It’s war: man your turkeys

By this time, most east siders are well into the Thanksgiving weekend. But my memory hearkens back to one long ago, when a turkey was more than just something to enjoy at the dining table.

I grew up (at least part way) in a family with four other brothers. We five loved each other like any other group of brawling, punching savages. But one thing we all agreed on: We loved playing with our guys. Guys were any of a number of three or four inch-high plastic men – ranging from cowboys to army men. They were made out of plastic so hard, only the largest neighborhood dogs could chew them to the point of ruin.

One Thanksgiving morning, we were playing guys all over the house. Conventional household furniture, appliances and gadgets became fortresses and castles. The back of a chair was a formidable cliff. Shag carpet formed a dense underbrush. The pull cord for the drapes was a daunting climbing rope in the treacherous world of our fearless guys.

Once, my youngest brother dropped a guy into the toilet – a deep lake with steep, white, slippery walls. But when the toilet was accidentally flushed, the unfortunate plastic figure went whirlpooling off to Davy Jones – or the septic tank equivalent.

But that particular morning, our mom had just set out a 23-pound, nude turkey – ready to be stuffed, basted and roasted. But she had forgotten an ingredient for the stuffing, so she grabbed her coat and headed for the door for a quick jaunt to the grocery store. “Stay away from that turkey,” she said before departing.

That’s when the turkey suddenly became a new adventure land for our little plastic men. We walked three of them into the large rear entrance of the turkey cavern, while two enemy guys started through the smaller entrance on the other side, slipping carefully through the curtain of the Pope’s nose.

The imaginary gun battle that ensued inside the tom was spectacular. But all of a sudden, we heard the front door swing open (of the house, not the turkey.) Mom was back – and it was time for an all-guys’ retreat from out of the bird.

When Mom came into the kitchen, she shooed us out and proceeded to prepare her stuffing. Within 20 minutes the bird was packed, garnished and inside the 425 degree oven. That’s when we realized that one of our hard plastic men was unaccounted for.

“I think we left him in the cavern – I mean, turkey!” said the youngest.

My brothers and I ate nervously that night – eyes shifting back and forth – waiting for one of us – or Mom or Dad – to break a tooth on the stuffing. I privately hoped it would be Grandma who bit into the plastic man – she didn’t have as many teeth at stake.

When the meal was over, Mom suddenly produced the missing guy. “Forget anything in the cavern, boys?” she said.

We were busted. Like a wishbone.