Turkey

Yet another journal entry from training.

Yesterday I killed a turkey. I decided that if i wanted to eat meat I needed to know what it felt like to kill. There was something about the 'out of site, out of mind idea' with meat that just didn’t seem right.

I was in French class at a fellow PCT's house. We had classes in an outdoor circular piot (not sure the exact spelling. A piot is a round structure, sometimes with a thatched roof, other times tin, that can be found in most Togolese yards.) During the middle of class i watched as my friends host mother walked past our class carrying a fairly large turkey by its feat, its multicolored head swinging back and forth. My friend said, "Oh no! She's going to kill it!" Not wanting to pass up an opportunity for a new experience, I jumped off the wooden benches we were sitting on, and to the surprise of my teacher, ran out of class. I ran over to the clearing in the shade under a mango tree where the condemned turkey sat trapped in the firm hands of this experienced Togolese killer and asked if i could do the dead. My friends host mother, draped in her beautifully patterned panya clothes, looked up at me, smiled and said, "Why not." The two girls in my class stood up in the piot, hugged each other, and watched with faces of terror while I was handed a small black handled knife. I was a bit taken aback. When i first thought of killing a turkey I had the image in my head of a chopping block, a well sharpened hatchet and a final swift stroke of death. I paused for a minute second-guessing what i was about to do. But something gave way and I allowed her to show me how to step on its feet and wings, hold its throat, and with a final back and forth motion, how to cut its neck. I took the very much alive animal in my hands, put my left foot onto its two large wings, my right foot onto its sharply clawed feet and took its head in my hand. I looked up one last time at the smiling gentle hearted grandmother in front of me. With a final nod from her my gaze fell to my victim. I put the knife to its throat and cut.

It was not the swift chop of death that I had hoped. Instead the well used knife took a couple back and forth strokes to break through the skin.

I finally knew that I had succeeded when the dark red of blood began to pour from its neck, staining the while bowl below and my formally clean hands. I finally gave charge over the freshly killed animal to the people who were going to do the hard job of plucking, cleaning, and cooking. My job was done.

I walked back to my two friends with a dazed look on my face and a weird feeling in my belly. One of the girls walked over and handed a tissue to me. At first i didn't realize why she had done that. I then looked down at my blood-spattered right hand and understood. I cleaned the warm blood from my hands and sat down in our outdoor classroom to continue the lesson.

ps. Tomorrow is my birthday!

21 comments:

Jamie and Steve said...

Happy Birthday Aaron!
We miss you tons but love "catching up" with your stories (they make me miss South Africa so much!). Lots of news here- we'll write soon and include the letters with your present- other than books is there anything you want/need?
Hello from David of the Ballroom Dance Co- we took argentine with him this summer at Ballys!

Much love

Jamie (and Steve)

Gary said...

Well told story. Thank you. My bride and I were captivated. She noted that you didn't come out and say how you felt, exactly, about doing that, but your story conveyed it tacitly, beautifully.

Gary said...

Hi son! Your proud mother reads your stories, laughs and weeps, and feels so good about the life you're leading right now. We're so anxious to see you again and get to know the African Aaron. We're also very anxious to visit you. Hopefully soon.

And darn, you're a good writer, just like your dad, and your brother, and your sister. Sigh. I guess I'll just have to be happy being the editor in the family. Love you! Mom

leenz said...

wow aaron (or aarbear as my brother so fondly remembers you as).. i have to tell you, i'm in awe of your entries.. i always thought you were a great writer (poor speller, but ya know.. :) but reading your postings is a different extent all together.. it sounds like you're having an amazing time! remember how we used to say that traveling and experiencing new cultures is in our blood? well it's obvious :)

--leena

Carolyn said...

Dear Aaron,

I'm carolyn Spangler, your mother's cousin from Minnesota and Elaine's
sister. I have very much enjoyed reading your journal. I enjoy your honesty in your story telling, and of course your vivid and picturesque descriptions of the life style you lead these days. Your "Turkey killing" story was gruesome, and more than I wanted to know, but hey, that's life!
My daughter, Sarah, was in the Peace Corps, Latvia, so I'm comparing experiences, and yours seems more rural. She taught English.
By the way, what is does IT mean?

I'll keep reading and sending you notes. Carolyn

John Schalow said...

Happy Birthday Aaron!! Too bad you never got to kill a rabbit with Grandma Strohschein. Her fried rabbit was out of this world!! I must say, fowls are so cooperative at the point of killing them. Rabbits can really kick and scream if you aren't swift at breaking their neck and cutting their throat (the preferred method). Happy meat eating! Cousin John (who hates killing but loves eating meat)

jack said...

Hi Aaron, I read your entire weblog and I am very impressed. I am writing now to ask you whether you have a world band radio with solar cell battery, which is what we meant to get you as a going away gift. Now it will be a belated birthday present.

Yours, Jack and Carolyn

Radigan Neuhalfen said...

It is good to sharpen the knife first.

Just yesterday, I viewed the Mexican-conceived but wide-ranging film "Babel." There's a scene in which Gael Garcia Bernal (Che Guevara and your mama, too) wrings the head off a chicken before the stares of the middle-class gabacho kids.

platinum blonde said...

My friend Sara, a peace corps volunteer in Benin, has talked about this with chicken's briefly. You told the story well. Indeed, a sharp knife would be best. How do you feel about it now that you did it?

william wray said...

If only you had stood on you cats feet when castrating him, maybe you wouldn't have gotten chewed up. I kid, good story. All I've killed are rats not properly killed in traps, fish and insects. It was enough to know I wouldn't volunteer to kill dinner to see what it felt like, but think I'd do it if necessary.

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