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Holiday plans a turkey trot

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


When Better Homes and Gardens wrote about a “fuss-free” Thanksgiving, clearly they weren’t picturing me, my husband, our cousins, two turkeys and a hatchet.

A devotee of the local food movement, this year I decided to grow some of my family’s food in the garden and raise two free-range turkeys for consumption during the holidays.

My husband was skeptical, but I drowned out his murmured objections by reminding him that last year’s free-range turkey cost more than $100, and I encouraged my son by telling him that it was important to understand where our food came from.

In the spring, we purchased two turkey chicks. They looked like cotton balls with legs, but we were assured that by the fall they wouldn’t be nearly as cute. We named them Christmas and Thanksgiving, lest we forget their purpose.

The turkeys joined our chickens in the henhouse, and while the chickens grew friendly and docile, the turkeys got ugly, big and aggressive. They were possessed when it came to their food and tried to shove the chickens (and the humans who fed them) out of the way to get to the grain.

You’d think, given these bad manners and unseemly behavior, it would be no problem to “off” them when the time came. But, as the holidays grew closer, I brought up the subject and my son announced that he could not eat the turkeys because he had gotten to know them.

Then I told my husband I’d found a Web site showing how to slaughter turkeys and asked him when he’d be ready to start the process. My husband, who is a large animal veterinarian, considered this proposition for a few moments and then said “I think you’ll have to find someone else. I’ve taken an oath.”

I was beginning to smell mutiny.

But just when it looked as if the turkeys might get a Thanksgiving pardon, our cousins Jessica and Chris came to visit.

Over dinner, I told them about my Laura Ingalls Wilder vision of raising our dinner for the holidays, and I launched into my now finely tuned lament about the freaky turkeys, their food consumption and our best-laid but ill-executed (no pun intended) plans.

When I was done, Chris said, “We could kill them tomorrow.”

“Really?” I said, sure that it was the wine talking. Chris is a lawyer and a sheriff’s detective who’d had gall bladder surgery two days prior to his visit. Not a likely turkey executioner.

But, after breakfast the next morning, a hatchet was sharpened and, for good measure, a small-caliber shotgun was loaded as backup.

Waddle of death

As the first turkey took its slow, unsuspecting waddle of death from the coop to the chopping block, our chickens merrily followed in tow, pecking and scratching. Curious by nature, nothing could deter them from seeing what excitement awaited the turkeys.

However, as the turkey was restrained, incessant flapping ensued and the chickens turned on their heels and high-tailed it back to the coop with me trotting alongside them.

After the slaughter was over, the turkeys were cleaned, wrapped and put in the freezer. We gave one to Jessica and Chris to take home.

And I have a 24-pound turkey in my freezer that no one in my family will eat,

X Caitlin O’Halloran, who lives in Dixon, Calif., wrote this for her hometown paper, The Reporter in Vacaville.