The Turkey of St. Johns Part 5: From Genesis to Revelation


In the beginning the Turkey of St. Johns was created when the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; as this was all that could be seen from the inside of the egg containing our precious bird friend who began to peck its way into the light that was good. Then, when as a result of all this fruitfulness and multiplications, there was this addition, a turkey I swear I saw in a doghouse in a front yard surrounded by a chain link fence, a sight that no one has been able to verify for the last few years. It was good to have seen this bird but part of me feels the need to rest. It feels like a seventh day especially when I have written so many blog posts every year on the Thanksgiving holiday.

There may have been some consideration about the Turkey of St. Johns living alone. The turkey seemed content, as I recall, so there must have been no need to create an Adam or Eve poultry companion. It wouldn’t have been easy to fashion a whole other turkey from a turkey rib. I’m sure too, that in that environment, the Turkey of St. Johns was spared visits from serpents and was able to eat anything it was provided. It’s hard to reason with a turkey and insist that they avoid eating from a Tree of Knowledge. You can’t explain such matters to birds. I’d like to imagine this turkey lived in this proverbial Garden of Eden until which time it passed away from old age. The Turkey of St. Johns could be living there still and I haven’t been able to find it but it hasn’t been without my having made attempts while scouring the area and making minimal efforts of research.


As for the mystery of the Turkey of St. Johns, I chalk it up to an old memory lost to time, a quick, spectacular vision, a behold moment, out of place, and worth noting by an appreciator and chronicler of the occasional odd sight. After I first spotted this household pet, it felt like lo, a turkey waddling in a yard. I’m not sure if it appeared like jasper and carnelian and I can tell you no rainbows or torches of fire were involved in this encounter but the moment resurfaces in my consciousness as a remembrance of a creature I want to honor, glorify and give thanks to every Thanksgiving. The Turkey of St. Johns is a true symbol of Thanksgiving, a reminder of what stately and generous birds turkeys really are. Reflect on this with each bite of Thanksgiving dinner even if your turkey is made of tofu.


The Turkey of St Johns may have been surrounded by dogs, sorcerers, hungry murderers and idolaters protected from those folks by that chainlink fence. Maybe an angel watched over the turkey to keep it safe, something along the lines of the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star. I warn everyone who reads the words of this blog. If anyone adds to them the Turkey of St. Johns will add to him the plague this post has become since its completion. The Turkey of St. Johns will take away its share in the tree of life and in the holy neighborhood described in these writings. He who testifies says, “Surely the Turkey of St. Johns will be found soon.” Amen. The grace of the Turkey of St. Johns be with all other forms of poultry. Amen again.

Illustration by Jessica


Go back to what started it all:

Or read last years tribute:

The Turkey Of St. Johns part 4: A Return to Normalcy

Thank me.

Every Thanksgiving my mind drifts back many years when I believe I spotted a burly, living turkey waddling around outside a dog house behind a chain link fence on a front lawn of a house in the vicinity of St Johns. The image gets murkier with time. Putting the word out through Facebook never revealed anyone with a more distinct memory than my own. I believe what I saw. The Turkey of St Johns has become a Thanksgiving totem I memorialize. It was real. I know I saw it regardless of whether anyone else ever did.

Turkey Jerky

Call me David. Some years ago, never mind how many precisely, having little to no obligations in my life, and nothing to interest me in my own neighborhood, I thought I would wander about a little and see parts of St. Johns. In this way I found myself riding my bike, and now venting my spleen after having circulated through the neighborhood. Whenever I find myself growing grim this month, when it’s this damp and drizzly November, whenever I find myself pausing, lost in a memory of that unforgotten turkey and bringing up the image of a funeral for that possibly, long gone bird and especially whenever my hypochondria gets an upper hand of me that it requires a strong impulse control to stop me from thinking I’m sick of not knowing about the Turkey of St. Johns, then going anyway and knocking on doors in the general vicinity where I remember seeing it and screaming, “WHERE’S THE TURKEY AT?” Then I account it’s high time to stay out of St. Johns as much as I can.

