“Let’s raise a turkey for Thanksgiving this year,” said my husband, a man who has seven years of higher education and aspires to be a pretend farmer.
I was less than enthusiastic. I had also been less than enthusiastic about the geese that attacked my children, the goat that ate the tree that was planted in my mother’s memory and the pot-bellied pig that lived in our spare room.
Over the years, our experiences with farm animals have left my husband and I standing on opposite sides of the fence. . . the fence that collapsed when our ram said, “Hey, Ewe, the grass is greener on the other side” and led 32 of his favorite girlfriends across it to sit in my flower beds, stand on my front porch and walk all over my last nerve.
“By ‘raise a turkey’, I hope you mean pick it up. And by ‘pick it up’, I hope you mean drive into town and buy it at Walmart,” I responded. I like my Thanksgiving turkey dressed in plastic with “Butterball” stamped across its portly chest.
Greg ignored my reservations and bought a young gobbler. Our kids raised him through the fall. Then, just before the holiday, with an abundance of agricultural ignorance and a newly sharpened ax, my husband and our 12-year-old son invited the turkey to Thanksgiving dinner.
When we were young, poor and living in double-wide squalor, Greg spent his evenings catching and releasing cockroaches. How was a man who would not let his wife kill a bug going to slaughter a turkey?
Perhaps the butchering could have been done easily if a hardened, experienced farmer had swung the ax. The gentle, pretend farmer hugged the turkey one last time and handed the ax to his son.
Maybe another boy could have killed the bird with a forceful swing. Ben, who is his father’s son, turned his head and hit the bird with a timid stroke. He could not bring himself to look his pet in the eye and decapitate him.
I suppose Ben’s weak swing could have killed the bird if the stump Greg had laid him on had not been rotten. Instead, Ben’s blow just pushed the turkey deeper into the stump which gave way and left a dazed and bleeding bird giving Greg a sincere “I appreciate the offer, but I’d really rather not” to his dinner invitation.
It was not our family’s finest meal. The turkey eventually made it to our Thanksgiving table but none of us could eat him. We sadly told him goodbye as he lay cold on our plates.
Then we all covered him with our mashed potatoes to give him a proper burial.