How the Hen House Turns: First Turkey

How the Hen House Turns: First Turkey
Column by Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

Last week I mentioned that whenever we humans would go out the back door, First Turkey would come flapping across the yard, greeting us with her “ark ark ark, ark ark ark.”

Only once did she actually get off the ground with all her happy flapping. Going down the hill, she sailed through the air for at least ten feet before landing on her breast meat with a surprised squawk.

Of course, friends teased us whenever Thanksgiving rolled off the calendar. We did celebrate occasionally by having turkey for dinner, as a guest in the house, honored with scraps from a remote relative.

I marveled at the expert genetic engineering done by breeders of meat turkeys whenever, rarely, I picked up turkey to haul her down to the Hen House. With her cuddled in my arms, I could feel her huge slab of breast meat under her magnificent brown and white feathers. No wonder she couldn’t fly.

Have you ever taken a good close look at a turkey’s face? Aside from a viciously sharp beak, a lovely masterpiece of avian engineering that can tear apart honey dew melon rind with powerful strokes — turkey faces don’t win any beauty contests.

Except for the eyes — big luscious honey brown eyes that look at you with a steady, unnerving gaze, if you’re a grasshopper. The rest of the face is a disaster, a train wreck of blue wrinkles and thin flaps and bulbous lumps of red skin, surrounded by spikes of ugly short bristles on an otherwise bald head, and warty nobules with some ancient, ill-defined purpose, and an obscene banana of hairy flesh hanging off her forehead.

Speaking of warty nobules, I was sure, at one time, that Turkey Two had a dangerous cancer. At least, it was an irritating wart that should come off. The wart appeared straight out of her breast, and long thick fibers grew angrily from its center. It swung in horrible contrast to her lovely brown feathers, and it continued to grow until Turkey Two was in danger of tripping over it.

I managed to Google the frightening abnormality. (I can’t imagine now what keywords I used.) I learned it was called a beard.

I was about to have my proud turkey disfigured. Memories of nearly surgically removing a chicken’s gizzard came to mind, and I ran for the camera to take Turkey Two’s portrait.


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