The last days of Jerkle the wild turkey of the Berkeley hills

I had a poignant moment at my campsite this morning. Involving those goddamn wild turkeys, believe it or not. My hated enemies.

Now, I feed all the wild critters in the Berkeley hills, except for the wild turkeys. Why? Because they’re too big (40 pounds) and there are too many of the bastards (dozens of them). And if I didn’t run them off, they’d eat every morsel of cat food I put out for my cats. And frankly I can’t afford to feed a flock of turkeys. Plus, they’re goons. They regularly knock over the water dish and my cats have to go all day with no water. So I always run them off when they show up at my campsite.

Two of the turkeys in particular have tormented me for years. They were always together, like a couple. So I named them Herkle and Jerkle. And they’d show up at my campsite every morning. And they’d circle around my campsite for hours. And the second my back was turned they’d make a mad dash for the cat food dish. I’d get up and chase after them in a rage, cursing and screaming bloody murder at them, and throwing rocks and branches at them. But I could almost never hit them. They were way too fast and zipped straight up the hill on their powerful legs like the Road Runner cartoon (Only one time I did manage to hit one of them right in the ass. That turkey jumped straight up 5 feet in the air, squawking and feathers flying before she fled up the hill. Very satisfying. For once. After the thousands of times when I missed) (I’d make a lousy baseball player).

Herkle disappeared a year ago. But Jerkle is still around (do turkeys experience loneliness??). Anyways, I was taking a nap this morning when Jerkle woke me up with her gobbling sound. They’d be more successful sneaking into my campsite as cat food thieves if they didn’t constantly make that gobble-gobble sound. But I guess it’s a compulsion with them. They can’t stop doing it.

I get up and start to chase after Jerkle in a rage, like usual. Jerkle took off running. But after he got about 20 yards away from me, he stopped running. He sat down on the ground. And sat there for quite some time. Looking like a chicken sitting on an egg. Which was weird. He’d never done that before.

After awhile I realized why. When he tried to stand up, his legs would buckle and he’d fall right back down to the ground. I had noticed for awhile that his legs were getting progressively worse. He staggered around with a bad limp that got noticeably worse over the last month, as he staggered around the woods. I realized Jerkle was on his last legs. Literally.

To my surprise, I felt a pang of sadness as I watched him sitting there. Part of my reaction was personal. I’ve noticed my own legs have been getting progressively weaker lately. And I often wonder how much longer I’ll be able to make the trek up the Berkeley hills to my campsite.

But it was more than that. As much of a nemesis and a pain in the ass that Jerkle could be, he’d still been a part of my life for many years. And I realized there was a bond there. I guess it’s like athletes who can be fierce rivals and hate each other’s guts all the years they’re competing against each other. But after they retire they realize there’s a strong bond there. A brotherhood.

I packed up my campsite, and left a plate of food for Jerkle. I guess I’ll have to start feeding him now.

But I still hate those goddamn wild turkeys!!!

A dream within a dream within a dream within a dream . . .



I woke up this morning at my campsite and I realized these people were camping right nearby me. They had lugged up these big mattresses and all this other stuff, and it was like they had set up their living room right in the middle of my campsite. I got up and walked down the trail to confront them. “So what are your plans?” I said, coldly. But they just glared back at me, not saying anything. So I knew this was headed towards an ugly confrontation . . . .

But then I woke up and realized I had just been dreaming. But when I looked up, I realized there really were people camping nearby. So I got up and walked down the trail to confront them. “I’ve been camping here for 10 years,” I said, coldly. “We’re just looking for some space,” they said. “Well this space is already taken,” I said. But they just glared back at me, not saying anything. So I knew this was headed towards an ugly confrontation . .

But then I woke up again, and realized I had just been dreaming. But when I looked up, I realized there were still people camping nearby. So I got up and walked down the trail to confront them . .

It was really weird. I repeated the same basic scenerio 4 or 5 times in my dream. Dreaming that these people were camping nearby, but when I confronted them I would wake up and realize I was just dreaming.

FINALLY I actually woke up for real. I looked around and, thankfully, there were no people camping near by. But I got up and walked all the way down the trail just to make sure.

At least I HOPE I really woke up for real this time. I sure don’t want to go through this bullshit all over again.



Scaredy Cat the Queen of the Beasts



A dramatic shot of Scaredy Cat. The reigning, ruling matriarch and Queen of the feral cat scene in the Berkeley hills.

For awhile I thought Mini Scaredy (her daughter) was going to take over as the dominant cat. Especially when she started running some of the other cats out of my campsite and up trees. And when Scaredy Cat’s kittens first showed up at my campsite last month, she started growling at them, and I thought she might try to run them off, too.

But she always defers to Scaredy Cat. Because they’re best friends. And maybe because Scaredy Cat is her mom.


Big cats and little cats

One of the mountain lion cubs spotted in the Berkeley hills.


All eight of my feral cats (four adults and four kittens) disappeared last week.   Which is really weird and mysterious. I couldn’t figure out what happened to them.  And then I noticed an article in the newspaper about a mountain lion being sited in the Berkeley hills very near to where I camp. So I figured my cats either ran from — or got eaten by — the mountain lion. After they were missing for 7 days I started to give up hope.


But then I got to my campsite last night around 2AM. And as I was setting up I noticed a shadowy figure darting across the way. It was crazy old Moo Cat!

We had a joyous reunion. Her fur was matted with clumps of mud. And I could tell she had been through the mill. But otherwise she looked OK. I dumped a can of cat food into the cat food dish. And then warded off the pack of raccoons as she happily gobbled it down.

Shortly after Scaredy Cat and Mini Scaredy also showed up. They were purring so loudly they started to cluck like a chicken. I stuffed them full of so much food their guts were bulging out of their sides. They were way happy to see me. But they were super alert and tense, too. The slightest sound and they would intently stare in that direction.

As it started to get light in the morning, I noticed a dark, shadowy figure off in the distance, slowly creeping in the direction of my campsite.


No. It was just one of those goddamn wild turkeys. Mini Scaredy curled up on my blankets and slept all morning. While Scaredy Cat headed up the hill. Presumably to look for her 4 kittens, who are still missing. Fatty is still missing too. So we’ll just have to see how it goes. But at least 3 of the cats are back!!