Herding Turkeys

In 1946, ranchers were hiring herders to watch their turkeys — not a difficult job, but it required them to stay alert to two big problems

Turkey farm

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One hazard of herding is the stampede. A turkey stampede sounds funny, but is no joke. As with steers, a turkey stampede is a blind rush from danger. What danger? Who knows? Turkeys spook easiest on moonlit nights. All the herder can safely do is lie still and cover up. Two thousand birds, each a bundle of 10 or 20 scared pounds, flying blind in the dark, can knock down almost anything they hit if it isn’t tied. Or even that. One farm tried enclosing the roosting place in woven wire. A stampeding flock hit the wire so hard that they pulled out all the staples.

Skunks are perhaps the worst predators. Once a skunk was found in the poultry house of turkey breeder Marvin Sumner. Marvin knew he couldn’t shoot it there without having the place smelling for years. His grandfather once told Marvin that if you pick up a skunk by the tail, he can’t spray. Using this knowledge, Marvin made a dive and grabbed the skunk’s tail … and instantly learned more than his grandfather knew about skunks.

—“Turkeys Are Dopes” by Neil M. Clark, November 9, 1946

First page of the article "Turkeys Are Dopes"
Read “Turkeys Are Dopes” by Neil M. Clark from the November 9, 1946, issue of the Post.

This article is featured in the November/December 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. I like your name of the article better than ‘Turkeys are Dopes’ in 1946. Definitely less degrading even if it is true. Poor Marvin learned the hard way his grandfather’s advice (at least on skunks) was really wrong. Eeew, that is so gross!


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