By: David P. Cantrell
Thomas is a very special bird.
He was hatched like millions of turkeys are each year, but he didn’t have a father like most. He had the research department of FowlTech, Inc. to thank for his paternal DNA.
FowlTech’s consumer research group had anticipated the Cage Free movement years before the press had coined the phrase. Consumers living in fancy East Coast lofts and West Coast Mc-Mansions had decided animals slaughtered for their gastric pleasure should live the good life before being consumed. The irony hadn’t been lost on those living between the coasts, but their lack of purchasing power couldn’t stem the sea change that was coming.
The cage-free concept had scared the hell out of the company’s CEO and Board of Directors. They’d spent millions developing the big, immobile domestic turkeys that consumers loved to eat at a low price, but the birds were so stupid they’d starve in a cage free environment unless hand fed. Hand feeding and profits were mutually exclusive in their minds.
FowlTech’s genetic engineers worked on the problem for three years looking for the combination that would produce marketable turkeys in a cage free environment. Thomas and his 99 brothers were the Company’s hope for the future. The birds were loaded on an environmentally controlled trailer and departed the Virginia research center six months after they’d been hatched. It happened to be the third Thursday of November when they left for the Company’s Georgia production farm and a new life.
Thomas never got there.
Thomas was a very clever turkey.
Somewhere near Alcolu, South Carolina, on the south bound I-95, the front left tire of the Kenworth T660 hauling Thomas to his new home blew out. The driver did his best to control the big rig but momentum and a two lane bridge left him with few options. His cab made a U-turn when it hit the guardrail and his trailer broke its connection as it rolled into the Pocotaligo River.
Thomas was not only clever, he was very lucky, at least on that day, because the trailer’s roof landed on a boulder that caused the right rear door to fly open. But, that wasn’t the luckiest thing. Thomas’ travel cage flew clear of the trailer and broke open when it hit a partially submerged oak trunk that lay on the bank, which was very lucky, but not the luckiest thing. The luckiest thing was that Thomas understood his peril and escaped the cage before it disappeared in a rush of water.
He scrambled up the trunk and perched on a branch to survey the situation. The trailer sank before his eyes and as far as he could tell none of his travel mates had escaped.
He chose to go upstream. Two hours later he was glad that he had.
The narrow river opened into a five mile wide forest populated by confers and hardwoods. He continued until the stream meandered through a glen surrounded by trees and shrubs. Instinct told him to stop his trek and rest.
The next morning a flock of turkeys led by an impressive gobbler fed on the far side of the glen. Thomas watched the group carefully. He wanted to join them but fear held him back for a while. The big gobbler saw Thomas, just a jake and not a true threat, crossing the glen and halfheartedly challenged him, but let him join the group.
Thomas had a home.
Thomas grew to be a spectacular specimen. He looked like most wild turkeys except for his snood, which became iridescent pink when he was excited. The geneticists at FowlTech had suspected the Raven genes added to his genome had done more than increase his heart and lung capacity as intended. They’d been correct. However, a much more significant by product of their manipulations, had been his intelligence.
Thomas found it easy to defeat the other males when the old gobbler died, but it took more to become the alpha male—the hens had the real power in the flock. They found his snood and brains quite attractive and accepted him. He had plans to grab more hens from a neighboring gobbler next spring, however he felt fall was a time to take stock of life, not pester neighbors.
Thomas, perched on a gnarled oak, surveyed his realm and thought of all he had to be thankful for, but more than anything else he gave thanks for bad truck tires, large boulders, fallen oaks, and the intelligence to make a life with his loved ones.
© 2015 David P. Cantrell is a contributing member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff
Photo credit: “Gall-dindi” by Riki7 – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gall-dindi.jpg#/media/File:Gall-dindi.jpg