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Drama Friendship

Gobbler


                                                                                      “What we’ve got here is

                                                                                       failure to communicate”.

                                                                                       -The Captain, Cool Hand Luke


It was a small farm, corn and wheat in the summer, pumpkins in the fall. The big white house, always looking like it had just been painted, fronted by a white picket fence, sat up front near the county highway and in front of the massive red barn and the shiny silver silo. A small stream marked the back property line, and stands of tall pines ran along both sides. The place could well have been the setting that the designers of the English language had in mind when they came up with the word “picturesque”. City folk might conjure up an image of a Norman Rockwell painting as they passed by.


The farm operation was managed by the dad, the mom, and the two older children, 15 year old Willie and 13 year old Maggie. Susie at 10 was assigned the care of the animals- one old horse (Harry), one ornery pig (Brutus), two goats (Sammy and Sally), a very large dog whose lineage is too long to list here (Barker), lots of laying hens, one overworked, crowing rooster (Rooster), and one small, young turkey (Gobbler). It was Susie’s first year in the position of “Critter Care Queen”, as Willie called it, and none of it seemed like work to her. She was not at all fond of Brutus, but she loved being around the rest of the animals.

---

It was a perfect place for little Gobbler to grow up. Barker provided protection from the hawks, coyotes, and foxes that he had been warned about a thousand times, it was fun to slosh around in the stream, food was everywhere, and he enjoyed just hanging out with the other farm animals…well, with the exception of Brutus who was downright unfriendly, mean, smelly, dirty and rude, even by pig standards.


 Poor little Gobbler thought he was a chicken until he was 6 weeks old. That was understandable because he was always surrounded by chickens, and he looked more like a chicken than a horse, a pig, a dog or a goat. Barker broke the news one afternoon in the barnyard when Gobbler was asking him about the whereabouts of his parents.


“No, Gobbler, you are not a chicken. I know a lot your friends are chickens, and you have feathers and wings, but you are a turkey.”


“What’s a turkey?”


The other farm animals gathered around.


“You are a turkey. You will be bigger and stronger than a chicken. Think of it like you are special.”


The hard hearted Brutus laughed and took advantage of the moment to make someone just a little more unhappy than they might otherwise have been without his presence.


“Special?! That’s a good one. You’ll feel special alright when they take you up to the big white house and have you for Thanksgiving dinner.”


The other animals cringed, most being of the belief it was best to conceal a turkey’s destiny until the final moment.


“They’re going to have me for dinner?”


“That’s right. They always have a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, and you’re up next.”


Brutus’ smile was mean, nasty, cruel.


“Wow! I get to go up to the big house for dinner. That is so cool. I wonder what they’ll be having to eat. I hope they have ice cream. I heard ice cream is really good.”


Barker looked at Harry, and Sammy and Sally looked at each other. The chickens turned their head skyward. No one said a word about Gobbler’s misunderstanding of his future dinner plans. But Brutus was always ready to extract a little pleasure out of someone else's misery.


“You stupid little goof. When I say they’re having you for dinner, I mean…”.


“Shut up, Brutus!”, shouted Barker. “One more word out of you, and I’ll bite off that stupid, wiggly tale of yours.”


“Hey, sorry. I just thought the kid should know.”


Brutus waddled off with a nasty smirk as Gobbler looked up at Barker.


“Know what, Barker? What’s he talking about?”


“Nothing. He’s just jealous.”


Harry, Sammy, Sally, Rooster, and the hens all gave Gobbler a sympathetic look, shook their heads, and slowly walked away.


“Gee, Barker, I hope they’re not all mad at me because I’ll get to go to the big white house for dinner, and they won’t.”


Barker looked at little Gobbler who had always looked up to him as sort of a role model. When Gobbler wasn’t with his chicken friends, he was with Barker. At first it got on Barker’s nerves. What self-respecting dog wants to be seen hanging around with a turkey? But after awhile, he started to like the little guy. Barker turned his head to conceal a tiny little tear that was struggling to break free, and spoke in a soft voice.


