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Revised 7 December, 2009

THE FARM WIFE'S DILEMMA (The Turkey Strikes Again)

There is a story that goes back in family tradition to about the Civil War. This is in fact and deed a true story The names of the parties involved have been forgotten (to prevent having them come back to haunt us for daring to relay one of life's embarassing moments.

The aunt in question, whom we will call Cora for lack of a better name (not her real name) and to help the story read better, had never lived on a farm before. She grew up in the more sophisticated and civilized life of the city. However, life does not always help us to chose our mates in accordance to our experiences (or sometimes even in accordance to common sense) and she fell in love with and married a man who lived as did his father before him, in the isolated farmlands of the prairies. They lived on what they grew and fish and game plus their little family of livestock. Counted amongst that livestock was a nice big fat bunch of turkey goblers that were the farmer's pride and joy.

Now in that day and age, one did not drive to the local supermarket to pick up dinner for the night. Meats were smoked over a wood ash fire in a building, appropriately enough, called a smokehouse. You would do the butchering of any wild game you could kill, if lucky, an extra fatted calf, and, dare I say it, an occasional turkey from the prized flock. All vegetables and fruits were either dried or home canned or stored in root cellars, where they were kept until needed. It was necessary to can enough to get you through the entire year until the crops started growing and ripening again. If you did not put enough aside, you risked going hungry. Nothing was let go to waste. Even old fruit and vegetable peelings were put to good use by adding it to the soil as mulch.

Cora was excited about her new life, but apprehensive as well. She had never learned to do canning before. Her mother always had hired help to take care of such things. Cora was quite proud of herself as she followed the recipies out of the old farmer's cookbook and dutifully sterilized her jars and scraped the corn off the cobs and peeled her tomatoes and other vegetables. When she got done cooking. She had a couple of great big buckets of corn mash left over. On the principle of nothing should go to waste, she thought about what to do with these leavings and finally decided to feed the mash to her husband's turkeys since she was sure they would enjoy such a fine treat. And so, she hauled the heavy buckets out to the feeding trough and poured the mash in so that the turkeys could help themselves as they were hungry.

Now there are two things wrong with what she did. First of all, the turkeys apparently weren't hungry right away. Secondly, the mash had been sitting for a couple of days and was left out in the hot sun for several hours after that. The corn mash did what it usually does. It soured and turned to alcohol. The turkeys were obviously delighted with the unexpected bounty for they dived right in and ate mounds of it. Cora was happy that the turkeys appeared to be enjoying themselves and went back to work. A couple of hours later, she looked out her window and was shocked to see the entire flock of turkeys doing a good imitation of being dead. She ran out the door and sure enough, it looked like they had all gone to that big turkey pen in the sky. She was terrified about what she appeared to have done, and wondered how on earth she was going to tell her husband as to the condition of his flock. He being out in the woods at the time hunting for rabbits and squirrels to add to the supply of meat.

And so, not wanting to let the turkeys go to waste, as it would have been a major blow to their dietary offerings for the winter without the birds they had been counting on for food, she proceeded to pluck the turkeys and put them in the smokehouse so her husband could complete the job later. A reminder that Cora was a city girl, not a farm girl, by experience, so she didn't remember to take out the innerds.

Shortly after she completed the last bird, she went back into the house to decide what to tell her husband, whom she feared would be quite angry with her. Soon he came walking in from the fields with his catch of the day and walked over to the smokehouse to hang them up. Imagine how stunned and surprised he was when he opened that door and out staggered eight big fat naked and extremely confused turkeys, drunk as lords and by now, in shock from the treatment they had received.

There was nothing to say. He was simply too flabberghasted to even ask. Because the turkeys could not survive without their feather coats, the only humane thing they could do after that was to finish the job and go ahead and butcher them for smoking. The lesson learned from that was that book-learning is a good and wonderful thing, but sometimes valuable information is omitted on the assumption that nobody would be stupid enough to do what she did. I don't know how those turkeys eventually tasted, but cooking them does rather give new meaning to "stewed" meat.