In another world, it might have been two bald eagles.
Ben Franklin, as local historian Rufus Ward reminded the crowd before Columbus City Hall Thursday afternoon, wanted the turkey to be his young nation’s national bird. Instead, the bald eagle won out.
And so it was that Mayor Keith Gaskin and Sheriff Eddie Hawkins pardoned two of the also-rans Thursday as a not-quite finale to the ongoing Thanksgiving turkey drive.
The event included hot chocolate; a petting zoo, provided by Patch of Heaven Farms; a gaggle of excited children; and, of course, two turkeys — Tim and Tom — furnished by Curtis and Cindy Bishop.
“The City of Columbus, the Community Benefit Committee and the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office have been working to collect turkeys for the turkey drive,” Gaskin said. “We’re trying for a thousand, and we’re falling short. You can drop frozen turkeys off at the sheriff’s department, donate via the Cash app or make a donation here at City Hall.”
The turkeys will be distributed at the soccer complex Saturday morning starting at 8 a.m., Gaskin said. Anybody in Lowndes County with an ID qualifies.
“This just shows what the community can come together and do,” Hawkins said. “The turkey drive has been a big thing for us. It was started by Annie Barry, who is no longer with us. We are trying to keep this tradition going to remember her and to help the community at the same time.”
Barry started giving meals away to the less fortunate and the elderly, and organizers wanted to continue, even as the pandemic made it much harder, Hawkins said.
“COVID has really been a challenge for us, and we’re not able to give out meals,” Hawkins said. “But the next best thing is to give out a turkey. If you can’t donate, please come out and volunteer on Saturday morning.”
“The first people who moved here survived because they depended on each other,” Ward said. “If not for those people working together, there would not have been a town here. The more we do that to help each other, the better the town will be.”
The event culminated with Gaskin pardoning a turkey named Tom, who showed his appreciation by pooping on the sidewalk.
“Because of this transgression, that pardon will only last for one year,” Gaskin pronounced.
“It’s been a real struggle this year to get people to donate turkeys,” Hawkins said. “We’ve got a little over 600 turkeys now, and our goal was a thousand. So I’d better pardon Tom here before he ends up on a table.”
Hawkins pardoned Tim without incident.