The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Thanksgiving Turkey

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1984-2012

Issue: November, 1984

"He's a nice 'un, ain't he, Henry?" Caleb waved with his arm towards a chicken wire enclosure. Behind it stood a turkey that must have weighed 40 pounds if it weighed an ounce.

"Picked him out in person. I must have looked at every turkey in three counties before I saw him. We're going to eat high this Thanksgiving, Henry. Um, um. I can almost taste that meal now."

Henry stepped up for a closer look. The proud turkey pecked at corn Caleb had provided to fatten him up even more. "Yep, Caleb, I'd say you picked a nice 'un. Big broad breast - ought to be a lot of white meat on them bones. Just how are you planning on doing him in?"

"Well Henry, I thought you'd help me out on that, him being so big and all. I might not manage him all by myself."

Henry kept watching the turkey who was now enjoying a drink of water. Henry would have just as soon a bought a turkey frozen at the big supermarket in town as to have to help Caleb "do this one in," but he wasn't going to say so out loud to Caleb. Henry would have never heard the end of it. If he had to, then he had to, but he dreaded it.

A couple of weeks passed and Thanksgiving was getting closer. Caleb had tamed the big "Tom" til he could let it out of the cage and it stayed around in his yard. Caleb fed it all the time, so the turkey got to where it would run to meet Caleb when it heard the screen door slam.

Finally the day before Thanksgiving arrived. Henry knew this would be the day. About noon, Henry got out his ax and put a fine edge on it. He walked out and met Caleb near the wood chopping block. As usual, "Tom" was waddling along right behind Caleb.

"We might as well get it over with, Caleb."

Caleb looked down at the bird and didn't say anything. There were a few grains of corn on the chopping block and the turkey actually stretched his neck out to get them and layed its head right on the block.

Henry raised the ax. Caleb said, "No! Wait a minute, Henry. I got a better idea. That there's too fine a bird to just be 'et up. He's fine breeding stock. What you think about getting a few hens in the spring and going into the turkey business. I hear there's good money in it."

Henry put down the ax and threw his head back in a laugh that started way down inside and worked its way up. "See you for lunch tomorrow, Caleb. At least we can still have sweet potatoes, corn on the cob and pumpkin pie. You might as well tie a napkin around his neck and invite your friend "Tom" here. I done seen it all. Not only are you not going to eat him, but you're going to get him some lady friends!"

Henry walked back to the house laughing all the way. Caleb was sputtering mad, but Henry was relieved. Caleb never had to know it was the way Henry had felt and the choice he would have made all along.