Cuero’s Turkey Trot


For Thanksgiving, the New York Times has reported an article about how a turkey is the high school mascot in Cuero, Texas—the very small town in Texas that my family on my father’s side is from. The Times recounts that “the bird powered Cuero’s economy” a century ago, and alludes to, but doesn’t quite describe, the Turkey Trot, an annual parade of turkeys through town, which took place every year starting in 1912.

I attended in 1972. In the photo above, I’m the barefoot boy on the right in bellbottoms and a striped shirt; my sister, with voluminous blond curls, is standing beside me. Apparently 1972 was the Turkey Trot’s last year. A great-aunt of mine wrote the script for a pageant that accompanied the parade. Family legend has it that I was offered a role but declined, frightened by the idea of appearing on stage in front of strangers.

This is a photo of the Turkey Trot that I scanned from the family archive not long ago. I’m not sure when it was taken—maybe the 1920s or 1930s? Note the people watching from on top of the awnings over the Main Street shops, as turkeys swan past.

The photo above, with a “Fox Co.” border, is labeled “1934 Turkey Trot” on the back. The man in a suit on the far right is my great-grandfather. Beside him are Texas’s attorney general at the time, a woman identified as Florence Ellis, and the local congressman.

And here’s the same great-grandfather (in top hat), four decades later, in 1972, when he was the parade marshall.

Grandfather and skeleton

Grandfather in medical school

Years ago, when the worldwide web was new, I had a tiny little non-blog at Columbia, and on it I posted a scan of this photo of my grandfather. I’d made the scan in the school’s computer lab; scanning machines were then exciting and new, and it felt vaguely like theft of technology for me to use it for such a merely personal purpose. Reading through some old family letters this morning, I thought of the photo again, and decided I’d make a new scan, on our home scanner, whose technology is probably fourteen generations better than the machine I used twenty years ago. My guess is that the photo itself was taken in the 1930s, but I’m not sure.

The E. T.

Installment #2 of a set of children's poems I wrote a dozen years ago.

The E. T.

Grandmother Gladys and Grandson Todd
Seemed normal in every way:
She knitted him mittens and pompom hats,
And he normally threw them away.

BUT . . .

When Todd and his Granny went down to swim
At the beach, when the tide was low,
Todd saw on his grandmother's barefoot feet
An extraterrestrial toe!

Her toe number two made a sharp left turn
Where a regular toe wouldn't swerve,
And her toenail was crinkled and squiggly and thin
Like the side of a shell with a curve.

"Is my grandmother human?" Todd asked himself.
The footprints she left in the sand
Might be signals to orbiting ships—who knew
What the alien forces had planned?

"What if my grandmother turns out to be
Pod unit L-52?
What if the toe is in charge of her body,
And she's just the puppet it grew?"

So as not to alarm either her or her toe,
Todd asked in an offhand way,
"How come your toe is uniquely shaped?
Or aren’t you allowed to say?"

Granny explained to him: "That's the way
Our family's toes are grown.
Your great-uncle Ira's, your father's, your aunt's—
Haven't you noticed your own?"

Since Grandmother Gladys was already wet,
Todd took off his shoes to swim.
And there was an extraterrestrial toe—
With an alien toenail—on him!