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by: Dr. Boogie

More iconic to Thanksgiving than the cornucopia or the buckled hat is the turkey. Ever since the first Thanksgiving, nary could you find a Thanksgiving meal that didn't take advantage of the turkey and its delectable, meat-covered bones. Despite the turkey's perennial role as main course, and leftovers for sandwiches for the next week or so, there is much about this majestic animal/bird that we do not know. For instance, the turkey is one of the few animals has both white AND dark meat. Also, the turkey is one of only two animals that can be drawn by tracing your hand, the other being the Two-Toed sloth, pictured below:

BELIEVE. The Two-Toed Sloth EXISTS!

All drawings of impeccable quality aside; the turkey is an oft-misunderstood creature that we take for granted. Therefore, in the interest of serving the public good, I would like to take the time to unravel a few of the tangled enigmas that are knotted around the waddled necks of the turkey in a one-time-only recurring segment I call Turkey Talk.

Consider for a moment the old wives tale about turkey making you sleepy: When a person indulges in a high quantity of turkey, or turkey-related meat, they absorb a large amount of an amino acid called tryptophan. Shortly after the meal, the subject will become tired and listless, lapsing into a state that leading nutritional scientists have called, "the Itis". This is largely a misconception. Tryptophan by itself will not induce drowsiness. In fact, tryptophan is actually a stimulant, and can be found in many of today's hottest designer drugs. When mixed with certain chemical sequences found in mashed potatoes and gravy, however, tryptophan can transform from a stimulant to an equally powerful narcotic within the subject's stomach. If this happens to you, do NOT consume anything with caffeine in it, for that will change the drug cocktail in your stomach from a powerful narcotic back into a powerful stimulant, with a crunchy narcotic shell. Instead, you should induce vomiting right away with the help of an emetic such as Syrup of Ipecac or a sweet potato.

Speaking of turkey, let's talk about Turkey. For those of our readers unfamiliar with it, Turkey is that country that's right next to both Iraq and Georgia. Georgia, the country that is. I know when you think of Georgia, you think that it is part of the country on account of the country music and the Georgia peaches, but this is completely different and confusing. Getting back to Turkey, you might be thinking to yourself that the country of Turkey and the bird that bears the same name but with a lowercase "T" might somehow be connected. You're partially correct. The name "Turkey" comes from the Turkish language and means, "land betwixt many countries and also two seas". In fact, the word, "Turkish" is Turkish for "in the middle of everything", and the word "Turk" just means "Turk". Turkeys, on the other hand, were named after the city of Van, which is next to Lake Van, which is where Volkswagen tested its ill-fated submersible bus. In Turkish, "Van" means "Turkey" because prior to some major reforms in the 1920s, the locals considered themselves to be a completely autonomous Turkey of their own. In truth, they were merely farmers, and all they had in the way of food were the Turkeys we have today, which they called "minivans". They made their case to the real Turkish government, but decided to compromise their demands in the face of unbridled laughter from government officials. As part of the compromise, they would join the main body of Turkey, but in return, their treasured birds would be called "Turkeys" to serve as a reminder of how their humble town was once a country unto itself. The officials said no to this idea, but residents still secretly called the birds "Turkeys" as a quiet form of protest, and when a crateful of the birds made its way to the halls of Parliament in England... well, the rest is history.

