The History of Thanksgiving Part II -- Turkey Trivia

Columnist Bob Leo examines some fun facts about the noble (and tasty) bird.

for your reading pleasure. I'm sure most of you know by now I am a bit of a history buff. This week I would like to share some little known " turkey trivia ", so pay attention all you toms and hens.
Did you know Ben Franklin actually nominated the turkey as America's symbol. Ben had a disdain for the eagles aggressive nature,  scavenger tendencies, and violent disposition toward weaker, smaller species. Ben lost out and in 1863 after Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a National Holiday, Alexander Hamilton stated, "no person shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day."
So seeing how the Native Americans be gifted the Pilgrims five deer on the first Thanksgiving and the original harvest festival meals in England centered around roast goose how did the turkey gain such popularity? Well as I mentioned last week after WWII technology enhanced turkeys size and girth and aggressive marketing by agricultural associations created a perception that holds true to this day.

This new hybrid bird, the Broad Breasted White accounts for 99% of today's domestic turkeys. Heritage Turkeys such as Jersey Buff, Narragansett, White Holland, Standard Bronze or Saltville White are still bred by 4H'ers and organic farmers and are much closer to the wild fowl of 1621.
In fact Heritage turkeys are not bred in massive chicken coops and force fed grain and antibiotics but live a more natural life outdoors and are fed a natural diet that produces a smaller yet tastier, juicier bird with much, much more flavor. Local farm stands or  Trader Joe type markets usually carry them if your interested.
Ok, so now the fun stuff.

  • The fleshy red flap than hangs off a turkey beak is called a snood. This snood turns blue when a turkey is in the act of mating. I'm not touching that one!
  • An adult turkey will actually grow over 3500 feathers.
  • In the wild, turkeys sleep in trees. They come down at sunrise and return at sunset. In order to reach the upper branches of a tree a turkey will get a running start reaching 55 miles per hour.
  • Not the brightest of animals, a turkey will drown if it looks up into the rain too long.
  • Not the bravest of animals a whole flock of dead turkeys were found near an air force test runway. After some investigation it appears they all died of a heart attack after hearing a sonic boom.
  • They do have keen senses however with excellent hearing and 270 degree peripheral vision.

This past spring I was stuck in a traffic jam on Montvale Ave. in Stoneham. It was caused by not one but five wild turkeys.  A few years back I was travelling with some friends on a little motorcycle run up to N.H. when a wild turkey darted out of the woods and took one of my buddies right of his bike. I guess they have good aim as well!

Coppertopper November 14, 2011 at 12:06 AM
Could I make a slight correction of what I'm sure is a typo? Alexander Hamilton had to have made his turkey quote long before Lincoln proclaimed the national holiday. Hamilton died in 1804.


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