Pardoned Poultry

The inspiring story of Thanksgiving forgiveness

Matthew Wilcox, Staff Reporter

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Every Thanksgiving since 1963, the president of the United States has pardoned one lucky holiday turkey in an effort to keep a longstanding American tradition going. e custom was started officially by John F. Kennedy, who said “Let’s keep him going” when faced with a turkey that otherwise would have been on his dinner table. Those redeeming words have determined the fate of turkeys ever since.

Turkey pardons may not affect humans in any large way, this tradition offers a second chance for poultry that otherwise would be sentenced to a savory end. The Kolus managed to get an interview with Gary*, a turkey pardoned by the former Commander in Chief George W. Bush.

At the beginning of 2006, Gary’s life didn’t look too great. “I was caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. I did some awful things, and they were finally starting to catch up to me,” he told us. “I lost all hope that I would be saved. I didn’t know what I was going to do, and with Thanksgiving coming around the corner, well, I was on death row.” Gary was sentenced in early May for what he described as “arson, running a red light or two, and a little bit of high treason.” He was about to pay the ultimate price for what he had done: Gary was about to be killed, stuffed, and eaten for his crimes against America.

“I was scared. I knew there was no way out of it,” Gary recalled. “But then, all of a sudden, my life changed. Just a mere three days before my death date, George Bush pardoned me. I don’t know why he did it, but I am forever grateful for my second chance at life.” Gary, along with another turkey sentenced for war crimes, was acquired of all charges and sent to live at the Rutherford B. Hayes Farm for Gobbling Ex-Cons, where he was able to receive rest and rehabilitation while being surrounded by an all-you-can-eat corn kernel buffet, acres upon acres of forest where they can roam free, and a spa. “It’s great. They’re very generous. We even have free dental care, which is kind of weird because we don’t have teeth, but it’s nice of them to provide it,” said Gary.

“I’m a changed bird. I’ve started doing community service now. I’m back in touch with my family,” said Gary, teary-eyed. He now spends most of his time doing work for the charity he organized, which donates money to victims of chicken-on-turkey violence.

In 1989, George H. W. Bush said “Reprieve, keep him going, or pardon: it’s all the same for the turkey as long as he doesn’t end up on the president’s holiday table.” Gary couldn’t disagree more. “If I had just been ‘kept going,’ I wouldn’t have changed. I would still have been the turkey I was before. But getting that second chance from Bush was life-changing,” declared Gary. Gary still resides happily at the Rutherford B. Hayes Farm in Mobile, Alabama, but his good influence and cheerful attitude can be seen all throughout the United States.

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Pardoned Poultry