Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Free Range

Legend has it that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims and took place at Plymouth Plantation in 1621. Americans memorialize the Pilgrims’ deaths as sacrifices made on behalf of the nation, but they, the Pilgrims, could not have understood their deaths as such--the nation didn’t exist for another hundred-and-fifty years. Thus the values honored during Thanksgiving need not have been fully understood by the Pilgrims, those who sacrificed for the American nation. The living can, and do, speak for the dead, expressing for them their aspirations and desires.

Perhaps because the wild turkey is native to North America, roast turkey has graced the American table most commonly for Thanksgiving dinner, and has done so since before Abraham Lincoln nationalized the holiday in 1863. According to a recent statistic, 270 million turkeys were raised in the United States in 2006, representing roughly five billion pounds of turkey meat valued at around $8 billion. A ridiculous-looking creature, here where I live in Kearney, a polygamous male with four or five hens has spent the past few winters, beginning in early November, within the city limits, roaming through people’s yards, holding up in a wooded area near the baseball park. Because they are dwelling within the city limits, they cannot be hunted--pretty smart on their part. Becky and I have had them in our back yard on several occasions, scaring the daylights out of our outdoor-dwelling cats. We therefore consider those turkeys part of our neighbor family, but feel no guilt that one of their species will grace our table tomorrow for Thanksgiving dinner, to be celebrated with family and good friends.

Because it is the most common main dish, Thanksgiving is often colloquially called “turkey day.” In celebration of the turkey, and the bird in general (often seen as a figure of transcendence, and of resilience), I’ve compiled the following list of bird songs in honor of the North American turkey, so much a part of American identity.

Bird Songs (Bird Is The Word):
The Beatles - Blackbird
Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan - Tennessee Bird Walk
Pat Boone - When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano
Jimmy Buffett - Strange Bird
Bobby Day - Rockin’ Robin
“Little” Jimmy Dickens - May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose
The Grateful Dead - Bird Song
The Holy Modal Rounders - If You Want To Be A Bird
It’s A Beautiful Day - White Bird
B. B. King - Hummingbird
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Free Bird
Bob Marley - Three Little Birds
Anne Murray - Snowbird
Patti Page - Mockin’ Bird Hill
Carly Simon and James Taylor - Mockingbird
The Trashmen - Surfin’ Bird (Bird is the Word)
XTC - My Bird Performs

No comments: