Friday, November 25, 2011

The Celestial Turkey saves the day

Maria awoke on Friday morning at her parents’ house in Millstone.  She’d stayed over after Thanksgiving dinner just because she didn’t feel like driving home after all that food.  Her mother had outdone herself, but in a totally non-traditional way for Thanksgiving.  No turkey (at the insistence of Bart, her father), no pumpkin or apple pies, no sweet potatoes and thank God, no creamed onions.  When Maria was growing up one of her cousins had told her that creamed onions were really eyeballs, and that had grossed Maria out so much that she was never able to eat them again.  She hadn’t liked them much before that, but after, not a chance.  Yummm, have another helping of creamed eyeballs. 

When she went down to pour herself a cup of coffee her father was just coming in from feeding the turkeys and chickens.  “Darn turkeys.  I thought I’d be done with them by today.  I had it all set up, well, your brother set it up with Father Michael.  It would have been perfect.  He’d get turkeys; I’d get a receipt for a donation to a church for thirteen adult turkeys.  But no, they weren’t FDA approved turkeys, so here they still are.  Darn gobble-gobblers.  And now they’ve got a poult.  No more poults I decided in July.  Enough of the baby turkeys.  If I want more turkeys, I’ll buy jennies – just as many as I need for a couple months.  No tom turkeys.”  He kept muttering about them half to himself. 

Maria asked her father what he intended to do with the flock, since he couldn’t donate them and he was seriously sick of eating turkey.  Bart shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.  He didn’t quite know what to do.  He didn’t want to slaughter them just to get rid of them.  His thrifty upbringing revolted at such waste, but he just was so done with turkey raising and eating.  “Oh, I don’t know.  I’ll ask all my friends if they’d like a turkey for Christmas I guess, and that should take care of most of them, except that darn poult.  I almost wish she’d died of a chill.”

Maria frowned at that.  He’d said it before, and she liked it even less now.  It was one thing to kill animals raised for food; it was quite something different to let them die of neglect.  It was worse than shooting fish in a barrel, which was cruel and a waste of good fish.  “Dad, I have an idea.  Just hear me out and don’t say no until I say you can talk.  Okay?” 

Since Bart tended to interrupt his children when he felt he knew better than they on any given issue, this was a necessary request.  He agreed grudgingly, and Maria began her pitch.

“Do you remember us talking about my getting a new job?  Well, I’ve found one, and I start next Wednesday.  It’s at a place called Popcorn Park Zoo, down in Ocean County.  It’s part of the Humane Society, kind of a place for animals that aren’t pets and aren’t really adoptable.  They have some retired circus animals and a whole section of farm animals that people couldn’t keep any more.  Most of the farm animals are ones that folks with little yards had bought and then realized that it’s not practical to keep a cow in a development with fifty by seventy-five foot lots, or some other such silliness.  I happen to know that they would take the turkeys because I asked them.  You can even get a tax write-off for donating them.  Now, normally they charge a fee per animal for accepting them, but since I’ll be working for them they will waive the ‘per animal’ fee and just charge a flat fee, which is quite reasonable.”  She named the figure, and Bart had to admit to himself that it was a lot less than he would have expected, that is if he wanted to donate the turkeys to a zoo. 

“So, Dad, you could get rid of your flock and still get your tax write-off.  The Zoo would get turkeys, and they don’t have any right now.  They like to keep a variety of the farm animals around for kids who visit who have never been to a working farm.  They said we could bring down the turkeys on Sunday if we wanted to.  I could help you load up the turkeys and we’d take them down there, pay the fee and you’d become an ex-turkey farmer.  Isn’t that a good solution?”

Bart considered the idea.  It wasn’t a bad idea, but he did kind of think it was a waste of turkeys.  They’d just live until they died of old age, which isn’t very old for a domestic turkey.  No one would benefit from their meat, or even their feathers (not that anyone had ever asked him for any turkey feathers).  Maria knew how his mind worked and said, “Dad, they wouldn’t be wasted, they’d just have a different purpose.  They would teach and entertain the kids who come to the zoo.  The volunteers really know a lot about the animals, and the ones in the farm animal section talk not only about the different species, but about how they need to be raised on a real farm and not just in someone’s tract house back yard.  They have a bunch of chickens there that someone tried to raise in their condo if you can believe it.  Kept the chicks in the garage, and then put them in a pen on the patio.  The neighbors complained to the condo association and voila, Popcorn Park has a batch of chickens!  It’s a good idea, Dad, come on….”

Maria got her coffee and sat down, figuring to give him time to think.  Pressuring him might just lead him to say no just from obstinance.  She flipped on the television and watched the news, which included a fluff piece on the president’s pardon of two turkeys, saving them from becoming Thanksgiving dinner.  Those turkeys would go to Mount Vernon to live out their lives.  She didn’t point the story out to her father, as he was not a fan of the current president.  She could have pointed out that this tradition had been established by a president whose views he did share, but thought in this case silence was golden.

It wasn’t until after she’d finished her coffee and got dressed for the day that her father approached her again.  “I’ll make you a deal.  Well, if no one calls and asks for a turkey by tomorrow afternoon, we can take the turkeys down on Sunday.  I’m not gonna call all my friends and ask them to take them, because I’d already done that.  But if anyone calls out of the blue, I’ll give ‘em a turkey.  Is that acceptable, Miss Maria?” 

Maria blushed a bit.  He only called her that name when she was being bossy (in his opinion).  “Yes, Dad, it is quite acceptable.”  She hugged him and gathered up her things.  On the way to her car she detoured by the turkey run and stuck her head in the broody coop.  She quickly explained to Tiffany and Courtney what the plan was.  In two days, if all went as planned, the turkeys would be moved to a zoo where they would not be picked off one by one to become dinners.  There would be people to impress with their lovely feathers and plenty of feed – all in all a sanctuary for turkeys.  They’d have a turkey run, just like here, and no worries at all.

As soon as Maria left, Courtney zoomed off to tell the other hens.  The Celestial Turkey had answered their plea – they were saved!  

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