Mar 6,1975  Sense and Nonsense

Turkeys are strange birds. They remind me of one of Al Capp’s creatures in the cartoon strip Lil’ Abner. This little animal was called a shmoo. In appearance it looked exactly like the nogoodniks, which dwelt in the land of Lower Slobbovia. But the shmoos were much more obliging than the nogoodniks and far tastier. They loved to die and did so, happily, whenever anyone looked at them with a hungry eye.

Turkeys love to die too. However, they are usually very selfish about it. We had some baby turkeys at our place last spring. We kept them in a shed with numerous heat lamps to keep them warm and cosy. They had comfortable beds and special kitchen and plumbing facilities, complete with maid service at least twice a day. Still they insisted on dying.

One turkey somehow swallowed a three inch stick. The stick took up all the space needed for food swallowing, and other important things. My husband poked and probed at the turkey’s gullet to encourage the stick back up its throat. He managed to do this and get hold of the end of the stick. The turkey was quite surprised when he removed the uncomfortable object. Its glazed little eyeballs lit up and it immediately started eating, pecking at the food double-time. It ate so fast and so much that we were afraid it might overdo it and die anyway.

One day when the turkeys were only a few weeks old, the power went off. We immediately gathered up all the shivering little balls of fluff and distributed them in cardboard boxes in front of the kitchen propane stove. When we realized the power would be off for some time, we had to think about water for the thirsty birds. We put some water in a soup bowl with a rock in it for weight, and placed it in one of the boxes with the turkeys. They instantly crowded towards it and then into it, piling on top of one another. When we separated them there was one poor little guy at the bottom of the pile. He was soppy wet, bedraggled and completely prepared to die. We picked him up and placed him in a solitary nest on the oven door. He immediately turned over on his back with his little feet in the air. The look in his eyes was of one whose earthly cares were almost over. His eyelids drooped and soon were completely closed. We agreed with him that he was fated to die young and would never grace a holiday table.

However, the heat from the oven soon dried his little feathers and penetrated his tiny turkey heart. Before long his eyelids began to quiver. I’m sure he thought he was in turkey heaven and was a bit reluctant to see what it was all about. Finally he opened his eyes, blinked a few times as if he couldn’t believe it was only us he saw, and flipped over onto his feet. After a few shakes, he was completely back to normal again.

I have noticed one thing about turkeys that have had a close shave with death. They don’t seem overjoyed and overwhelmed with thankfulness at the prospect of facing life again. They seem to have a ‘comme ci comme ca’ attitude about the whole thing. Could it be they know that their ultimate destination is the oven? Throughout history their forefathers have all had a similar fate. Chickens at least have a period of egg-laying before they become roast-pan or stew-pot material. At least many female chickens do.

Turkey eggs have never enjoyed the popularity chicken eggs have had – possibly because their eggs are too big to fit the recipes. Now that we are switching to the metric system of weights and measures, a lot of new cook books are being written. Maybe some of these cook books will contain recipes using turkey eggs. I certainly hope so. This may lead to giving the turkeys of the future a whole new will to live.

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