I got an assignment back then to do a Thanksgiving piece for NPR and soldiered off by phone and car to make a little radio story about turkeys. They raise turkeys in the Central Valley down the hill from our Mariposa house and I figured the audio from a turkey ranch — twenty thousand anxious birds in one place — would carry me a long way.
Don’t remember much of the finished piece which I recorded on a Sony cassette 110A machine and edited on a Sony reel-to-reel on the living room table. But I remember this one part.
The manager of the Armour turkey ranch just outside of Planada lived across the highway 140 from his birds, thousands and thousands of anxious birds bred for fast growth and weight gain, and with no skills except to eat. We stood in his yard looking at them all, in pens just a few yards from the road. And I asked him didn’t anybody ever steal one of his turkeys and what did he do about turkey rustling.
Oh, he said, it pretty much takes care of itself. I’ll see a car stop and a guy’ll run over to the pen and grab a bird and throw it in his car. Then, maybe quarter mile down the road, I’ll see the car pull over, the door open, and the bird come flying out.
Still makes me smile, imagining inside that station wagon, a freaked out 25-30 pound bird screeching, flapping and shitting, kids crying, wife screaming.