Hits and Misses

Hits and Misses

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hutto's Illumination in the Flatwoods

Joe Hutto's Illumination in the Flatwoods:  A Season Living Among the Wild Turkey (Lyons Press, 1995) is one of those wonderful books that can only be written by someone who cares deeply about the subject and writes so well that you come away not only better informed but with the sense that you're a better person simply for having read the book. 

Illumination in the Flatwoods remained off my radar until I read about it in Steve Bodio's informative A Sportsman's Library.  What Hutto did was to incubate, hatch, and imprint two clutches of wild turkey eggs that otherwise would have been destroyed.  What he did not anticipate was the degree to which he would become devoted to these birds, devoted both in the sense of giving them most of his waking hours (and therefore never getting enough sleep) for two entire years, and in the sense of caring deeply about each one of them.

The La Brea tar pit of Disney-inspired sentimentality always lurks near writers of books like this, but Hutto never falls into it.  He knows the mortality percentages for wild turkey poults, but he also feels for each and every loss.  Even more important, his attentiveness to his flock enables him to shed his customary critical, analytical perspective and begin to enter another world of consciousness.  Richard Dawkins has remarked that we need to enlarge our scientific understanding by learning to see through non-human eyes.  Hutto's Illumination in the Flatwoods goes far towards accomplishing this goal.  Hutto lets us see through a wild turkey's eyes another world, one intricately woven of interactions and interconnections, another world of alertness and attentiveness we would do well to explore. 

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