Back in the US, we have a longstanding tradition involving both turkeys and the president (or shall I say, two turkeys!? Ohohohoho!). For hundreds of years, the president of the United States would pardon one turkey every Thanksgiving, and that one turkey would be sent off to a petting zoo instead of being stuffed into a sack and decapitated. On the surface, it seems like little more than a silly tradition designed to take up three minutes on the local news, but the origins of this tradition stretch all the way back to the year 1930. The Great Depression was in full swing, and Herbert Hoover was lucky enough to be president while all this was going on. Seeking to bring an end to this greatly depressing time, Hoover summoned the heads of industries far and wide to the White House to come up with some way to pull the economy out of the toilet. Henry Ford suggested that the government use a strategy that Andrew Carnegie had devised for eliminating unemployment, namely by eliminating the unemployed. Hoover felt this would be a bad PR move, however, and sought advice elsewhere. The brightest idea he got came from P.T. Barnum's son, P.D. Barnum. He proposed that the president "pardon" a turkey scheduled for the chopping block and send it to his petting zoo (P.D. did not work with circus performers as well as his father did). This nearly doubled the number of animals in Barnum's petting zoo, and so he was obliged to hire more animal handlers. Hoover believed this to be indicative of a larger way to expand American industries, and began a campaign of pardoning animals across the nation: a goose for Christmas, a rabbit for Easter, and even a sow for Yom Kippur. Unfortunately, it proved to be too little too late, and in the 1932 election, Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated him, a victory which many historians attribute to his running on the "Anybody but Hoover" platform.

What about how turkeys became domesticated? Have you ever wondered how they went from being the high-spirited birds beloved by Ben Franklin to the grounded, walking meat pouches that they are today? The story begins deep in the heart of Africa, in the year 1601. A native tribe, whose name is forever lost to the dank bowels of history, was hoping to convert from a nomadic lifestyle to a steadier, agrarian one. Good farmland was scarce, and so they took to raising ostriches. The tale of the domestication of the ostrich is far less interesting, as all they do to avoid danger is stick their heads in the sand, and once you put them in a cage with a cement floor, you can easily remove their wild spirit through a series of mild concussions. Their ostriches produced massive eggs, and together with ostrich milk and ostrich cheese, they made fantastic ostrich omelets. The elders of the tribe thought so, too, but they were very health-minded, and so they sought a way to expand the diets of their people. They couldn't produce grain in large enough quantities to feed the tribe, and vegetables were just disgusting, and so the elders reached an impasse. The tribe's luck would change when in a moment of sumptuous serendipity, one of the locals returned from a trip to the Middle East with a strange new bird called a "minivan." The gears began to turn in the elders' collective mind right away. A day after the bird's arrival, they enacted their plan to create a creature that was half ostrich, half minivan. This proved problematic, as the ostriches, having long since lost their natural fight-or-bury-head instinct, took to running the moment they were introduced to this strange situation. Their handlers tried everything, but not even their primitive wine coolers could unlock the sex drives of the two birds. Finally, they came up with a low-tech solution to their problem: late one night, two of the handlers crept into the ostrich pen, pinned one of the ostriches to the ground, and lashed the turkey to its backside. Neither bird was happy with this arrangement, and the ostrich took off racing around the pen, squawking or clucking or making whatever kind of noise ostriches make when they're mad. Eventually, though, both birds collapsed from exhaustion; the ostrich from racing around the pen all night, and the turkey from riding the ostrich all night... if you know what I mean. A month later, the first ostrich-turkey hybrid was born, and over time, the handlers worked the hybrids into the ostrich gene pool until they finally had a bird that looked just like a wild turkey, but with a much meatier torso and puny vestigial wings like an ostrich. The rest of the tribe rejoiced. They cornered the bird meat market with their new creations, and they were on top of the world. Unfortunately, they were forced to trade their secret to a band of Virginians who were interested in taking them on a free boat ride over to the colonies. That Thanksgiving, the colonists were thankful for their new domesticated turkeys, and the tribe was thankful that they were able to make even more money by selling the rights for one of their more popular inventions, the omelet, to the French.

There. Don't you feel smarter now? You've glanced through the annals of history without falling asleep, and now you can brag to your friends about your far-reaching knowledge of the turkey, and its ever changing role in our world. Now, undoubtedly, your friends will say stuff to you like "that's a load of bull" or "you're just making all that up" and sometimes even "that never really happened!" These people are not your friends. They are, in fact, nothing more than the puppets of Big Encyclopedia, and are interested in nothing more than getting you to believe whatever their "experts" say is what really happened. You know the truth, though. It's not pretty, but you knew that, too.

If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out:

Thanksgiving Depression Made Easy!

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