Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday. It’s not really about anything except eating good food with family and friends. Beyond that, it’s whatever you make of it.
Per tradition, The Sorcerer and The Freethinker will be joining me and The Mexican. This year, we’re also expecting Bronan the Barbarian and his brother—otherwise known as “The Bronanskis.” Cigars and scotch are set aside for after dinner.
Early this morning, I massaged butter under the skin of the bird and pushed a bunch of stuffing into its cold, questionable central orifice. Something about prepping a good Thanksgiving turkey conjures up images foreplay with a geriatric hooker.
In millions of living rooms, as people tune in to watch marching bands and floats and inflatable cartoon characters, b-list celebrities and talk show hosts will be doling out scripted fun facts and cute observations about turkeys. Folks everywhere will be getting together and reminiscing about Thanksgivings past.
Each year, as I put that turkey in the oven, I remember that I was once a child laborer in a holiday turkey slaughterhouse.
It sounds dramatic, but it was completely voluntary. When I was about twelve or thirteen, I was obnoxious and demanding. Like most other American kids, I was already caught up in the whole pecuniary emulation thing, and I wanted the name brand stuff that all of the cool kids had. Whatever stupid stuff kids had to have back then. Swatch watches and Ocean Pacific shirts. My parents were never rich, and they tend to be thrifty, so if I was going to get all of that useless crap, I was going to have to come up with the dough somehow. I was too young to go to work on the books, but my dad said he knew a guy. Through someone at work, he got me a job working at a local, family-owned turkey slaughterhouse as they ramped up for the holidays.
One Saturday morning, my mom bundled me up in a puffy grey winter coat and my dad drove me down to the farm, talked to the guy in charge, and made sure I was going to be OK.
It was kind of funny, almost poetic, how they killed the turkeys. There were a bunch of them in pens waiting to go. One of the jobs was to grab them by their feet and carry them into the slaughterhouse. I’m not sure if I was able to do that or not, but I’m pretty sure I tried or helped. You should know that these weren’t the pretty brown turkeys you color pictures of in elementary school. These were ugly, filthy, foul-tempered, white feathered animals that shit everywhere. They even sound ugly and stupid. Someone would hang the birds from their feet on hooks on a conveyor that was maybe 6 or 7 feet in the air. Then one of the big guys would walk along with one of those electric carving knives—the same kind of knife that Grandpa would use to carve the turkey on Thanksgiving—to slit their throats, one by one. As their heads bounced around hanging from a string of skin, the birds flapped around, spraying blood everywhere. Every so often, a turkey would fly off the hooks and slam into the cinderblock wall a few feet away. That pissed off the guys on the line, but it was undeniably funny.
As they bled out, the birds would travel down the line, where they were sprayed with hot water, mechanically de-feathered, and then trimmed up and disassembled in various ways. At one point I worked the spot on the line where you grabbed the head and finished cutting it off with a knife. Then you threw the heads in a bucket. Most of their eyes were still open, and that was pretty creepy for a kid like me from the burbs. At another station, you pulled the skin down the neck. Along the way someone else cut it off and jammed it inside that central orifice, which is where you find it when you pull it out to make stock for gravy.
At the end of the day they were looking for something for me to do, and they handed me a shovel.
There was a grade to the floor, and over the course of the day, the blood would all drain to one area. As it built up, it would congeal into this dark red blood JELL-O. My last job of the day on the first day of my first job was shoveling blood.
When I got back home, my winter jacket was spattered with blood. My mom looked at my dad and said, “WHERE DID YOU SEND OUR SON???!!!” I’m guessing he caught some heat for that, but they’re still married twenty-some years later, so it’s all good. I went back to the turkey farm for a few weekends that season, and then again the next season, and then after that I quit.
Despite my mother’s initial horror—I’ve always thought of my stint at the turkey farm as a positive, possibly even transformative experience. It kept me from becoming one of these precious, sheltered boys who grows up thinking that meat comes from Styrofoam and then breaks into tears and turns vegetarian when he finally figures out that meat comes from DEATH. That turkey conveyor showed me the circle of life, and I’m thankful for having had that experience at a young age in a country where actually seeing that process is becoming increasingly rare.
Some people say that if everyone visited a slaughterhouse, no one would eat meat. That’s not only mind-bogglingly retarded from a historical perspective, it’s also complete bullshit.
I worked as an underage laborer at a turkey slaughterhouse and to this day I fucking LOVE eating those god damn birds.
Turkeys aren’t majestic stags or great whales. They’re not half as charming as pigs. Their faces are hideously diseased-looking, all they do is eat and shit and squawk. Turkeys are despicable animals and I’m glad we kill them. Every year, the President of the United States makes a cutesy show of “pardoning” a turkey. I’d put an end to that tradition and become the Vlad Țepeș of turkeys. I’d fully support the turkey holocaust. The little ones get saved for next year, but every turkey of fighting age would be tortured before it is killed, just to bring out a little extra flavor. Their only redeeming qualities are that they are delicious in my mouth and really fun to cook.
Ben Franklin famous wrote, in a letter to his daughter, that the turkey should have been chosen as the symbol of the United States of America. The bald eagle is a predator who survives on exploit and plunder. The turkey, he suggested, was “more respectable” and “though a little vain and silly” would not hesitate to attack someone who invaded his yard. I’d say that a turkey would probably attack anything, because turkeys are retarded animals.
Perhaps, at this late stage of America’s decline, the domesticated turkey truly is a better symbol to represent many Americans. After all, many Americans are too fat to get off the ground, and all a lot of them are really good for is eating and shitting and making a lot of noise.
Have a heartwarming Thanksgiving.