They won't stick their necks out for anybody


While many of us are still munching on leftover turkey and trimmings, two table-bound turkeys that managed to survive Thanksgiving are busy gobbling up feed made from corn, wheat, oats, green alfalfa meal and other grains.

Liberty and Freedom, raised and named by North Carolina turkey farmer Nick Weaver, were chosen for the 2001 White House turkey-pardoning ceremony (Liberty got to hog the spotlight; Freedom waited in the wings as backup.)

In an annual tradition that dates back to Abraham Lincoln, the National Turkey Federation presented President Bush with a turkey at the White House. After a few remarks, Bush proclaimed "by virtue of an unconditional presidential pardon, they are safe from harm."

Having avoided becoming Thanksgiving entrees, Liberty and Freedom, as other turkeys have done for more than a decade, went to live out their days at Kidwell Farm, a working farm and visitor attraction in suburban Virginia's Frying Pan Park. Park Manager Marlo Acock talked about what lies ahead for the fortunate fowl.

How did you become home to pardoned turkeys?

It started in 1990. We were about the only farm left in close proximity to D.C. ... Now it has become a tradition. The National Turkey Federation paid to have a turkey house built.

What will the turkeys' lives be like at Frying Pan Park?

The turkeys have more freedom than they had at the [poultry] farm. There is a nice little warm shed for them to live in, a fenced-in area, room to walk and plenty of food. They like to have company, I guess. ... They show off and strut around. People can pet them on the head and they don't mind.

Do you get big Thanksgiving-time crowds?

A lot of people know about us and they come out to see the birds. ... We are open on Thanksgiving. That's life on a farm -- you have to be open all year.

Do you have any kind of turkey programs?

We have a welcoming aboard. We put on a skit, have a welcoming ceremony, lots of people come. We call it the "turkey roast," but we're just talking, we're not cooking.

Will the turkeys have company on the farm?

We have some wild turkeys ... so people can see the difference between them and domestic turkeys.

But no fellow pardoned turkeys?

One from last year lasted until spring. That's more usual. To be here when the next turkeys arrive is unusual. It's happened two years out of 10. ... A domestic turkey that is a year old is getting up there. Most are born in the spring, they are 50 pounds by Thanksgiving and then they end up on the table. [But] we never know. These seem to be a little more spry than last year.

How does that compare with wild turkeys?

Wild turkeys can live eight to 10 years. ... They are meant to fly. They are probably more selective about their diet. But they are tough to eat.

So how are Liberty and Freedom adjusting to their new home?

They seem happy to be here. ... I have high hopes for these turkeys. They are very active. They are out enjoying the sunshine. ... They probably hadn't seen much sunshine until they got here.

Frying Pan Park is at 2709 West Ox Road in Herndon, Va. Call 703-437-9101, or go online to /parks / fryingpanpark.htm.

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