Tom the Terror

Bucketlist progress, but at what cost?


CM Life digital illustration | Nico Mendoza

No birds were harmed in the events of this true story.

If you had told me three weeks ago I would have spent part of my spring break running full speed through the woods with a turkey in hot pursuit, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. 

I might have believed that my partner would turn around with my walking stick to fend off the creature while yelling things like “en garde!” and “away with thee!” but that’s more character commentary than plausible circumstance. 

A lifelong bucket list item of mine is to visit every National Park in the United States. Over spring break I was able to cross one off the list after a road trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The park itself, located in northern Ohio, is absolutely beautiful and the weather was perfect.

We stayed at a campground in the park called “Valley Overlook,” a new build on an old property that I would highly recommend visiting. What I would avoid, however, is the turkey. 

The campground’s namesake is, from the owner’s description, a beautiful view over the valley. We made it most of the way to the overlook, hiking up a couple steep hills and around a winding path. 

At one point I had to stop abruptly. There was a turkey 10 to 15 feet away. I should add that I’ve never been the biggest fan of birds, especially large ones (No offense Big Bird, I was a Sesame Street girlie through and through).

I think the natural assumption when you see a turkey on a trail is that it will wander off as we get closer. But that’s not what happened. 

Instead, the feathery beast took an interest in us, fluffing up his plumes and coming our way. I did what I think any normal person would do and turned to walk away. The creature, who I’ve now dubbed Tom the Terror, matched pace with us. We walked a little faster, he walked a little faster. 

When we started sprinting, so did he. 

This 40-pound ball of feathers and vengeance was singing the song of his people, which doesn’t sound anything like I thought a “gobble” should, as he chased us through the woods. 

At this point my partner was asking for my walking stick, which I passed back like a baton in a relay race and kept running. I think their goal was to defend with shock and confusion, rather than force. 

I was certainly confused hearing a mixture of phrases that could rival a community theater production of Hamlet and the high-pitched gobble of the only creature that could beat most of congress in a wrinkly asshole competition. 

Suffice it to say, we never made it to the overlook. I’m sure it’s beautiful, but I spent that night making sure the tent was zipped securely. You never know what kind of vicious creatures are out there.