class=MsoNormal>Everyone agrees that turkey is a fundamental part of Thanksgiving. Even my Italian sister-in-law, who thinks the Pilgrims ate lasagna, concurs that turkey is, at the very least, an important side dish. It was with that sentiment in mind that I set out to procure a bird that would not only feed the 15 adults and children coming to my house for the holiday meal, but also provide ample leftovers for those staying through the weekend.
class=MsoNormal>An ordinary specimen wouldn’t do. So when our local newspaper ran an article about places that raise organic, free-range turkeys, I called and ordered a big one. It seemed like a delicious and politically correct alternative to the frozen, foolproof, self-basting birds from the supermarket. Plus, I figured a trip to the turkey farm would be a new family tradition – like chopping your own Christmas tree, only with poultry.
class=MsoNormal>On the day our dinner was to be, errrr …. dressed, I rounded up the kids.
class=MsoNormal>“Who wants to drive out to the country and visit a turkey farm?” I chirped.
class=MsoNormal>“Can we stop at the mall?” my 15-year-old daughter asked.
class=MsoNormal>“No, we’re just going to get the Thanksgiving turkey.”
class=MsoNormal>“I’m thinking of becoming a vegetarian,” she said. “Is Aunt Toni bringing lasagna?”
class=MsoNormal>Visions of a Walton-esque afternoon were rapidly fading. The only taker was 10-year-old Lewis and he was looking to bargain.
class=MsoNormal>“I’ll go,” he said, “but only if I don’t have to eat turnips.”
class=MsoNormal>“OK,” I agreed hastily.
class=MsoNormal>“And I get extra whipped cream on my pie and I don’t have to give my bed to the cousins.”
class=MsoNormal>“It’s a deal,” I said and we got into the car.
With a fuzzy printout from MapQuest and vague directions from the newspaper article, we headed to the farm. We drove for an hour past housing developments, bowling alleys and strip malls.
“It doesn’t look like the country,” Lewis commented.
I reached for the crumpled map on the floor and squinted at it.
“We still have a ways to go. Look for a big coffee stain up ahead.”
“There’s the farm!” In his excitement Lewis practically split his seat belt.
Sure enough, a crudely painted sign read “Turkies” and pointed up a narrow gravel road. As a person who is dependent on spell check, I should have seen this as an omen. Instead, I told myself that it was charming and unpretentious.
“Now we’re in the country,” Lewis confirmed as the car lurched over rocks and the rusted mufflers and hubcaps of customers that had claimed turkeys before us.
We drove through the dust, poised to brake for any free-range turkeys that might bound from the bushes. After several miles, the theme from Deliverance began to run through my head.
The road dead-ended at a patch of dirt and a double-wide trailer. The banjo music in my brain was getting louder.
I guess I expected the farm to look like Old MacDonald’s, with a gobble, gobble here, a kindly farmer there, and fluffy, free-range birds running up to greet us. Instead, a burly guy in a bloody apron appeared in the doorway.
“Stay here,” I whispered to Lewis as I handed him the cell phone. “If I’m not back in five minutes, dial 911.” I got out of the car.
“Your name Band?” the bloody behemoth bellowed.
I nodded tentatively and followed him into the trailer.
“Stay here,” he snarled and ducked out a back door. I froze, listening for the sound of an ax but all I could hear was my son beeping the horn in the van.
I motioned for him to come in and he scampered out of the car with the cell phone. We waited.
“Where are the turkeys?” Lew whispered.
“Beats me. It’s probably better not to know.”
Then, the turkey terminator burst through the back door. He had a murderous gleam in his eye and Lewis says there were feathers in his beard. He handed me a package wrapped in plastic. It was as heavy as a load of wet laundry and I swear, it was still warm.
“Twenty minutes a pound at 325,” he growled as he stashed my check into a shoebox. It wasn’t exactly the Butterball Turkey Hotline™, but it was somewhat comforting.
Back in the car, Lewis and I laughed with relief.
“Poor Al,” Lewis said as he patted the plastic bag on the back seat next to him.
“Who?” I asked peering into the rearview mirror.
“Our turkey,” Lewis replied. “I named him Al. I think he’s leaking.”
I handed Lewis a wad of tissues from the glove compartment. “Don’t get too attached,” I warned.
At home, we entombed Al on the bottom shelf of the fridge, where he displaced a bag of bruised apples, two cartons of eggs and a bunch of wilted lettuce. I check on him every couple of hours to make sure that he hasn’t sprung to life or sprung a leak.
I’m sure that on Thanksgiving Day I’ll be glad that we risked our lives to get an organic, free-range turkey. Al will probably be delicious. If not, there’s always lasagna.
Carol Band is thankful that there is only one holiday a year that requires her to get up at dawn and do math. 25 pounds x 20 minutes a pound = ____? Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org