For 20 years of my career, I worked in PR and advertising. Nothing as grand as “Mad Men”. More like Pa Kettle meets Upton Sinclair.
It was the mid 1970s when I was hired as company magazine editor for a large frozen dinners producer. Women who traveled the country doing business were rarer then. Most of the travel I did was to small towns where the company was the major employer.
I learned more about the breeding and processing of turkeys and chickens than I ever wanted to know. I visited hatcheries (a nightmare for my baby animal soul as they casually culled the less than perfect chicks.) I walked through processing plants and interviewed workers whose titles included “Killer” , “Craw Puller, and my personal favorite, “Eviscerator.”
You wouldn’t think that any of this would have been life-threatening. Not to me, anyway. But you would be so wrong.
One day I visited an experimental turkey farm. Turkeys in the wild are pretty shrewd characters. Turkeys bred for maximum breast meat are so stupid they will drown in the rain.
The farm manager and I went into a very large building where hundreds of teenaged turkeys milled quietly about, making soft gobbling noises. I wanted to get a photograph of these guys, so the manager waded out into the middle of the flock. They came almost up to his waist.
It was a great photo in the making. I carefully focused the camera, then pushed the button. As the flash went off, all the gobbling stopped. Then hundreds of turkeys began a loud, frightning gobble and went into stampede mode. The plant manager screamed “run for your life,” and we did. We hit the door, opened it, and slammed it behind us. We could feel the thud of the turkeys hitting the door. Our hearts were pounding.
There would be no pictures of turkeys to accompany my article. I had survived to write another day. I have to say, though, that Thanksgiving has never been the same.