something and they will protect you.

OP: OK. Tell me more.

Shorty: Remember that cartoon Underdog? He became a mascot for the disenfranchised. Underdog became a symbol, a fun-loving hero for humanity to adore. Since then, no more dog sandwiches, no more eating dog at Thanksgiving. I’m making a similar stand for turkeykind. If I become the mascot for Water Mill, who’s going to deep fry my brothers and sisters come November?

OP: I… I don’t know that Underdog has anything to do with why most people don’t eat dog.  What’s this about Thanksgiving now?
Shorty: Just think about it. Look, my public awaits, I need to get back to it. Just share my words and tell your readers to be careful when driving through Water Mill. Thanks for the corn. Thanks for eating cheese today.

OP: OK, stop by any time. I hope we can do this again.

Shorty: We can talk again after my little ones are born. Until then, just wave and honk when you drive by.

OP: Will do.

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