Dear Bird Folks,
Every year around Thanksgiving I hear people talk about a woman named Vickie Alden who used to save turkeys. Do you know anything about her?
– Marion, Orleans
Wow, I haven’t heard the name Vickie Alden in years. Vickie Alden has a brief, but noteworthy place in Cape Cod folklore. Back in the 1930’s, long before there were any environmental groups when a tree hugger was someone who couldn’t get a date and PETA was just the way people from Massachusetts pronounced the name Peter, young Vickie decided to save all the turkeys that she could from ending up on the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Vickie took a job at Morgan’s Poultry Farm that was much like the famous Mayo’s Duck Farm of East Orleans, only it wasn’t as large and didn’t have the ocean view. As an employee benefit, the Morgans would allow each employee a free turkey to take home for dinner on Friday night. A weekly free turkey sounds like a generous offer, but the Morgans knew that their workers were so sick of eating turkey, that few would ever really want one. But Vickie Alden was about to change all that.
Every Friday night Vickie would ask the boss for a free turkey for her supper. She insisted on taking home a live turkey, as she wanted it to be as “fresh” as possible. It should be noted that these were domestic turkeys that would not survive in the wild, so Vickie needed to find a place for them to live. The turkeys couldn’t stay with her because she lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Chatham. But Vickie had a sister named Iris, who lived on a big farm in Enfield, MA. Iris was a bit of a freak herself and was happy to take the turkeys if Vickie could somehow get the turkeys to Enfield. However, Vickie didn’t have a car, so she needed a plan.
Now here is where the story gets weird. Every Friday night, after work, Vickie would take the turkey de jour, put it in the basket of her bike and peddle down to the bus stop. With the turkey wrapped in a shawl, Vickie would tell the bus driver that she was sending her young son to spend the weekend with his aunt in Enfield. Since it was night, the turkey would simply sleep all the way to Enfield. In the 1930’s, buses didn’t have inside lights so the other passengers never saw the snoozing turkey and the smell kept anyone from wanting to sit too close. When the bus arrived in Enfield, Iris would quickly board the bus and carry off her sleeping “nephew.” The plan worked great. Except for the occasional egg or “whatever” on the bus seat, the bus driver was clueless. Vickie’s success was short lived, however. Just when her plan seemed almost foolproof, the turkey rescue took an ironic twist.
The state of Massachusetts suddenly decided that it wanted to build the giant Quabbin Reservoir right on top of Enfield (and a few other small towns). Everyone, including Iris and the turkeys, had to quickly move out or learn to swim. Iris, having all that she could do to move herself, simply let the birds go. Some of the turkeys found their way to other farms, while others likely became victims of the food chain and others ended up with jobs as airport security guards. Although Vickie’s rescue project had limited success, she still was able to save a few turkeys and earn herself a plaque in the Poultry Hall of Fame. The Poultry Hall of Fame is a fascinating place and contains a lot more information on Vickie Alden. You should check it out if you are ever in western Mass. It is located on Main Street in downtown Enfield. There is no admission fee, but you’ll need to hold your breath for a very long time.