Two wild souls meet across a backyard swimming pool. Buz Meyer starts the conversation, and the turkey responds.
One must know what tosay to turkeys, he says. One must know the words that they want to hear.
"Kik kik kik kik kik," says Meyer.
The bird lifts her red, white and blue stalk of a head from the grass, shoots glances left, right, behind. Meyer has her attention.
"Kik kik kik kik," says Meyer.
"Kik kik kik kik kik," says the turkey, a year-old female named Albuquerque.
She's saying "no, I'm not coming over there; you come over here."
"Turkeys are like children," says Meyer. "They don't always come when you call them."
Meyer, who is 60, has been talkingto animals since he was a boy on his father's land. He would whistleto wood ducks and they sometimes whistled back.
Now he presides over what he calls the Meyer Station "nature community": 135 acres of wooded wetlands, upland forests, deep wetlands and fields between theLittle Patuxent and the Patuxent River in Odenton. The land sits less than a mile southwest of the Crofton Industrial Park and Route 3, aforested sanctuary in one of the county's fastest-growing areas.
A 4-H leader since the 1960s, Meyer conducts nature walks, gives talks on wildlife and ecology and opens his property by appointment to community organizations, youth groups -- anybody who wants to observe and learn.
An official of the state Department of Natural Resourcesrecently stopped by the land, located off Meyers Station Road, to take stock of the rare and endangered plants on the property. Members of the Maryland Ornithological Society regularly drop in to conduct bird counts. They often find birds that the state considers rare or threatened.
The place doesn't look like a nature sanctuary, at least not right away. A dirt driveway leads to a trailer marked "Buz's UsedAuto Parts" and a yard littered with decaying vans, cars, trucks, a rusted hay rake, compressed air tanks, tires and hubcaps. Meyer says there's no contradiction there. He says the business is a form of recycling.
A selection of geese -- Chinese, African, white, Canada --a few mallard ducks and the wild turkey roam the property like so many barnyard chickens. A man-high inflatable dinosaur guards the in ground swimming pool.
Yes, Meyer owns the land, but he says his roleis best not described that way.
"I can say I own that land, that's just a pompous attitude. I don't figure I am an owner. I figure I am just a steward of it."
He's about as uncomfortable with the title of owner as he appears to be with his given name, Russell. Russell,he says "should be wearing a tie and a white shirt and working in anoffice, and that ain't me."
Meyer tends to dress in park ranger browns and forest greens. And he goes strictly by Buz, even signs his checks that way. Just don't ask how the name started.
"That's too long a story to tell and I wouldn't want it in the paper. Anyhow, that happened when I was 5 or 6 years old so we'll just let it drop at that."
The world of his childhood consisted of the rolling land between Suter's Hill and the Patuxent River, some 650 acres that was eventually divided among five sons and one daughter. Meyer's father, Schubert, who died in 1989, had inherited the land from his father, a Swiss immigrant named Jacob Meyer.
"Daddy had about 15 acres of highground," on which he grew tobacco, hay, corn and sweet potatoes, Meyer said. Much of the rest of Meyer's childhood world consisted of wetlands. He grew up being known in the area as the boy from the swamp.
"As a kid people would say, 'Oh, you live down in the swamp,' likeit was a nasty word. . . . There's more life in an acre of swamp than there is in an acre anyplace."
But, of course, it takes time to see that. Meyer's bright blue eyes are always open to something new.
When he describes the fresh carpet of flowers that rises on the forest floor in spring, it's as if he's just seen it for the first time. He has made a life study of his land, but never figures he knows itall. Last summer, he said he noticed it was the first year the forest saw a large influx of yellow-billed cuckoo birds. They'd apparentlybeen drawn to the woods as the gypsy moth population increased.
"I learn every time I go down there," he says.
The beaver invasion of the early 1980s, for example, taught him a few things about beavers. At first, as the animals laid waste to many trees, he figured on aplan of annihilation. He even started looking up beaver recipes.
But the more he read about the animals the more he admired them. Thenhe noticed that as the trees fell, letting sunlight wash the forest floor, new vegetation grew. This created more food for deer. In time,beaver dams created watery habitat for great blue heron. Dead trees felled by beavers became homes for squirrels and wood ducks -- as good as the boxes he and groups of Boy Scouts have put up for wood ducksand bluebirds.
"They did more for no pay in making a suitable habitat for wild birds than a crew of five people could all year," says Meyer. "You suddenly realize it's all in the master plan, that life is renewing itself."
And then the beavers moved on, heading down the Patuxent in search of a fresh food supply. Meyer figures no more than one or two beaver couples now live on the property. They share theland with red and gray fox, skunks, mink, muskrat, opossum, ground hogs, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, even an occasional bobcat and otter. The nesting bird population includes several great blue heron, barred owls, screech owls and the hooded merganser, a duck classified by the state as "highly rare."
Meyer is not inclined to preaching, but he hopes the young people he brings through the woods here will leave with a stronger sense of the value of land and water in its natural state.
"My father was able to constantly use the resources, but to put it best in his words, 'you always leave enough for seed.' He never screwed up his own nest."