The Turkey Story
by Levent Bayrasli
This happened in the mid 2000s. After a night of jump videos, safety debriefings and keg emptying by the fire pit, I was awakened by the five-minute call for load one. I shook the cobwebs off, checked my gear, threw some seemingly clean water on my face and raced to the loading area, the last one to board. At the time the plane took off, the skies looked clear enough, and when the light came on, I jumped by myself.
Almost immediately, I realized there was cloud cover below me, an endless sea of white fluffy blankness. I did a couple 360s to look around, and then my audible altimeter started going off. I’m thinking that I had left the plane only maybe 10-15 seconds earlier, so I should be nowhere near pull altitude. But I had set my audible for 3,000 feet (a pretty acceptable pull altitude back then) and 1,500 feet (meaning, “Get something above your head now!”).
I looked at my wrist-mounted altimeter and it said 5,000 feet. What the f***? I still couldn’t see the ground, but as my early instructors used to say, “When in doubt, whip it out,” so I pulled. As soon as I got in the saddle, I heard the second audible alert go off, and then my wrist altimeter reset to 1,000 feet! Let me tell you, I started sh***ing. Either both or one of my altimeters was lying to me.
I looked around and didn’t see the earth. For a split second, the thought that I accidentally exited the Millennium Falcon over the Cloud City from the “Empire Strikes Back” crossed my mind. I was like, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.” I did a couple of very flat turns and I saw a hole in the clouds. Through the hole, I saw terra firma. It's a farm, and I could probably make it.
I started flying toward the hole, and a couple seconds before I got to it, I could see something in the field. Through the hole from that height, it looked like a black dot of some kind in the middle of this farm field. “What the hell is that?” I thought. I made my final approach through the hole, which was probably 500 feet over the field, and realized that the dot was a flock of turkeys. I mean, it was, like, 30 or 40 big-ass, mature wild turkeys. They’re minding their own business, plucking away at the ground, eating whatever turkeys eat. They’re plucking away, and then almost in unison they look over their shoulders and see me, a ginormous, unholy, nylon-flapping creature of some kind that has no right in Mother Nature’s world to be flying above them.
Let me tell you something: You've never seen a flock of turkeys flee in horror like this. I came swooping down on them, a big, fat skydiver who’s about to mow them over, and they start running like it’s Thanksgiving morning. They're running, flapping their wings and gobbling really loudly … more like shrieking. They were totally freaked out. So was I, in all honesty. Suffice to say, I landed without incident or injury, turkeys included. And less than a mile from the DZ, just down Sandhill Road, not more than two minutes after I landed, a car stops and picks me up. I could have made load two, except I wanted to wash the stains out of my underwear.
And that is the Turkey story.
Levent Bayrasli | D-20241 and Sonic Brother #1
Phillipsburg, New Jersey