November 1, 2023

Just Saying…

The Ghosts of Turkeys Past

By Q.C. Jones

Nothing says November like the turkey.  As a large part of my elementary education brainwashing involved dozens of exercises which revolved around this remarkable fowl. Scrounging around in that quite disorganized and junked up heap of memories called QC Jones’ brain, I stumbled on a treasure trove of items related to this great American bird. Quickly organizing them in a pseudo-chronological order, I came up with a lengthy list which I edited down to ten items.

  1. Age 3 – My grandmother had a largish turkey-shaped candle prominently displayed on her dining room table. I don’t know if it was Thanksgiving, but my grandma loved objets d’art.
  2. Age 4 – While on a family outing to the Houston Zoo, I saw a live turkey adjacent to the monkey cage. I thought it was cool, but the monkeys won my heart and attention.
  3. Age 5 – My kindergarten class learned how to trace our hands on a paper plate and turn the drawing into a turkey. I felt important because when the teacher asked us if we had ever seen a turkey in person, I could raise my hand.
  4. Age 7 – I was selected to assist in decorating Mrs. Corzine’s second grade classroom. My job was to cut out turkey shapes for the other kids to attach customized turkey feathers.
  5. Age 9 – My fourth-grade class had a Thanksgiving play. A portion of the play included a classmate playing a non-speaking role as the turkey. I had a speaking role. Want to hear my part? Here goes, “Priscilla, Miles, and Patience. Pilgrims’ names were very odd.” I should have tried out for the turkey.
  6. Age 11 – Got to assist my mother in cooking the turkey. I was tasked with pulling the giblets (aka guts) out of the frozen bird. Apparently, she didn’t care much for the task, and I was eager to see what they felt like. They felt like frozen guts. 
  7. Age 14 – I won a free turkey in a drawing at a local store. I don’t know why they would give a 14-year-old a turkey, but I felt like a bigshot when I handed over my 14-pound prize to my mother.  Quite frankly, I would have rather won the Iron Butterfly’s album called “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida,” but I guess you don’t look a gift horse (or turkey) in the mouth.
  8. Age 19 – The young collegiate QC, unable to return home for a short Thanksgiving break, prepared a turkey dinner for a half dozen friends. I learned a valuable lesson about the length of time required to defrost a frozen turkey. Dinner was served at the very urbane hour of 10:30 PM.
  9. Age 25 – Volunteered to smoke turkeys for a half dozen people and was the hero of the nation for a day. For those of you wondering, smoking a turkey is great fun but smoking 10 turkeys at the same time requires at least two six-packs of beer and a free Saturday.
  10. Age 51 – Discovered a wild turkey roost with inhabitants present. It was the pre-dawn hours of a hunting trip. I decided to crawl into some thick brush under a large tree. About an hour later, the turkeys sensed me and exited in a very noisy flurry. It scared me. And once the sun came up, I discovered I had been lounging in turkey poop.

Mind you, these are just the top 10 in a massive pile of turkey related memories. I could have easily covered such amazing trivia points like the following:

Benjamin Franklin, while good with kites and keys, might not have been the best selector of national birds. Old Ben led a crusade to adopt the turkey instead of the eagle as our national symbol. I guess he had lots of great ideas, so a dud every now and again still puts him in genius category.

The turkey is a uniquely American (or at least new world) species. The Aztecs and other central American peoples domesticated turkeys more than 2,000 years ago. They used them for meat, but they were more prized for their feathers. The Europeans were fond of roasted foul and brought the birds home where they replaced peacocks on the tables of European royalty.  Thanksgiving hadn’t been invented yet.

The wild turkeys we see in Iowa were part of a state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) trade with Missouri in the mid-60’s. The Missouri birds found they liked Iowa better (makes sense to me). While the Iowa DNR thought turkeys would never reach any serious population level, by 1979 they decided population control was needed and established a gobbler-only hunting season.

On a sidenote, The Urban Dictionary has several alternative definitions for turkey. Many of them are not fit for publication, but I liked this one:  A derogatory term used to describe a dim-witted person who usually makes redundant comments about things they know little about. 

I hope your turkey for Thanksgiving is of the bird variety. Just saying…  QC Jones



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