We were sitting on the porch rocking lazily and watching the little ones playing joyfully in the sand. There were piglets, chicks, kittens, and poults everywhere. Robie and Woodrow, our neighbors raised them to sell. It was a sweltering, muggy summer afternoon, the kind where you want to just sit and watch life as it unfolds. We lived next to Robie and Woodrow for four years while we served our first parish.
Suddenly this apparition emerged from behind the barn. It was obviously a bird, the feet were a dead giveaway, but what stood on those feet was a different matter all together. I have never seen a more pathetic looking creature in my life. Its head was drooping, its wings were dragging on the ground and its feathers were stuck out in all directions.
With a cry of alarm, Robie shouted at Woodow, “Woodrow, what’s wrong with my turkey”? The apparition was her prized tom turkey, the father to all the poults (baby turkeys) running around the yard.
“Umm, he got caught in the electric fence,” Woodrow replied in his slow southern drawl.
Woodrow went promptly about the business of corralling that pathetic creature. It wasn’t a pretty sight since God put every last bit of Woodrow’s goodness in the inside without even a dab left over for the façade. Woodrow stood about 6’6” tall, his arms reached from his shoulders down to just below his knees. He wore size 17 shoes and his pants hung down to slightly above his ankles. His lower lip protruded about an inch beyond his upper one and his false teeth clattered with every word he attempted to speak. When Woodrow asked Robie’s father if he could marry her, the answer was, Ya’ll are old enough and ugly enough to do whatever the hell you please.” I want to reiterate that their beauty, missing on the outside, was jam packed on the inside. They both were kind hearted, gracious, lovely people.
Anyway, Woodrow took off after the turkey; each time he got close the old tom would release a burst of energy and scoot between his legs. Poor Woodrow was about as graceful as a hippopotamus trying to walk on two legs. Finally, human kind prevailed over a so-called lesser species. Woodrow was exhausted and the turkey appeared dead. If you know anything about tom turkeys you know that they are adverse to being cuddled, but this one was absolutely flaccid. His head hung to the side and I could barely see his little red tongue hanging out of his mouth. Uh oh, I thought, no turkeys for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year.
Woodrow gently handed the turkey to Robie with a downcast look of sorrow and went into the kitchen to fetch the liniment and spoon. When he came out, I was appalled. What Robie had called a spoon must have held half a cupful and the Wilsons Red liniment was in a 12 oz bottle, was somewhere between red and orange, and thick as molasses in January. The turkey had not so much as twitched.
Robie laid the turkey in her lap, grabbed it by the head, pried open its mouth. While she prepared the turkey, Woodrow had poured half the bottle of liniment into the spoon. The air reeked with the smell of camphor, alcohol, capsicum, and oil of wintergreen. Large letters clearly said, “Not to be taken internal, FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY”. Robie took the spoon from Woodrow and poured every drop of that witches brew down the turkey’s gullet.
As the last drop dripped of the edge of the spoon, the turkey’s eyes popped open and he started to shudder. Robie dropped him to the ground where he lay for a moment like the boneless turkey they sell in the store. Then the explosion happened. Tom turkey was back. He jumped to his feet, every feather stood STRAIGHT OUT and he started to dance. If you have never seen a turkey dance, you have missed a sight. He stomped from one foot to the other and began to flair his wings, first the right one then the left. He cranked his head up straight and then extended it back over his neck; it was a sight to behold. Old Tom was on a mission and he was determined to impregnate anything that moved. He made his first pass at a rooster that quickly rebuffed his advances, then on to the old hound dog lying under the porch. Around the yard he went, dancing for one critter then another but none showed any interest until a hen turkey came out of the barn to see what the commotion was about. Old Tom and that hen slipped back into the barn and there was a bumper crop of turkeys for Thanksgivings and Christmases ever after.
Once when I was sick with the flu, Robie showed up at the parsonage door with her bottle and spoon intending to heal her preacher. Thankfully, my dear wife intervened and explained that I couldn’t take the liniment because it might interfere with my other medications. The truth is that she saw what happened with Old Tom and we had agreed that two children were quite enough for our family. I have heard friends talk about the little blue pill and how expensive it is. I think should the need arise for me, I’ll just get a bottle of Wilson red liniment.
Editor’s note: The product Jack refers to in this story is no longer marketing, but we did find a similar product marketed by J. R. Watkins Naturals and the photo used is from their web site.