I met Jack the Turkey last spring when I visited my sister’s farm in New Mexico.
I was smitten immediately. Outside of his obvious good lucks, I loved the way Jack walked with us around the property, keeping up with our conversation, interacting with the other farm animals, and becoming despondent any time I shifted my attention from him to a baby goat or to my sister. The guy had a lot of charisma.
I later learned that as a farm turkey, Jack’s was only expected to live a year or less. And yet, here he is, living out loud at age seven in Eastern New Mexico.
Jack’s early life story is sad. Raised by a single-mother who died when he was still a babe, Jack grew up without ever meeting his father. He was separated from his siblings at a young age, and found out that they, along with most of his childhood friends, met their demise in large ovens.
But Jack is a success. A survivor. He’s defied the odds. I interviewed Jack in May of 2012, and he had some words of wisdom that are worth passing on.
Q. You’ve outlived your turkey peers by far. What do you attribute to your success?
A. Thank you. I know this may come off arrogant or self-centered, but it occurred to me as a young guy that I’m better looking than the average turkey. And people really respond to that, so I started taking care of myself. I began walking a lot, and although the people who raised me gave plenty of food, I refrained from eating everything in front of me. I don’t want to get too big. I groomed carefully, and kept my feet clean by washing daily in the dog’s water dish.
Tip: Be a good steward of your given strengths
A.But after the first year, I could see my looks begin to slip. My feathers thinned and my wattle drooped. Then I met Molly. As a dog, it looked to me like she had a great advantage. People have always called dogs Man’s best friend. So I decided to copy Molly. She follows her owner everywhere. She likes to show affection. She chases things thrown to her, and hangs out with cats, dogs, humans, and me. Molly helped me understand that family isn’t just who you’re born to and with. Family can be created through any relationship where love and commitment exist.
Tip: Find a mentor to copy
A. That said, I’m not unaffected by my circumstances. I don’t like Thanksgiving, or Christmas. or New Years. Any of the holidays when my less fortunate relatives might be slaughtered. But every January 2nd, I’m reminded that life is a gift that I’m grateful for. I try to take nothing for granted, and I tell the younger turkeys I meet to take care of themselves, to value their relationships with friends and family, and to promote eating chicken for the holidays whenever possible. Or tofu.
Tip: Every Day Can Be Thanksgiving
Happy Thanksgiving to Jack the Turkey, and to all of us survivors.
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