“No, Gobbler, no one is mad at you.”

---

The animals all spent a lot of time down at the stream those hot summer days. They stayed together as they walked to the stream under the protective eye of Barker whose head was constantly flicking back and forth in search of would be predators. Brutus would immediately park himself in a small pocket of still, warm water, with a thick, muddy bottom that he had discovered years ago, and remain motionless for the rest of the visit. Harry stood knee deep in the stream under a large oak tree, while Sammy, Sally, Barker, Rooster, the hens, and of course Gobbler would dart in and out of the cold water.


Every so often they would all kick back and relax, sitting or lying down on the bank of the stream enjoying the warmth of the sun. They never talked about the serious issues of our time. Mostly it was just gossip and meaningless banter.


“It looks to me like the dad has been putting on the old feed bag a little too often. He’s starting to look like a real porker.”


Brutus turned his head far enough to respond.


“Watch your mouth.”


“ Susie is so nice. I think she sneaks us extra food.”


“I think Willy gets dumber everyday. He drove the tractor into a fence post last week.”


“Did you see his new girlfriend? I mean, seriously, she is ugly even for a human.”


Lots of farm animal laughter.


“Do you guys have any idea what I’ll have for dinner at Thanksgiving up at the big house?”


It suddenly turned quiet, except for a nefarious chuckle from Brutus in his mud pot. The animals all looked around at each other waiting for some brave, clever soul to come with the right response. It naturally fell to Barker.


“No, I’ve never heard anything. Have you guys?”


A chorus of “no’s” added weight to the lie.


“Whatever they have, I bet it will be good. I just hope they will have ice cream. Do you think they will have ice cream, Barker?”


Whatever ethical debate might have been bouncing around in his head, Barker decided to go with George's approach, assuring Lenny he could tend the rabbits.


“ You know, Gobbler, now that you mention it, that’s the one thing I did hear about- yes, ice cream, lots of ice cream.”


All the other animals gave a slight nod of approval while Brutus grunted in disgust.

---

June, July, August…Gobbler was growing bigger everyday, or as they say down on the farm, “more plump”. Brutus’ sadistic desire to torment the doomed Gobbler was held in check by constant reminders (frightening threats) from Barker. Gobbler remained blissfully unaware.


Susie dutifully did her job everyday. It was logical that she was closest to Barker because she played with him everyday, and to Harry who she would ride around the corn and wheat fields, and brush with loving care. Her relationship with the goats, chickens and Brutus ended with feeding them. And Gobbler?


As far as usual emotional attachments go, humans generally lump all feathered farm animals into the same bucket. Chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys…they are all pretty much the same. But there was something about Gobbler. Susie had seen turkeys come and go (if ending up on their dining room table could be considered a “go”), but she never had one follow her around before or sit next to her while she sat on the front porch reading a book.

---

The air grew colder, and leaves fell from trees as though they were striking days off of the calendar as Thanksgiving Day approached. Barker knew the day was close when he saw Susie dressed up as a Fairy Princess.


The mood was changing in the barnyard. With the exception of Brutus who found everyone to be an unpleasant nuisance, they all liked having Gobbler around. They had seen many turkey chicks arrive at the farm, grow rapidly, and then come fall make that final walk behind the barn with the dad, ax in hand. For some reason that they couldn’t quite put their fingers on (if they had fingers), this time seemed different.


Sally spoke first.


“I feel so bad about Gobbler. The poor guy still thinks he’s going up to the big house to have a nice dinner.”


“With ice cream”, added Sammy.


“Do you think we should tell him?”, Sally continued. “I mean, at least he’d have the chance to make a run for it.”


“He wouldn’t stand a chance”, said Harry. “Not with the coyotes and foxes out there. I see them all the time. And we always have hawks circling this place. I thought of that too, Sally, but one quick whack with the ax is probably more humane.”


Uncomfortable moments of silence followed as each reflected on their own imagery of Gobbler getting whacked with an ax.


Brutus stuck his snout into the conversation.


