George And Barbara, A Couple Of Real Turkeys

November 26, 2020


Flock of turkeys currently stalking our road

***

Many years ago I was the caretaker of a 300-acre farm on the Columbia River in Oregon.
The farms in the area were very isolated, with tons of wildlife. I planted corn and millet for game feed and the owners occasionally hunted there.

Meanwhile, I grew huge gardens and collected a scruffy bunch of animals. Dogs, cats, goats, ducks, chickens, and yes – turkeys.
I had bought six turkey chicks to add to the menagerie, and as turkeys are known to do, one died right away. There were, however, five strong survivors that grew to Thanksgiving dinner size.
We butchered three, which was plenty. I decided to overwinter the last male and female and “harvest” them later.

Turkeys are large birds with great body heat, which got them through the winter. It wasn’t unusual to see them bedded down in a dry spot in the snow. I did what a farmer shouldn’t do, I gave them names.
Seeing as though it was George Bush senior’s presidency I named them George and Barbara. A couple of real turkeys.

As spring arrived, the turkeys became more active and even bold. When my friends came over us guys would stand in a circle outside drinking beer. George loved a party. He would strut among us hissing, his comical face turning purple, stomping the ground to establish his dominance.
George would chase anything with a motor. Trucks, tractors, motorcycles, or lawnmowers. And he was pretty damned fast running down the old gravel road, chasing down his mechanical victims.

Barbara on the other hand, became somewhat antisocial. Putting it bluntly, Barbara was a real bitch.
She would stalk people in the yard, and for some reason she was jealous of my girlfriend (now my wife). My gal selected a large stick, which became known as “The Barbara Stick”. The Barbara Stick was used to prevent the fully-grown bird from flying up in people’s faces. The stick was not used in a mean destructive way, but more in a failed discipline that never really changed the turkey’s behavior.

George and Barbara were living past their sell-by dates. They were wiley, old and smelled like they had lived outside a long time. In other words, we had no desire to eat them. They ranged the farm between the house and the barn, and scavenged for food so well I never had to feed them.

Poor Barbara never consummated her relationship with George. You see, George had been bred to have such a large breast that he could not properly mount Barbara. Perhaps that was the source of her frustration and aggression. I learned that these turkeys were artificially inseminated in factory farms for this reason.
Sometimes Barbara would disappear for a week at a time. I would wonder if a coyote or owl got her, and search around. Several times I found her huddled in a cold nest sitting on a couple of unfertilized, huge speckled eggs.

As all things come to an end, a new owner bought the farm. They kept me on as an employee for their huge Ostrich operation. Again I was dealing with giant, dangerous turkeys. But that’s another story.
We had to move to a nearby house on the river, and I gave all my livestock and an old tractor to one of my good friends. George and Barbara left the farm in a large cage that was strapped to the top of a pickup carrying three goats and dozens of chickens and ducks.

I can still picture George hissing and stomping circles around my friends, turning purple when somebody would pour a little beer on his head to cool him down.
George and Barbara had a better life and outlived their turkey brethren.
They had kind of become our friends.

-John Titus

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One Response to George And Barbara, A Couple Of Real Turkeys

  1. Tex on December 14, 2020 at 1:59 pm

    Tales from the past. I remember those two “turkeys!”

    The birds that it. Especially ‘ol Barbara. Hard to believe it is been almost 30 years.

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