The Gobblers -- A Retirement Fable

04/25/2015 10:51 am ET | Updated Jun 25, 2015

Once upon a time, in a beautiful pastoral land, there was a famer who raised the most beautiful and scrumptious turkeys. His turkeys were known for their natural plumpness, and people came from all over to purchase them -- especially at Thanksgiving.

He treated his hens very well because they laid beautiful eggs every year. They were the key to his success as a turkey farmer. And when the hens became too old to produce eggs, he retired them to a special pen where they could live out their years peacefully.

The retired turkey hens had spent most of their lives working and producing, so when they were moved to the retirement pen, adjustment difficulties were common. But in time, they would each get used to the serene activities of pecking, scratching, sunning, strutting and clucking to one other.

One day, a neighboring farmer brought a turkey hen to the turkey farmer wishing to retire the hen to the retirement pen. The turkey farmer was skeptical.

"She's an outsider," he said. "My hens have been together a long time, and I'm not sure my hens will let her live with them."

"They're just turkeys," replied the neighbor farmer. "What could go wrong?"

So the outsider hen was admitted to the retirement pen.

At first, all was well. The outsider learned to peck, strut, sun and cluck just to fit in. She kept a low profile and didn't draw attention to herself. She even ate less grain than the others and would often give up her sunny spot to another turkey. The turkey farmer was impressed and in time felt confident the outsider turkey could fit in.

Now everyone knows older turkeys will eat just about anything. Having eaten plants and grains most of their lives, they develop an appetite for protein and even reptiles. It was when the turkey farmer changed the hens' feed, the peace in the retirement pen was broken.

The turkey farmer fell on hard times, and found it difficult to buy grain for his retired turkey hens. So he and his wife creatively mixed and ground scraps from their own meals to feed them. The first time he fed the scraps, the outsider hen ate with her usual appetite. The other hens, however, clucked and squawked, objecting to the change. They were used to their special grain and would settle for nothing less.

The second time the turkey farmer fed the turkeys scraps, the same thing happened. The outsider hen ate enthusiastically, while the other hens gobbled, squawked and kicked up dust with their scratching. They turned on the outsider hen.

"Gobble, gobble; squawk, squawk. How can you eat that stuff? If you eat it, we'll never get back our grain. Gobble, gobble. Yelp! You must act like the rest of us."

The outsider turkey was now ignored and shunned by the other turkeys.

The third mealtime came. As the outsider cautiously began to eat the scraps, several of the other hens swooped and pecked at her.

"Yelp, yelp. You are not one of us. Squawk, squawk. You are ruining our chance to get what we want. Gobble, gobble."

The pecking, squawking, yelping and gobbling continued until the outsider turkey was bruised and tired from defending herself.

The turkey farmer watched all this and sadly decided the outsider turkey did not fit in well with the other, retired hens. He returned the outsider to the other farmer, hoping that peace would returned to his farmyard.

Eventually, the turkeys in the pen conducted a hunger strike causing the farmer to relent and purchase grain to feed them -- even though he could not afford it. The singular, outsider turkey, was disappointed and confused that her willingness to cooperate got her removed from the community of retired hens.

The Moral: Even in retirement, turkeys may be turkeys just to get what they want.