Turkey Day Ramblings

Alexander Hamilton – “No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day.”

Pilgrim Thanksgiving

It is generally agreed that the United States tradition of Thanksgiving began with the Pilgrims. Most scholars consider the first Thanksgiving to have been in late 1621. However, there is no evidence that the Pilgrims ate turkey as part of the feast. The Wampanoag Indians brought deer, and the Pilgrims brought wild “fowl.” Historians think the “wild fowl” was most likely ducks or geese.

It’s also unlikely that the Pilgrims had pumpkin pie. It would require butter and flour for the crust, and an oven to cook it in. The Pilgrims probably had none of that. If they ate cooked pumpkin of any kind, it would have likely been served after baking in the coals of the fire.

Today, Americans eat approximately 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving. Hummmm… I suspect if most are like me, they are still eating on those millions of turkeys for weeks to come.

Eat Mor Turkey

Turkey meat is better for you.  It is lower in fat and higher in protein than beef and chicken. The white meat has fewer calories and less fat than dark meat. There are 212 calories in one-quarter pound of turkey breast meat. That beats a “¼ Pounder” by a long shot.

For those dishes where ground beef is called for, if you use ground turkey instead, then you will reduce your cholesterol by about 10% and your calories by 25%. For those foods cooked in flavorful sauce like chili, spaghetti or spicy casseroles, you probably won’t know the difference.

After Thanksgiving, instead of that balony, roast beef or ham sandwich, go for a white meat turkey sandwich. Your arteries and heart will thank you.

Move over Roadrunner (beep-beep)

Turkeys are fast. Really! They can run at up to 25 MPH and fly at 55 MPH for 100 or so yards. The roadrunner of the Southwest can only run at about 20 MPH and can barely fly 4 or 5 yards.

The turkey speeds I’m talking about are for wild turkeys. The ones raised for eating are bread and fed to be massively overweight compared to wild turkeys.

I have first hand exprience with a speeding turkey. One day driving down a back-road in the Sierras of California, I drove up to a wild turkey running down the road in front of me. He stayed on the road and I followed him for about a half a mile. He was trotting along at more than 20 MPH. When he got to where he was going, he turned off. And no… I wasn’t smoking anything in those mountains. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

About turkeys flying. I’m not making that up either. Wild turkeys roost in trees at night. It’s a safety thing. In trees, they are safe from predators that might gobble them up. Ok… I hear you groaning, but it’s true that they fly up into the trees at night.,

And by the way… neither the turkey nor the roadrunner stands a chance against Wyle Coyote… a coyote’s speed is 35-43 MPH.

Official Booze of Thanksgiving

Ok… there’s no official booze of Thanksgiving. At least I don’t know of one. But if there was one it should be… Wild Turkey Bourbon… of course.

Wild Turkey Bourbon has a long history, but the name is relatively new. Following the repeal of Prohibition, the distillery built by Thomas Ripy in 1891 was rebuilt and began producing bourbon for wholesale. It was then bottled under various brand names.

In 1940 Thomas McCarthy took warehouse samples of the booze on a wild turkey hunting trip. His friends liked it so much they began asking for “that wild turkey bourbon.” The rest is history. Now the Wild Turkey distillery can produce 11 million “proof gallons” of liquid annually. That should make for a very happy Thanksgiving.

In Living Color

Turkeys can see in color and have vision three times better than humans. How someone figured this out is beyond my time and interest, so I leave it to you, the student, to figure it out.

Some have asked if a turkey is “related” to a peacock. This question arises because when courting, the male turkey fans out his tail similar to the way a peacock does it. For those that don’t know, in the early days of color telivision, NBC chose the peacock as its symbol because of the way the peacock displays its colorful tail.

Anyway, the turkey’s resemblence to the peacock ends at the fanning of its tail. They are indeed birds of a different feather. However, that said, there are some internet stories about turkeys and peacocks breading. This is another item I leave as a research assignment to some enterprising individual.


A wild turkey’s gobble can be heard up to a mile away. This is in contrast to a Key West rooster’s crow that travels all over the 4-mile x 1.25-mile island and penetrates the thickest walls in the middle of the night.

The gobble is a male turkey’s way of protecting it’s territory . It’s also something of a mating call. He is telling all his prospective mates he is there. Several turkeys may vie for the same hen. They will gobble and do a little dance to impress her. But…only one male gets to mate with her.

Turkey Trot

A popular dance in the early 1900s (perhaps 1909) was called the “Turkey Trot.” Like many dance crazes, it didn’t last long. It was called the Turkey Trot because of the hoping and movements like a turkey’s mating dance. Music for the dance was fast ragtime popular in the era.

From History.com: “To perform the turkey trot, dancers took four hopping steps sideways with the feet well apart; first on one leg, then the other. The dance was embellished with flicks of the feet and fast trotting actions with abrupt stops.”

Some believed the Turkey Trot to be sexually suggestive, and in some areas, it was banned. For this, you have to consider the morality of the era. It was not yet the roaring 20s. In Boston, the mayor posted policemen at every dance hall in the city.

On the other hand, John Philip Sousa… yes, Stars and Stripes Forever Sousa, called it “a positive aid to longevity. It is a cheerful sight when gray-haired men and women do the trot.”

Even with such patriotic support from Sousa, the Turkey Trot was the first dance to be banned at the White House.

Traditional Turkey Dinner

It’s not clear when turkey became the traditional meal for Thanksgiving. Some give credit to the book “A Christmas Carol” (Dickens, 1843) and Ebenezer Scrooge for giving us the idea of a turkey for a holiday meal. But Ebenezer’s turkey was given on Christmas.

There are other competing theories for the origins of having turkey for Thanksgiving. However, by the time Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday by presidential proclamation, the turkey had become the traditional meal for the day.

Turkey Pardon

This is another tradition without clear origins. However, without definitive proof, President Abraham Lincoln is given credit for the first turkey pardon in 1863. In the 1870s, well-fed turkeys were sent to the White House as a publicity stunt by turkey dealer, Horace Vose. According to the lore, the “First Families” didn’t “feast” on turkey, preferring other meals for the celebration. So, it seems that those turkeys were pardoned, and the roots of the tradition began.

George H. W. Bush is recognized as holding the first “official pardoning ceremony” in 1989. Every President since then has pardoned at least one turkey.

Have you ever asked yourself, “what did the turkey do to need a pardon?” Well… I’m not sure about other times, but this year it’s obvious. This year’s Whitehouse turkey is clearly guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. But, he will once again proclaim his innocence. And once again, the turkey will be pardoned and continue to live on.

I am, of course, talking about the turkey that gobbles and has feathers on his ass. What did you think I was talking about?

From Kokomo Island, I wish all of you the best of Thanksgiving Days.

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