Thursday, Thanksgiving, we'll be celebrating that wonderful and delicious gift from God, Tom Turkey, the only bird with a Christian name. No, Glen Eagle doesn't count. It's a golf course.
The importance of the turkey cannot be overstated. It is the only bird that has an entire country named for it. We talk turkey, go cold turkey, run races called Turkey Trots. We hunt turkey and hold turkey shoots.
You may not know it, but the turkey is more American than any of us. It originated in North America and, according to a Butterball fact sheet, has been around for about 10 million years — longer even than Butterball.
The turkey is so American, in fact, that Benjamin Franklin once argued that it, not the eagle, ought to be our national bird. He noted that the turkey was more American than any eagle.
Well, yes. Like the turkey, Americans can't fly. Americans tend to get a little overweight. And Americans don't live in an aerie. Some Americans can't spell aerie.
Franklin, in fact, despised the eagle — “a bird of bad moral character” —and said as much in a letter to his daughter:
“He does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the river, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing hawk; and when that diligent bird has taken a fish and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and loved ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him.”
Meanwhile, Franklin had only good words for the turkey, and none of it had anything to do with cornmeal stuffing and gravy: “The turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird and a true original native American. He is besides, though a little vain and silly, a bird of courage.”
Franklin went on to say that the turkey, not the eagle, would attack any person who came into the farm yard wearing a red coat — a big deal back in the day. The eagle, I presume, would only watch the Redcoats from some dead tree.
Franklin made some good points, but I'm still glad he lost the argument. I have no idea what roast bald eagle tastes like, but it is a powerful-looking national symbol.
And can you imagine an NFL team called the Philadelphia Turkeys? Wait a minute. Isn't that what the Pittsburgh Steelers call them?
Anyway, enjoy your roast beast Thursday and remember: You will be part of the family of Americans that will be eating 525 million wonderful and delicious pounds of turkey.
Contact Bob Bestler at firstname.lastname@example.org.