From the Children’s Friend, December 1926 –
By Irene McCullough
Elinor was as much delighted over the young turkeys as her father. Every morning she would get up early enough so she could help feed and water them. it was such fun to go from pen to pen and throw food to the hungry little orphans. One morning while they were feeding them, Elinor noticed that one of the little birds did not rush up to get his share of food, but sat back in the corner with his mouth open panting for breath.
“Father,” called she, “come quickly and see what is the matter with this one.”
Hurrying to the pen, Mr. Horne opened the door and gently carried the little turkey out.
“Its leg is hurt. Must have been stepped on in the night by the others,” he exclaimed. “they seldom get better, so I might as well put it out of its misery first as last.”
“No! No!” shouted Elinor. “Please give it to me, let me try and save him.”
The tears were streaming down her face, so Mr. Horne did not have the heart to refuse her. Carefully taking the tiny bird, Elinor ran to the house with it. In a few moments she had converted a soap box into a comfortable little pen. She bound the small leg tightly and then carefully poured a few drops of water down the parched little throat, occasionally getting in a few grains of cracked corn. Several times a day the little girl tended her feathered patient in this way until it was not long before the little turkey was quite himself again. Elinor was so proud of her pet that she called him Red Neck. Every time she would go out into the turkey yard, he would come running up to get a few of the good things she always carried in her pocket for him.
“My daughter,” said her father one morning as they were feeding and watering the brood, “I don’t blame you for being proud of Red Neck. He is by far the largest and most handsome turkey of the lot.”
Fall came in early. The crops had been none too good this year on account of so little rain. It was going to be a hard proposition for Mr. Horne to get enough ready cash to meet all his expenses. Taxes would soon be due, and this year they were higher than ever.
The next morning he was off to town to see what price he could get for the turkeys. He was gone all day and came home weary and tired.
“Well, Mother, the Standard will take all the turkeys I can supply at thirty-eight cents a pound. Even then it will be a difficult matter to settle up all my bills.”
“Well, don’t worry, Father. We will make out the best we can. Crops will be better next year, I’m sure. Let’s be thankful our turkeys were such a success.”
Elinor listened to the conversation. Surely she could keep Red Neck, and yet, if Father asked for him, she could not refuse. Father worked so hard and was so good to them all. He never thought of himself. Rushing out the door, Elinor came to Red Neck’s pen. The turkey immediately left his mates and came running to her. She dropped on her knees, and with sobs in her throat began to stroke his silky colored coat while the turkey gobbled up the bread she took from her pocket.
“If he asks for you, dear, I’ll just have to let you go, but he will never know how much it will hurt me. You will forgive me, won’t you, dear?” And the little girl sobbed on. “But I can’t say no to him.”
At last, gaining control of herself, Elinor left the barnyard and went for a long walk in the cool evening air. She at last mastered her feelings so she could go home and face the family.
The expected question came, but Elinor was ready for it, and her answer was:
“Why, of course, Father, you can have Red Neck if you need him.”
“I knew what my little daughter would say. Hey, Mother, it’s worth while to have a child like that.”
Elinor’s heart jumped for joy, for she loved her father and wanted him to be proud of her.
Next morning she did not get up until she heard her father drive away with the turkeys. She helped her mother do up the work, not daring to talk much as her throat was too full of sobs.
A week had passed since Red Neck was taken away, when Father suggested that they all go up to see the county fair. Elinor was delighted, for that meant a real holiday. She helped with the work, and soon the family, all dressed in their Sunday clothes, were on their way.
Father tucked a quarter into the little girl’s hand and said, “Sorry I cannot let you have more, so go slow.” This was more than she had expected, so she was delighted. Clutching the money tightly in her little brown palm, Elinor ran off to enjoy the sights. The farmers were busy inspecting the cattle and sheep, while the women were crowded around the sewing booths and fruit exhibits. Children everywhere were running back and forth, determining to see it all. Elinor, all by herself, was taking in the sights, too, still holding tightly to the money her father had given her. Suddenly she heard a familiar “gobble, gobble, gobble.” Turning quickly around, her heart just pounding, she stood directly in front of Red Neck, who was locked in a large cage.
“Red Neck! Oh, Red Neck!” she screamed. “How did you ever get here?” But Red Neck gobbled on. Opening her lunch box, Elinor quickly gave Red Neck half her lunch.
Glancing up at the top of the box, Elinor saw a large sign painted in shiny red letters. “Buy your Christmas turkeys at the Standard. This one is a sample of the line we carry.”
“Oh, you old dear, I thought I would never see you again, and here you are alive and well,” and Elinor talked on to her dear old friend, every once in a while giving him some more of her lunch. She could not resist putting her hand through the bars to stroke his bright, silky feathers occasionally. Red Neck seemed to enjoy it, for he would crane his long, brightly colored neck around and contentedly gobble, gobble, gobble.
“Well, little girl, you seem to be very well acquainted with my prize turkey,” said a man who had been quietly standing behind Elinor.
“Acquainted? I should think I was. I raised him from a tiny little sick bird and fed him every day until Father had to sell him to the market.”
Then Elinor, seeing the kind look in the man’s face, went on with her story. How she had saved Red Neck’s life, had put splints on his little broken leg, and so on, and then the crops failed, she had to do her share and let him go with the rest of the turkeys to the market.
“Well, I was just wondering what to do with that bird now I’ve got him,” remarked the gentleman. “You see, I want to keep him here until Christmas eve to advertise my store, but after that he is rather a nuisance. We will be so rushed the day before Christmas that it would be impossible to let one of my men off long enough to come out here and get him. Now, if you think you could make a trip out here Christmas eve, you are welcome to your dear old friend, for I have been more than paid for having owned him just this short time. He has been the best ‘ad’ I ever had.”
“Oh, I know Father would drive over and get him for me, Mister, but here he is now.”
Elinor’s father came up just then, and after hurriedly being told the wonderful news, was more than happy to help his little girl get her turkey back again. Thanking the gentleman kindly, Elinor went home with her heart full of happiness.