Wild turkeys have taken over my home town in California. Seriously. They’re everywhere. The locals don’t know what to do with them, and the animals don’t know what to make of them. But they’re not the only thing that has changed about Portola Valley over the years, and being home this week made that clear.
According to my mother, the turkeys appeared around the time the raccoons went away. There used to be so many masked mammals that they would get into our kitchen on summer nights if we didn’t close the screen doors properly.
And that’s to say nothing of the coyotes and mountain lions that have grown in number as new housing developments have caused habitat loss.
The changes aren’t hard to see. Looking out the window of my childhood bedroom is like peering out of a Northern California safari jeep. In the last hour, I have been mesmerized by a parade of deer, a flock of wild turkeys, numerous grey squirrels, a long-eared hare, a mohawk-sporting Steller’s Jay, and lots of little hummingbirds.
The fauna isn’t the only thing that has changed about Portola Valley, either. While the giant redwood trees have grown in groves by the Town Center for centuries, the buildings around them have come and gone.
First there was the historic one-room schoolhouse, which is now a town meeting hall, then a larger school that was decommissioned and eventually demolished when it was discovered that it was sitting on the mighty San Andreas earthquake fault line.
Recently the Town Center has been given a face lift, with a beautiful new library and offices under the trees. The parking lot even features dedicated spots for electric cars. This is Silicon Valley, after all.
Then again, it also has a hitching post for horses. Despite being at the heart of the world’s technology hub, it still seems like there are more equine residents than human ones in my home town. I guess there are a few things that don’t change so quickly here.
In fact, my mother even saw a sign at the local grocery store saying “No Horses Allowed”. Presumably this is because someone once tried to parade their Palomino down the dairy aisle while shopping for organic, farm-fresh, free-range, pesticide-free eggs. Welcome to Northern California.
But you won’t find many shops in Portola Valley. No, there are rules against anything that would draw people in from outside the community (pity there isn’t a parallel rule for wild turkeys). Local is local, and for better or for worse, the town wants to keep it that way.
Instead, you will find miles of hiking trails in open space preserves like Windy Hill. Many of them have been blazed and signposted in recent years, adding changes to the landscape and welcome places to see California’s famous wildflowers.
Back at home, the wild turkeys continue to roam outside my bedroom window. If Portola Valley has learned to live with all of the changes that have occurred over the years, I’m sure it will soon learn to embrace our new feathered friends. Or have a big Thanksgiving feast this year…