Goatview Farm - The Saint Report www.goatview.com

July 7

Turkey Capital of the World:
The Fight for the Title

Apparently it isn't just those crazy people on Jerry Springer who want fame at any cost. Countless cities, too, are so desperate for attention that they vie for what Esquire Magazine calls "Dubious Distinctions." Miles City, Montana, for instance, must have known that it would take something on the scale of a nuclear disaster back-to-back with cataclysmic tsunamis to turn it into one of America's ten most livable cities, but all it took was some paint and a piece of plywood to become "The Cow Capital of the World." And, surprisingly (or not), they didn't have to challenge some other hapless burg for the honor--it was theirs for the taking.

Saints of the day include Saint Boisil, Erkengota, Ethelburga, Hedda of Winchester, Maelruain, Merryn, Palladius, Thomas of Canterbury, Willibald, and Sunniva.
Ringo is 64 today (July 7, 2004)(Liverpool, 1940). I'm leaving his age at 64 forever because of the song.

Not so with the title "Turkey Capital of the World." You are going to have to have a duel for that one. Basters at 20 paces?

What first called my attention to turkey capitals in general was this weekend's McMinnville, Oregon, Turkey Rama, that, according to Chase's Calendar of Events, includes a "famous turkey BBQ [did not name the famous turkey], Biggest Turkey contest," and much more. The book mentioned that McMinnville was "once known as the Turkey Capital of the World." This raised the question of the capital's current location.

Contender #1: Between Eugene and Medford, Oregon, is the little town of Oakland, which claims to have been the birthplace of the broad-breasted bronze, the colorful version of our usually white Thanksgiving turkey. When I raised turkeys (which I never did on any large scale and was only minimally successful on even a small scale), I found the broad-breasted bronze chicks survived childhood better than the white ones since blood was more difficult for the other chicks to see on a dark chick.

Turkey poults (as the chicks are called) are disgusting little creatures who think that any anomaly on a fellow poult should be thoroughly investigated for edibility. Since most of the anomalies occur when poop sticks to their little butts, that is where most of the damage is done. And once they see blood, that is all she wrote. This is called "vent picking." Commercial breeders cut the point off the top of the turkeys' beaks when they first hatch, rendering them harmless to each other. Unattractive as heck and still able to eat and drink, but not able to murder each other in the crib.

Contender #2: Harrisonburg, Virginia. (To Be Continued)

"I have a bet with a friend regarding which city is THE turkey capital of the world.  I said it was Harrisonburg and she said it was some city in North Carolina.  Your article on your web site said "to be continued" in reference to Harrisonburg.  Could you tell me more?"  P Dale ( Received December 23, 2004)

So two years later, I'm back to refereeing the Battle of the Turkey Capitals. Sigh. Well, at least I know someone's reading and has the good sense to realize that I am the expert and final arbiter about this stuff. But wouldn't you know it? There are now more contenders: add Cuero, Texas, and Worthington, Minnesota, as well as Strathroy, Ontario. Berryville, Arkansas, just wants to be "Turkey Capital." Apparently any turkey capital will do. And two other Minnesota towns are now calling themselves Turkey Capital of the World, but more about those later.

Cuero and Worthington shared some heavy-duty publicity back in 2002. Here's an article

The Great Turkey Race

CUERO, Texas, Nov. 17, 2002

(CBS) The holidays are near and it’s time to talk turkey, especially in Cuero, Texas.

The town holds a big turkey fest every year and proclaims itself the turkey capital of the world, something that has worked just fine for 60 years.

For as long as anyone can remember the town has always advertised itself as the "Turkey Capital of the World," explains C.L. Duckett.

Then in 1972, townspeople discovered that Worthington, Minn., also advertised itself as "Turkey Capital of the World," So, the two towns agreed to hold an annual turkey race to decide which town could claim the title for the following year.

Minnesota’s thoroughbred racing turkey is named Paycheck because nothing goes faster than a paycheck. His wings are clipped and he’s ready to go, but as his team captain, Mick, notes, you can never be sure where he goes.

"You don't want him flying up on a building," says Mick. "That happened in our town. One got up on the courthouse. That adds about, what, an hour, two hours? Two days?"

