The hard work before the holiday

The Examiner

Almost 20 years ago, I asked my mom to share what Thanksgiving was like on her father’s farm. When I asked mom where Grandpa purchased their turkey, she smiled.

For me, purchasing a Thanksgiving turkey is a fairly easy process. Early in the morning, I hop in the car, drive to the store, grab a frozen turkey, the trimmings, the pumpkin, the whipping cream, everything needed, and drive home.

Diane Mack

After arriving at home, I carry the bird to the freezer. The End.

I have a car, a house, a freezer and a family that enjoys Thanksgiving dinner.

However, listening to mom’s turkey story made me sad, and a little wheezy.

I hadn’t known that my grandfather raised turkeys.

I try not to think beyond the frozen bird in the meat department. But turkeys have to come from somewhere.

Mom told me that their family raised turkeys and sold them. That was how they paid their bills.

Mom recalled one particular Thanksgiving when they had over 100 turkeys to sell. Each had to be butchered and kept cold until delivery. Mom said they didn’t have a freezer, so they had to buy enough ice to keep the birds cold.

Mom went on to explain the butchering process beginning with part one. The turkeys had to lose their heads. That’s a bad one.

Following that, the turkeys were then boiled and de-feathered before they were brought into the house for part two.

Mom mentioned that grandpa and her brothers did all the outside turkey work. After the outside stuff was done, the turkeys were brought indoors, to her and her sister. Mom and her sister cleaned the “insides,” which meant removing the body parts, washing and cleaning the cavity, and then placing the important parts back inside the turkey.

Boy and I complain about pre-Thanksgiving traffic.

Mom went on. “After they were washed and repackaged, we buried the turkeys in huge tubs with ice.” Mom said it was freezing in their house. They had no heater, just a potbelly stove in the kitchen.

Unfortunately, mom and her sister weren’t in the kitchen working. They were in an adjoining enclosed porch where the pump, trough and tubs were located.

Mom stated, “We usually prepared 30 turkeys a day. Once the turkeys were cleaned and wrapped in brown paper, we delivered them the same evening.”

I asked her if they sold the turkeys door to door. She laughed and said, “We took orders at market the month before.”

In the center of town was a large farmers market. The market was built in 1888.

Once a week, Grandpa and family would drive to market, where they would sell fruits, vegetables, eggs and meat. A month or so before Thanksgiving, they’d take turkey orders.

Three days before Thanksgiving, they’d prepare and deliver the turkeys.

Thirty turkeys a day is a lot of work and a lot of turkeys.

“People liked buying our turkeys because they were prepared right and they were clean.”

I asked mom what they charged per turkey.

“About 20 cents a pound,” she said. So, if the turkey weighed 20 pounds, they’d collect $4 Can you imagine?

They’d work and deliver turkeys all over the county. After all was said and done, they’d collect about $300 before expenses.

When I asked Mom how they did it, she answered. “It’s called survival. We worked hard, really hard.”

This Thanksgiving when I sit down to have turkey and dressing, I’ll think of the farm, 100 turkeys, hard work, my mom, and grandpa.

And I will thank Heavenly Father for blessing our family, with a most extraordinary mom.

Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County's Family Week Foundation. Email her at