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And just like that...

... the tom turkeys are in the freezer.  Soon they'll be on their way to our customers' houses, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Fall is a bittersweet time for me.  It's harvest season, and it's the time of year when a lot of very hard work starts coming to fruition, in the form of rave reviews and delicious meals.  It's also the time of year when, bit by bit, I have to say goodbye to the animals we've spent so much time raising.

In walking through the turkeys this cold, clear morning, I realized that we'd processed the last of the toms with the last group of turkeys we did.  No more beautiful displays when I let them out of their house in the morning.  No more giggles when I watch one of them in full strut, with his would-be girlfriends giving him the brushoff.  They are so stately, and I enjoy every minute I spend with these guys.

The toms start strutting when they're about three days old.  Not kidding.  There is nothing more adorable than watching a tiny baby turkey poult strut... because someday he's going to be a big guy.  Just watch.

Now it's just down to the girls, and they bring their own joy.  The hen turkeys are just lovely, with rounded bodies and quiet ways, sparkling clean feathers and bright eyes.  Finally, after a lifetime of "sharing" with the boys, they don't have to wait in line for a drink of water.  They can crowd up as close to me as they want, and use their beaks to figure out if those dangly things on my coat are as tasty as they look (hint: they aren't).

These hen turkeys will be the stars of the show for forty families' Thanksgiving celebrations... the fresh turkeys that our customers line up to bring home. But we don't talk about those things around them.  For them, every day is another opportunity to play in the sunshine, to stretch their wings, to run across the field when I show up, crowding around me for a chance to peck at my clothes.

When you're a turkey, your life options really aren't all that great.  Millions of their compatriots live and die in crowded houses, never seeing the sky or feeling the wind ruffle their feathers.  I'm happy that I'm able, for my few at least, to provide a good life, and a purpose that gives joy and earns respect.