The latest read-aloud that we completed was The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr. At first I thought this book was a joke. At least, we used to joke about herding chickens when we would move them from paddock to paddock on our small farm several years ago.
But this book is about some serious poultry herding: 1000 bronze turkeys walking from Missouri to Denver in pre-Civil War America. Such turkey herding actually took place years ago. The journeys in the east were much shorter, but there were some epic journeys that took place out west.
Simon Green, a failure in the local Missouri school system, proves to be quite gifted when it comes to enterprise and dealing with people and the obstacles he and his crew face. Simon and his turkeys leave Missouri with Bidwell Peece (his now sober drover) and Bidwell’s smart, little herding dog, Emmett. On their journey, they pick up a runaway slave and later, a young woman alone on the “godforsaken” prairie who has just buried the last of her family.
I especially like the way Karr’s book points out that not everyone who does poorly in school will be a failure. Even Simon’s teacher recognizes his strengths and chooses to invest her life savings in his enterprise. This tangible demonstration of trust and faith in his abilities helps keep him going in the face of turkey thieves, encounters with the peaceful Pattawattomie Indians, an encounter with his estranged father, a plague of grasshopper (to the delight of the turkeys), and an unfortunate encounter with the U.S. Cavalry. A delightful read.