Commentary

Shaffer: Elaborate turkey found stuffed, abandoned in Zebulon

September 12, 2013 

  • Claim your bird

    Did you lose a stuffed turkey? Want it back? Contact David Kurnik at 919-675-0804 or dkurnik1130@gmail.com.

— On an ordinary Tuesday, David Kurnik was riding in a bucket truck through Zebulon, just a lineman out with a crew, when he noticed what appeared to be a cardboard box sitting square in the middle of the road – with a turkey’s head poking out from the top.

Cars in front of him swerved around the strange obstacle. But Kurnik stopped to examine the box, which on closer inspection contained a full-size gobbler, 2 feet tall, mounted on a wooden plaque, packed in wadded-up paper as if fresh from the taxidermist.

In the distance, he spied a green pickup, looking like a Ford S-10 with a cap over the bed, its rear doors wide open. Could this prize have slid out the back? Or did somebody dump it? Did this turkey escape from its perch over some hunter’s mantelpiece, its wattle flapping as it ran, powered by some form of avian vengeance?

Kurnik didn’t know.

But he gathered up the bird, hauled it into the truck and sat it in his lap, determined to solve this feathered mystery.

“I’ve never found anything this odd on the side of the road,” Kurnik marveled, one week later. “That is a museum-quality mount. He is in full strut. Leaning. Double-bearded. And I would venture to say those spurs on his legs are about an inch and a half long.

“It was in. The. Middle. Of. The. Road.”

Kurnik hunts. But he doesn’t hunt turkey.

At 42, he lives in a wooded lot in Youngsville, alongside a pond occupied by his five pet ducks, all of them white, named Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo and Curly. They come waddling up the drive when he gets home each day, waiting for the corn he spreads on the ground. When the ducks get their fill, three deer, including a six-point buck, arrive to pick at the remains.

So I’m saying that if nobody claims this crazy turkey, it won’t exactly be out of place at Kurnik’s house.

“It takes up our whole kitchen table,” said his roommate, Al Brown.

Still, Kurnik knows this piece is too valuable to hoard. Not long after he brought it home, his landlord came by to admire it, noting especially the double beard – a rarity. The work is so detailed, right down to the freeze-dried red and blue head, that it must have cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000.

“Whoever did it had it done right,” said Kurnik, “and when they got home, there they were sick.”

So Kurnik decided to reunite the stuffed with the stuffer.

He called a local taxidermist and described his find, but the man didn’t do turkeys.

He called another who did, but she didn’t recognize Kurnik’s bird.

He posted on Facebook. He posted on Craigslist. Eventually, the news found its way to me. I’m as surprised as you are.

So this week, I’m acting as the preserved-beast lost-and-found.

Is this your turkey? If so, you dropped it in Zebulon. Call the number in the box for a chance to reclaim it.

Here’s the thing, though. Kurnik’s bird has a small yellow tag near its foot. There’s a name on that tag. We think it’s a last name. In all likelihood, it’s the last name of the person who picked it up at the taxidermist’s and then dropped it. That’s our theory anyway.

No fakers need apply. Tell us the name on the tag, or at least provide a convincing explanation for why you can’t.

And next time you buy a thousand-dollar animal skin mounted on a polyurethane mannequin, shut your tailgate tight.

jshaffer@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4818

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