Today is Canadian Thanksgiving and being Canadian (Motto: Thanksgiving is NOT celebrated on Thursday up here) I feel compelled to relate some tales about the happy times I spent on a turkey farm with my cousin “Harold” (name changed to protect the innocent).
Ed. note: The author has nothing against the name Harold. Harold is an excellent moniker, mostly because it can be shortened to Hal. And who among us doesn’t remember the fact that rugged test pilot Hal Jordan was eventually recruited to become the intergalactic superhero Green Lantern. Hal, equipped with his impressive array of green weaponry, was charged with protecting all of Cosmic Sector 2814, including but not limited to the State of Nevada.
Test pilots. Area 51. UFOs. Need I say more?
So anyway…Cousin “Hal” spent his formative years on a turkey farm in Southern Ontario. Coincidentally, my Mom’s sister, her husband and two other children also lived on that farm with “Hal”. I lived about three hours drive away, in Owen Sound (population 20,000). Coincidentally, I dwelt there with my mother, father and older sister. Our two families would visit back and forth multiple times each year. “Hal” and I were thick as thieves.
Both the turkey farm and Owen Sound were, and still are, located in Cosmic Sector 2814. I probably had a Green Lantern toy ring at some point, because I was a DC Comics fan whereas “Hal” was of the Marvel Universe persuasion. I think we both shared a passion for mail-order Sea Monkeys.
All that aside, my cousin was the Country Mouse and I was the City Mouse. Their family had a dog, several cats, a creek full of frogs, a tree fort, a cornfield and a rambling bungalow which-wonder of wonders-had a laundry chute in one of the bathrooms. “Hal” would drop down through that chute into the unfinished basement. (I usually wound up taking the stairs.) We would then proceed to drive around their expansive basement in the small electric car that “Hal” had won on a TV quiz show. I swear on Elon Musk’s electricity bill that I am not making this up.
My cousins also had access to a vast and -to me-uncharted-universe of Saturday morning color cartoons pulled out of the ether from Detroit by a large rooftop antenna. For me, existing on a pale, monochrome diet of Rocky & Bullwinkle and Bugs Bunny cartoons, courtesy of the CBC channel beamed out of Wingham, this was truly a wondrous state of affairs.
Along with the cartoons, there were several thousand turkeys to be dealt with every year. To my recollection, my uncle would occasionally voice a generally unfavorable assessment of the intelligence of those birds and the consensus now is that the assessment was often accompanied by a significant amount of profanity.
Just to bone up prior to writing this post I did a quick bit of research on turkeys in general and wild turkeys in particular. Here are some of my findings:
The red dangly thing attached to the bird in the above photo is called a snood. It’s the turkey equivalent of a mood ring and changes color depending on how the bird is feeling. Size apparently matters: female turkeys prefer mates with longer snoods.
Male and female turkey poops have different shapes: The males excrete J-shaped fecal offerings and the females launch a mean spiral. Clearly this is something we need to get to the bottom of.
Turkey flesh doesn’t contain any more tryptophan than any other kind of meat. So the turkey meat–> serotonin –>melatonin–> sleepiness narrative is just fake amino acid news. Hint: don’t gorge yourself on Thanksgiving dinner and you won’t collapse on the couch in a postprandial coma.
Male wild turkeys can fly about 50 mph for distances of a foot or so. I’m kidding. It’s more like several hundred feet. Don’t try to outrun an irate male wild turkey. They will attack anything that seems threatening, including their own reflection. In their defense, I feel like if I had a snood and looked at myself in the mirror, I too would likely attack my reflection.
I found a link with short recordings of all the various vocalizations that turkeys make. You should check it out. My fav is the purring: https://www.nwtf.org/hunt/wild-turkey-basics/turkey-sounds. The Blakiston’s Fish Owls should take a few pages out of the turkey’s book.
This brings me to the main theme of this post: the insemination tubes. Poultry and lots of other critters are inseminated via a gun that fires a charge of semen through a plastic tube. The other end of the tube is usually inside the bird or animal. The tubes I recall were about four inches long and made of clear, hard plastic. The ones pictured here are pretty similar. I can’t remember what the gun looked like.
Anyway, these tubes were everywhere on the farm. “Hal” had worked out that by heating the ends of the tubes in a flame you could soften them to the point where they could be spliced end to end to make long “pipes”. Together with the insemination tube pipes, aquarium hoses and valves, the squeeze bulb from a turkey(!) baster, corks, rubber stoppers and a test tube or two pilfered from an older brother’s Chemistry set, “Hal” created many complex hydrodynamic systems. In these systems, colored water could be sucked up from a reservoir and redistributed throughout the network of pipes and hoses, into different reservoirs. My cousin is nothing if not fiendishly creative.
When we visited, I became his willing assistant and we spent many hours fooling around with that stuff. Before we discovered firecrackers, that is.
This may or may not explain why I eventually went into Chemistry. But it definitely explains why I bought one of these Bridge Street Hydrodynamic building sets for my kids and years later, also sent one to “Hal” for good measure, as a birthday gift.
This set was hard core: electric pump, Float Valve, Ball Flow Meter, Tilt Scale, Siphon Tank and Turbine Velocity Meter, just to name a few. The list of things you could build included a model toothpaste factory, paint plant, distillation tower, vinegar and ice cream factory, plastics plant and possibly, a drive through turkey-washing facility. It was glorious!
If only these two characters had had their own Hydrodynamic Building Set to play with, I feel like things would have turned out differently:
Life is funny that way.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey!