Maxwell the Turkey

I just couldn’t post this before Thanksgiving.  I’m sure you’ll understand why.  And besides, Maxwell is a Christmas story.  And there’s still time to forget this by then.

Long ago and far away in Alaska, my husband decided we would raise our own turkey for the holidays.  It would be a good lesson, he said, to our young sons… cycle of life, raising your own food, yada, yada.

So he brought this little thing home and we put him in a pen along with our son’s duck, Donald, who turned out to be a girl… and a few assorted geese… which disappeared when they realized they could fly.

So every day I checked the feeder and water.  It didn’t bother me… at first.  The turkey seemed content.  But it felt wrong that he didn’t have a name.  I mean, Donald the duck had a name, even tho he was really a girl.

So I named our turkey Maxwell.

The days got shorter and colder.  We turned a tool shed into a turkey-duck-house, lining it with fresh straw.  We even brought an extension cord and light out for those really cold days.  Remember… it was Alaska.

And I became more conflicted as each day passed.

Every afternoon… I was the one to check on Donald and Maxwell.  And, you know, they liked me.  They really liked me. They looked forward to my visits.  Because I brought the food…

And as Maxwell got bigger and plumper I kept thinking, “you poor fool… you’ll be on our Christmas table in a few weeks… you should run away… why don’t you run away??  Please!  Run away!!!!”

But Maxwell just looked at me with his big turkey eyes full of love.

Finally his last day came… and I made sure to be gone.  When I got home, Maxwell was hanging upside down in our car port in the most undignified way.

I knew we would rue the day.  Yes, we surely would.

Now it was almost Christmas.  My very civilized parents arrived from California.  I was unsure what they would think about a dead turkey hanging upside down in the car port.

… so, with snow on the ground and Christmas excitement in the air, I pretended it was like the butcher shop scene in Dicken’s Christmas Carol.  Don’t think they picked up on that vibe.

By then it was too late anyway.  It all went down hill fast….

It was Maxwell.  And it was time to pay.

The day my parents arrived the temp dropped to 30 below zero, highly unusual for our area.

The heater blew out on my car.

The water pipes froze.

Mom and Dad got the flu… the stomach flu.  With no running water in the house.

I, being great with my third child and due the end of December, got sick too.  I don’t remember much about those few days.  I don’t remember Christmas dinner.  I only saw Maxwell’s turkey eyes.

And this child who was supposed to be born the end of December… didn’t show up until January 19th.  I know what it means to be a… stuffed turkey.

So I’ve got to tell you… naming an animal you intend to eat is stupid.

Turkey eyes…. yea, they will haunt you, people.

P.S. – this is absolutely a true story.

8 thoughts on “Maxwell the Turkey

  1. I know that feeling — at least, the one about eating something you’ve named, not the being sick, pregnant or cold part. My parents brought our children two wild rabbits one Easter. They’d come from a ranch and never really became domesticated. Our four year old son had scratch marks on his chest from trying to carry one of them around and wasn’t terribly attached to them. Just before our summer vacation the question arose, “Do we find someone to care for Whitey and Blackie while we’re away, or do we put them in the freezer to eat later?” (DH was a hunter, so the children were used to knowing that the roast on the table might have been a relative of Bambi’s or Bullwinkle.)

    Our son asked what rabbit tasted like and when told it was much like chicken, he dictated that it would be alright to sacrifice them for a future dinner. My hubby did the deed discreetly, but that fall when I was stewing rabbit for a meal, I kept visualizing those soft and furry little bodies. I choked down some of the stew, but it was stringy and tough and I just knew Whitey and Blackie were having the last laugh!


    1. I love your story, Carol! Yes, I think those little furry guys did get the last laugh. It’s amazing the things we go thru isn’t it? At the time it seems so terrible, then years later it’s a funny story. I’m glad life is like that 🙂


  2. I felt sad for Maxwell. This is one reason I can’t have a pet animal that will end up as food. When I was a kid, my dad brought a cute baby pig which we raised wth much affection. one day he told us it was time to say goodbye . That broke our heart and after that me and my sisters learned a painful cycle of life. Great story. happy holidays.


    1. Oh, we raised a couple pigs also in later years. The boys fed and cleaned up after them. It is hard to say goodbye – – at least for me! Such memories and lessons. Thanks for your comments – – you also have a wonderful holiday season.


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