Dedicated to all my students, who inspire me to write more. They were assigned a turkey project with the writing prompt, “Imagine you are a turkey on Thanksgiving Day.” The following story came from that idea. Enjoy!
Tom Turkeyman enjoyed his life for the most part. He lived with the prettiest hen in all of Plymouth Harbor, Massachusetts. Tom and Henrietta had been married for 2 years, which is like 24 years to a turkey. Most days he was showing off to his wife. He loved to make her smile. And there was nothing Henrietta loved more than watching her husband walk around with his chest pushed out, his feathers puffed up, and his head held high. He looked like a proud turkey, and proud he should be!
As Tom was going about his turkey business, he began to notice through the trees a great ruckus. Peeking his head out from the branches, he saw a ship with giant sails high in the sky like blankets catching the wind on the clothes line. “MAYFLOWER,” was written in big bold letters on the side, and men in strange clothes began piling off the ship. Tom sat and watched for a while and then rushed home to his wife.
“Henrietta!! You will never guess what I found today!”
“Did you find a surprising pile of nuts? What a treat those would be this time of year!”
“Oh, indeed that would be nice, but no. Settlers have arrived. They got right to work building homes for everyone. I don’t think they know much about the winter. I worry for them and for us.”
“Why for us? We have a cozy home here in the woods.”
“Yes, but we could become their dinner…”
“… Ah…” Silence fell between Henrietta and Tom. Then optimistic Henrietta chimed in, “I guess we will have to be more careful. We already are on the look out for the Natives; we just will have to look out for them too. Every day we live will be a day to be thankful for.”
The days grew cold. Every day Tom trekked through the snow to see how the new humans were coming along. Sometimes two Natives were there helping.
“Squanto and Massasoit, I don’t know what we would do without you,” Tom overheard one of the new men declare.
“You have literally saved us. How will we ever repay your friendship?” another one said.
Massasoit responded in his native tongue and Squanto translated, “Mr. Carver, Mr. Bradford, we know the ways of the land. It is our honor to show you how to survive. Peace is all we want.”
Squanto then continued. “I will hunt and trap with you. Once I feel you know what you are doing, I will leave you to your own. In spring, I will show you how to plant corn. It’s uses are many!”
Tom ducked away in search for some food to bring home to his wife. He scoured the woods for some winter berries and nuts. Upon returning home, Tom relayed the conversation he overheard to his wife. “We will need to be even more careful. Squanto and his people are good hunters and they are training the new men.”
The next day, Tom was out in the woods strutting his stuff when he heard a CLICK, BANG, BANG. He quickly moved under a nearby tree. His heart pounded in his 6 pound chest as he checked his body from beak to toe. Not a scratch. He let out the breath that was trapped in his lung and peeked through the trees. Straight ahead a young member of his flock lay on the snowy trail.
BA-BOOM, BA-BOOM went his chest as he sat frozen under the tree waiting for the hunter to come collect, praying he wouldn’t be seen. He waited until the stars shown bright above before he came out from the tree.
Cries of a worried wife awaited him when he finally made it home. “Where were you?! I’ve been worried sick. I heard the gun shots and feared they were yours.”
“I am safe, Henrietta, but one of our kind is not. I saw where the young gobbler gobbled his last.”
“Please be safe, Tom. I am so thankful you have survived today!”
Slowly the snow melted into spring, with spring came planting. Tom watched in the distance as Squanto fulfilled his promise. He taught the new men to grind the earth and plant little seeds deep in it’s belly. In time, Squanto showed them how to care for the seeds, how to bring it water and ensure they are not smothered by the wrong plants. Every day, Tom watched under the trees. Every day he relayed what he saw to his wife; he was the brave turkey messenger
Finally the day came for the men to collect all the corn they planted. The women worked hard to prepare a huge feast and the men went hunting. Tom overheard Mr. Bradford, the leader of the new men, “Go! Find a great, noble turkey for our table,” He said, “We have been in this new land a year, and we have overcome many challenges. We shall celebrate with a feast.”
Tom ran home as fast as his legs moved, but it wasn’t fast enough. Henrietta came out of her home, hidden in the trees as the BANG cut through the silence. Her brave Tom fell to the ground. She heard the men boast, “This gobbler must be 24 pounds! What a bird for our celebration. Governor Bradford will be pleased!” In one moment Henrietta was burdened by the massacre, but in another she was proud of the turkey Tom was. What a noble way to die, protecting her and giving joy to others.
As the men walked home, she followed them. For the fist time, she watched from a distance like her husband did as the men celebrated with the Natives. Governor Bradford stood saying, “Let us bow our heads. God, we thank you for this life you have given us in this new land. Thank you for the freedom we now have, your wonderful provision, and family. Thank you for every day we survived, every trial we have overcome. Thank you for Squanto, Massasoit, and this wonderful harvest. Amen.”
Henrietta returned home and prayed a similar prayer with her family as she told the story of their noble father. Every year, the turkeys tell the tale of Tom Turkeyman, the brave messenger and first Thanksgiving turkey.