A Fowl Afternoon of Mayhem

turkey photo2Marshall invested a sufficient amount of time and thoughtful calculation in an effort to determine the precise instant of release.  He believed that he had carefully anticipated the launch angle and rate of descent.  He was confident that his six foot one inch height would give him a decided advantage over other participants.  Now, and at that precise moment in time, he was prepared to take possession of a fully feathered and living turkey that would soon be deliberately thrown from the roof of the Sanders Chevrolet building in Southwest City.

Helen, Marshall’s wife, and the couple’s children were among the hundreds of spectators anxiously awaiting the release of turkeys, geese and ducks.  Marshall and Helen were married on November 10, 1942.  For the past seventeen years they managed to live peacefully and happily on their farm located just outside of Southwest City.  They were busy with the constant demands associated with farm life and, if that weren’t enough, they had five children.  The demands of raising those five children occupied much of Helen and Marshal’s time.

There were no nearby neighbors, and even if there had been, there was very little time in Helen’s schedule for socializing.  But every Saturday afternoon the local merchants in southwest City sponsored “Red Ticket Days”.  Throughout the week businesses would hand out raffle tickets to those making purchases in their stores.  On Saturday afternoons throngs of people gathered with hopes their ticket number would be drawn.  Streets were closed as families from all over the area came to town for the drawings and an opportunity to see and talk to friends they hadn’t seen for a week or more.

Helen relished the opportunity to take a well-deserved break from the plethora of chores requiring her attention while the children played with friends not seen throughout the week.  Others, however, saw that particular Saturday afternoon in November of 1959 as an opportunity to catch Thanksgiving Day’s main course.  After all, Thanksgiving was only one week away.

The moment drew near and everyone’s eyes were drawn upward to the roof of the Sander’s building.  All at once turkeys, geese and ducks were launched from the top of the building.  Men were dropping and throwing the fowl downward and in the direction of the crowd below.

The moment was seized by pandemonium, mayhem and chaos, and when birds came close enough to one time spectators they immediately became fully engulfed participants.  Helen kept the children close and tried to rise to her fullest height in an effort to see Marshall but the crowd was too large.

Men were jumping on the tops of cars trying to grab a leg or a wing.  People were climbing onto rooftops chasing birds that had settled there.  Two women were fighting over a single turkey and it was obvious the turkey was faring by far the poorest.  The turkeys fell straight down and although the wings of the geese and ducks were modified to prohibit flight, the birds did manage to stray from the parking lot.  Several geese managed to find a small body of water, and some young boys dove in and returned to the shore with the birds in hand.

Suddenly Marshall emerged from the crowd of people holding a turkey, and he, Helen and the children pushed their way through the throng of people to their pick-up truck.  Marshall tied the turkey’s legs together with a piece of string and placed the bird, all alone to ponder his future, in the rear of the truck. The children chose to ride home in their Cousin Maxine’s car.  Helen climbed into the cab of the truck and she, Marshall and the captured gobbler began the three mile drive home.

Marshall and Helen talked about the event, the friends they saw and the turkey.  It was understood that the turkey would be a delicious Thanksgiving Day entrée, but on the way home the conversation wasn’t about cooking the bird.  Marshall and Helen discussed the poor bird’s plight and the trauma it must have gone through as it fell from the rooftop.  Helen reminded Marshall that chickens were tasty and they had a large number roaming in the yard.

When the family and bird reached the farm it was obvious the children had developed an attachment to the captive gobbler and after a brief discussion it was decided that the turkey would be freed and given the run of the chicken yard.

Thanksgiving Day came and the family enjoyed their delicious chicken meal while the turkey became familiar with its new home on Marshall and Helen’s, and the five children’s, farm.  There was, however, some talk of next year’s Thanksgiving and the turkey, but the turkey eventually passed away from old age rather than adorning the top of the dinner table.

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