Photo by Ashok Khosla, via Flickr.
Yes, I've already declared my love for Meleagris gallopavo here. But in the USA, tomorrow is Thanksgiving, which is also known as "Turkey Day," so it's only fitting that I do so again. It is, as far as I know, the closest we come to a day honoring a bird. Heck, it's the closest we come to honoring any specific organism at all, with the exception of grandparents' day, mother's day and their ilk, which authorities agree are a bunch of bullshit Hallmark holidays. Not so for Turkey Day, which has a proper parade, special decorations, and traditional feast.
I used to think that Benjamin Franklin's endorsement of the turkey as the USA's national bird over the bald eagle was more legend than truth, but this is not the case. Indeed, he put it in writing.
...the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was peculiar to ours; the first of the species seen in Europe being brought to France by the Jesuits from Canada, and served up at the wedding table of Charles the Ninth. He is, besides (though a little vain and silly, it is true, but not the worse emblem for that), a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm-yard with a red coat on.I agree. I mean, look at this face. What's not to love?
Photo by Kelly Burnham, via Flickr.
The turkey also played a larger role in the progress of technology than the bald eagle ever did, for Franklin's favorite bird was also one of his test subjects. To wit, letter from one of his colleagues to the Royal Society, excerpted from his Life and Writings:
He made first several experiments on fowls, and found, that two large thin glass jars gilt, holding each about six gallons, were sufficient, when fully charged, to kill common hens outright; but the turkeys, though thrown into violent convulsions, and then lying as dead for some minutes, would recover in less than a quarter of an hour. However, having added three other such to the former two, though not fully charged, he killed a turkey of about ten pounds weight, and believes that they would have killed a much larger. He conceited, as himself says, that the birds killed in this manner eat uncommonly tender.
So, for an "uncommonly tender" bird, skip the foolhardy deep-frying rig you've set up and electrocute it yourself.
Finally, here's a Norman Rockwell painting I photoshopped last year. Figured I'd roll it out again.