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  • jrblackburnsmith


My daily commute is about sixteen miles each way, much of it over rural country lanes, with only the last few miles in a more suburban or urban environment. It can be a beautiful drive and it's not uncommon to see deer, the occasional fox or coyote, groundhogs, raccoons, possum and skunk and birds of all kinds. A couple of my favorites are the wild turkeys and the turkey buzzards. The wild turkeys are smaller than you might suspect if you buy 25lb frozen turkeys at Thanksgiving, but they are a joy to watch, especially when the run, necks outstretch, amazingly fast, their dark feathers making them look almost like the roadrunner without Wiley Coyote chasing him.

The turkey buzzards are slow, especially as the take off, and huge, with a six foot wingspan. They use thermal updrafts to lift high into the air where they can circle and search for freshly dead animals. They can clean up a dear carcass to bones in just a few days.

Driving into work the other morning, about 7:30, through patches of fog caused by the cool night air, I saw a turkey buzzard settle onto the road about sixty yards in front of me to inspect some kind of road kill. The road was going through a grove of trees so the morning sun was doing a poor job of illuminating the road. I slowed (I hit a turkey buzzard once because it was so slow getting off the ground that I couldn't avoid it) and watched as the buzzard raised up to its full height at the sound of my approaching car. I saw a flash of white on it's tail, and then it turned it's head to look at me and the white crown was unmistakable. The turkey buzzard was a bald eagle! I slowed down even more, earning a loud honk from a pick up truck that was racing down the road behind me. The eagle leapt into the air, and flew off, maybe eight feet above the ground, disappearing into the trees at the side of the road.

The whole experience only lasted twenty to thirty seconds but was incredible. Before my very eyes a turkey buzzard transformed into a bald eagle. Talk about turning lead into gold.

As a storyteller, I am always looking for transformative experiences for my characters. I want them to grow in meaningful and believable ways into something the reader wouldn't have seen as possible when they first encountered that character on the pages of my novel. My goal is that the reader then also has a transformative experience, and perhaps sees the world slightly differently than they did when they began. It may all be fantasy, but then I write fiction, so fantasy is a good thing.

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