By Sarah Cook
[Photo via Flickr user powerpigsetups]
Note: All week long we’re bringing you one appetizer-sized Thanksgiving essay per day in the lead up to the holiday. Click here to read the first essay in the series. Bon appetit!
My friends Matt and Eleanor own a 120 acre farm in Missouri and raise chickens, bees, vegetables and — pay close attention her — turkeys. When I moved onto Matt and Eleanor’s farm this past September there were close to 500 turkeys living lazily on the land. Big, fat, stark white turkeys with giant dinosaur feet being primed for Thanksgiving feasts everywhere. After a few weeks of learning the basics in a region dominated by bad-ass, old-school farmers and Mennonites, I was left to oversee Matt and Eleanor’s livelihood for the weekend. Matt’s farm basically runs itself so I should have been able to sit back and watch re-runs of Oprah on mid-Missouri’s finest television stations. The turkeys could sense my weakness.
On Friday, my confidence was still high. A few turkeys escaped and wandered into the road? No problem. A turkey jumped in a water bin and drowned? Not great babysitting on my part, but manageable. A few hundred turkeys escaped and headed off through the fields for freedom? My stout legs gave chase and I herded them through hills and valleys back to safety.
Day Two started off a little rockier and I blame Google. It was in the mid 50’s and drizzling and I became increasingly concerned the turkeys were going to get damp and cold and promptly all keel over. I imagined Matt coming back to a field of turkey paperweights, so logically, I googled “How much drizzle can turkeys take?” Surprisingly, most farmers don’t use the word “drizzle” so I had to problem solve without assistance from the Internet. I decided to alternately move the turkeys from barn to field, creating hours of unnecessary work. By mid-afternoon I was exhausted and chanced a quick nap. Mistake. When I woke up roughly 490 turkeys were jogging through the hills, legs bouncing high. My patience and stout body were exhausted but a few short hours later, with all 500 turkeys back in the barn, I was dreaming about how good turkey tastes. At first I mistook the strange feelings in my belly for hunger pangs, but it didn’t take long for me to realize I was actually experiencing the onset of a stomach virus. I feel I must reveal my illness hypothesis at this point: I am 86 percent sure that I consumed feces. This may sound like crazy white girl talk, but during my afternoon of turkey herding, I had gotten gallons of poop on my person as it mixed with rain, making the transfer to my mouth, shockingly, conceivable.
As of Saturday night I firmly believed that yes, turkey poop had gotten in my mouth, and that I was experiencing the end of days. I laid in bed with the windows open, listening to the coyotes coming closer to the farm for a turkey buffet while my stomach heaved and I replayed in my head how to load a shotgun.
Amazingly, Sunday morning came, dreary as the last, and at this point I was experiencing full-blown madness. I just stood in the fields for hours, in the rain, in a sweatshirt, moving turkeys from barn to field, clutching my stomach. The siren song of the turkey farmer was growing weak. When they returned, Matt and Eleanor were understandably perplexed by my descent into turkey delirium. My quest to keep the turkeys safe was over, dignity firmly lost.
So this Thanksgiving as you sit down for dinner, remember me and my story. Or try to forget it. But at least give thanks for the real farmers who brave the surprisingly terrifying world of turkeys.
Sarah Cook wrote this essay on her iPhone while traveling in New Zealand. She’s from Glen Arbor, Michigan.
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