“Oh my gosh, Daddy, they’re killing each other!”
So said my son John in a plea of desperation. He was referring not to his siblings, mercifully, but to our turkeys.
I was at the office when John telephoned. His voice was so loud that the student in my office could hear him. She laughed in relief as she learned that John was describing not an act of homicide by two younger brothers but wrestling by three male turkeys.
“Daddy, they have one pinned on the ground and they’re killing it. Look at them! Oh no, it’s dead.”
I ordered John to calm down and get his mom on the phone.
“What’s up?” I asked my wife.
“Well,” she said. “They’re definitely going at one another.”
“Is one of them dead?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
I told my wife I couldn’t break free to rush home to halt this act of turkey assault. I told her to call our neighbor. A retired OB-GYN, he’s the ideal neighbor for our family, given that we have eight kids, one of which he delivered. He also delivers turkeys. All his life he has raised birds — turkeys, chickens, peacocks, ducks. I had gotten these turkeys from him in May, when they were a week old.
“Yeah,” he calmly shrugged to my wife. “You have three males there and no females. They’re getting feisty.”
He explained that such behavior is expected of three males this far into their development and desperately lacking a female. Badly desiring female companionship, they lash out. Without a girl turkey, they beat the daylights out of their buddies, charging, spearing, stomping, standing on necks. Typical guy stuff. I’ve seen it in redneck bars here in rural western Pennsylvania.
I can relate. Imagine being a young male in your reproductive prime and stuck in a cage 24-7 with two guys.
“Don’t worry,” our neighbor said, with the unflinching confidence of a man who delivered countless turkeys as well as babies. “I’ve seen it before.”
And besides, he added, knowing my morbid plans, the next morning the birds had a date scheduled with the butcher.
They did indeed. At 9:00 a.m. the next day, my neighbor dropped by to help net the large birds. It was sad, really. These were three gorgeous turkeys, with a medium-brown hue. It seemed unfortunate to, well, destroy them.
But then again, their pre-planned destination at the Kengor homestead had long been the dinner table. That’s hard for animal-lovers to understand, but so be it.
Take my mother-in-law, for instance. She’s an animal-lover. She’s uncomfortable with my house filled with guns and bows, everything from shotguns to deer rifles to pistols to crossbows. She asked incredulously last summer, “You’re not going to kill and eat those turkeys, are you?”
“No,” I replied with a wise-ass response, “I’m going to put them on kite strings and fly them around the front yard.”
My mother-in-law is a nice woman who didn’t deserve the wisecrack. Then again, like countless millions of Americans this Thursday, she’ll be munching turkey, albeit raised by someone else. So will her grandchildren.
Speaking of which, raising turkeys is certainly easier than raising kids. The kids all react very differently to my turkey enterprise. My second daughter gets so distraught over the birds’ ultimate fate that she averts her eyes from them throughout their growth. It saddens her to know of their denouement with the knife. It disappoints her that her old man raises the birds with that intention. She casts me a disapproving look, as if she’s looking at Jack the Ripper.
Of course, the real Jack the Ripper is the lady who “processes” the birds. With my chickens, it’s a little old Amish lady named Fannie.
I bring them to her and ask, “Are they ready?”
“Yep,” Fannie sums up in a sweet high-pitched voice, “time to take their heads off.”
Fannie, however, draws a line with turkey decapitation. “They’re too strong,” she protests. “They beat me up.”
For the turkeys, I go elsewhere. I take them to a tough woman who smokes and swears and has no problem grabbing hold of the birds.
This was my second year raising turkeys. The first year I did two. This time, three. Next year, I’m going for four, male and female. I might try reproducing them.
Readers might wonder why a conservative political science professor would bother raising turkeys at all, especially given their easy purchase at a store. The answer is my family. It’s good for us to learn some basic skills of self-survival. My grandfather on my mom’s side grew up on a farm. During the Great Depression, his large family barely noticed the social-financial upheaval.
If such a situation happens again in this country, it would be good to have some of those skills. With supply lines and shortages and inflation and fuel prices and Biden-geddon all around else, maybe everyone should learn to raise birds.
Even if Armageddon doesn’t hit quite yet, it’s good for kids to learn where food comes from. It doesn’t magically appear in grocery stockrooms, folks.
Raising turkeys, I’ve found, is good for raising kids. And homegrown turkeys taste good on the Thanksgiving table. Call me a religious man, but I aver that the good Lord intended turkeys to be on my dinner table rather than a kite string.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
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