Having a friend for dinner

November 20, 2001 11:00 pm
The Cook family of Keating has a decision to make tomorrow. Will Thanksgiving the turkey, whos become more like a family pet than a potential meal, actually go under the hatchet? Here Cathy Cook and Thanksgiving play in the back yard.   (Baker City Herald photograph by Mike Ferguson).
The Cook family of Keating has a decision to make tomorrow. Will Thanksgiving the turkey, whos become more like a family pet than a potential meal, actually go under the hatchet? Here Cathy Cook and Thanksgiving play in the back yard. (Baker City Herald photograph by Mike Ferguson).

By MIKE FERGUSON

Of the Baker City Herald

KEATING Each year the president pardons a turkey on the White House lawn. With a stroke of his ceremonial pen Monday, President Bush granted a reprieve to the first turkey of his administration.

Fourteen-year-old Cody Cook knows just how the president feels. For the past few weeks, shes considered granting a reprieve of her own, and its one some members of her family say they can live with.

In fact, the Cook family has three store-bought turkeys thawing in the refrigerator just in case.

Thanksgiving, a turkey Cody and her mother, Cathy, have raised at the Cooks farm since spring, has, as her name indicates, been an intended guest on a platter at the Cook family Thanksgiving table.

Its just that the gentle bird, whos been known to enter the house when the back doors open looking for human companionship, has ingratiated herself into the Cook family.

Couple the birds friendly behavior with the fact that Cody showed her at both the Baker County and Halfway fairs garnering the grand champion award in Halfway and it begs the question: can a family eat what has become a pet?

Its a lot easier to eat a pig, Cody says as she holds her 25-pound bird. I dont get attached to them, but I like birds a lot. Ill enjoy the meat, but things will be pretty dull without her.

But (serving as a holiday main dish is) why we raised them, Cathy Cook says, referring to the seven birds the family purchased this spring. Five died young; a sixth, named, predictably, Christmas, drowned in a pond several weeks ago.

Thats the process, Cathy said. Thats what agriculture is.

Cody has honed her poultry skills with the Lower Powder Livestock 4-H Club in Keating. She credits the club not only with helping her farm and ranch skills, but developing leadership and public speaking abilities in her as well.

The last turkey

Thanksgiving, a Great White, is all that remains from Codys original flock, along with a few geese and ducks. That fact makes tomorrows decision even more difficult, she said.

In fact, Cody is convinced that Thanksgiving believes shes a duck.

She hangs out with them, walks and runs like they do, and does stuff with them, she said.

Codys brother, Travis, says his vision of the holiday meal features the bird as a centerpiece. Hes offered to off the bird himself, noting that turkeys are so dumb theyve been known to eat lugnuts as farmers changed their flat tires.

Codys father, Michael, has raised and then eaten turkeys since childhood, so a family vote would probably go against the bird, Cody said.

Shes more than a pet, but were probably going to eat her anyway, Cody says a little wistfully.

That comment draws out a maternal instinct from Cathy.

Ill probably have a harder time with this than she will, Cathy said.