From my window… County’s fair brings flashback to cock-eyed turkey event

Sean McMahon ~ Editor

Sean McMahon ~ Editor
Sean McMahon ~ Editor
By many standards, I assume, most of us do some pretty weird stuff as children. My affinity for “strange” pets and animals many times left my parents shaking their heads.
My two favorite pets were a boa constrictor, Darby, which I raised from about 10 inches in length to about six feet and as big around as my forearm, and a skunk named Charlie that I raised from about two weeks old for about 18 months, when he weighed about 20 pounds. But those stories are for a different time.
One of the animals I truly have liked my whole life is the turkey. I don’t know why. I don’t remember when this affinity took over. But the Rio Blanco County Fair refreshed my memory about the fact that I like turkeys. It also refreshed one of my life’s most vivid memories.
I am the youngest of seven kids and we grew up in a large home in the north end of Colorado Springs, three blocks from Monument Park and the Platte River.
Dad was a big shot with Colorado Interstate Gas, which is what brought me to the White River Valley each summer when growing up — but that is irrelevant to this story.
Dad had a good friend who owned a ranch outside of Colorado Springs. In addition to cattle and a few sheep, the friend raised turkeys.
To make a very long story a bit shorter, the friend talked Dad into taking home a live turkey to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner. I was probably about 7 years old with the oldest sibling, Brian, being about 18.
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Dad showed up with a 30-pound live turkey, which was sentenced to serve its last night in solitary confinement in the basement. The plan was to dispatch the turkey on Wednesday and to refrigerate the fellow overnight and put him in the oven quite early on Thanksgiving morn.
The basement had an in-house entry and a staircase entry out the back, right into the back yard.
Tuesday passed without much fanfare. We kids were down in the basement trying to feed the turkey without being pecked to death. But mostly we just sat there mesmerized by this really big bird — I’m sure some of the siblings were picking which part of the bird they wanted to eat, but I was just pretty well staring at the turkey in wonderment about how the thing could ever fly.
By Wednesday morning, the curiosity had pretty well waned, and now all of us were picking out which drumstick or wing or breast we wanted to gnaw on, on Thursday.
Dad arrived home from work a bit early for a weekday. But by 4 p.m., my Dad and Brian, the oldest, were dressed and prepared to go down into the basement to attend to business.
Dad had wanted the door from the cellar to the back yard open, but he made double certain that the door from the basement into the house was closed. He figured that if something went wrong, the bird would have an out — into the back yard. He also figured he would dispatch the turkey and take the carcass out the back and let it drain in the back yard instead of all over the basement.
Mom and us six sibling were relegated to the house, but since Dad had told us he was going to bring the bird’s body out of the basement door, we nonetheless gathered on the screened-in back porch.
As Dad and Brian disappeared, we quickly gathered on the porch. We waited like, it seemed, forever before we heard a word or a sound.
Three or four minutes passed. Nothing. The clock ticked slowly but it was about 10 minutes into the mission when we heard a scream from the basement. It was Dad.
“Oh (expletive),” was all we heard. But we heard it very well. It was loud and clear.
Correctly, we had made an en mass assumption that something had gone wrong. Very wrong! But the single outcry we had heard was following by a good five minutes to 10 minutes of complete silence.
We were looking at each other. We shrugged. We figured Dad and Brian finally had the situation under control.
We assumed incorrectly.
As quick as a flash of lightning, the turkey shot out of the basement door with most of its head and neck hanging down to the left. The head was below the shoulders and looking behind him. I mean this poor tom was running forward while looking backward — so it had no idea where it was going, only where it had been. And my guess was that he really didn’t care much about where he’s been.
The turkey ran all around the back yard for what seemed like for 20 minutes, although I am sure it was closer to 10.
I can still envision today the looks on my five siblings’ and mom’s faces. All were white, all had eyes wide open, their mouths were still wider open and no one was saying a thing. The turkey made all noise with his wings flapping, then he’s hit something like a tree or garbage can — but he couldn’t make a sound — obviously.
