Tuesday, November 09, 2004


It isn't nice, but I couldn't help being reminded of Wangerin's turkeys from The Book of the Dun Cow, last week. In fact, after hearing the equivalent human cries of "Galoot!" I had to go back and re-read the book. The section in question involves the behavior of a group of animal characters in the midst of a war. Some Wild Turkeys haplessly blunder too close to the vicious enemy, and a heroic Dog saves them in the barest nick of time by running into them repeatedly and flinging them back into safety. Excerpt:

By the middle of the next morning it had become clear to nearly everyone that the Wild Turkeys had decided, to a man, to pout.

As blind and deaf as they were, they didn't know that one among their number -- Thuringer, his name -- had died by the bite of a serpent. They merely assumed that Thuringer had somehow escaped the altogether impolite pounding delivered unto the rest of them by a Dog and a vulgar nose. And nobody could tell them otherwise.... They "ga-galooted," and they "gaw-god-awfuled"; they groaned wonderfully and they limped, all within three feet of the meeting place. And they heard not a word of the proceedings....

The Wild Turkeys... were decided upon a personal duty. Their duty was to pout.

One of them, Corningware Turkey by name, stumbled and flubbered into the Coop itself. Once inside, he slammed the door with a right proper bang. Then he opened the door and stumbled out again, turned around, and slammed the door again. With his bottom wattles stuck out to the distance of a foot, for that is the expression of a pout, he reentered the Coop and banged the door, came out and banged the door, banged the door and banged the door. If anyone passed by, he casually lifted his stubby wing so that his many bruises would be apparent, then banged the door in that someone's face....

Almost before their eyes the animals saw a rampart rise up in a wide and perfect circle around the yard. The Ants made no complaint over the size of their duty. They worked in perfect contentment, and they built a wall, a bulwark of dirt which surrounded all the animals and finally stood as high as the gracious antlers of the deer. All around the outside of this wall they dug a trench quite as deep as the wall was high. And into the wall they buried here and there a Turkey up to his neck. Ants argue with no one if there is some way to keep schedule and do duty in spite of him. They didn't mind the Turkeys' pout. They didn't mind the Turkeys' plopping themselves upon the rising wall. And they thought that the naked little heads which finally stuck out of that wall were rather ornamental, if somewhat irregular.

The Turkeys, of course, pretended not to notice that they were up to their necks in the sod. The most wonderful pout of all is the kind which is snooty. It notices nothing at all -- and so is noticed by all, as it were, by accident. It says -- all unintentionally, to be sure: "You don't care about me, world. Well, then, go your way."
Wangerin would no doubt dislike having his book used for political comparison, but, hey, insight into human nature is insight into human nature, no matter where it's found or how it's used.