The Ozark Turkey Drop
Since 1945, the people of Arkansas have flocked once a year to the little town of Yellville deep in the Ozark mountains. The great attraction of this otherwise unremarkable community is its annual sporting event - the Turkey Drop.
Turkeys are tossed from a small, low flying aircraft to glide down to Yellville's central square, where the locals stand ready to give chase. By tradition, the plane swoops several times over the little town, and with each swoop, a turkey is released. The event ought to be a graceful and exhilarating affair.
Unfortunately, it has not always proved to be so.
Turkeys are not very good at flying and they are not very sharp-witted creatures. With melancholy regularity, they plummeted to their deaths or sustained fearful injury.
In the 1950s, bird-lovers began to object, and the turkey lobby managed to get the rules of the event changed. Instead of dropping live turkeys, the Yellville plane released frozen birds attached to small parachutes - a more humane practice which had unforeseen consequences.
The frozen turkeys, hurtling from the sky, were a menace to property. One smashed through a front porch, destroying the roof. Another badly dented a car. The locals, moreover, had lost the thrill of the chase; the practice of dropping live birds resumed.
Many and various are the horrors which have attended the Ozark Turkey Drop. Once, startled locals saw the first bird fall like a stone, without a single flap of its wings. The man responsible for pushing the birds out of the aircraft had wrung its neck when the unfortunate fowl loosed its own little droppings all over him.
This unpleasant incident was surpassed for grim horror when the local Chamber of Commerce mistakenly bought a batch of turkeys whose wings had been clipped. The discovery was made too late to do anything about it. Not many turkeys survived the 100 foot fall.
In 1981, officials threatened to close down the event, causing much consternation in the Ozarks. Curiously enough, objections had not come from bird-lovers, but from the Federal Aviation Authority which considered the flights over Yellville to be too low for safety. That year, the inhabitants evaded prosecution by using a disguised registration for the 'plane. The subterfuge, however, offered no long-term solution. In 1982 it was decided that the aircraft would swoop down over Crooked Creek, rather than the town square; the drop would be 500 feet.
This worried some of the locals. The Guardian, reporting the whole affair, noted: 'They fear that this will give the turkeys time to rediscover the secrets of flight. The 17 birds in the weekend's drop may then glide into the nearby forests for a life of freedom and happiness.'
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