It was a mean turkey. In the small world of my cousin and I at the time, it was the scariest thing alive. That's probably why we kept messing with it.
The turkey was penned up in our backyard, along with the chickens and guineas. I don’t recall which one of us the most, through the chicken wire, taunted and picked at the turkey, but it was likely me. We often picked on it.
The turkey would get riled, strut up and down the pen, gobble curses and lunge at the wire. Scary stuff. Even though young and stupid, we knew what a fence was supposed to do, and we were overconfident a fence would always do what it's supposed to do. We were four years old at the time.
One day, my cousin and I went to pay our typical respects to the turkey. The turkey usually protested as soon as we were spotted. On that day, the pen was quiet. We moved closer. No turkey. Several feet away, it emerged from the bushes, on the wrong side of the fence.
My cousin has many skills, well apt at many things, but running was not then or ever has been one of his strongest. On the other hand, I could run like a flushed deer and back then often did wherever I went. We started back to the house. So did the turkey. Hot on our heels.
I don't know if it was survival instincts or a lapse in love for my cousin, or maybe a bit of both, but as soon as I hit the doorway, I remember pulling the screen door open and immediately slamming it behind me. I turned back to see my cousin's face smashed up against the wrong side of the screen and the mighty spread of the turkey coming down on him. It was an awful sound.
It likely lasted only seconds, but to me and the slower cousin, the unhinged fury seemed to last hours. I recall my mother charging from someplace in the house, pushing the door open, swatting this, that or the other, breaking up the dance and pulling my cousin safely to the right side of the screen.
We later learned the turkey did a victory lap for quite some time before getting close enough to the pen for my father and feed to usher it back to the right side of the fence.
The story has been told over plates of turkey, often during Thanksgiving.
This was before the big poultry business boom hit our part of the world, where poultry houses now are a major part of our ag landscape. They are big business, and big economic drivers for rural areas across the Southeast. To highlight its importance to the region and to the holidays, see the accompanying graphic illustrating the impact the turkey business has in our region.
And Happy Thanksgiving!