Turkey talk, Louisiana and Hollis style

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Let’s talk turkey.

Of course, what usually pops into mind when we hear the word “turkey” is the holiday that’s just around the corner.

But what my family often thinks of is my late father, F.D. Hollis. During one of his several careers, he served as a biologist with the state Wildlife and Fisheries Department, and in 1950 he wrote what was once considered the “bible” concerning wild turkeys in Louisiana.

Yes, not only am I a writer, and not only is my sister a published author, but my father was one as well. And let’s not leave out Mama, who had a poem published in a 1930s Louisiana Tech literary magazine.

Now, if any of you turkey enthusiasts would like to peruse what Daddy wrote (don’t jostle each other as you get in line), I discovered you can read his book in its entirety online if you go to babel.hathitrust.org and search for “The Present Status of the Wild Turkey in Louisiana.” Or if you’d prefer to hold it in your hand, Abe-Books.com is offering one used one for – are you ready? – $225. I’m thinking maybe my sister and I should put up our own copies for sale. Abebooks earlier had a new one for $12.35, but I guess someone snatched that one up.

Seriously, though, I’m extremely proud of Daddy’s legacy with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. In addition to his work with turkeys, he was also on the team that helped restock Louisiana’s deer in the early ‘50s after herds had dramatically declined.

My own copy of Daddy’s turkey tome is safely stashed away with many other family treasures, as my husband calls them. So I took advantage of the online version and digitally thumbed through it, mostly to find the picture Mama and Daddy always talked about, allegedly the only one of him published in regard to his work – taken from what they called his “best side.” It’s on Page 62, and there he stands in a cypress tupelo swamp in St. Tammany Parish, fedora firmly in place, his back to the camera.

Regardless of the fact that his face wasn’t visible, it’s nice to think that Daddy was so well respected in the Wildlife and Fisheries community. But I like to think he’d also find it amusing that online minutes of a 2003 Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting show he was once referred to in that gathering as “Mr. Frank Hollis” (probably referring to another Union Parish Hollis). Daddy, bless his heart, was Flavil David.

Nevertheless, the pull-out quote in those minutes from “F.D. Hollis” is telling: “All phases of this investigation indicate that the wild turkey population of the state is at a critical low, and that unless drastic measures are undertaken to insure its perpetuation, the species is in danger of total extirpation.”

The state obviously took Daddy’s assessments seriously because a 2015 report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says, “Tireless efforts by LDWF biologists and other staff to restock wild trapped turkeys resulted in a rebound in Louisiana’s wild turkey population. During this effort, others such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, private landowners and others provided vital support.”

Hooray for the wild turkey – and for those who love it, as does my friend and Farmerville icon, Mary Kay Lee, who often posts an array of wild turkey-hunting photos on her Facebook page. Such turkey lovers also include a former Louisiana Tech professor acquaintance, Dr. James Dickson, who, like Daddy, wrote a turkey “bible,” “The Wild Turkey: Biology & Management,” published in 1992.

Before I close, let me promote one more turkey memory – the episode of the classic TV show “WKRP in Cincinnati,” in which live turkeys were tossed from a helicopter as a PR stunt. In those unforgettable words, befuddled station manager Arthur Carlson swore pathetically, “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

Daddy would be happy to report that the wild ones, which have much smaller breasts, can.