The Rambler 05/12/2003
Did you hear the one about the turkey?
WHEN I was a cub (before the war!) I soon learnt from the example of older lads that if one mimicked the "gobble" of a turkey, one could keep all the birds at it indefinitely.
When the farmyard contained a flock of 30 or 40 birds, the majority cocks, mature and well fed, ready for the Christmas market, it was great crack keeping them all agitated and gobbling like mad. "Great" that was till Mum or Dad homed in and chivvied us. "It takes the flesh off them" we were admonished sternly.
We practised the same devilment when we got behind a farmer who had a load of turkey in "the boot" of his flat horse drawn van, en route to Lisburn market. A gang of "scholars" going to school soon had the birds "at it". At least till the man aboard lashed at out ear with his whip!
Modern "scholars", who are "bussed" to and from school nowadays, and spending their leisure with computers, games etc., never hear the gobble of a turkey. "Turkey" to them is just a morsel of packaged cooked meat, not nearly as tasty as a pizza!
I was reminded of those boyhood gobble sessions by a piece that I read this week in a paper. Turkey farmers in Britain are being sent music CD's to help them fatten stock! They have antidotal evidence that playing music to turkeys has a beneficial, calming effect.
The NFU is experimenting, after consulting experts on animal behaviour, to find out which kinds of music calm birds most. Scores of different CD's have been issued to turkey farmer s for testing.
Seemingly, it has been discovered that agitation or fright takes the flesh off birds! I could have told them that in my school days. It was drummed into us early. Modern science has found that stressed birds are also more prone to disease.
Now that tempers are riz following the election, there are some times which might not go down, well with, say North Antrim turkey breeders? West Belfast doesn't have turkey farms so the same risk does not arise there!
Some of the lullabies popular on the Isle of Skye (boat songs) would be my preference, or the local favourite The Castle of Dromore.
"Rock-a bye baby" comes to mind. Turkeys have a wild streak and much prefer to roost on tree tops than in coops. We had a heck of a job getting poles long enough to dislodge them at dusk, as a safeguard against foxes. In that context, rock on the tree top come to mind. But no doubt a whole repertoire will soon be available on line.
We brought paraffin fuelled "Tilly" lamps in to hen coops at one time, to give laying hens a longer day, and hopefully more production. That was about 70 years ago. But we never got round to amusing the turkey. They might have roosted on the gramophone.