WKRP in reality ‘Barbaric’ tradition of throwing live turkeys from planes continues in the Ozarks

We were going to do Canadian Thanksgiving in Australia, but too much hockey (the ice kind, including world women’s hockey day, which garnered international attention for Brisbane – that’s Sorenne at the front with the candy-cane stick, and Amy behind her) and the lack of turkeys at this time of year, meant a postponement until the end of November (we’re American too, eh?).

womens-hockeyBut it didn’t stop the people at the annual Turkey Trot Festival in Yellville, Ark., from throwing a live turkey from a moving airplane 500 feet above the ground on Saturday.

If history is any guide, one of three things will happen next.

Option 1: The bird drops like a rock and dies on impact.

Option 2: The animal awkwardly flutters to the ground, where it’ll be mobbed by excited townspeople who jostle for control of the frightened animal before it’s slaughtered.

Option 3: The bird catches a stiff, serendipitous breeze and glides into the sunset to freedom.

Anywhere else, you might call it animal cruelty, or maybe the “annual turkey sky death lottery.”

In Yellville (pop. 1,204), they call the turkey drop “an Ozark Mountain tradition” — one that has more or less remained intact for 71 years.

Due to protests and weather concerns, the drops were put on hold from 2012 to 2014. But they’re back and resumed like old times on Friday, and many locals are rushing to defend the practice.

Terry Ott, a county judge, downplayed concerns about the well-being of the birds during an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

turkeys-cant-fly“They’re not going to crash,” Ott told the paper. “They’re birds. They can fly.”

He added that the event is “important to the community” and “brings in a lot of money.”

Max Brantley, a senior editor at the Arkansas Times, decried the practice in a blog post earlier this week, calling the drop “inhumane.”

“They could probably get a good crowd in Yellville for a drawing and quartering, too,” he wrote. “Here’s an idea for sport: A drop of frozen Butterball turkeys from 500 feet over the cheering crowd.”

Brantley went on to quote Yvonne Thaxton, a professor of poultry science at the University of Arkansas, who told the Democrat-Gazette that the birds naturally remain at an altitude of 100 feet or less. The turkey drop occurs at an altitude of 500 feet, the paper reported.

“Placing turkeys in an environment that is new to them is stressful,” she said. “In the case of an airplane, the noise would also be a stress-producing fear reaction.

“Dropping one from 500 feet is a horrific act of abuse,” she added. “There is no justification for this practice.”

Mark Hutchings, a biologist supervisor for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, told the Democrat-Gazette that wild turkeys are adept fliers.

We’ve been inundated with wild turkeys in Kansas and Brisbane.

I’ve never seen one fly.

Although I love that this clip end with CCR’s, It Came Outta the Sky.