Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Time to Give Thanks...Well, Maybe Not if You're a Turkey

Every animal has its own special name when talking of a group of said animals. Some of the better ones include a shiver of sharks, a colony or warren of bunnies, a bevy of swans (though they're called a wedge when in flight), a pod of whales, a flamboyance of flamingos, a bloat of hippos (that one seems a bit cruel), a scurry of squirrels, a streak of tigers, a shrewdness of apes, an unkindness of ravens (my personal favourite), a watch of nightingales, a prickle of porcupines (maybe that's my favourite one), a bask of crocodiles, a murmuration of starlings, an exaltation of larks, an intrusion of cockroaches (sounds appropriate), a leap of leopards, an (and this is quite real) army of herring, and, of course, the oft-talked-of murder of crows. But what, pray tell, does one call a group of turkeys? Since it's Thanksgiving and all, or Turkey Day to most of us (stats claim anywhere from 87% to 92% of Americans devour the bird on Thanksgiving Day), now is a good a time as any to get the answer to this query.

I kinda take pride (yeah, I take pride in the weirdest things) in knowing a lot of these aforementioned animal congregation names. So much so that I did not have to look up any of the names used in the opening paragraph. But alas, I do not know the name for a group of turkeys, so, to Google I go. Well, what is the answer? It's a rafter of turkeys. Sometimes a gang, but more commonly a rafter. That's right, a rafter. I suppose this is a good thing to know at Thanksgiving, though chances are, that 87% to 92% of American households, will only be having one turkey over for dinner today, so there will really be no need to throw out the term rafter when trying to impress friends and family. But hey, if ya do want to impress and influence people this holiday season, then let's look at some other Thanksgiving/Turkey trivia and jokes and other doodads to get us in the mood.  I'm sure my lovely wife, being the vegetarian that she is (once upon a time in an interview, Jim Morrison listed meat as his favourite food, and that is pretty much my stance on it as well) would rather see and hear the pro-turkey side of things. Hell, I'm pro-turkey. Always have been. I'm a thigh man myself.  Howzabout you? But I digress.



Gotta love Judy and Mickey fighting over the wishbone. My money's on Judy.  Here are some fun facts for your Turkey Day. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to proclaim Thanksgiving a national holiday (incidentally, given the idea by magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who wrote "Mary Had a Little Lamb"), though it was not given an official seal by congress until 1941. Turkeys are susceptible to heart problems. When the US Air Force was doing tests to break the sound barrier, many of the nearby turkeys were said to have dropped dead of heart attacks. 1924 saw the very first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, as the first balloon, Felix the Cat, made his way through the streets of midtown Manhattan. My favourite traditional Thanksgiving Day food item is...um, all of them. Well, okay, the green bean casserole can be left off the table. I suppose that is enough fun facts for right now. Let us move onto other fun Thanksgiving tidbits.

Of course we cannot have any sort of real Thanksgiving discussion without mentioning a certain 1978 episode of a show called WKRP in Cincinnati. For those of you not in the know (and shame on you if you are not), the October 30, 1978 episode of the once proud CBS sitcom, titled "Turkeys Away" (episode seven of season one) sports one of, if not the funniest Thanksgiving moment in television history. If you have not seen the episode, then by all means, rush over to Hulu or Netflix or Youtube or wherever and check it out. If you are too lazy to do that, here is a clip of the best part. Turkeys away. And if the link doesn't work (and they are prone not to), blame Youtube, not me.


Supposedly, the episode is (maybe) based on a real life 1962 event in Kewanee, Illinois, when thousands of ping pong balls were dropped from a helicopter. Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of science and how downdrafts work, already knows how that event turned out.  Now just replace ping pong balls with live turkeys and you get the drift. Damn that was a good show. Coincidentally, Richard Sanders, the actor who played Les Nessman on the show, and myself were both born and raised in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I remember one of my earliest crushes (after Laurie Partridge/Susan Dey and Nancy Drew/Pamela Sue Martin) was Bailey Quarters on WKRP.  She was played by the ever adorable Jan Smithers (now retired from show biz).  I was just eleven when the show came on the air, so the 29 year old actress was a bit out of my age range. The sex symbol on the show was supposed to be the bleach blonde buxom Loni Anderson, as receptionist Jennifer Marlowe, but those of us with more imagination (Marcel Proust once wrote, "Let us leave beautiful women to men devoid of imagination") took more of a shine to Bailey than to Jennifer. Not that Smithers was not pretty (she was quite stunning actually) but she was not what society called beautiful, at least not what society thought of as sexy. Just like those who preferred Mary Ann to Ginger or Jan to Marcia, it was always Bailey over Jennifer in this guy's not-so-humble opinion. But I am getting way off subject here, so back to the turkey talk.

So what else is there to talk about on this Thanksgiving Day post? There's the oft-repeated tale of how Ben Franklin had wanted the turkey to be our national symbol, but who hasn't heard that one.  But, if ole Ben had gotten his way, would be eating bald eagle on Thanksgiving today?  We could discuss how it was deer, and not turkey, that was eaten on that iconic first Thanksgiving, but that's a bore. We could tell a Thanksgiving Day joke. What happened to the turkey when he got into a fight? He got the stuffing knocked out of him! Considering that after scouring the internet for Thanksgiving jokes, the best one I could come up with was that one, perhaps we should just move on. We could talk about the ending of Planes, Trains & Automobiles, but that will just make me cry (how dare they make a comedy with an ending like that!!).  We could take a look at Thanksgiving, the Eli Roth-directed fake trailer from Grindhouse. And remember, don't blame me if the link sucks.


But enough of this nonsense. You can take your own time to check out Adam Sandler's Thanksgiving Song or Food, Glorious Food from the musical Oliver!. Right now I should just let you go so you can gobble gobble gobble your gobble gobble gobble. I have some eating of my own to do anyway. Happy Turkey Day. And to all my Canadian brethren - Thanksgiving is not in October!!  See ya 'round the web.

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