Turkey Drop, er Plummet
I just returned from a weekend with two of my friends from high school. We caught up with each other two years ago, decided to get together for our first slumber party at Campbell Town and have since made it an annual event.
This year, we returned to our native Kansas City, where Lora still lives. We had a fantabulous time; it’s always good to see old friends.
While I was gone, I was largely unaware that a huge international controversy was brewing right in the backyard of my adopted home.
Definitely one of the things I’ve had a hard time adjusting to here is the culture toward animals. Pets are often tied up or confined in small runs. There is also a lack of shelters in rural communities such as mine and the local humane society is on the verge of closing due to the lack of donations.
Vet care is extremely expensive in a state that ranks #47 in wages, making it difficult for those who do want to take care of their pets and spay/neuter.
It’s also still jarring and sickening to me to open the paper on Sunday morning and see a photo of a bloodied, dead black bear hanging from a chain with a smiling, proud hunter standing near who has “harvested” this majestic creature (they do not call it “hunting” here).
One of the things I’ve always loved about the Ozarks is the myriad of fall festivals and I was so excited to hear about the Turkey Trot Festival, held in the town very near to us. When I asked my aunt that first fall if she had ever attended, she told me no and explained:
“They drop live turkeys from planes and I just don’t care to see that.”
I could hardly believe it. That sounded more like the episode from the old television show WRKP in Cincinnati.
The local newspaper, The Baxter Bulletin confirmed it with their preview story that year that described the turkey drop as birds “gliding and sometimes plummeting to the ground.”
According to PETA, that’s because wild turkeys can in fact fly, but only at low altitudes for short distances. Birds that are tossed from planes 1,000 feet high at 70 mph have a difficult time getting their bearings and gliding to a safe landing.
PETA this year brought national and international attention to the event, which has been a tradition here since 1946. They posted a video, obviously made by a local, showing birds in fact, plummeting into cars and buildings. They also offered a $5,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of what the local paper has heroized as “The Phantom Pilot” who flies the plane, and asked the FAA to get involved.
It did stop the live turkey drop this year, but it didn’t stop the fervor of people in this town, many of whom were angry the drop was halted. A Facebook page immortalizing the pilot as a local folk hero had over 600 “likes” when I wrote this post and a local woman making t-shirts reported selling over 1,000.
I very rarely agree with PETA on any issues, but they’re right on with this one. I’ve always found the idea of going to see this spectacle, much less taking children to watch turkeys plummet with a thud, very barbaric.
I get tradition. This past weekend while we were in Kansas City, our local hometown festival was held in conjunction with homecoming. We didn’t attend, but I reminisced a little when we were caught in parade traffic of taking my mother to the parades, meeting up with old friends and neighbors and browsing the craft booths.
I wondered how I would feel if our town homecoming had also included throwing live animals from planes?
The same as I do now, definitely. I cannot imagine the depth of ignorance by people of the fear, horror and pain these birds must endure for people’s entertainment.
It’s things like this I think that will always make me feel like an outsider, a visitor in my own adopted town, and an unwelcome one at that.
When I read news stories about this turkey drop and readers comment that the Ozarks or Arkansas is full of uneducated hillbillies and rednecks, this particular custom, which I do not view as progressive, makes it hard to defend that it is not. It is a beautiful state with many good, educated people, and I wish people saw more of that side, but stories such as this do not help the stereotype.
Have you ever moved to a new place where the morals/values did not match your own? How did you handle it?