“What are you all whining about? It’s the cycle of life. He’s a turkey. He follows in the footsteps of all the turkeys that came before him. Hunting dogs hunt, turkeys get served up for dinner at Thanksgiving. That’s the way it is. He’s useless anyway.”


“Don’t you have a heart?”, asked Barker.


“Not so much. Why would anyone care about a stupid turkey?”


From the expressions on their faces, it looked like Harry, Barker, Sammy, Sally, Rooster and the hens cared.

---

T minus two days and counting. Barker was becoming more distressed every day as he struggled to assure Gobbler, “Yes, I’m sure there will be ice cream.”


It was troubling for Barker when Gobbler quizzed him on big house etiquette.


“ I can only give you the same advice my mother would always give me. ‘Just be yourself, Barker’. You’ll do fine up there Gobbler. Just be yourself.”

---

"Be true to yourself, Barker. Always do what you think is right." He had heard that from his mom and dad many times. This night, Barker couldn’t sleep. He wasn't being himself. He wasn't acting like the dog his parents raised. He needed to do something.


Barker hopped through the open window in Susie’s room and scurried about the barnyard summoning all the farm animals, except for Brutus, to a rare emergency meeting in the barn.


“Tomorrow is the day the dad will take Gobbler behind the barn, and…well you know the rest. I don’t feel right about it. I want to try to save him.”


“How would you do that, Barker?”


“Well, I heard about a thing called ‘diversionary tactics’. We create a little chaos that distracts the dad. He won’t have time to take Gobbler behind the barn and get him ready for dinner the next day.”


Harry said, “What kind of diversion, Barker?”


“Well, I’ve given this a lot of thought. Harry, can you still jump the fence at the corral?”


“Gee, Barker, I don’t know. It’s been so long. But I can sure try.”


Barker smiled.


“I knew I could count on you. Sammy, Sally, I want you to go to the thicket near the stream. At the signal, you both start bleating and baaing your brains out. The dad will think you’re in trouble, and he’ll run to save you. When he gets there, keep moving around, hiding in the brush.”


“I can do that”, said Sally.


“I’m in”, added Sammy.


“Rooster, you hop on top of the corn crib and start crowing like you’ve just seen a thousand sunrises. That will confuse the crap out of him. And all you hens, just scramble around him flap your feathers, lots of clucking.


One hen gave an impressive demonstration.


“Like this?”


Squawk, cluck, flutter, flatter!


“Good, good, I like it.”


Rooster asked, “And what will you be doing, Barker?”


“Did you ever wonder how I got my name? Wait ‘til you hear me tomorrow.”

---

The animals all gathered around as the sun rose over the tree line. The long shadow of a man with an ax stretched across the barnyard and moved closer. Barker gave the signal, a loud howl followed by three sharp, quick barks.


The animals took off to perform their assigned tasks.


Harry ran to the fence. He jumped into the air, but his front legs hit the top board hard. He bounced back and crumpled to the ground. Scathed but not beaten, Harry rose to his feet, shook off the dust, and retreated to his starting spot. He recalled those days when he would easily clear that fence, gritted his teeth, and with a fierce look in his eye, he charged at the fence, leaped into the air and cleared the barrier with room to spare.


The dad was dumbfounded. He screamed at Harry, dropped his ax, and ran after him. He immediately tripped over one of the gathering hens and fell to the ground. He picked himself up and struggled to come to grips with what the heck was up with Harry. His mind went into complete muddled mode as he heard Rooster sounding the alarm, and the blood curdling cries coming from the thicket.


Barker planted himself in front of the dad, barking loudly and incessantly. The dad was bewildered, paralyzed with confusion.


“Willie! Get out here!”


There were two very confused bystanders who were perplexed by the barnyard turmoil. Brutus began to sense the purpose, and appeared to be frustrated and annoyed by the ruckus. Gobbler had no clue.


Maggie and the mom joined in the effort to restore order. Willie “rescued” Sammy and Sally from the thicket, and returned them to the barnyard. A deputy sheriff eventually brought an exhausted and dejected Harry back to the farm. Rooster gave it his all, but finally collapsed on top of the corn crib. The hens delayed, but could not deter. Barker’s voice gave out, and he dropped to the ground, his energy spent.