Possibly a good book.

I quietly take to thoughts of that turkey. It doesn’t surprise me being a mystery I’ve been unable to solve for many years. This is my substitute for loneliness and no actual live turkey. I don’t have to get all philosophical and name drop Cato and talk about him leaping into his sword. That whole thing sounded horrible, by the way. These feelings are not that dire. I just want to remember a turkey I saw long ago. If no one knows anything, maybe not even some guy with a degree who’s really smart, someone or another might cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the Turkey of St. Johns with me.

Faster than a turkey?

The Turkey Of St. Johns Part 3: Here’s Looking For You

Last night I thought a great many things. Thanksgiving time always has me reflecting on an old memory. I’ve done the thinking for all of us. It adds up to one thing: Another year where I haven’t found the Turkey of St. Johns–that mysterious creature I spied years ago. The identity of this bird has eluded me year after year.

Now you’ve got to listen to me. If I keep searching every year I have a good idea of where I’m going to end up. Nine times out of ten I’ll end up in the looney bin because people will become concerned about a man stumbling around St. Johns mumbling about a turkey.

I’m saying it because it’s true. We all know this turkey, whether in legend or lore, it belongs to St. Johns. My outcry is for this gobbler’s whereabouts. It has become a part of my work and a reason to keep going. If I don’t find this turkey I’ll regret it, maybe not today or the day after Thanksgiving but soon and for the rest of my life.

We’ll always have the Turkey of St. Johns. That turkey will never leave us, that turkey is with us in spirit regardless of whether anyone has a recollection of this bird. I’ve got a job to do. I’ll continue my search. Where I’m going you won’t be able to follow. I’m no good at being noble but it doesn’t take much to see the problem of trying to find a turkey I once spotted in someone’s front yard doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday we’ll all understand that. Now, now…Here’s looking for you Turkey of St. Johns.

* * * * *

Previous Turkey posts:

The Portland Orbit returns December 9th with another edition of The Kennedy Files. 

The Return of The Turkey of St. Johns


This time of year always has me thinking about turkey. When I think about it I’m trying to figure out who’s cooking it, (never me) and where I’m going to eat it. There’s usually some consideration about recreating the turkey sandwich Thanksgiving from many years ago – our go-to Plan B. It really wasn’t that bad. Lately any turkey thoughts include the Turkey of St. Johns. Last fall, I searched for evidence of a turkey kept in a pen in the front yard of a home in that area. It’s something I remember seeing a long time ago, but years later there was no trace of the avian apparition. I received a tip after posting about it on facebook last year directing me to a street different from the one in my memory.  After last Thanksgiving, I rode my bike up and down N. Polk Street to no avail. There weren’t even any neighbors outside to accost with ramblings of pet turkey sightings.


When I feel like giving up on my quest for the St. Johns’ Turkey, I push to go back to the back part of the deep recesses of my memory bank. After waiting in line for an hour, I am led by a doughy bank employee with a tiny key. There, in the back of a box, dark despite the greenish flourescent lighting, is a faint memory that’s getting fuzzy and faded with age. It’s one of an ephemeral, strangely fluffy turkey with plumage that haunts me to this day. Happening upon that giant, lumbering bird gobbling it up on someone’s front yard creeped me out.  As much of an impression as that made, all evidence including anyone else’s remembrance has vanished. I’m here to tell you, I saw the Turkey of St. Johns. It was real! Someday I’m going to find that bird.

I believe in the Turkey of St. Johns.  The memory year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow, I will ride faster, open up my eyes wider . . . and then one fine morning— So I search on, stumbling against the current, pushed back ceaselessly into the past.


The Turkey of St. Johns (Part 1?)