Last year, the turkey ran about eight feet before making a turn towards the liquor store.

Cuero bird’s name is Ruby Begonia. Texas’ coach, Erwin, explains that the town picks the fastest turkey by holding preliminaries. "It's usually the last bird we catch that's the fastest of the bunch."

As on the turkey itself, there are two legs to a turkey race. Paycheck won the first leg in Worthington by 36 seconds. Not to make excuses, but Ruby was on the visiting team.

"She was in a cage for a while, not getting her place to sleep at night, eating from places on the side of the road ... fast food, out of her regimen," says on emember of Cuero’s coaching team. "We've had to take on a more stringent training program since we got back but she's ready."

"Weather looks good this year, we should have a good clean dry track ... we made a few adjustments," says Erwin. "Thirty-six seconds in turkey racing terms is nothing to make up."

This is turkey racing with all the trimmings. It is a whole weekend of activities. From cow patty bingo, to a waiting game sponsored by the Cuero cultural and heritage foundation, to all manner of turkey related activities, such as egg tossing, turkey flinging and turkey bowling.

It’s also something of a cultural exchange program. The Minnesotans got to go to the rodeo and even rode a bull — a very old and very tired bull.

The festival started years ago when farmers brought their birds to market

"This is where all the ranchers would bring their turkeys in and go to market and they'd march ‘em down the street to go to market, so somebody decided, 'Why don't we make a celebration out of this?' So in 1912, they started this on Main Street," explains Duckett about the history of Cuero’s annual market celebration.

In 1972, Cuero stopped the turkey drive and started racing.

On race day, spectators arrive early. They come from all over the nation to participate in the festivities and see the big parade, filled with royalty and pageantry.

But, what fans came really come to see is the big turkey race. It’s Cuero’s 30th Running of the Great Gobbler Gallop.

The home turkey’s crowd chanted, "Ruby, Ruby, Ruby," as some fans make predictions that the Texas turkey will win.

The athletes make their grand entrance, but in the wrong cages. The teams offer final words of encouragement.

The race finally begins. Paycheck spreads his wings and gallops out to a commanding lead – a big improvement over last year’s stop at the liquor store. But hold on, he’s flapped off course and into the crowd. Ruby struts ahead, eating up pavement. Ruby Begonia won! Ruby won the Great Gobbler Gallop. But, did she make up the 36-second deficit from the Minnesota leg? No. But wait, there are penalties because the birds can not be touched during the race.

The judges calculated that Ruby had one penalty and Paycheck had 10 penalties. The decision was made that Cuero won by 30 seconds.

So, Cuero, Texas, has the right to call itself the World's Turkey capital next year.

Although, there aren't really that many turkeys left around there -or in Worthington, Minn., for that matter - nobody wants to let the facts get in the way of all the fun.

© MMII, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

So now we know the truth about Cuero. It is just one more desperate has-been burg desperately clutching its glory days to its broad, feathered breast. Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up. Sad, sad. And the fact that a flock of freezing Minnesotans agreed to travel to sunny Texas in the middle of November to settle the matter doesn't impress me one iota. They'd say anything to get out of Minnesota.

In fact, it seems that two other towns in Minnesota suddenly decided to become Turkey Capitals of the World, too: Caledonia and Frazee. Bet they can't wait to be invited to Cuero.

Oh never mind. Before you Frazee people inundate me with mail saying that Worthington copied YOU, I will admit that you have a long-standing turkey history. You even have a giant turkey mascot. Try not to burn this one down, will ya?

That leaves Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Virginia, in general. And the North Carolina connection spoken of by P. Dale. Interestingly (or not...I am always thinking things are interesting that are actually hideously boring to everyone except myself which probably has a lot to do with why I am not a real writer...no finger on the pulse of America), the U.S. Census Bureau says that North Carolina--the whole state--is the nation's turkey capital by virtue of its production of about 1.3 million pounds of it annually (1998 figures). Since P. Dale's bet was about the city that calls itself the Turkey Capital of the World, I think she won.

So now comes the time of judgment. Which town is going to be the Real Turkey Capital of the World? This one is easy: in honor of Our President, I'm giving the title to Cuero.

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© Marilyn Jones 2000-2008