In the 1980s we lived beside a creek in rural Northern California. The property had been part of a Spanish land grant but was now small farms and open rolling hills. For my daughter's 13th birthday we planned an overnight with her friends. It was June and the weather was warm and sunny, so a delicious meal and a bonfire on the beach by the creek would be perfect. My mother bought us a turkey at the local supermarket in her town, about 35 miles from where we lived. We picked up the turkey and other supplies and started for home.
Almost immediately we smelled something awful wafting from the back of the car. The turkey was rotten! We went to the store and bought another turkey right away. But what to do with the ripe turkey?
My then-husband decided the turkey would make a great science experiment. He took it to a fallen log that crossed over the creek and hung it naked on a protruding branch. He was curious how long it would take for a raccoon, skunk, fox or bobcat to carry it off. With luck, a mountain lion might come by.
Instead, early the next morning our landlord and a surveyor passed the log with the turkey dangling from it. We chuckled, wondering what they made of it. However, they just waved as they passed our cabin and went on by.
About three days later our landlord's wife and I stopped to chat. At one point she said, "Oh, and I explained to Roger all about the turkey." Fascinated, I asked, "What exactly did you tell him?"
"Well, he came home and mentioned that he had seen a turkey down by the creek. I said, "Oh, the neighbors have all kinds of birds. It probably just got loose. He said, 'No, Jo, this turkey is dead, plucked and hanging from a log over the creek.'
"So I told him, ' Oh, Roger, you know Patricia's a gourmet cook. It must be a unique method for marinating the turkey. I'm sure it will be delicious!'"
Hmmmm, maybe, but not for us.
Back to the science experiment, we heard numerous loud fights down at the creek as the animals fought fiercely over the turkey, but they couldn't dislodge it from the log. It took a week for some critter to drag the now very strong smelling turkey from its perch and into the woods. Although we don't know which family had a true thanks giving meal for their hard work, it wasn't ours.
As for the birthday party? A great success.