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Out On The Mudline

Herds Of Turkeys Roamed The Land Just Like Buffalo

By W. P. Sissell


At about this time every year I think of a cousin who lives in Chetopa, Kan. She and her husband raise turkeys for Butterball.  The occupation within itself is a story, for what comes into their houses in a onetime ice cream truck leave the premises in thirteen eighteen wheelers. Martha and her husband always remember to tell us, “buy Butterball” and it is very likely that soon we’ll be receiving a Christmas card with a note that the Thanksgiving-Christmas turkeys left several weeks ago.

Really, the turkey itself is a story. Many people do not know that turkeys herd like cattle. One of my friend’s tells about his mother and dad buying a couple of hundred turkeys each summer to graze and feed for selling at this time of the year. Each day, after the turkey herd was purchased, one of R. C.’s daily chores was to turn the turkeys out in the morning and get them in late in the afternoon.  

The turkey income usually assured the family of a great Christmas. This reminds me that my mother usually bought a turkey early in the fall and tethered him/her out until Thanksgiving or Christmas (dependent on when she would have the family gathering that year). The tether was usually a flat iron.

My mother’s turkey has been the source of many stories in the family. When Dad told me that Jimmy Wilbourne had a 1949 Ford that I might like, I did of course, and he bought it for me.  Mother already had a turkey gobbler tethered in the yard. My car had big shiny hubcaps. When that old gobbler got close to one of those hubcaps he saw another gobbler there trying to invade his territory. I had to leave my car at least a couple of hundred feet away from the house.  

Yes, we had a “sort of” family gathering Thursday at our oldest daughter’s and husband’s new home. There were some of us there who were strangers to one another.

There were many different foods—the buffet line was about twenty feet long.  The thing that impressed, me most, was the meat section—not just turkey but ham and my favorite, pork tenderloin.  

The Time of Year

As I’ve told you before, in the winter just before entering the service, I worked on the night shift at Mr. Ingram’s gin. One night a gentleman, I will not name him, said to me “Boy, how many biscuits do you eat at breakfast, I used to eat sixteen?” I could probably have eaten sixteen too, provided I had pork tenderloin to go with them. One could easily get sick eating too much of that stuff. This time of the year – the weather has to be just right – is also “hog killing time.”  

I’ve told you before every family on the farm had a hog  (maybe several), a garden, and a cow or two. We pretty well all killed those hogs at the same time, not worrying about Sam Adams “new meat.” Joe Stribling almost always had a possum in a barrel being fed out. My grandson, William, just told me yesterday about his dogs catching possums when they get into their (the dog’s) pen to eat the dog’s feed but I don’t eat possum.

The Crew

While I’ve been typing this Nannette has been busily preparing lunch for the fence building crew. They may show up and may not but she will be ready with a full meal—she gets tired of fixing just for us. When the crew (son, two grandsons and a friend) shows up, she doesn’t want to eat. But, she hovers over the table being sure they all keep eating.

We hope that you had a great Thanksgiving and have a holy Christmas. We’re going to try to do the same. We do thank you for your compliments and encouragement.

I just remembered that Lee Rowsey has a peg from the Old Prophet Bridge.

You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606 or 662-563-9879.

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