Every year the US President pardons a turkey.
Quite an honour, which may be more useful if bestowed on a person.
I’m sure plenty would agree to dress up as a turkey, and even behave like a turkey, in order to avoid ruining the spirit of the day.
It’s also pretty hard not to forgive someone dressed in a turkey suit, pecking at the ground and squawking. Give it a go yourself, next time you forget to tip someone, arrive late to pick up the kids from school, or rob a bank.
So this presidential turkey pardon has only been regular thing since 1989.
That’s right, 1989.
Meaning it’s not even as old as Indiana Jones, Ghost Busters or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Thanksgiving in the USA goes right back to around 1621, but the turkey pardon itself is not even as old as The Princess Bride and The Terminator. (80s movies are the best.)
A turkey was first presented to President Harry Truman in 1947, however no records mention a pardon. Indeed, there’s evidence that he actually ate it.
A president eating a turkey? Outrageous! That’s not what they’re for! Why wasn’t he impeached?
Eisenhower ate the birds presented to him as well.
Kennedy apparently spared a turkey on Nov 18, 1963, just four days before his assassination. The bird was wearing a sign that read, ‘Good Eatin’ Mr President’ and weighed fifty-five pounds, a size which apparently made the president uncomfortable.
This makes perfect sense, especially considering Kennedy’s motto was, ‘no fat chicks’.
The first president to officially pardon a turkey was Reagan in 1987, who at the time was being questioned over whether or not he would pardon Oliver North for has involvement in the Iran-Contra affair.
In order to distract everyone’s attention, he pardoned a turkey instead. It worked too. Nobody noticed that the bird was not Ollie North, proving again Reagan’s superior acting abilities, and his lesser known powers as an improv comedy genius.
In 1988 Reagan didn’t pardon a turkey, because that year, North had forgotten to organise a secret war.
Then in 1989 George Bush senior made it a regular thing.
For many years the pardoned turkeys were then sent to Frying Pan Park in Fairfax County, Virginia. Probably the best name for any park ever, especially if the turkey’s eventual resting place was a cemetery known ‘The Fire’.
Meaning the turkeys go straight from ‘Frying Pan’ and into ‘The Fire’. Puns are the best.
The turkeys selected for a presidential pardon are actually a special breed.
Eighty are randomly selected at birth from thousands, and trained to handle flash photography, loud noises and large crowds. Making them a Kardashian with wings.
This field of eighty is then reduced down to twenty, with the final two selected by White House staff. They’re renowned for their abilities to pick a turkey. Which explains the secret service.
Two turkeys are currently selected and pardoned each year, in case the first choice turkey becomes unavailable. This is not due to media commitments, or a career on Fox News, but a nice way of saying that one of them might die.
The turkeys up for a pardon fed on the same grain-heavy diet of fortified corn and soybeans as the turkeys raised for slaughter, as it increases their size.
With this diet comes many health problems, and the turkeys frequently die within a year of being pardoned, if they survive that long.
Which makes it less of a ‘pardon’ and more a refusal to give the bird the assisted benevolent suicide that it craves.
A number of US states have similar turkey-pardoning events, because they lack creativity and can’t think of anything more exciting to do.
Recent presidential speeches have mentioned that the tradition dates date to Truman and even Abraham Lincoln pardoning his son’s pet turkey, however there’s no evidence of either.
There is plenty of evidence, however, that Lincoln was an utter legend, so he might’ve done it.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian
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