Very off-topic for this blog, very on topic for this holiday.
This Tale of Poultry Peril is by Walter McInnis, excerpted from Thong-baked Cookies, all rights reserved to Walter McInnis, the book is available from the author, contact me and he’ll sell you a copy, this is not the funniest story in the book either. Walter is a technical writer and project manager by trade but also lives an exciting and interesting life, this is the story of why we should buy all turkeys at the store.
Friends of ours own a hobby farm up around the corner from us. One of their hobbies was raising a few turkeys for the oven. Only one survived to adulthood, and as he was growing they became attached to him. They would let him out and he would just follow them around the yard or sit quietly beside them on the steps. Their children became quite attached to him, and the mother just couldn’t picture him naked and golden brown on their dining room table. They could have just kept him except that he was already bigger than the kids, and they wanted to clean out the building they had him in to use as a machine shed, and no one wants to work on machinery while ankle-deep in turkey guano.
So what to do? Well, fortunately, they know someone who has no compunction about murdering helpless creatures, ripping their guts out, stripping them of their outer layers, and cooking and eating them. Namely, me. They call me and tell me that I can have the turkey to do with as I see fit, just don’t tell them about it. Suits me. So I head over one day in mid-December to pick him up. “Pick him up” turns out to be impossible. He’s too frigging big. We’re talking big enough for a child to ride. Typically you feed turkeys regular food all summer and then put the high octane food to them just a short while before slaughter. But not this bird. He’s been getting the good stuff his whole life, and the result is that he’s too big to make him do anything he doesn’t want to. What he does want to do is eat continuously, so I lure him into the car with food. No problem.
As I drive back home I speculate on the pet possibilities for the kids. They could walk him around the block or take him to school for show and tell. Talk about a unique pet! But I abandoned that possibility faster than an ugly woman the morning after (not that I would have any first-hand experience in that area). In the two minutes it took to drive him home, he shit on the back seat of my car three times! And if you have never experienced turkey guano, just go inhale a bottle of ammonia and you’ll get some slight idea of the smell, but without the chunky bits in the yellow fluid.
So he won’t be a pet. Maybe I’ll keep him around for a few days just to show him to the neighbourhood kids. I put him in the garage and go in for dinner. I come out after dinner to check on him only to find that he’s been wandering the garage, as evidenced by the piles of frozen turkey crap that have bonded to the garage floor at 15-inch intervals! I go inside and start sharpening my knives.
The next morning my wife takes the kids out so they won’t be traumatized by seeing the gruesome details of how food actually gets to your table. I call up my buddy who grew up on a farm and who was made to kill chickens by the hundreds (and who won’t eat chicken anymore as a result) to see if he has any pointers. He says, “Just whack him over the head to stun him, and then he won’t give you any trouble while you kill and dress him.” No problem.
I go out to the garage and set up. It’s -25°C out so I dress warmly and keep the garage door shut to keep out the wind. In retrospect, it’s a good thing I did keep the door shut, else I would most probably have a visit of an official nature shortly afterwards. I set out my butchering board, a cleaver, a thin knife, a sharpening stone, and a camp stool. My plan is to stun him, and then hoist him into the rafters by the feet so I can bleed him into a bucket and prevent a big mess. So I throw a rope over the rafters and place a bucket handy. One last thing before I’m ready. I turn on the radio. All set. I pick up an iron snow shovel, good and heavy, and approach the bird.
The bird is stunned alright, lying on the cold asphalt and flapping feebly. I hogtie him and start the hoisting process. Now I’m no peewee (friends’ protestations to the contrary aside) but it was all I could do to get him high enough that his head was two inches off the floor. Not ideal, but enough to slip the bucket under him. Next step, I run the knife across his throat.
I guess the stunning blow I delivered was effective because he never even blinked, he just starting pumping blood into the bucket. I stand back and admire my handiwork. Everything was going according to plan.
Well, almost. The bird bleeds into the bucket for about two minutes and I’m figuring that it must be just about over. Just then he blinks. Then he blinks some more. Then he starts looking around and I can see that he’s starting to realize that, from his point of view, which is upside down, and obscured by a red haze, that things are not normal, and, in fact, pretty darn scary. And what do birds do when they get scared? They flap. And birds with four-foot wingspans can flap pretty darn hard. So he makes a few tentative flaps which cause him to start swaying back and forth. This in turn causes his head to bang into the sides of the bucket, which then tips over spilling all of the considerable volumes of warm blood which had collected onto my garage floor. My mouth falls open as I watch this little two-inch wave of blood wash along the length of my garage, which is sloped just enough to facilitate a nice even spread. It being -25°C, this turns my once clean garage floor into a crimson skating rink inside of thirty seconds.
“Oh crap!” Suddenly I’m not so impressed with my accomplishment, and I’m more than a little pissed off with the friend who told me that stunning the bird would take care of everything. It’s not that I didn’t hit him hard enough. His head is imprinted on the shovel I used. I found out later from a professional that that technique doesn’t work with turkeys.
So I’m pissed off, but I guess I can handle it. Nothing ever goes perfectly. But things seldom go as totally wrong as the situation did just then. Not content with merely knocking over the bucket of his blood, the turkey starts flapping full bore. He’s so big and strong, even in his death throes, that I can’t get close enough to restrain him, and so he flaps like he’s making south for the winter. Tethered as he is by the feet, his flapping gets him spinning in circles, and in seconds he’s whipping around like a giant feathery centrifuge. This causes what blood remains in his body to come flying out of the slit in his throat and spray around the garage like a paint shop operator gone psycho. It splashes on the walls. It splashes on the snowblower. It splashes on the ceiling (yes the ceiling) and it splashes on me like a scene out of a cheap slasher movie. I can feel its sticky warmth congealing on my face.
The stupid bird does this two more times before finally succumbing, and I pause for a moment to try and remember why I agreed to this in the first place. Also, I swear a lot. If the kids had been here to see this, I’d have to re-mortgage the house to finance their therapy and I would end up living with a bunch of vegetarians (a fate worse than death [hanging from your feet in a cold garage notwithstanding]).
So here I have this dead animal hanging in my garage and not the least remnant of interest in completing the job. But I know that I must. And I do. I get him all cleaned up and take him into the house. Then I try to clean up the garage. Dried blood just doesn’t clean up very well (as many a convicted murderer will certainly tell you), and freeze-dried blood should be used to coat our tanks, ships, aircraft, and fighting men because there’s nothing of this earth, or in any of the known galaxies, that will even touch it. I tell visitors that I dropped a can of paint while up in the rafters one day. Some of them believe me.
I give up and go back into the house to rinse off the bird and get him into the freezer. Midway through the doorbell rings. Probably someone looking for party tickets, my wife is on the social committee. I answer the door and there’s a guy there with a couple of kids. He looks at me for a second and then shakes himself and asks for tickets. I’ve forgotten where my wife told me the tickets were and so I’m scrambling around and running back and forth.
It still being brass-monkey cold out I tell the guy to bring his kids in where it’s warm. He declines. Suit yourself you masochist, but I’m sure your kids are thinking what a dork their father is for making them stand outside in the cold. I finally find the tickets and hand them over, take his money, and try to indulge in some small talk. The guy turns, and forcefully pushes his kids off the steps, down the walk, and away from the house. Anti-social.
As I turn back into the house and down the hallway I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror. Oh, My, GOD! I’d forgotten about the blood on my face. No wonder the guy wouldn’t come in.
Nobody else came to our house for party tickets.
Oh yeah. The bird was delicious.
Enjoy your turkey bird!!