Tom Turkey’s Lament

A Shorter Than Expected History of One November Day

by Lamont Montague III

He was born on August 17 and, all things considered, that’s quite an accomplishment for any bird as stupid as a turkey. It is doubtful whether his father was present at the birth and probable that no one would have cared either way. His mother was a middle-age (by turkey standards) hen who has since disappeared from the barnyard. He was named “Tom,” which has been an appropriate name for turkeys since prehistoric times.

As a young turkey Tom played all the turkey games. He learned to gawk and twist his neck around into the most contorted positions. When the thunder rolled he learned to plea up with all the other birds of his type, usually causing a few of his fellow birds o smother. Life in the barnyard wasn’t exactly what one would call exotic, but it would simply have to do.

“The turkey, while notably the most ignorant bird in the Western Hemisphere, does fill a void in the culture. Take the Pilgrims and the Indians for instance. I dare say if it had not been for the stupidity of the turkey those miserable colonists would have starved to death for sure.”1.

Tom grew quite quickly and, because the owner of the turkey farm had not provided exercising equipment, he grew very fat. Although he had feathers and was in every sense a bird he could not fly. He couldn’t even jump. Despite these handicaps Tom developed mature relationships with some of the female birds. Most of them were as dumb as dirt as well, but a “well-read turkey is no good to anybody.”2.

The summer passed all too quickly. One day Tom and his breast friend Fred were gobbling about the barnyard when it began to rain. Most of the turkeys froze. They were frightened and amused at the water falling from the sky. The men who watched over the turkey farm began to herd the birds into shelter. Unfortunately all the turkeys didn’t make it and drowned while staring up into the clouds. Tom and his friend, Fred, were quite puzzled as to the disappearance of some of their fellow gobblers but they decided not to dwell on these matters.

“In 1778 Benjamin Franklin proposed legislation to the Continental Congress which would have made the Wild Turkey the national bird of the newly formed United States of America. Many of the delegates laughed and others stormed out of the chambers to inform the press of the old gentleman’s demise. As history tells us it was the Bald Eagle not the Wild Turkey which was proclaimed the national symbol and that is precisely why we don’t eat pork chops on Thanksgiving Day.”3.

Many other catastrophes befell the turkeys that fall as a few were wiped out by a fire in the hen house and another by a falling tree limb, but one incident outweighed the others in the fright category. On September 28 a young turkey, who had been born on the same day as Tom, was lost in a pile of falling leaves. No one realized that he was missing and in an attempt to procure nourishment he choked to death on an aspen leaf.

Like all youngsters Tom and Fred dreamed of running away to sea or of hopping a freight to California. Their dreams never got off the launch pad, though, as the dumb birds had enough trouble just finding their way to dinner. By the first week of October they were gaining two pounds per week and the turkey ranchers smiled as the two young turkeys paraded around their roost. That’s when they first met Spike.

Spike was likable enough, as roosters go. He had an arrogant stroll and a threatening glance for anyone who even looked like he might cross him. He looked on the turkey as one might look on an English Ivy plant.

“Hey, you dumb birds, get away from my fence,” shouted Spike one day as Tom and Fred stumbled around the barnyard. They just stared back at the large rooster, afraid to take another step. Spike was surprised and mistook their stupidity for courage.

“Well, I’ll be,” mused Spike. “Maybe you guys are different from all the rest. Come on over here,” he gestured. “Share some of my dinner.”

Tom and Fred gobbled over to where Spike was standing and cautiously began pecking at his healthy serving. They ate attentively for a few moments until Spike asked them how they liked the meal.

“Why, it’s delicious,” said Fred.

“Yes, delicious,” echoed Tom in agreement. “And there is such quantity.”

“Would you like to eat like this all the time?” asked Spike

Both the turkeys nodded excitedly.

“Well, you can. All you have to do is act important like I do. Be somebody. Quit gawking and gobbling and slouching. Stand up straight!”

The two birds stiffened on command.

“If you don’t wake up this could be your last Thanksgiving, boys,” smiled the rooster.

The turkeys looked at each other. Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving? What is Thanksgiving? It sounds pleasant enough but by the tone of Spike’s voice they couldn’t help but feel that there was a missing link. They thought about asking Spike but were afraid that they would blow their favorable status with the influential rooster. So they just smiled in agreement and attempted to strut like a rooster looking even more awkward than before. However, Spike’s words continued to haunt them all day and late that night the two turkeys discussed their recent experience.

