Ever raise turkeys in your back yard? My mother was a natural in raising animals for food since her parents were farmers all their lives. My grandmother kept a variety of animals for her dinner table – turkeys, ducks, chickens, squabs, hogs, and rabbits. Yes, a fresh roast was always available on holidays and during family gatherings at my grandparents’ home. My mother concentrated on just a few animals: chickens, pigs, turkeys, and an occasional cow in the backyard of a one-quarter acre lot on the Hawaiian homestead.
During the holiday season we anticipated the smell of fresh turkey roasting in the oven at home, but one November there was a big surprise for us when my mother went to the turkey pen to execute her specially fed turkey. She found the cage door wide open and the turkey gone! She panicked! Fearing we would have no turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, she searched the whole yard, front and back, but could not find it. Then she realized it had probably flown away because its wings had not been clipped. “Pat,” she hollered, “come out and help me find it!”
I ran out of the house to help her and spotted it strutting around in our neighbor’s backyard. It was a black hen and easily weighed thirty pounds. Immediately I yelled, “Don’t worry, mom, I’ll get it for you!” Running in my rubber slippers, I entered Yuen’s Store next door and informed our friendly neighbor, Lum Ho, that our turkey had escaped to his backyard. He responded, “Go ahead and get it.” I felt my 12-year old heart beating wildly as I wondered how I would do it. I had never interacted with our turkeys and was surprised it did not try to run away or peck me as I approached it. I quickly grabbed its long red neck, put my other arm around its body, and carried it home. Hugging the bird closely, I could not bear to smell its feathers. It smelled like a dead rat! I walked quickly, almost ran, back to our house and set it back in the pen. I expected it to struggle along the way, but it calmly remained still and enjoyed the trip in my arms. It could have been someone’s pet. I bet it did not enjoy his trip to our dinner table!