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Revenge of the turkey

November 26, 2011

[18th J.P.'s Moment of Common Sense, my weekly oratorial exposition on Broad View, KBZZ 1270 AM Reno.]

I don't know why we enjoy stories about turkeys who prevail against Thanksgiving odds, but we do. That's why the president pardons a turkey every year. It's good politics, because Americans love an underdog and there is no bigger underdog than a turkey in November.

Folklore says the presidential turkey pardons started with Harry Truman, but it's not true. The National Turkey Federation started giving turkeys to the White House in 1947, when Truman was president, but he simply ate 'em. He was from Missouri and Midwesterners don't have romantic notions about poultry. President Kennedy spared a turkey in 1963, but he didn't issue an official pardon so somebody else probably cooked the poor thing later.

The official pardons started with George Bush the First in 1989. Figures, doesn't it? Just like with civil rights, Republicans do the good deeds and Democrats get the good press.

In Pittsburgh they had a lot of fun this year with a story about a wild turkey that kamikazied through a restaurant window Thanksgiving morning. Speculation was that the bird's suicide flight was to protest the annual holiday slaughter of his domestic cousins. Imagine a wild turkey named Howard Beake getting out of bed Thursday morning, rising up on his tree limb, and gobble-gobbling at full volume, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" …then dive-bombing the nearest restaurant.

Truth is, though, wild turkeys are not graceful flyers and it's possible he simply misjudged his abilities and couldn't pull up.

I’ve got a local turkey story, which happened this week right here in the Reno area.

Dan is the security guard I pass every morning when I enter my office building, and Tuesday morning word got around about Dan's extraordinary Thanksgiving turkey. Seems his daughter paid somebody to raise her a turkey for Thanksgiving, and apparently the guy makes his birds drink protein shakes, lift weights, and gobble Twinkies. When the turkey was delivered Tuesday morning it weighed forty six pounds.

Forty six pounds! Think about that. I thought turkeys topped out at thirty pounds, and I've never actually seen one that big. The forty six pounds was after losing its head, neck, feet, feathers, and innards, so God only knows how much the doggone thing weighed when it was alive. I wouldn't want to meet a turkey that big in a dark alley.

Gobble-zilla is the nickname we gave it around the building. Dan was afraid it wouldn't fit in his oven and he would need to cut it in half, so I suggested taking it to a lumber yard where they have six-foot saw blades, but he said he had a gas-powered chainsaw that would probably handle it.

On Wednesday we learned that it did, barely, fit in his oven whole, but now he was concerned about the cooking time. At twenty minutes per pound, he was looking at fifteen or sixteen hours of cooking, minimum, and it might take longer than that for heat to penetrate Gobble-zilla’s carcass. I tried to be helpful by scribbling some quick calculations on a piece of paper and announcing that if he started cooking it now, it might be ready for next Thanksgiving.

He didn't seem to appreciate my help. I've run into that before.

Wednesday evening about 8:30, Dan put his giant turkey in the oven, aiming to have it cooked by one o’clock the next afternoon. He got out of bed at 2:30 in the morning to check on things, and that’s when the full Machiavellian revenge of Gobble-zilla started. His kitchen was full of smoke because, well, a turkey that big has a lot of juice and it was overflowing the roasting pan. Barely able to see through the smoke, he managed to turn off the oven, get the turkey out, and open all the windows. Then he said to himself, “Well, I can’t turn the oven back on until that stuff is cleaned off the bottom. Hey, why don’t I use the self-cleaning feature?”

Turns out the self-cleaning feature is not designed to handle a mound of turkey drippings on the floor of the oven. Within a few minutes, Dan had a raging fire in his oven, and the self-cleaning feature wouldn’t cancel, and the oven door was locked. And there was too much smoke to get around behind the range and unplug it. So Dan called 911 and went to work trying to save his house. After bending the crap out of the oven door trying to get in, and pounding dents in the stovetop trying to break his way in, he finally opened the broiler door at the bottom and started spraying his fire extinguisher up into the oven.

By the time the fire department got there the fire was out, but there was fire-extinguisher residue covering everything. Even inside closed cupboards. The poor guy spent the next four hours, from three in the morning ‘til seven, taking every single dish and glass and spice container out of his cupboards and washing them.

Gobble-zilla may have died, but he got his revenge.

There is a happy ending. At seven o’clock Thanksgiving morning, Dan’s wife said, “Dan, the fire truck is back.” The Cold Springs station of the Reno Fire Department came back to make sure everything was okay, and to offer to cook Dan’s giant turkey for him at the station house.

And best of all, Dan’s wife had the perfect excuse to go shopping for a new range on Black Friday.

That's... just common sense.

"I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; like those among men who live by sharking and robbing, he is generally poor, and often very lousy. The turkey is a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America." – Benjamin Franklin

From Reno, Nevada, USA       

November 28, 2011 - You're busted now, JP. Your secret is out. BTW, Gobble-zilla? Hilarious!!! Who knew you had a sense of humor? - Still in Reno

November 27, 2011 - Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!! Wonder why he didn't just go flip the breaker? Wonder why he didn't shovel out the oven before turning on the "clean" thing? Wonder if MY stove makes it impossible to cancel the oven-cleaning? - Dedicated Dad, Mysterious location unknown

November 27, 2011 - Love this article! R.I.P Gobble-zilla! - Samantha, Michigan

November 27, 2011 - Hey, you must work in the same office building I do, because I know all about Dan and his giant turkey. Guess we'll find out tomorrow how much the new stove cost, eh? - Rock, Reno

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