We all know about the Old West cattle drives,
but did you ever hear of a turkey drive?
If you raised turkeys during the early nineteenth century and wanted to get them to market in time for Thanksgiving or Christmas, there was only one way to do it; you had to walk them.
Before refrigerator boxcars and trucks, drovers herded turkeys thousands of miles to markets or railheads. They crossed mountains, plains and deserts. In 1863 Horace Greenley walked five hundred turkeys from Iowa to Colorado, a trek of six hundred miles. His wagon was packed with corn and drawn by six horses and mules, but his turkeys fattened up by devouring grasshoppers along the way.
A breeding herd was once driven from New Mexico Territory to California. One can only imagine the condition of the drover when, a year later, he finally reached his destination.
Some farmers hired boy drovers to help keep the feathered hikers in line; others depended on dogs.
Turkeys are temperamental birds, but they are fast walkers. With no distractions and the wind behind them (not to mention luck) they can travel twenty-five miles a day. They also have strange habits. One early drover complained that his turkeys sometimes decided to bed down at three in the afternoon and nothing or no one could change their minds.
Turkeys liked to roost in trees, but roofs were favored, too, sometimes with disastrous results. When a flock traveling from Vermont to Boston roosted on a schoolhouse, the roof caved in and the late-working schoolmaster barely escaped with his life. Another flock flew onto the roof of a toll bridge and the drover’s profits went toward replacing the roof.
As far as stampedes went, cattle had nothing on turkeys. A rifle shot, howling coyote or flutter of paper could put drumsticks on the run. One poor drover herding his rafter of turkeys through town had to give chase when a streetlight turned on.
Turkey merchants have it easy today in comparison and so, for that matter, do we. Now we can enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner without having to worry about the roof caving in.
For a chance to win a hundred dollar Amazon or B&N gift card from my publisher, preorder my new book Waiting For Morning and forward the receipt to email@example.com. That’s all there is to it. Good luck!
RT Review: 4 Stars
“Waiting For Morning is a sweet, enduring historical romance with characters who are charming and witty. Readers will delight in how Brownley skillfully sketches an evocative picture of the 1890s Colorado and Arizona Territory”
If Molly Hatfield’s purple attire doesn’t blind you, her dazzling smile will. She doesn’t just sing to the cattle, she puts on a whole show.
If only she wasn’t so stubborn about her brother’s care. Or so distrustful of a certain handsome doctor…
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No turkeys, please!