Thanksgiving Turkey

by Phil Crossman from Vinalhaven, ME
Dec 21, 13

At 5AM on Thanksgiving morning I came downstairs to put the turkey in the oven. On the counter there was a note.  

“Sweetie Pie”, it began. Notes from my wife always begin with “Sweetie Pie”. It’s a softening agent. “Sweetie Pie. Rinse the turkey well, inside and out, with cold water, and pat dry. Carefully put the stuffing in the bird. Place it in the pan, breast side up. Rub it with olive oil and these herbs and put it in the oven at 350.”

I found the turkey in the refrigerator. At twenty-five pounds it more than filled the sink basin. I concluded right away that the bathtub would be a much easier place in which to ‘rinse well inside and out and dry thoroughly.’  

And so I put the turkey in the tub reflecting on how much easier this would have been if, when in the shower myself a few minutes earlier, I had simply washed us both.  

The tub was the perfect place and the massage showerhead brought clarity to ‘rinse well inside and out.’ Paper towel however, dissolving in pieces inside the bird, was not the thing with which to ‘dry thoroughly’. But a hand towel, the one I’d used earlier while shaving, worked perfectly.

Back in the kitchen, I focused on the squeaky clean bird. It had two holes. It occurred to me the small hole at the one end might be a continuation of the opposite larger hole; and wondered if I could expect the stuffing pushed in the one end to eventually squish from the other.  

If that was the case, I’d have to close up the small end and work from the larger orifice, into which I could more readily fit my fistfuls of stuffing.  

I turned off all the lights in the house. I stuck a flashlight in one end of the bird.  

No corresponding illumination could be seen at the other end.

To be sure, I checked the reverse. 


I stuffed both ends separately until the bird was full – so full that the little flap at the small end wouldn’t stay closed and the legs at the other wouldn’t stay together.  

I skewered the small end flap closed with a lobster pick.

A length of something that looked like tendon protruded from the end of each drumstick. They were unsightly and I set about removing them, but a knife wouldn’t do the job. Retrieving a pair of aviation snips from the cellar my eyes fell upon my cordless drill and the assortment of fasteners and there I perceived a means of keeping the bird’s legs together. I hastened back to the bird, made short work of the tendons with the snips, and screwed the troublesome legs together with a 3" deck screw.

Nestling the bird in the barely adequate roasting pan I covered it with olive oil. I rubbed in the herbs my wife had assembled and while admiring my handiwork I reviewed the instructions. ‘Breast side up’ leapt out at me. I turned to look more carefully at the bird.  

Now, there was a time when an invitation to place a thing, anything, breast side up would have been one to which I’d have responded flawlessly and with no small degree of confidence. Now I was confused. I held the bird’s tiny wings out to the left and right and tried to imagine it high stepping around in the barnyard.  

I had to get the thing out of the pan. I knew there was at least as good a chance I had installed it breast side down as breast side up, and I knew I needed to get this right. The prospect of my wife opening the oven door and wondering aloud if I could not do anything right, perhaps even with a reference to breasts, perhaps with others by then in attendance, loomed large. 

Twenty-five pounds is a lot to lift, let alone to hold aloft by a pair of tiny, well-oiled wings. Were it not for the rough texture of the applied herbs I’d have had no purchase at all. Held at arm’s length the legs, screwed together and sticking straight out, offered no clue as to which direction was up. I stuck two shish kabob skewers in as imaginary turkey legs. Holding on hard to the slippery wings I struggled to hold the big bird aloft while trying to imagine it strutting about the barnyard un-hobbled, breasts correctly aligned, on its stainless steel prostheses.  

Basil and oregano are ineffective aggregates. I was relying on the rosemary and thyme to keep the bird in my grasp and it worked well for a few seconds. 

When the turkey hit the floor it landed on its new feet next to the cat, who was unimpressed, such acrobatics being its second nature.  

The stainless steel legs buckled as the skewers punctured the linoleum, the points at which each bend occurred becoming, effectively, knees. I retained a measure of control and, managing to keep it from falling over, was able to ascertain that the bird was, in fact upside down, that the position in which I had installed the bird in the pan had, indeed, been breast side up. I was right all along, a familiar circumstance.

My wife came down a little later. She eyed the skewers still sticking out of the linoleum, across which had spread a significant little oil slick. These were to be my visual aids as I delivered a mild rebuke concerning the need, henceforth, for more thorough instructions. The cordless drill and snips were on the counter and I was graciously preparing to make her a gift of these after having explained their culinary usefulness and after offering other helpful hints intended to improve her performance and efficiency in the kitchen. 

Her suggestion that I return my tools to the cellar and perhaps stay there with them for a while was not at all in the spirit of Thanksgiving.