By T.W. Burger
One doesn’t hear as much as much talk from the "back to nature" folks these days as one used to.
Excuse me. That should be "back to Nature." They always capitalize it, even in speech.
Back in the day, the alfalfa-sprouts and bean-curd crowd were easy to spot during lunch breaks at work. One could always find them nose-deep in a "Mother Earth News" article about how to build a gazebo out of laminated cow pies or some such thing.
Perhaps predictably, the folks who got deepest into this stuff -- the concept, not the cow pies -- were kids from urban and suburban families, whose entire experience with the world of nature was their unwilling teenage participation in the war against crabgrass.
My neighbors at the Beaverdam Mobile Home Park in suburban Winterville, Georgia, were no exception.
My neighbors Bob and his wife Alice were both raised in one of those industrial towns squeezed like joint-sealer on the seams where New York and New Jersey are stuck together. Their parents had brought them up in one of those developments with a name like Toluene Park, where houses were identical split-level ranch-styles, with some variations provided by whether the houses had concrete jockeys or pillars topped by those odd reflective glass balls.
Bob was at the University of Georgia, studying to be a biologist. Alice was working somewhere as a secretary. The yard of their little mobile home was chock-full of large pots filled with dirt, dung and other ingredients they had read about in a host of off-beat back-to-nature magazines of the sort given to swarms of exclamation points and misspellings in their texts.
One Thanksgiving, Alice decided she would surprise Bob with a turkey. In the spirit of Natural Living, she purchased a strapping big hen from a farmer who swore on a stack of USDA bulletins that he had raised the thing from a poult and had personally overseen its proper and chemical-free diet, and had never fed it anything he could not pronounce.
Back home Alice, raised on painless supermarket turkeys, could not bring herself to apply the L.L. Bean Firewood Axe to the bird’s neck. The brief stay of execution ended, however, when Alice found Bob’s supply of chloroform.
Thinking that putting the bird to sleep would be more humane than lopping off its head a la the French Revolution, Alice applied the chloroform to a handkerchief and the hankie to the hen and, after a few moments of flutter and squawk, it was all over, the turkey gassed and limp, sprawled on the patio.
Alice, triumphant and little nauseated, got the big hen plucked all right, but the idea of trimming off the head and feet was beyond her sensibilities, not to mention the very thought of moving to the outside all the stuff on the inside that made the turkey gobble and go.
So, into the fridge went the nude bird, awaiting the arrival of Bob.
Remember, the turkey was to be a surprise for Bob.
Alice’s usually-unflappable husband came home in the late afternoon, tired, burdened by thick books and reeking of formaldehyde. Alice told him she had a surprise for him in the refrigerator.
Bob opened the door.
The little light came on.
The turkey woke up.
With a hellish gobble, she exploded out from among the leftover buckwheat groats, bean sprouts and tofu, straight at the usually-unflappable Bob, who, as planned, was surprised and suddenly quite flappable.
The streamlined and furious bird dug its claws into Bob’s sweater and began pecking and biting him on the face and arms.
Still screaming a war cry that would have blanched a Pilgrim, the turkey dropped the terrified (and surprised) biologist and charged into Alice, who was quickly becoming a vegetarian, knocking her backward into her grandmother’s china cabinet, breaking the glass front and expelling from within many valuable items, including a ceramic dish bearing the likeness of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower.
The bird bashed the portable TV off its stand, broke two baskets of ferns and knocked a life-sized black velvet painting of Elvis the King from the walls before it flapped through the still-open trailer door. A strange, pale apparition in the fading light, the turkey fled hopping and gobbling into the depths of the trailer park, never to be seen again.
The next day, Thanksgiving, I dined on a properly quiet and immobile turkey with my mother and brother. Bob and Alice went out for dinner at a local restaurant that featured a large and placid salad bar.
The turkey, I found out later, met its fate at the hands of a little old lady down the street who had never heard of "Mother Earth News," but who knew a dinner on the run when she saw it.
T.W. Burger was raised in Athens. He graduated from Athens High School in 1967. He worked as a driver of everything from fork trucks to garbage trucks and concrete mixers, has been an apprentice mortician and ambulance attendant.
Semi-retired and residing in Pennsylvania, Burger is still working as a contributing writer for Classic City News and various other publications, and lives on the banks of Marsh Creek, just outside of Gettysburg.