We almost always have turkey and dressing, gravy, green beans, my aunt Shirley’s creamed corn casserole. Stuff like that.
One Christmas we had something else. It was Bubba’s fault.
Bubba was a friend who lived across the street in the Georgia town where I grew up.
He was one of six kids, and the little ones, unable to say “brother,” called him “bubba.’
Bubba never was all that good at practical things.
When we were 15, Bubba’s daddy came home with a couple of turkeys.
He managed one of those agricultural supply places, so he knew lots of farmers, who were always giving him stuff.
The turkeys were alive and fully mobile, strutting around in a little pen in Bubba’s back yard, like a couple of politicians at a campaign rally.
His daddy told Bubba to butcher and clean both birds.
That was fine, but Bubba didn’t know how.
He came over and asked me for help.
Now, Bubba and I didn’t always get along, but we were in a period of détente at that time, so I said sure, be glad to.
I put on an old pair of jeans and a T-shirt and walked through the house with my hatchet. Mom asked me what I was up to, being, I suppose, a little wary of what I might be up to. I said I was going to help Bubba with something. Mom was pretty tough, having two teen-aged boys, but I figured I’d spare her the details.
So, we snatched the biggest turkey from the pen. Turkeys are voluminous and feisty and don’t take kindly to handling, so it was a fairly strenuous process, with the turkey flapping, hollering and scratching, me rolling around in the dirt trying to hold on and Bubba shouting helpful advice like “Hold’im, don’t let’im go.”
I suspect that Bubba eventually ended up in Management.
Bubba volunteered to hold the bird, mostly because the idea of the next step left him a little queasy.
I told him to hold the bird firmly by the body and stretch its neck across a tree stump.
I swung the hatchet.
So did the turkey.
The planned decapitation turned what was supposed to be a clean cut into a nasty neck wound, and the poor bird started bleeding and gobbling horribly.
Bubba, ever helpful, let go.
The furious turkey clawed at the first creature she could find and tried to peck at it.
That would be me.
Bubba, bless his heart, started laughing hysterically, probably forgetting that I was still holding the damned hatchet.
After a bit, I managed to wrestle the enraged and terrified bird over to the stump and finish the execution.
Bubba, gasping exhausted on the ground, stopped laughing when I told him what he could do with the turkeys, living and dead. It involved stuffing. And then I went home.
Now, I didn’t think about how I looked. I walked into Mom’s kitchen, hatchet in hand. Covered in blood. Bubba, who was with me when I had left earlier, was not to be seen.
Fortunately, she was sitting down when I walked in.
When everybody had calmed down and gotten their facts straight, I cleaned up and tossed the gory garments in the wash. We decided not to mention the adventure to my father when he got home. Dad was not much into hunting or the messier activities associated with it, so we thought we’d spare him.
Christmas dinner, a couple of days later, featured most of our traditional dishes, the beans, the casseroles, the pies, and so on.
But standing proudly in the center of the dining room table was a big, sugar-cured ham.
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