Thursday, November 24, 2005

You Turkey

Another year and another large turkey is out of the oven and ready for us to slice up and devour as the main dish for our Thanksgiving meal.

This Thanksgiving I decided to look into these tasty creatures and learn a little more about them. After all, I see them in the fields and along the roadside as I travel throughout the Northwest, and the only thing I know about them is what I have heard while I was growing up.

Some will tell you I have not yet finished growing up, and I would have to agree with them.

One thing many of you may already know, is that Benjamin Franklin lobbied to make the turkey the national bird. I can't imagine having the majestic eagle replaced by a turkey, but we were close to having the majestic turkey adorning our national symbols.

Benjamin Franklin was just one of three members of a committee that was assigned by the Continental Congress. The other two members were Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Their assignment was to come up with a design for the official national seal.

The first idea the three had designed included Lady Liberty, but congress didn't care for the design and consulted with a Philadelphia artist of the time named, William Barton. Barton came up with a new design which included a Golden Eagle. Although they liked this new design, they wanted a bird more native to America and so decided that the American Bald Eagle should be the bird.

When Benjamin Franklin heard of the choice of a Bald Eagle he is quoted as saying,

For my part, I wish the eagle had not been chosen as the representative of this country. He is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched in some dead tree where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing hawk and, when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish and is bearing it to his nest for his young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes the fish. With all this injustice, he is never in good case.


At some point Benjamin Franklin argued that the turkey was, “A much more respectable bird and a true native of America," he further stated that the turkey was a, “bird of courage" and that the turkey "would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on."

Luckily for us, congress was not convinced that the turkey should win out over the Eagle, and the rest is history.

Did you know that a male turkey is called a “Tom” and the females are called “hens”? If they hatch some little turkeys these would be called, “poults”. At sixteen weeks old a turkey is called a “fryer”, and at five to seven months old they are known as “roasters”.

I found it interesting that in ballroom dancing the “Turkey Trot” is called that because it resembles the short, jerky steps that a turkey makes when it walks.

Turkey's have great eyesight and can see about 270 degrees and can even see in color the way we can. Of course, like us, they also cannot see at night very well. Their hearing is also quite good, and between good eyesight and good hearing they tend to elude many frustrated hunters very well.

I'm uncertain from this bit of turkey trivia, but I thought I would share it with you anyway because it is somewhat amusing. Apparently turkeys have heart attacks. The story goes like this, “The United States Air Force was doing test runs and breaking the sound barrier. Nearby turkeys dropped dead with heart attacks.” This is interesting because many doctors recommend eating turkey in your diet to prevent heart attacks. Believe it, or not. :)

Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented a live turkey and two dressed turkeys to the President. The President does not eat the live turkey. He "pardons" it and allows it to live out its days on a historical farm.

It seems that there is a myth that is perpetuated that eating turkey will make you sleepy. From what I can gather it seems eating turkey does not cause you to feel sleepy after your Thanksgiving dinner. Carbohydrates in your Thanksgiving dinner are the likely cause of your sleepiness.

The caruncle is a red-pink fleshy growth on the head and upper neck of the turkey. Turkeys have a long, red, fleshy area called a snood that grows from the forehead over the bill. The fleshy growth under a turkey’s throat is called a wattle.

How many of you have heard that turkey's are so stupid that they will drown if they look up when it rains? Apparently this is not really true. These types of tales may have come up because baby turkeys are very vulnerable when they still have their down on them and not yet fully feathered. Many baby turkeys that are not protected in a downpour will die from being wet and from exposure, but not from drowning.

Although turkey's spend most of their day feeding on the ground, they actually fly up into trees to spend their nights a little safer from nocturnal predators.

Turkey's are also pretty quick. The can fly short distances at about 55 miles per hour, and can run at speeds up to 25 miles per hour on the ground. Domesticated turkey's, however, can no longer fly.

Now you know some of the more interesting things about the turkey. Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal feeling a little better about your knowledge of the main course.

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