Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, Dolly Madison!

In recent days, it has become apparent that Dolly Madison, the turkey, is actually male. She has some black feathers coming on her chest, and the weird red fleshy bits on her head and neck have multiplied. She even has a purple sweep over each eye, like a drag queen in bad early 80’s eyeshadow. The discovery of her true sex has not changed her name or the pronouns by which we all refer to her. We say ludicrous things like, “Look, Dolly’s strutting!” and “Listen, Dolly’s gobbling!” But no one feels obliged to switch to masculine verbiage, and Dolly does not care. Gender is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder.

One more interesting thing about Dolly’s new look: the dingle on her nose, which she seems to be able to operate—at least making it stand up a bit when she’s interested in something, such as my head appearing in the barn door—can also be extended, or drooped I should say, during The Big Show, which involves poofing herself out all over like a Mummer, dropping her wings and revolving majestically so you can get a good view of all sides. When fully drooped, this dingle, barely an inch long at rest, hangs down past the end of her beak. It’s the damndest thing you ever saw. Nature goes to incredible lengths to ensure future generations of turkeys. (Broad-Breasted Whites like Dolly can’t actually mate naturally any more, because they’ve been bred to grow quickly into tasty, easy to pluck T-day entrees, but we’re going to avert our gaze from that fact and dwell instead on where Nature was at in the Turkey Promulgation Project when we intervened.)

Yesterday, Thanksgiving morning, while John was out in the dog garden grilling the tofu for Thanksgiving dinner, I found out that, in addition to his other well-known gifts, such as the ability to cause a woodstove full of miserable, wet firewood to burst into flames simply by putting his hands near it, John is also a turkey conjurer. In the middle of a stream of conversation with Dolly, John interjected, “Give a little whistle!” and Dolly gobbled loudly. He can do this at will, for my entertainment and the children’s. It’s certainly going to be a good party trick when the weather turns warm again.

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