“Whatcha” Gonna Do with a Boy and his Turkey?

Tad Lincoln

Dear Reader:

In 1863 a live turkey was sent to the White House for the Lincoln family to feast on for the Christmas meal. Tad Lincoln, 10, youngest son of the Lincoln’s, quickly befriended the bird, named him ” Jack” and taught Jack to follow him as he walked around the White House grounds. Tad fed and cared for him faithfully .

As the time neared to begin preparation for the Christmas meal…and the cook ( executioner) weighed Jack to see how plump he was… Tad, in a panic, burst into one of his father’s cabinet meetings upset and crying. Stuttering he explained that he was told Jack was about to be killed and he needed a note from his father to stop the proceedings.

Sobbing…Tad cried out” Jack must not be killed! It is WICKED!” He’s a good turkey and I don’t want him killed!”

So Lincoln paused in the midst of the cabinet meeting and wrote an order of reprieve. Jack’s life was spared-Tad raced out to show the cook the note !

Historians report that Lincoln’s famous pardon probably stemmed back to an incident in his own youth. Apparently a flock of turkeys descended around the Lincoln’s log cabin in Indiana suddenly . Father, Tom Lincoln, was gone so Abraham felt obliged to shoot one for the family… which he did.

But later he saw the beauty of the bird whose life he ended and was so upset that ( in his own words) he never again ” pulled the trigger on any larger animal game.”

A year Later… On November 8, 1864-Lincoln was elected to a second term in office. A special polling place was set up on the White House grounds for soldiers to vote. Looking out his window Lincoln spotted Jack the turkey seemingly waiting in line to vote too.

Laughing he asked Tad if Jack was voting… to which Tad replied ” No, father… he’s under age.”

Today there is a sculpture of Jack the Pardoned Turkey in Hartford, Connecticut.

Jack… the Turkey

So until tomorrow… As we all begin preparations for Thanksgiving… let’s remember the preparation begins with the heart… being thankful for friends, family and blessed opportunities to gather together.

Today is my favorite day… Winnie the Pooh

About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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2 Responses to “Whatcha” Gonna Do with a Boy and his Turkey?

  1. Rachel Edwards says:

    Thank you for this neat history lesson…have a Happy Thanksgiving…

  2. Beth Brewer says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you & your loved ones!

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