No matter whether you’re much of a race fan during the rest of the year, during Turkey Week there is no denying that racing is king.
Whether you’re more inclined to participate in or watch the Turkey Trot or to line 10th Street to watch our Paycheck defend his title against Ruby Begonia, racing is as much a part of the week’s festivities as anything else.
As humans, it seems that any time there is the slightest possibility of a race taking place, we seize the opportunity with great passion and gusto.
The impulse to race has been passed through our genetic material seemingly ever since we were first able to stand and walk on two legs.
The idea competing against an opponent in a test of speed has taken a number of different forms throughout human history.
In the ancient Greek olympics, men would test their speed and endurance against each other without the use of any enhancements — even clothing.
As the centuries passed, humankind also found time to create sports out of racing different species of animals.
Races involving animals have taken many forms, with some done in tandem with a human rider — such as was done in the horse-drawn chariot races in ancient Rome and in modern day horse racing — and some with the animal racing on their own, such as in Greyhound racing. Even as kids we sometimes find and race our own animals, though usually on a much smaller scale such as with snails and turtles.
When humans developed the appropriate technology, racing started to attain speeds prevoiously unheard of, creating modes of racing that remain popular today with all different kinds of automotive racing.
However, of all the different types of racing in existence, who ever thought of the idea to race birds?
Our turkey race is surely a true experience to be had, though to be honest it is far more about the camaraderie between Worthington and the town of Cuero, Texas, than about any serious high-stakes racing.
There is very little about the race that is too formal or scientific — how can you take something completely seriously when you have grown adults chasing turkeys down main street with paddles?
True, there are probably few experiences that can be compared to a turkey race. There are other forms of bird racing in existence, such as pigeon racing — I learned everything I know about the sport from Animal Planet’s special series involving Mike Tyson — but there aren’t any others that come to my mind.
My inner child secretly wishes that races existed with people riding ostriches or emus, but I’m pretty sure such an idea exists only in cartoons and fantasy.
I can’t even begin to imagine people trying to chase an ostrich or an emu down main street with paddles — there definitely would be a few more hospital visits than would be worth it.
The ultimate in the racing of land birds would have been to see a moa in action, though this former giant inhabitant of New Zealand is now long extinct.
However, if the science from Jurassic Park becomes a reality and we some day are able to bring back extinct species, knowing human nature we’d probably find a way to race almost any species.
Until that time, we’ll have to settle for racing the descendants of the dinosaurs when the prized turkeys Paycheck and Ruby Begonia race on Saturday.