Birds like us

Why the turkey shoulda been a contender.

By Charles P. Pierce
November 21, 2010

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Dear Benjamin Franklin: As I do every year at about this time, I’d like to thank you for your noble suggestion that the turkey be declared our national bird. You were right when you wrote to your daughter that the turkey was “a true original Native of America,” and that was without benefit of the Butterball hot line, which hadn’t been invented yet, not even by you, although you did invent a stove in which the would-be national bird could perhaps be prepared to do its ultimate duty for its country. Since then, of course, turkeys have had to endure that slander about how they’re so dumb they let the rain go down their throats and drown them. Then there was all that trouble through the years with raccoons. Turkey flocks dwindled, and then, almost miraculously, rabies struck the raccoons, and the turkeys were back to the point where some were attacking mailmen – which you, who practically founded the US Postal Service, I’m sure would deplore. Clearly then, like America, the turkey is blessed by Nature’s God – as you all in Philadelphia once euphemized the deity – and its ultimate survival is preordained. What else could a good American exceptionalist have wanted in his nation, or in the bird he would have chosen to be its symbol? You were right all along, old-timer. The rest of those mugs were so dumb they probably could drown in the rain.

Charles P. Pierce /

  • November 21, 2010 cover
  • Nov. 21, 2010 cover