Most people think of our American Thanksgiving Day as a pleasant, if slightly dull, holiday. Nothing happens except lots of food and zoning out on the living room couch afterwards. The only dark side comes from the prospect of three weeks of turkey hash.
These people have not read old newspaper archives, which present Thanksgiving as a festival of assaults, human body parts, and--my favorite tradition--the turkey’s revenge.
An all-too-typical holiday story is this item from the “Los Angeles Times,” November 25, 1955:
HOUSTON. Nov. 24. One Houstonian ate turkey today with a fractured collarbone.
His wife sent him to market for a 15-pound turkey. He returned with a frozen 9-pounder, and his wife threw it at him.
Later, at a hospital, the man said he intended to go ahead with the holiday feast “as planned.”
No, I do not know what “as planned” meant, and I frankly do not want to know. Another couple that just should not spend family holidays together was noted in the “Buffalo News,” January 26, 1997:
SMITHSBURG — A Hagerstown woman was charged with second-degree assault on Wednesday night after her husband was struck in the forehead with a Scrabble game board, according to the Washington County Sheriff's Department. The incident happened when the man tried to restrain the woman after she threw the Thanksgiving turkey into the yard.
And here was one family where the corpse at Thanksgiving dinner wasn’t that of a turkey. The “Call-Leader,” January 11, 1983:
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP)-Shirley Jean Cox says she's had it with those portions of corpses stored in her refrigerator-freezer and with having them transported in her truck. The Republican Vanderburgh County commissioner, who is married to Deputy Coroner Earl Cox, said she's tired of using her home as an impromptu morgue. "At Thanksgiving, instead of having a turkey in my freezer, I had to clear out a space to have body parts," she said.
From a vegetarian’s point of view, it’s time to look at the bright side of Thanksgiving. The “Redwood City Tribune,” November 28, 1923:
SAN JOSE. Nov. 28 A. Pichetti, local automobile dealer, has a grudge against turkeys in general and one in particular as a result of a battle his new automobile had with one of the holiday birds on West Santa Clara street yesterday. A turkey got loose from its crate near where Pichetti’s machine was parked. The bird made straight for his car, smashing the door of the car with the first blow. Then the turkey proceeded to ruin the finish on the car. As a result of the bird's scratches, Pichetti’s automobile is in the paint shop today.
If you really want to experience Thanksgiving at its most Grand Guignol, you can’t do better than this story from the “Times Record News,” November 25, 1943:
SHREVEPORT La Nov 24—A big white turkey gobbler got his Thanksgiving Day revenge. And he did it all after his head had been cut off.
They chopped his head off behind a local grocery on Highland Avenue. But the turkey died fighting.
He threw his 20 pounds against Juanita White, cook at the grocery and spectator at his execution, knocked her down and sent her to the hospital with an ankle broken in two places.
The big gobbler got revenge too against H. B. Badt, manager of the store. Badt sent the crippled cook rushing to the hospital in his car. On the way It was torn up in a collision with another automobile.
Juanita has a broken ankle that will lay her up for about 10 weeks; Badt has no car; the store is short a good cook.
And then there’s this item from the “Knoxville News-Sentinel,” April 27, 1992:
POTOSI, Mo.—A man showing off a turkey he thought he had killed was shot In the leg when the wounded bird thrashed around in his car trunk and triggered his shotgun.
“The turkeys are fighting back.” said Sheriff Ron Skiles.
To make matters worse, it turns out Larry Lands, in his early 40s, and his 16-year-old son Larry Jr. were hunting a week before the start of turkey season and will probably be fined, the sheriff said.
The accident occurred recently after the Lands shot the turkey and put it in the car along with a loaded shotgun. They drove to a neighbor's house to show the bird off.
While the son was pulling the turkey out of the trunk, it began struggling, according to the sheriff, and its claw fired the gun. The shot went through the side panel of the car and into the father’s leg.
Lands Sr was in satisfactory condition in the hospital.
And finally, let us marvel at this epic tale of vengeance that is positively Shakespearean. The “Dakota Farmers’ Leader,” September 10, 1909:
Does a turkey gobbler possess the same remarkable mental faculties as does the elephant? A turkey on the farm of Amos Hollister, near Benton, Wash., was teased into anger over seven years ago by a little girl with yellow curls. The other day the same little girl, now grown into womanhood, wearing the dresses of the day's style, appeared upon the lawn of the same farm and was attacked by a gobbler enraged beyond all turkey sense, and continued the fight until he was subdued and placed in a pen. Over seven years ago Miss Elsie Gunther visited the farm of her uncle and teased the gobbler with a cane which had ribbons tied to it. The turkey chased her around the barnyard.
The incident was forgotten and school work and business kept the niece from again visiting her uncle until seven years had passed. Miss Gunther, free from school duties and languishing for the free air of the country, went to the Benton farm last week. The first thing she did was to trip across the barnyard toward the cow pens as she had done years ago. Before she was across the lawn a big turkey gobbler, the same one which attacked her seven years ago, flew at her face and struck her a blow that almost threw her into a heap. The turkey continued his attack until Hollister captured and imprisoned him.
And that’s it for Thanksgiving 2022! If you celebrate the holiday, please do so wisely. Hide the Scrabble board. And whatever you do, don’t tease the turkeys.