Airborne bird fathers a table tale


In the canon of Wernowsky folklore, there is no shortage of unusual holiday stories.

The tale of my father and the Thanksgiving turkey predates my birth by several years, but it's repeated so often that I feel as though I've experienced the fateful night firsthand.

It's this Thanksgiving story that sets the gold standard in my family's various tales of holiday madness.

On the particular Thanksgiving eve in the mid-1970s, my Uncle Joe and Aunt Kathy came to stay at my parents' new home in Quincy, Ill. In preparation of the next day's meal, my mother seasoned the turkey and placed it in the refrigerator.

As the evening turned to night, the house guests retired to their bedroom.

My father was nowhere to be found. My mother finally decided to go to sleep.

In the early morning, my Uncle Joe said he heard a rustling in the kitchen. My mom? The dog? An early visit from Santa? A burglar?

Concerned, Uncle Joe, dressed only in his bedtime skivvies, inched his way down the stairs. Through the kitchen doorway, Joe noticed the stale fluorescent glow of the refrigerator light.

No mom. No dog. No Santa. No burglar.

It was my father.

There he stood, fresh from the tavern, skunk drunk and wobbling before an open refrigerator.

Uncle Joe was confused. He stood quietly on the staircase and observed.

Dad just stood there.

Joe's foot slipped.

The wooden stairs moaned beneath his weight. Startled, my dad turned. Their eyes met.

Dad said seven words.

This being a family newspaper and the holiday season, I will have to think of a family-friendly verb to act as place keeper in the now-notorious phrase my father uttered as he stood before an unwitting holiday bird.

"This turkey looks good enough to (tango)."

With that, my father grabbed the turkey and headed for the yard. A puzzled Uncle Joe followed cautiously to the front door.

Dad neared the road and with all his might, he tossed the seasoned bird into the middle of the street.

End over end, the slimy bird sailed.

Dad's form and range would be the envy of every Olympic shot-putter, if only they hurled uncooked holiday meats instead of heavy metal balls.

Dad didn't say a word. He returned to the house. To this day, Uncle Joe has no idea why that poor bird made its sad, sloppy flight.

Roused from her sleep, my livid mother retrieved the turkey from the road. She washed and scrubbed its dirty skin and returned it to the refrigerator.

Thankfully, the holiday was saved.

The next day, no one mentioned the turkey fiasco. As the family gathered for the holiday feast, Dad sat quietly at the table with a hangover from his tango with the Thanksgiving turkey.

Originally published Nov. 28, 2009 in the Pensacola News Journal