The 300 Spartans fought valiantly, but in the end they lost. The defenders of the Alamo fought bravely, but in the end they lost. The barnyard animals gave it their best shot, but in the end they lost.


Barker lie in the dust, trying to cover his eyes as the man returned to the place where he had dropped his ax. With the executioner’s tool in hand, he began his walk toward the barn and the unsuspecting, doomed Gobbler. The other animals looked away, save for Brutus who appeared to be looking on with excited anticipation.

---

Gobbler had no fear of the man as he reached down to pick him up. With his hand just inches away from Gobbler’s throat, a voice cried out from the porch of the big white house.


“Dad! Don’t do it!”


“Don’t do what?”


“Butcher Gobbler.”


The look on Gobbler’s face defies description.


“Butcher? Butcher me? What’s he talking about, Barker?”


“We didn’t want to tell you this, Gobbler, but having you for dinner means just that. You would be the dinner.”


“What?! Oh my God! Get me out of here! Ah!!


Gobbler took off running, not in any particular direction, but more in the design of concentric circles. The dad was in hot pursuit, and Susie joined in the chase.


“Susie, what is it, what do you want?”


“I don’t want you to butcher the turkey. I like him, dad, please don’t do it.”


“Susie, that’s what we always do. That’s why we have a turkey every year, for Thanksgiving dinner.”


Susie skipped the usual increments of asks, requests, begging, pleas, and demands. She went right to the extreme.


“If you butcher that turkey, I will never speak to you again.”


Now, any dad will tell you that a child’s “forever” threats are not to be taken lightly. The dad was contemplating his predicament when the mom chimed in, “He is kind of cool to have around, and Susie really likes him.”


Checkmate. The dad had no choice.


“Ok, I won’t butcher the turkey.”


They say the cheers from the barnyard could be heard in the next county.


But Brutus looked displeased. His expression turned downright bleak with the next thing the man said.


“I guess we can have ham this year.”



























June 22, 2022 05:09

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7 comments

Kelsey H
03:48 Jun 29, 2022

Really enjoyable read. I loved the different personalities of the animals and their plot to save Gobbler. Great note to finish on too!

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Murray Burns
17:40 Jun 29, 2022

Thanks. I appreciate it.

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Jeannette Miller
15:33 Jun 25, 2022

This was super fun to read. That was a close call for Gobbler! We have lots of wild turkeys out here in the country where I live. They are such a nuisance but Gobbler sounds cute :) Great use of the prompt, too :) Well done! I'll be looking at farm animals around here differently after this :)

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Murray Burns
18:03 Jun 30, 2022

Thank you. I like to write things more on the "fun" side of life. We've got the wild turkeys around here too. They are suppose to be very wary, but a few years ago, two turkeys spent most of their summer in my yard. Even my dog(black lab) got used to them. Every night, about a half hour before sundown, they'd show up near the house at the top of a small hill. They would run down the hill 4-5 yards, flap their wings like crazy and then take off for a lower branch of a huge tree. Then they would "branch hop" all the way to near the top of the...

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Jeannette Miller
16:11 Jul 01, 2022

They do seem to be creatures of habit. I didn't know they could fly until I saw the ones around here scale my garden fence! I figured they were too bottom heavy. I wouldn't feel right about it either. Plus, my husband said wild turkeys are a bit more gamey and have a different taste than store bought.

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Kevin Marlow
02:15 Jun 24, 2022

I was rooting for ham all the way! On an editorial note “Well, I heard about a thing called ‘diversionary tactics’. We crate a little chaos- crate is missing an e.

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Murray Burns
02:22 Jun 24, 2022

oops....Sometimes I go too fast...especially on the proofread...Proofreading is more challenging than one would think...you know what's coming and just move along too quickly...kind of anticipating rather than reading. Thanks, I appreciate it. (Next time my kid is proofreading the story whether he like it or not!)

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