At Thanksgiving time this year I’ve found myself working in the St. Johns area. This had me thinking about a turkey I once saw living in a front yard in that neighborhood. The bird seemed to be big and white with multicolored feathers in its back. This was years ago. In my murky memory I tried to figure out what I was doing when I saw the turkey. This might have helped me pinpoint where the turkey had lived. Maybe it was a trip to the dentist that took me past the turkey’s home. The name of the street escapes me, but I do recall the turkey lived close to a corner market that looked like a house. I had to wonder if the turkey was a pet. I suppose any animal that can be tamed in some fashion and express some form of affection has pet potential. Then again the turkey may have been raised for Thanksgiving dinner. I never had a conversation with the turkey or anyone related to the turkey to figure this out.

Phunhouse turkey

Turkey display at Phun House.

At this point, I decided to take a trip back in time, in a way, to find the turkey. I found myself on  streets that seemed as familiar as unfamiliar – wet leaves, multi-color Portland houses, the pastel green paint jobs jumping out in the dusky afternoon. The sidewalks, empty.  Early Christmas decorations intermingled with remainders of Halloween . . .  but I couldn’t pinpoint where I had seen the turkey. As my hands grew cold, I gave up. I could have biked around in circles for hours and not found any evidence. On my way home it occurred to me that the dead memories Portland Facebook page would be a good resource. I posted:

Anyone familiar with a turkey that lived or lives in the front yard of a Portsmouth or St. John neighborhood house in North Portland? It had a pen in a yard with a chain link fence. I remember a corner market that looked like a house was in the area. Any cross streets or general location would be helpful. Thanks.

I got some much appreciated responses. There was a funny comment insinuating that I was on the hunt for a free range turkey that could be more easily purchased at Zuppan’s Market. A specific location of N Wall and N Houghton was mentioned so I made plans to return. One thing I was unsure about was whether the turkey had been in the Portsmouth or St. Johns neighborhood. I’m still not clear of the boundaries but I’m going with St. Johns because it has a better ring to it.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 7.12.34 PM

A turkey lived around here.

I went back to N Wall and N Houghton. It was on the way home from work. The night before I looked on google maps. Using street view, nothing but the corner market looked familiar. I had to laugh about Easy Street being in the area. I liked the idea of a turkey living on Easy St. Really the idea of anyone living on Easy Street is humorous. My return to the location where I had seen a turkey living in someone’s front yard was a reminder of how much things change. The corner market had been spruced up with new paint and was now a marijuana store. I rode up and down the street in that area looking for the chain link fence from my memory. There was nothing that looked like the living quarters of a turkey.

turkey street sign (1)

You can get pot here but not a turkey pot pie.

I could convince myself that the turkey moved away with the family that had taken care of him or her. Any other theory would have bummed me out. Regardless, the turkey of St. Johns doesn’t seem to be around any longer. I’m confident that someday I’ll learn the story of the turkey of St. Johns. I’ve seen other animals in Portland: coyotes on the streets, a rabbit and a couple of cockatiels sharing a chicken coop on N. Killingsworth, I even know the legend of the White Rabbit. I’ll write about that someday. While this might seem on the level of having had a Big Foot sighting, I swear I saw a turkey hanging around in a front yard, waddling, chilling and enjoying life. That memory is the only evidence I have for now.

So in Portland when the sun goes down I ride on an old broken down sidewalk-bike trail watching gray skies roll over industrial warehouse buildings and sense the daydreaming to escape the mundane, and in St. Johns I know now the children must be crying in a neighborhood where they let children cry if they can’t get them to be quiet, and as the stars’ll arrive and don’t you know God is John Cena? the afternoon sun shadows and streaks her rays across the slope, which brings on a night that caresses the earth, envelopes the rivers, holds the peaks and folds the brain creases in and nobody, nobody knows what happened or at least no one is giving up the memory escaped in the continued passing of time, I think of the St. Johns turkey, I think of the old St. Johns turkey I never found, I think of the St. Johns turkey.

Sun streak

Enough turkey talk, time to shop.