Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Don’t Touch The Feathers

Most of you will soon be gathering to give thanks. Being thankful is one life’s greatest virtues and can have a fulfilling effect on people’s lives. They say the art of being thankful on a daily basis, can have long term health benefits, a great attitude not being the least of these.
For farmers Thanksgiving comes at a good time, that being near the end of what usually is a long and stressful growing season. The work is nearly done and it’s time to reflect on our treasures of family, friends, health and that which is going right for us in our lives. It’s certainly a time to contemplate and gain some valuable perspective, to bring the heart rate down a few beats if you will.
For me it’s hard not to dwell on past Thanksgivings here on the farm, without being drawn to my pet turkey back in about 1960. 
My Mom purchased about 8 turkeys in the early spring for me to raise. We still had a brooder house at that time and so they began life under heat lamps and eventually made their way into the outdoor chicken yard as they gained age and size. Turkeys can have trouble surviving the elements.  It seems like the youngsters can go from healthy to dead in one day and so I eventually, one at time, lost 3 of them before they were old enough to leave the brooder house so 5 got to the skinny, gangly age and were being let out of their pen during the daylight hours. Then they began to disappear. It didn’t happen quickly, but every few weeks we’d let them all out and all but one would be back at night. Thinking back, we had enough varmints in the area that could account for the progression to a small flock that it shouldn’t have surprised us. Long story short, I had one left. It was a Tom. I named him, Tom. I was pretty creative even back then. 
We made it so Tom had the run of the big empty chicken house.  He had an unlimited amount of feed and would often get access to several pounds of shelled corn at a time.  The result of the good life was that Tom got big. I mean really big. He would get turned out of his pen on occasion and was afraid of nothing.  He was ready for the oven months before Thanksgiving Day but that was the planned target date so we just kept feeding him. He would move around the farm slowly. He had all of the agility of a combine with a 12 row head.
If there were people out and about the farmstead, he would casually come for a visit in a slow, deliberate walk.  One day near the end of summer, my brother Ed was knelt down in front of the farm shop, welding on a piece of equipment. He flipped his welding mask up and standing right beside him was Tom. Tom had been watching him weld but wasn’t wearing a welding mask so Ed attempted to scare him off. Tom didn’t scare easily. It was at this time that my brother noticed a breast feather low on his massive breast that was hanging down out of place. It looked like it was about to fall out so he reached up and pulled it out. Pulling that was a mistake. The feather was attached to the turkey and the turkey it turns out, was very attached to that feather. After that feather plucking, Tom put Ed on the top of his enemies list.
We tried to keep the turkey locked up most of the time but if Ed got out of his pickup and began walking across the yard, the turkey would come on the dead run with the intent of doing great bodily injury to my brother. I looked out the window one afternoon to see my brother running to his pickup and jumping inside just before this giant bird came flying through the air and dive bombed his windshield. It was a scary display of turkey hatred. This behavior continued until Thanksgiving Day approached and we found someone who would dress the bird. We put him in a crate and of course Ed wanted to be the one to haul him to the butcher. Later, we got a call from the processor that started out saying, “Do you people have any idea how much this bird weighed?” “Forty Four pounds dressed,” as he answered himself. Mom had our giant bird split in half and he still had to be trimmed a bit to fit in our oven. 
She was inclined to invite lots of company for both Thanksgiving and Christmas and Tom fed both groups.
Now, with Thanksgiving upon us, it’s impossible to be thankful without making full use of our capacity to remember. Stop and think, relax, and think about Thanksgivings past and of the blessings that do and are surely still to come your way. Even if those memories might include, the original Big Bird.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Blog buddies out there. I hope your day is filled with blessings. C


Lee said...

Poor old Tom! When I was 16 my brother had raised a turkey but when it came time for the beheading, brother was working out of town, so it was my job to round the turkey up in anticipation of a friend's pending arrival...said friend was going to do the dastardly deed. But the turkey had it in mind to round me up instead! He turned and chased me down the side of our house...I'm running, yelling out to Mum as the turkey galloped behind me, gobbling all the way! And, my mother, well, she stood on the verandah laughing! Great help she was! ;)

Happy Thanksgiving to your and your family, Cliff.

Granny Annie said...

Happy Thanksgiving Cliff, Marilyn and all the Morrow Mob!

Great Thanksgiving tale. We have a similar story that involves a vicious rooster instead of a turkey. Our grandson will be here today who was chased by that rooster in front of most of his cousins. They will forever remind him that he screamed "like a girl".

Today we hope to add another precious Thanksgiving memory to our nostalgic tales.

Donna said...

Great story! I have a few turkey stories of my own, although there's one I can't tell one on my blog for fear animal lovers everywhere would hate my husband if I told it.

Jim said...

I liked this, Cliff. That Tom was ruler of the roost wasn't he!

It reminded me of the time we had ducks. They 'belonged' to Lois. Like your eight, we soon got down to only one. It became the pet of the barnyard. Seems that Lois had named one or both but I can't remember that part.

I am supposing that Grandma H. killed it and cooked it for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. If I knew I have forgotten. Dad may have sneaked him to market while we were in school.

At any rate, the duck was gone and our once messy sidewalks became usable again.

Jerry in Texas said...

Great story. There's not much worse than a turkey with an attitude. Poor Ed.

I always liked it when one of our cantankerous pigs went to slaughter. When I ate that pork chop, I smiled knowing that meat was tenderized with my boot.

John Goerzen said...

I got a good chuckle at "all the agility of a combine with a 12 row head." Makes the dead run all that more impressive.

Debbie said...

Great "turkey talk"... Enjoyed this story very much. There's really no life like farm life...RICH beyond measure.