For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. ---Ephesians 6:12

"The age of casual Catholicism is over; the age of heroic Catholicism has begun. We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead must be Catholics by CONVICTION." ---Fr. Terrence Henry TOR, Franciscan University of Steubenville

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Kevin and I have been very busy lately with our respective obligations outside of the bloggosphere, and have been unable to do any serious research or commentary. This will change when things settle down. In the meantime I'd like to go off-format for one post and relate a true turkey story from my preschool days in Sterling, IL. That would be 1968, for those of you keeping score. The thing that reminded me of it was the recent flap over Alaska Governor Sarah Palin pardoning a turkey while standing within view of a turkey processor in use.

In the fall of 1968 when I attended secular nursery school (4 years old) at the local Presbyterian church building, one of the teachers, who happened to have her own 4 year old daughter enrolled, decided it would be fun and educational to take all 25 (or so) of us on a field trip to the nearby Gaulrapp Turkey Farm in Sterling, IL to see turkeys in all of their splendor. After all, since Thanksgiving was right around the corner this visit would be quite timely. The kids would see where Thanksgiving dinner comes from.

So on a cold but sunny November day we all put on our winter coats and mittens and piled onto the school bus, which took us straight to the farm. When we got out of the bus we immediately heard gobbling coming from a fenced in area, which sounded very festive and wonderful to our little ears. So much so that we didn't notice the smell of turkey droppings or pay attention (at first) to the turkey dander floating through the air. No, we simply ran up to the fence and beckoned those odd looking birds to come over and be petted, just like at the zoo.

The birds seemed gentle and even somewhat tame, as a couple of them allowed us to stroke the feathers on their backs with no complaints or pecking. And every so often a large man in heavy clothing with white cover-alls would come out into the yard and grab one of the turkeys and take them inside. Once when the door behind the man didn't quite close it appeared as though he was holding the bird by the neck and twirling him around. Not realizing the turkey was having its neck broken before being stripped, I followed the other children into the building through a door outside the fence.

Through this door we walked along a wall to our left while seeing some amazing views on our right. First the feathers were stripped from the bird. I seem to have a vague recollection of this being done by hand. But next was the part I will never forget. The tool looked kind of like an old fashioned ice cream scooper with a double handle, like pruning sheers, but with a guillotine at the end. Sort of like a much larger version of nail clippers used on cats and dogs, except the large metal loop was put over the head, and when the handle was squeezed the head would pop off, rather suddenly, and surprisingly bloodless. But it was so shocking to me that I had to watch it a second time just to know I wasn't dreaming. Of course there were several "eeewwws," "oh Gods," and "yyuuuucks" coming from the other children, and most likely me, too, as we passed through. Then the bodies were hung upside down on hooks to allow the blood to drain out. I don't recall seeing the birds gutted. I may have blocked that out from my memory. After the second door leading out was breached very little was said by anyone as we were ushered back onto the bus. No doubt our teacher was rather surprised that we were allowed to see the "whole tour."

When we returned to school there was a brief discussion about what was "witnessed" so that we little ones could make sense of the process. It was just all part of life's rich, bloody pageant. When I returned home I related the details, as I remembered them, to my Mother who stood there with her jaw dropping. In fact, her voice became so tense and angry each time she interrupted my story that I began to wonder if I had done something seriously wrong. I found out years later that several of the mothers were very outraged about the graphic nature of the tour for such young children. But in 2nd grade (at a different school) I returned to the same farm on a different field trip that did not include the abattoir.


Kevin Gleeson said...

Matt, you're quite the raconteur. I'm sure a lot of the readers are behind me when I say our pages should be graced with more accounts such as this.

Matt said...

Thanks Kev.