Jardine: Turkey leaves the foothills for a photo op in Modesto

With the holidays nearly upon us:

WHEN DINNER DELIVERS ITSELF -- Last week, Modesto resident Marcia Vanlerberghe noticed something rather large and fluffy strutting through the back yard of her east Modesto home.

Upon closer look, she realized it was a wild turkey.

Friday, the bird returned. This time, her husband, Mark, was home to see it. It paraded around the yard and right in front of the patio door, where he was able to take some photos.

Turkeys run wild in the foothills, particularly in the Red Hills area west of Jamestown. In fact, the state relocates turkeys into these areas to build the flocks, so it's not uncommon to see them along the roads. The state generally conducts fall and spring wild turkey hunting seasons.

But it is pretty unusual to see one in a city the size of Modesto -- and certainly in the back yard of a home in a gated community.

Relax. Mark Vanlerberghe didn't try to catch it and, no, it won't be the main course come Thursday.

"We'll let that one live for another day," Marcia Vanlerberghe said.

BUY AMERICAN-A -- For those who like to give Christmas gifts with local ties, a trio of recently published books has them.

"Modesto," from the Images of America series, is a pictorial assembled and edited by Carl P. Baggese and the staff of the McHenry Museum. It includes photos of the city's early days dating to the 1870s, including shots of riverboats docked at old Tuolumne City, west of town. It's on sale at the museum's gift shop for $21.99.

For World War II buffs, there's "Saving Lives, Saving Memories," the story of Modesto's Jim Sanders, who became an ambulance driver following Gen. George Patton's Third Army through Europe and helped liberate two Nazi concentration camps. Longtime area writer Martha Loeffler wrote it with him for IF Books. It's available online at for $14.95, and at the gift shops at the McHenry Museum and McHenry Mansion. He'll hold a book signing Dec. 4 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Borders Books in Turlock.

And for those who appreciate the Old West, lifelong Tuolumne County rancher Otis Rosasco has penned his family's history in the cattle business. The family ranch, including its old stone corral, remains intact just a few miles west of Jamestown, along Highway 108 and just east of Yosemite Junction. The book is available through the Tuolumne County Historical Society (532-1317 or at $25 for members, $30 for nonmembers.

TOYS THAT REALLY ARE US -- Years ago, a visit to the Smithsonian's Museum of American History on the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C., provided an aging moment.

The same types of toys I played with as a kid in the 1950s and 1960s were on display as museum relics. Ouch! Same went for the computers and laptops that were the newest, latest rage when I broke into journalism in 1978.

With that in mind, the McHenry Museum is holding a "Toys of Christmas Past" exhibit featuring the collection of Kathy and Tom Nelson. The 2,000-piece collection dates to the late 1800s and includes plates, toys, china, ornaments and other items, none of which I can personally relate to, which should be good. The museum, at 1402 I St., is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at 578-2383 or