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Take your turkey to another level (video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
Oct. 9, 2013 at 5:09 a.m.

Cory Thamm's turkeys that will be part of the race your own turkey event at Turkeyfest in Cuero this weekend.

Cory Thamm's turkeys that will be part of the race your own turkey event at Turkeyfest in Cuero this weekend.

In the early part of the 20th century, Cory Thamm said, Cuero was one of the biggest domestic ports for turkeys. People would raise the tall birds just as they would cattle.

"There used to be hundreds of them in fields," he said. "Just like the cattle run, we had people herding turkeys through the streets. People started coming out, and that's when the trot started."

The 36-year-old Cuero native has been a part of Turkeyfest for about the last decade. He grew up watching the parade as youngster, volunteered when he got older, became a part of the board and was a part of the Great Gobbler team in 2010. He's also helped the iconic festival in a different way - he breeds champions.

Champions like Ruby Begonia.

When board members had trouble finding turkeys to compete in the annual races and in the Race Your Own Turkey event at Turkeyfest, he took a dozen chicks under his wing and raised them as if they were his own.

Since that day seven years ago, he now has more than 20 turkeys that live in his backyard. They eat the bugs, chitchat with his dog and gobble loudly in unison when trucks whiz down street.

Thamm has Blue Slates, Royal Palms, Bourbon Reds and, of course, Rio Grandes. For those who don't know turkeys, they're your gray, white, red and brown feathered friends. Ruby is a Rio Grande.

For the Race Your Own Turkey event Sunday, he said he'll bring his flock of Blue Slates, Royal Palms and Bourbon Reds.

When it comes to racing, he said he's seen people do it all. Everything from rattlesnake tails on the end of a long stick - because rattlesnakes are natural enemies of turkeys - to rattle paddles used for cattle.

"As long as you don't touch them, its allowed," said Thamm. "Some people even have race gear and uniforms like Ruby's team."

It's an all-ages event, and there's no fee to race. Parents will race their kids, couples will race each other, or people will race in groups, he said.

Unlike the Great Gobbler Gallup, the times aren't recorded, and the distance is much shorter, he said. When picking out a turkey for the race, he said a lot of it is luck.

"You never really know what's going to happen until it happens," said Thamm.

He remembered a time when he was on the official race team when Ruby and Paycheck, the Minnesota bird, crossed paths right after the starting line. He said he had to jump through the other team's members to catch up with Ruby.

It was a memorable experience - one he said he'll never forget.

"It's a lot of fun. People just want to try to chase a turkey," said Thamm. "They're not the easiest thing to catch. They're smarter in some ways than people think."


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