Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Danny's Turkey Find (Take Two)

NOTE: In honor of my husband this Father's Day, I'm re-posting the very first story I published on my blog (when I had no readers). This is my favorite! I've always felt it a shame that I didn't wait to publish this story until I had readers -- so now you get a second chance for a great laugh. Happy Father's Day, Danny! We love you!
Caltrans freeway finds were always the highlight of my children's day. They would run to meet Dad when he came home from work to see what he brought them home from the freeway. We never bought a bicycle, tricycle, hot wheels, balls, etc. At our house, Dad provided with freeway finds. We still use a blanket on the beds that says "U-Haul". There was the 80 pounds of green bananas, the gallon jar of green olives, and then there was the classic Caltrans freeway find: the frozen turkey.

The unwritten rule amongst Caltrans landscapers was that if you were paired up with a partner on the road, the first one to see the find had first pick. Danny was working with Jeanne Holcomb on the highway this "lucky" day. Jeanne saw two frozen turkeys that had fallen off a truck. Jeanne picked the turkey that still had the wrapper on, and Danny came home with the turkey without a wrapper.

Now, imagine my surprise when he walked in with an unwrapped turkey covered in freeway gravel and asked me if we could wash it up for Christmas dinner. I love the man, and I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but I just didn't see that this was possible. In desperation, I went next door to get Alma. I was hoping Alma could gently set him straight -- and save my marriage. Oops! I forgot that Alma grew up on a farm in Kansas. Her mother died when Alma was in the 8th grade, and she quit school to take care of her 8 brothers and sisters for her father. There was NO WAY Alma was wasting that meat! She said, "Oh, sure, we'll just quickly rinse off the dirt, re-wrap it, and freeze it quickly. It will be fine. I think I probably looked at her like she was crazy, but the two of us set to work washing the turkey off.
Now, we were not going to be in town for Christmas, so we really didn't need a turkey right away. A few days later, Danny WON another turkey in a Caltrans raffle. Then, the church gave us a turkey because we were the poorest family in second ward. We lived in first ward boundaries, but for reasons I won't get into, we were attending second ward. We had been the "rich" family in first ward because at the time it was made up of mostly law students. We were about to have the best Christmas we'd ever had -- and our new ward was giving us a turkey.

At any rate, the following Easter Mom decided we should all get together for Easter at her house. I said, "Great, I'll bring the turkey." Now my mother had cooked turkeys for years and years. She always said that a turkey was done when you could wiggle the drumstick and it moved easily. So when she tested the drumsticks and they moved easily, she took the turkey out of the oven. We mashed the potatoes and had everything on the table ready to go -- then she cut into the turkey and discovered it was still raw. She couldn't believe it, but since we had dinner already on the table, she sliced enough for us to eat, and put it in the microwave, then she put the rest of the turkey back in the oven.

We soon found out why the drumsticks wiggled. Every bone in that turkey's body was broken. We each took a bite and discovered gravel between our teeth. That poor turkey must have been hit by every car on the freeway because the gravel was embedded deep in the meat. And my Dad laughed and laughed. You see, Dad sold meat for Swift and Company for 20 years. He also had a favorite motto: "Never turn down anything that's free." Dad had been bed ridden for quite some time, and it was really good to see him laugh like that! It was worth eating gravel to hear that laugh! That was Easter, and Dad passed away the following July. Danny really made the last big family dinner special -- but we've never let him live that turkey down!


  1. I read this when you first wrote it but I didn't know I could comment on it. I remember this well. I remember the turkey being crunchy from the sand and gravel embedded in it. I also remember laughing until we cried. Freeway finds are the best. I personally still stop when I see something good too.

  2. Be careful about stopping for freeway finds. Only stop in very safe areas.