June 04, 2023

Tom Turkey kicks the lid

By Curt Swarm

Tom Turkey was a huge gobbler (30 lbs dressed). We had raised a dozen turkeys and given them all away except for Tom, the biggest. Being lonely, he would strut and gobble in front of the hen chickens and try to mate with them. “Just keep it up, Tom,” Mother would say. “You’re going to be Thanksgiving dinner. That will fix your womanizing.”

I was sixteen and had just gotten my driver’s license.

I missed the actual butchering, but the day before Thanksgiving, I came home to see a huge kettle boiling on the stove. Dad lifted the kettle off the stove, set it on the floor, and put the headless Tom in the kettle for scalding and plucking. Dad set a lid on the kettle and, Tom, not willing to go peacefully, kicked the lid off. Dad hollered, “He’s still alive!” and put the lid back on and sat on it. For a moment I actually believed Tom was still alive. It was just reflexes that caused Tom to kick, but Dad liked a good joke.

Mom was at a loss for words (highly unusual). One of her favorite sayings to keep us kids in line was, “Put a lid on it.” Many of her sayings were cooking words, like “Simmer down,” “Do I need to light a fire under you?” “Reached my boiling point,” and “A watched pot never boils.” She learned them from Grandma who was staying with us for Thanksgiving. Grandma was a firm believer that electricity, “Runs slow on Thanksgiving because everyone’s cooking.” Therefore, she arose a 2 a.m. and started Tom roasting in the oven.

I awoke to the heavenly smell of roast turkey wafting through the three-story farm house. Man-oh-man, my stomach started talking like an auctioneer.

I didn’t have long to wait. Tom was so fresh, he was ready to eat at 6 a.m., which was alright with me. We had roast turkey with all the trimmings — stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and home-grown sweet corn — for breakfast. Pumpkin pie came later when the others arrived. BTW: stuffing is cooked inside the turkey, dressing in a pan.

I had just started dating a girl. She invited me to Thanksgiving dinner at her house in the afternoon. Therefore, I had two Thanksgiving dinners in one day, something I’ll never forget. This was back in the days when I could eat my weight. If I tried such nonsense today, I would be bloated for a week. “Moderation” was not in my vocabulary back then. (I’m just beginning to learn it now).

This year, Ginnie and I are going south to Jefferson City, Missouri, to have Thanksgiving with her family. Her 95-year-old father, the Retired Reverend Paul Harvey (no fooling), will be in attendance. He will no doubt give the blessing before the dressing. Ha!

We are preparing to move her father from assisted living in Ozark, Missouri (close to Springfield), to assisted living in Independence, Missouri, (next to Kansas City). This will be quite an undertaking. We will be using our pick-up truck and enclosed trailer. I just had new tires put on the trailer, and the wheel bearings replaced. We don’t want any breakdowns.

We are thankful for Ginnie’s father’s good health and longevity. Her mother has passed away, but the Reverend Paul Harvey can still preach a right good sermon at 95. His handwriting is as “purdy” as a grade-school teacher’s.

Let’s all be thankful for what we have, and cognizant of those less fortunate than us. Turkeys are store bought nowadays, and they’re high-priced. There’s a shortage, I guess, due to supply chain issues, of course. Be careful. If one tries to kick the lid off, remind yourself that its reflexes and not a live turkey. If you have the opportunity to have two Thanksgiving dinners, invite the indigent. Moderation and faith in God are the keys to long life and salvation. And that’s the rest of the story.

Contact Curt Swarm at curtswarm@yahoo.com