“Do you think that Spike character is on the level? asked Fred.

“Why sure,” said Tom. “Look at how he lives. He’s free to roam the entire barnyard. And just look at the food he eats!”

“Well, what do you think he meant when he said this could be our last Thanksgiving?” Fred was trembling, but he wasn’t cold.

“Oh, he was probably just pulling our leg,” replied Tom trying to shrug it off.

The two continued a circular discussion trying to decide what this “Thanksgiving” thing might be. Soon they were fast asleep; thinking is a big drain on a turkey.

“Whenever you have more than two turkeys discussing anything more technical than a bowl of pea soup you have the potential of a full scale disaster. The only hope is that they are free spenders.”4.

As the first snow fell on their miniature world Tom and Fred wound their gawky way through a multitude of fellow turkeys still at odds about this thing called “Thanksgiving.” At first they were very worried about what Spike had said, but as the days wore on and nothing became of it, they soon put it out of their tiny minds.

“The memory of a turkey is in direct proportion to the size of their brain. The storage capacity approaches zero as the amount of data to be stored increases. In other words, their brain goes on the blitz. That’s how they can remain so carefree.5.

They came across Spike one day sitting happily on a water trough near the entrance to a hen house.

“How are you boys doin’ this afternoon,” he asked sharply.

“Oh, doin’ fine,” snapped Tom.

“It’s gettin’ on toward Thanksgiving you know. Maybe it’s time you boys made a break for it.

There it was. That word again. Spike laughed knowingly as the two turkeys stood completely still in apprehension of the rooster’s next enlightening bit of information.

“I can get you out of here before you’re somebody’s main course,” offered Spike.

“Main course?” asked Fred. “What do you mean?”

“A ‘Thanksgiving Turkey,’ you turkey!” Spike was beginning to realize that the two were as dumb as the rest.

“You mean……oh no. You couldn’t mean that. You mean…..they’d……eat us?! quivered Tom.

“You got it,” yawned Spike.

Well, as one might imagine, a turkey has little chance of making a decision of any kind, much less of this magnitude. Tom and Fred were very upset by this revelation but decided that a breakout was not the answer.

“I’ve never even been outside these gates,” said Fred, “in all my life.”

“What would we do on the outside without the rancher to herd us in and watch out for us? Who would show us where the food is? We had better take our chances here. Besides, nothing has happened to us yet, maybe you don’t know what you are talking about.”

This was quite a bit of reasoning for a turkey and a bit bold, too. When Spike began to get ruffled Tom and Fred retired to a nice, warm sunny spot for a quick nap before dinner.

As the month of November crept onward Tom and Fred became almost catatonic. They stopped eating altogether and avoided the pompous Spike who had returned to making fun of their confusion.

Tom woke up on November 15, which happened to be a cold, foggy sort of day. After a thorough search of the yard Tom noticed that Fred was gone. Tom didn’t know if Fred had taken Spike’s advice or if he was in preparation for the first phase of dinner. Spike was no help at all. He simply laughed at the troubled turkey, who gawked and gaped and stumbled and gobbled all over the barnyard in search of his friend.

Tom spent much of the next week in a complete void. Fred was gone – that was for certain. Spike was still strutting his stuff and all the other turkeys continued their gobbling opera.

One morning Spike startled Tom by speaking to him.

“Come over here, boy,” whispered the rooster.

“Well I see that you made it through Thanksgiving. That must be pretty embarrassing.”

“What?” asked Tom,” You mean it’s over. I’m not going to be dinner after all?!”

“Well, not now, anyway,” sneered Spike. “That reminds me….have you ever heard of Christmas?”

1 From Thanksgiving – The Revenge of the Tourist State by Montague Lament III, pp.67-68. Dog’s Nose Publishing House, 1981.

2 From Cranberry Sauces I Have Known by Montague Lament, Jr., pp. 39-41. Mashed Potatoes Publishing Inc., 1973.

3 From The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Montague Lament, pgs 3-5, Pumpkin Pie Press, 1945.

4 From Mincemeat Fever by Lamont Montague, Esq., pg 6, Ronald McDonald Publishers, 1966.

5 From Turkey Brains and other Appetizers by Montague Lamont, pp. 1106-1198, Julie Childs Publishing Co., 1984.

Filed Under: Fractured Opinion


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