Former Vice President John Nance Garner famously described the vice presidency as “not worth a bucket of warm piss.” If Garner thought his vice presidency was bad, he should have tried being vice turkey.
Every year, a pardoned turkey-select is chosen at birth for official presidential pardoning at the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. But did you know that a vice turkey also is chosen? He is put through the same rigorous training, preparing him for the Thanksgiving noise, lights and crowds if the pardoned turkey-select should die before the big day. But the vice turkey likely will never get to experience his 15 minutes of fame. And adding insult to injury, most Americans don’t even know the vice turkey exists, waiting in the wings to serve his country.
The vice turkey is an American public servant, but is he given a hero’s welcome? I should say not. It’s great to be the wingman and all, but no one knew the name of that guy who helped Tom Cruise get the chick in “Top Gun” until he showed up as Dr. Greene on “ER.” And the vice turkey isn’t likely to get a resurgence of his career starring across George Clooney any time soon. Even as the vice turkey’s mother brags about her son at the feather salon and feeding station, the other hens just stick their beaks up at her and cluck insults behind her back. What kind of turkey wants to be vice turkey when he grows up anyhow? At least being sold to Butterball is respectable!
As Thanksgiving grows near, the vice turkey grows weary of his life and title. It’s hard to hold up that patriotic red, white and blue head when you’re ignored by the country you love. Sure, the health insurance benefits are good, but the hours are fowl. And why should he have to endure this humiliation and overstimulation? He isn’t going to be the one who gets to stand in front of adoring crowds. The president won’t tickle his wattle.
The vice turkey contemplates telling the job to get stuffed. He’s seen “Chicken Run.” He knows how to fly the coop. Oh, yes, he considers running to Canada to become a draft dodger. But the vice turkey is a turkey of great moral character, and year after year, he decides to serve his country, either in the shadows or next to the cranberry sauce.
The day of the actual pardoning is anxiety-inducing for the vice turkey. There is both the hope and fear he will be called to the stage, and of course, there’s the risk he will be eaten. History shows that the vice turkey will leave Washington without being brined, baked or fried, but unlike the fate of the pardoned turkey, there is simply no guarantee. A 40-pound turkey has enough heart problems as is! With the added stress, it’s a wonder the vice turkey doesn’t kick the bucket (filled with the proverbial warm piss) right on the spot.
After Thanksgiving, the pardoned turkey and, feathers crossed, the vice turkey retire together to live out the rest of their days. But the belittling job of the vice turkey never is done. Whether the turkeys are sent to Disney to act as honorary grand marshal in the Thanksgiving Day parade or Mount Vernon to be part of the tour, it is still the pardoned turkey that gets to gobble up all the attention.
This year, we began to rectify the decades of damage done to the vice turkey, by not having the official title bestowed upon him until the day before the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. The two selected turkeys were given the same upbringing and respect until a Facebook competition to collect the highest number of “likes” determined their fate. Cobbler may have gotten the honor of becoming the 2012 pardoned turkey, but Gobbler still got his 15 minutes of fame. It may be a paltry consolation for the wronged poultry, but it’s a start. And I believe we addressed this issue just in the nick of time. God forbid there be a repeat of Turkey-gate 2008, when President Bush had to pardon the vice turkey after the pardoned turkey-select fell mysteriously ill from food poisoning the night before.
If you ask me, the vice turkey did it.