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Early bird gets the ... traffic
Wild turkey roams campus of Matt Elementary
Turkey WEB 1
This wild turkey has roamed the campus of Matt Elementary School for some time, becoming an unofficial mascot of sorts. - photo by Jennifer Sami

Sometimes he'll lurk around the parking lot. Other times students and teachers see him peering through classroom windows.

He's been spotted throughout the Matt Elementary School campus, but for the most part, Turkey Lurkey, also called Matty the Turkey, just helps direct traffic.

"He's quite unique. He's kind of a fixture over there," parent Tracey Zeestraten said Wednesday.
Zeestraten's son Kenny, a third-grader at Matt, and his older brother Stacey have both seen the turkey, their mother said.

"They find it funny," she said. "They always make comments about him blocking the bus.

"One time I pulled in and I parked, and he was actually standing next to my car ... but he kind of just walked away and does his own thing."

Matt Elementary Principal Charlley Stalder joked the turkey was presented to her as a selling point when she was hired earlier this year by Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Buster Evans.

"When I was offered this job by Dr. Evans, he said, 'Matt's one of my favorite schools because they have a pet turkey,'" she said.

"In my mind, I was thinking a little turkey, but the first time I saw him-he's huge."

The turkey is an early bird, said Stalder, but so is she.

"When I come in, it's usually a little early for him," she said. "But during pre-planning week, he actually chased me in the parking lot, so I've had my encounter with the turkey.

"I was able to shoo him off while everyone sat in the office and laughed at me. He didn't actually physically attack me ... it was just like a stare-down contest.

"He was staring at me like he was saying, 'Are you really going to come into my parking lot?'"

The kids love the wild bird, who Stalder said has been hanging around the school for years. But the love is mutual, as Lurkey Turkey only visits when school is in session.

"All summer long I was here every day working and I never saw him," she said. "It wasn't until the cars kept coming back and teachers came back last week that he started appearing."

Evans, who got to meet the turkey last year, simply calls him Matt. There was initially some question as to Matt's gender, but Evans was able to clarify that Matt is in fact a young gobbler, as indicated by his growing beard.

As the incoming superintendent last year, Evans hadn't heard about the turkey until they met in person. Was he surprised?

"Good gracious yeah," he said. "I pulled out my camera phone and took a couple of pictures of him. Even though he's become somewhat domesticated, you might say, I thought it was kind of neat.

"He's made quite a home there and I guess he can very well be considered an informal mascot."

Though the turkey is a longtime friend of Matt Elementary, he could follow his natural instinct and gravitate away from the domestic life of a school mascot, Evans said.

And the superintendent should know.

"This is terrible to say, but one of my pastimes is actually wild turkey hunting," he said. "But he's given me a new appreciation of the wild turkey, I'll assure you."