When I was growing up, especially during my pre-teenage years, we very seldom had turkey for Thanksgiving dinner — both because raising turkeys was not considered an economic use of livestock feed and because turkeys were, largely, nothing more than tremendous, relatively-useless, aggravations when comingled with the rest of the farm animals.
Geese were grown for their feathers and their voracious appetites for weeds. A few folks kept Guinea fowl because they served as great watch dogs and essentially foraged for themselves, including eating lots of insects. They also made for excellent table fare.
Our neighbor, I.D. Adams, kept guineas because he claimed they ate every bean and tater bug in his garden. Then my Dad convinced him that when they vocalized, day and night, a very loud, screeching, “pot-a-rack, pot-a-rack, pot-a-rack” sound that they screamed in unison whenever they were the least bit perturbed, they were actually yelling “Democrat, Democrat, Democrat!” If you’ve ever been around Guinea fowl, you already know that all you have to do to set them off to squawking, is cough, sneeze, clap your hands or raise your voice.
I.D, a devoutly committed Republican, started listening a bit more closely to his birds and decided dad was correct, whereupon he divested himself of his flock of guineas. Dad wound up with half a dozen of them and we kept them on our place for many years. To this day, I still believe guinea and dumplings to be a far superior dish to chicken and dumplings.
A few people kept a scant few ducks because they claimed they liked their eggs and liked to eat them. I tried my Aunt Nan’s roast duck one time and that was more than enough to satisfy my curiosity. Ditto for roast goose. Mom once said that someone down the road had roasted a goose and it smelled so bad that everybody on the holler lost their appetites for anything for the next three days.
Anyway, the biggest reason we seldom had turkey for Thanksgiving was simply because we didn’t raise them and almost everything we did eat, other than bologna and light bread, was grown on the farm. Anybody in the head of Blair Branch who had turkey for dinner had won their bird at a shooting match and my dad was a horrible shot.
Once or twice, I remember him talking Lovell Blair into shooting for him and he actually came home with a turkey. But even then, I never understood what the big deal was because, frankly, I thought that roasted ham or chicken tasted much better.
Uncle Stevie Craft once talked somebody out of three or four turkey eggs early one spring and Aunt Nan put them under a setting hen to hatch. I forget the details, but only one turkey poult survived the effort and it became a huge nuisance in their chicken lot for the next several months. I do remember walking by their chicken lot on the way home from school that fall and stopping by the lot to clap my hands to make the turkey puff up his feathers, strut about a bit and then do a loud, “gobble, gobble, gobble.”
Later on, I found out that said turkey was scheduled for butchering the day before Thanksgiving and I talked mom into letting me spend the night with them so that I could “help out” (read get in the way) with the turkey killing.
Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Ike Adams at [email protected] or on Facebook or 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461.