Is Everyone Dressed for Thanksgiving Dinner?

Chris Bohrer, plant manager for Maple Lawn Farms in Howard County, and some potential guests for your Thanksgiving dinner.
Chris Bohrer, plant manager for Maple Lawn Farms in Howard County, and some potential guests for your Thanksgiving dinner. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
By Darragh Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The turkeys must die.

"We're gonna have 'em," the part-time poultry farmer is promising a rep for Whole Foods. "I'm killing this afternoon and all day tomorrow."

Cell phone stuck to his ear, jeans tucked into knee-high rubber boots, Chris Bohrer continues: "We could do 112 birds on a pallet . . . How many you need?"

At his feet, in a small, sunny pen on this nearly 200-year-old Howard County farm, waddle a few hundred free-range turkeys. They burble hiccupy erp, erps. They are white, bald as vultures and have fleshy red wattles that look like double chins. One of them is carrying in its beak, protectively and guardedly, an inside-out blue plastic glove. They are part of Maple Lawn Farms' harvest of 20,000 turkeys.

They are all on death row.

"We're gonna have 'em," Bohrer assures the rep on the phone. "We were slaughtering big birds the last two days."

In Washington, only one turkey gets a bye. The rest wind up in shrink wrap.

* * *

His cell doesn't stop. Whole Foods. Balducci's. The car dealerships giving turkeys as employee holiday bonuses. Another turkey farmer who's run out of birds and needs some extras. They all want a moment with Bohrer. One whole week before Thanksgiving, he gets 52 calls in a day, and those are just the beginning.

"It's like Santa's workshop the week before Christmas," he says, except instead of elves making toys, they're turning turkeys into Thanksgiving dinners.

"What time you wanna stop?" A guy in yellow rubber overalls and a hooded Key West sweat shirt walks out of the slaughterhouse.

"Three-thirty?" Bohrer asks.


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