Being thankful and talking turkey


Tony Nye - OSU Extension



Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I realize it is early, but this will be my best opportunity to do so.

In a year like 2020 with the Covid pandemic all around (literally), it might be somewhat difficult to quickly think of things to be thankful for – or is it?

Like so many, I have questioned this many times throughout the pandemic since March. Our lives in many cases have been turned upside-down, twisted and put on hold so many times I have lost track of it all.

I could criticize, complain and just all-out cuss about the situation. But at the end of the day, I really have a lot to be thankful for. I am sure each of you can find something to be thankful for as well.

During this holiday season, especially this next week, take time to reflect on your situation and find that silver lining to be thankful for.

In the meantime, I am sure many of you will be spending Thanksgiving dinner without lots of people around. At the Nyes it will probably be just Dicka and our kids, but that will be all right.

Hopefully we can share some quality time away from schoolbooks, the internet, farm chores and jobs and just spend some quality time. It might be a great time to have some fun and try out some Turkey Trivia.

This might seem silly or downright stupid, but I bet this will be a holiday season that we look back on and reflect about with plenty of crazy stories and lots of laughs.

So here is my way of trying to lighten your spirits with some Thanksgiving and Turkey Trivia:

Turkeys are more than just big chickens–more than 45 million years of evolution separates the two species.

Ohio ranks ninth in turkey production, producing 236 million pounds of turkey annually. Ohio is also home to more than 200,000 wild turkeys. While domestic and wild turkeys are genetically the same species, they are very different.

The split between wild and domestic turkeys began hundreds of years ago with Native Americans. Turkey relics have been found in Arizona dating as far back as 25 A.D.

Here is a great bit of trivia – It has been said Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey over the bald eagle as the national symbol. According to the Smithsonian, Franklin never proposed the turkey as a symbol for America, but he did once praise it as being “a much more respectable bird” than the bald eagle.

This might be my best fun laughing fact about turkeys: A turkey’s gender can be determined from its droppings – males produce spiral-shaped poop and females’ poop is shaped like the letter J.

An adult gobbler weighs 16 to 22 pounds on average, has a beard of modified feathers on his breast that reaches seven inches or more long, and has sharp spurs on his legs for fighting. A hen is smaller, weighing around 8 to 12 pounds, and has no beard or spurs.

Both genders have a snood (a dangly appendage on the face), wattle (the red dangly bit under the chin) and only a few feathers on the head.

There are six subspecies of wild turkey, all native to North America. The pilgrims hunted and ate the eastern wild turkey, M. gallopavo silvestris, which today has a range that covers the eastern half of the United States and extends into Canada. These birds, sometimes called the forest turkey, are the most numerous of all the turkey subspecies, numbering more than five million.

The wild turkey was hunted nearly to extinction by the early 1900s, when the population reached a low of around 30,000 birds. But restoration programs across North America have brought the numbers up to seven million today.

Under which president did Thanksgiving become an annual holiday?

The answer: Abraham Lincoln. As a nation, the U.S. has celebrated Thanksgiving off and on since 1774. In 1789 George Washington made a proclamation that the American people should celebrate a day of thanksgiving to God on November 26th. Some presidents after him continued the tradition, sporadically declaring days of Thanksgiving. But it wasn’t until 1863 with Lincoln proclaiming a day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November that it became an annual holiday.

What is the oldest Thanksgiving parade currently called? – The Answer – 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade – According to some information I found, It was started in 1920 and originally called the Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade until the Gimbels department stores closed down. WPVI a.k.a Channel 6 a.k.a abc6 as well as several companies have sponsored the parade since Gimbels went out of business.

The final fact for your enjoyment: Which president was the first to give a turkey a presidential pardon?

Answer: Ronald Reagan. John F. Kennedy was the first president on record for unofficially sparing a turkey in 1963. But it wasn’t until the Reagan administration in 1987 that a turkey was given an official presidential pardon as a joke.

Once again, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, have some fun — and find something to be thankful for!

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for over 30 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.

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Tony Nye

OSU Extension