Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Turkey as the national bird...


This is written by Ben Franklin in a letter to his daughter about the newly picked national symbol: "I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."
I read this and my jaw dropped, then I thought, well..perhaps the turkey has changed over the past 230 years from a brave compatriot to, well, brainless.
I owned turkeys. We ordered 25 babies from a hatchery about 10 years ago thinking we'd stock up the freezer with meat and have a few to give away or even sell. I really should have researched turkeys a little more as raising them turned out to be infinitely more difficult than the chickens and ducks. When they were inside in the brooding box things were fine, they ate and drank and ran around and I didn't lose any at all, it wasn't until I moved them outside into their pen that things got dicey. Now, we had prepared a nice place for them to be, all enclosed, with a nice shelter and a heat lamp for them to get under if it got chilly. The chickens and ducks had the same set up and we had no problems at all with them, if it got cold, they huddled close together under the lamp, if it rained they found shelter, once it got dark they put themselves to bed. Which is why I was so totally blindsided by the first catastrophe.
When I had gone to bed the previous night the sky was clear and the air was warm, I hadn't seen anything about rain in the forecast...let alone torrential downpours. But that's what we awoke to...that and my daughter Aysha yelling "the turkeys are all dead!" as she looked out the back window. Sure enough, there were little turkey bodies everywhere, some of them were still moving ALL of them were on their backs looking straight up into the driving rain. Let me try and paint this picture for you...imagine15 bodies..strewn about the yard some of them on their backs..their little turkey legs peddling like they're peddling a bicycle as they stare up and the sky..and drown. Yes. I lost 15 turkeys to drowning in the rain. One of them drown in a puddle less than a foot away from his heat lamp..INSIDE his shelter. Oh the brilliance of the Turkian (yes..i know that's not a "real" word lol) mind! I managed to get the rest inside and warmed and dried and saved them. I made sure I always locked them in at night after this little mishap though.
The rest managed to grow up and become adults. We lost a couple to Blaze, our Malamute, too. He left them alone for the most part...until that one morning when one of the turkeys that was roosting on the front porch (these were not the big meat turkeys, we got the eastern wild turkeys..the same ones you see all over the place up here now so they could fly and once they got to be adult size there was no keeping them in their pen) above where Blaze was sleeping, fell off onto him. Apparently it scared the beejeeus out of the dog and he, of course killed the offending (OMG what hit me!) feathery mass that landed on his head. After that we had to really watch him around the turkeys...it was like a personal vendetta.
This was also right around the time that we realized turkeys could tell time. For as stupid as they are (I won't back down on this statement...I lived with them..they ARE brainless) they somehow have an internal clock..and that internal clock says to the empty space between their ears "hey..its 5a.m....its time to annoy the crap out of the people trying to sleep in the house!" Let me describe this to you...so you can relive it with me. Its 5 a.m. and the first thing you vaguely hear is a *click click click* over your head...then about 30 seconds of 14 turkey feet sliding down the metal porch roof *screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech*..then *whoop whoop whoop* wings flapping (a whole bunch of wings..i think there were 7 turkeys left at this point in the operation) and the whole group gobbling as they flew to the ground..right outside out bedroom window..then just enough quiet time for you to relax and be *almost* asleep..then a quieter *whoop whoop whoop....click Bang!*..then *click click click**screeeeeeeeeech**whoop whoop whoop* *gobble*...repeat...over and over and over. They were flying onto the shed out back..then hopping over onto the top of the house (metal roof) walking across that to the porch, sliding all the way down..picture a ski jump of sorts..then flying down, walking back around the house..and doing it all over again. I don't know how many days/weeks this went on. Long enough to bring a whole new enjoyment to Thanksgiving for me at any rate.
Then of course there was the time that we had been gone all day and came home to find out the dog had let himself out the back door (for all the brains the turkeys were missing my dog, Regis had tenfold...he was the smartest dog I've ever known)..and forgotten to close it. I walked in and into the babies room, flicked on the light and nearly passed out. Sitting on my sons changing table...looking very comfy..was a turkey. I felt kinda like that guy in the Godfather that wakes up with a horse head in his bed.
With all their stupidity..they were kind of fun to have around. We used to go for walks and they would follow us like dogs. The kids thought that was great.
In the end we had 4 to go to freezer. Unfortunately Blaze's Great Turkey Vendetta got a few..and the bear got some. And the ones that were left had bruises from where blaze grabbed them and tried plucking them, so the meat, although still good, was green in places. There is just something really unappetizing about green meat. We did end up with lots of chicken in the freezer that year though, as chickens actually have brains, and I have to say having control over what goes into your meat is incredible, and the taste of fresh, range fed chicken, beats store bought any day. I'm not sure I'll ever do turkeys again though, although now I do know a little more about what to look our for..but I'm sure they would still find ways to surprise me.
So, I'm happy to see the Bald Eagle as our National symbol...because if the turkey was the symbol for America, after my experience with them, I think I may have to move :-P lol

1 comment:

ashleigh said...

OMG! I loved the Godfather reference. (audrey)