After an unknown amount of time, the turkey kind of stood up, although his head really didn’t join him, the turkey stood absolutely still, then it collapsed. Deader’n a door nail!
Silence took over again.
First thing we looked at was Dad and Brian, covered from head to toe in turkey blood and feathers.
Then we looked at each other. Stunned silence turned into laughter — mostly. Kevin, my next older brother was rolling on the floor in laughter. Not so for my two sisters, Maureeen and Sheila. They were the second and third oldest of the seven kids but they were acting like they were trying to keep from vomiting or passing out.
Finally, laughter broke out among all of us, including Dad and Brian, although they did look like they had just endured a scene from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Dad hurriedly took the turkey back into the basement to finish the job of removing the feathers and gutting the turkey — keeping the heart, liver, neck, etc. for the gravy.
When he arrived in the basement, he discovered a gruesome scene complete with blood and feathers everywhere. There wasn’t a portion of the large basement that the turkey hadn’t visited after the fatal (however slowly) blow.
Walls had to be washed, the camping gear needed to be hosed down, the floor looked like a slaughter house and even the ceiling in the basement was in need of being washed down.
The back yard, being outside, of course, wasn’t quite as bad. There were blood spatters on the trees and the fence. The lawnmower and the lounge chairs needed to be hosed off and me and my next oldest brother, Kevin, were delegated to pick up hundreds of feathers that were clinging to the fence, scattered through the lawn and even up in the trees.
Finally, as the dark settled in, the search and recover operation was complete. The basement had been cleaned up a bit. The bird had been plucked clean and the carcass was put in the refrigerator. Dad finally was able to sit down, having emerged from the basement with kind of a sickening gray pall over him.
He didn’t say a word other than muttering once, “We’ll never do that again.”
About 8 p.m., well after normal time, we sat down to dinner — all nine of us as quiet as we have ever been. Every once in a while, one of the kids would say something short and pointed about the afternoon’s event, but it quickly ended after a few tittering giggles, but that was about it.
We went on the rest of the night, watching television but noticeably quieter than normal. Then, thankfully, it was bedtime.
Mom got up early to put the stuffing in the bird and got the bird into the oven. It was going to take about six hours, if I remember right, to cook what had gone from about 30 pounds to about 22 pounds.
After the bird was in the oven, mom led the girls in their duties at the time to fix the mashed potatoes, make gravy, cut up the veggies and make a couple pumpkin, pecan and mincemeat pies.
At mid afternoon, we all sat down to turkey dinner. All the fixings looked like a childhood dream — a scrumptious display of stuffing, potatoes, veggies, salad, rolls, some vegetables and a number of pies.
Mouths watering, the smells being outrageous, the turkey made its appearance.
Oh my God! Complete silence again!
It looked like it had gone 15 rounds with a world class heavyweight.
The were bruises everywhere.
The breasts had red spots throughout, the legs were a dark reddish brown, the wings came in about three pieces each and the bones throughout were fractured, so we had to pick pieces of bone scattered throughout the meat.
We ate the turkey, but it just didn’t taste the same. We all looked at each other, tried to smile about it — all the while trying to dodge being in Dad’s direct view.
Finally, when the meal was complete and all of us had our fill of the stuffing, potatoes and gravy and vegetables and the pies, Dad finally looked up at all of us and stated rather emphatically, “Never again.”
Then we remembered that we really did have something to be thankful for. Next year’s turkey would come from the grocery store.
But I still immensely enjoy seeing live turkeys.
•••
Thanks very much to Dessa Watson and her team of helpers and Kim Ekstrom. Without IDs received from Ekstrom and the help and the quick processing of the fair results by Watson’s team, we would not have had the results quickly enough to print them in last week’s and this week’s editions.
I am used to getting results about a month after the fair from a much larger organization, so these ladies did a wonderful job!