27 Nov
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Recycling Tom


11-27-14-happy-thanksgiving-img_7637(Photo: http://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/wattles-caruncles-snoods/)
I don’t know how that turkey ended up dead on the side of the highway. It’s possible that his tiny mind was occupied with the pursuit of a female. (Human males are prone to similar, sometimes fatal distractions, of course, but that’s another story.) Perhaps he was particularly despondent and, lacking easy access to a nearby bridge, leapt out in front of a tandem trailer. Or perhaps, dare I say it, there was a mob contract out on Tom, and one day someone made good on it. However it happened, there he was, lying on the side of the road.

Now, the sight of road kill for average folks prompts a variety of reactions. Sometimes it’s a squeal of sympathy. Others may turn away, feigning a sudden need to check their nails, their hair, or perhaps their bowling average. But there are a select few who do not squeal; who do not turn away, but who see in that pile of feathers one thing: opportunity.
Which is why I find myself on the side of the highway, clad in dress slacks and a tie, wearing gloves and carrying a set of clippers, staring at a pile of feathers that was once a turkey.

Now I happen to love tying fishing flies. Flies are tied with fur like deer, mink, or moose. Mostly, though, they’re tied with feathers.

Fly fishing goes back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Naturally, in the early days those feathers came from people who hunted. There may have been some trading done now and then when someone travelled from one part of the land to another, but for the most part, people tied with what they hunted. It was a great way to make the most of the animal, wasting nothing.

Today, what winds up on our Thanksgiving table is a long, long way away from the woods, if indeed it even would know the way there if pointed in that direction. Finding a feather on the Thanksgiving table would most likely cause Grandma to faint. The rule for the most part is this: fly tying feathers come from your local fly shop, and your turkey comes from a farm hundreds of miles away, and never the twain shall meet.

Yet I’m not one to waste things. I like to compost kitchen scraps for the garden, I use scrap paper for grocery lists, and don’t even get me started on the uses for an empty Altoid tin. And while there are people who recycle road kill for food consumption, doing so involves a delicate dance between harvesting and bacteria; a dance that I would rather sit out. Plus, there would be the practical issue of what to do with a ten pound animal that may or may not fit into the trunk of my car.

So obviously, the moment calls for compromise.

I won’t get into too much detail, this being a family paper and all, but I decided on an approach I’ll call “greatest hits”. I took the most useable parts, “separated” those parts, and brought them home.

So this Thanksgiving, I will celebrate this all-American bird that Ben Franklin described this way: “He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on.” I will bow to modernity by feeding my family a bird from a distant farm. But when the last pan is cleaned, I will sit at my fly tying table and be thankful for the feathered friend who has made the ultimate sacrifice for my flies. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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