That Thanksgiving was a real turkey

by Bob Huber

You should have been there the year my son Glen turned 13. That was the same year I purchased six white turkeys on the hoof, figuring to slaughter them for crowded holiday banquets we always hosted each year.

The turkeys were hand fed by a friend’s daughter as a project of 4-H, an organization I’ve avoided ever since. She assured me her turkeys were all corn fed and perfect for a fastidious holiday season, so I bought them.

To say those turkeys were big was an understatement. They stood more than nine hands tall and weighed close to 40 pounds each. Our Irish setter hid under the porch when he saw them and for years got the galloping quivers if an airplane flew overhead.

But I had no fear of turkeys. Some of my best friends were turkeys. So I stuffed the birds into individual gunny sacks and deposited them in the family station wagon for the short trip home.

As I drove away I should have had second thoughts. In the rear-view mirror I saw the girl hug her father and then leap in the air, clicking her heels.

I would have made the trip without incident except one of the turkeys, a Jurassic throwback, broke out of his sack and attacked the back of my neck. “Holy bleep!” I cried, swerving back and forth across the highway, zipping close to a state police officer who was hiding behind a tree in his cruiser thumbing through a Victoria’s Secret catalog.

About then my yelling and thrashing awakened a primal urge in the remaining beasts, and in a moment they too had freed themselves. My world inside the car suddenly filled with white feathers, beating wings, and certain barnyard stuff that shall remain unspecified because this is a family newspaper.

When the state police officer pulled me over, I rolled down the window, and all six turkeys stuck out their heads. The patrolman put his hand on his revolver.

I shoved the turkeys back inside and said, “Something wrong, officer?” which resulted in another fowl fission blast and a mushroom cloud of white feathers.

The officer turned a little pale, cleared his throat, and said, “You were swerving.”

“I don’t suppose I could corrupt you with a holiday turkey,” I said, “and a subscription to Organic Gardening.”

On the ticket he wrote, “Careless driving, transporting farm animals without adequate restraints or newspapers, and attempting a ludicrous bribe.”

When I finally arrived home, I recruited my son for the mass execution. “Hold the beasts down while I chop off their heads,” I said.

To understand Glen’s response, you must fathom the 13-year-old mind. An evil glint popped into his squinting eyes as he stretched the first turkey’s neck across a stump. He grinned degenerately while I raised the ax.

Here’s where a particular picture always comes to mind. You see, Glen failed to release that headless, flapping turkey, and its huge wings went into rapid slapping mode while gore spewed everywhere like a scene from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

“Turn him loose!” I shouted, but by then Glen was traumatized into a bug-eyed courthouse statue.

Meanwhile, the remaining five birds watched these shenanigans with great interest and promptly fled over a fence. To this day I don’t know where they went, but I imagine they ended up huddled somewhere inside an abandoned l954 Ford, clutching each other and muttering, “Cheese, and we thought coyotes were bad.”

So I was left with only one bird, and for the Thanksgiving Day feast I proudly carried its roasted body from the kitchen into our dining room, which was filled with salivating family and friends. But when Glen saw the bird, he leaped up, knocking over his chair and every water glass in the room, and cried, “NOOOOOOOO!”

Then he turned to the guests and dramatically narrated in minute detail the bird’s gory demise, including descriptions of the rusty ax and his mother’s insistence that she hose him off afterward, even between his toes.

Our guests’ departure was a bit abrupt, leaving my wife Marilyn in the doorway, her fingers tapping a steady drumbeat on the empty jam. Without turning, she said, “Well, Einstein, you want to carve the bird, or should I call in the dogs?”

On second thought, maybe it was a good thing you weren’t there.

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.