Posted by: zhak39 | November 24, 2005

Cuz’n John and the One Legged Turkey

The first glimmer of stars could be seen from the kitchen window before Cuz’n John arrived that Thanksgiving Day. Dawn way upstate in New York comes late in November, dusk creeps in early, winter is at hand. There is a carpet of snow, the air is crisp but the kitchen is warm and inviting.

It’s all right that John’s not on time. There had been a number of timing mishaps that day, not the least of which was an incompletely thawed turkey and a temperamental oven. Although we put the bird in around noon, it was still stiff in the joints four hours later. Steven had made the suggestion that we cut the drumstick and thigh off one side and cook them separately in order to speed things along.

When John came in the back door, breath swirling around in misty clouds and cheeks bright red I was just pulling the turkey out of the oven. He and Steven were exchanging greetings when he caught sight of the mangled bird. Steven caught him looking twice.

“Yup,” Steven said. “That was some one legged turkey.”

John and Steven had met only once at our wedding two years before but they got along very well. For some reason they connected, seemed to understand each other or perhaps recognized some underlying commonality. For whatever reason there was none of the discomfort or formality that I see when my husband is with others in my family.

“You had a one-legged turkey?” asked John.

“Yup,” answered Steven. “It was last summer, Helen was just beginning to walk. She was out in the backyard a little away from the pasture. Well, she wandered a little too far, was headed for the dairy barn. We could see her but she was just out of hearing range, not that she’d come on call. Well Walter comes swinging around on his John Deere round the barn. He didn’t see her and he couldn’t hear us over the sound of the tractor. We went running but it was too far. Good thing there was that turkey.”

“What turkey?” asked John.

“Well there was this turkey in the barn. It had hopped up on the sill and saw Helen standing there right in the way of that tractor. It spread out it’s wings and jumped in front of the tractor, wings flapping and making a horrible noise. The farmer swerved and stopped and didn’t hit Helen.”

“Wow. Your daughter was saved by a turkey?”

“That’s right. The turkey, though, it got hit on its side, broke one of its wings and crushed its leg. The farmer was going to put it down but he gave it to us instead. After all, it was kind of a hero. We kept it in the backyard as a pet until it got too cold for it to be outside.”

As Steven spoke he turned and picked up a long sharp carving fork.

“So where do you keep it now?” John started to ask when Steven speared the turkey in the pan and hefted it over to the platter, its one leg dangling, bone sticking out of the side toward John.

“Oh my God you’re going to eat the hero turkey!” said John. “How can you do that? It saved your daughter.”

John looked at us, incredulous, his nervous eyes reflecting concern and not a little disgust until he realized we were both leaning back and smiling.

“John, I love that you can believe things that are so impossibly stupid” I said and gave him a welcome hug.

Happy Thanksgiving Day.


  1. I just love Steven’s sense of humor.

  2. I have to tip my hat to John as well. He laughs just as hard when he hears this story now as he did that night in 1992. A really lovely guy.

  3. I never heard this one! Good one Steve!

  4. Who ate the leg?

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