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Vickie Karp

Vickie Karp

Posted: November 21, 2008 01:14 PM

Third Screen: Meleagris Gallopavo

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2008-11-20-turkey.jpg

Long, long ago, when there was still a public library of animal husbandry under the West Side Highway in New York City, with homeless people sleeping on its steps and absolutely no one but me using it as far as I could tell, it was a time when Thanksgiving was the sad subject of a poem by W. S. Merwin called "Home for Thanksgiving" which ends, "Oh, misery, misery, misery, I wear you like a good grade suite of longies I never want to take off," and a sad and brilliant memoir by Truman Capote called Thanksgiving Memory. Life was simple. We did not have our current array of political and economic turkeys to unstuff. I was happy writing "Talk" pieces and poems for The New Yorker, including a turkey timeline called Meleagris Gallopavo. Overdue for an update, non?

600s -- Oldest known turkey dies near Flagstaff, Arizona.
1509-47 -- William Strickland, reign of King Henry VIII, "sends home a turkey."
1570 -- The turkey appears in France.
1590- Gaspar Castano de Sosa notes that some of the women at Pecos wear pelicas de pluma de gallina.
1598 -- First Shakespearian name-dropping of the turkey ("Turkeys in my pannier," King Henry IV).

Skipping ahead ....

1873 -- Horace Vose, "purveyor of turkeys to the presidents," ships a 36-pounder to President Grant for Thanksgiving. ("The turkey you were good enough to send me has been received.") -- The Turkey Secrets of Horace Vose
1885 -- President Cleveland, "after feasting upon fine specimen," writes Vose that he "sometime intends to go fishing with him." -- ibid.
1898 -- Vose presents 30,000 pounds of turkey on the hoof to high-ranking military of Spanish-American War. As a result, President Roosevelt invites Vose's daughter and son-in-law to the White House where he tells them "I am dee-lighted to meet you. Tell you father that he is a trump." -- ibid.
1916 -- Alpha A. Ensminger writes, "Although the turkey has been under domestication for four hundred years ... there are still many indications of the original wild nature."

Skipping ahead, 2008 ...
-- "The yelp is a basic turkey sound, delivered in a series of single note vocalizations and can have different meanings depending on how the hen intends." -- National Wild Turkey Federation, slight paraphrase here.
-- "Turkey breeding has caused turkey breasts to grow so large the turkeys fall over." Slight feminist/cosmetic surgery resonance intentional.
-- "Turkeys have heart attacks. The U.S. Air Force was doing test runs and breaking the sound barrier. Nearby turkeys droped dead with heart attacks" ... -- University of Illinois Extension.
-- "Wild turkeys spend the night in trees. They especially like oak trees." ... "Wild turkeys have excellent vision during the day but don't see well at night.." ... "From only 30,000 turkeys in the early 1900s to more than 7 million today, this intriguing species has truly made an awesome comeback." -- National Wild Turkey Federation.

YouTube movie deal for "Turkey Secrets of Horace Vose" in 2009? I think so!

 

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