Cuero swallows pride, cooks up plans for next year

Oct. 8, 2011 at 5:08 a.m.
Updated Oct. 9, 2011 at 5:09 a.m.

With Paycheck in tow, Diane Schettler cheers as she crosses the finish line in the Turkeyfest race on Saturday in Cuero. Despite the penalty for being carried by humans, Paycheck still won.

With Paycheck in tow, Diane Schettler cheers as she crosses the finish line in the Turkeyfest race on Saturday in Cuero. Despite the penalty for being carried by humans, Paycheck still won.

The pride of Cuero rested in the spindly legs of one Ruby Begonia as she raced in the Great Gobbler Gallop on Saturday for the title of Turkey Capitol of the world.

The annual turkey race is a tribute to Ruby and her ancestors, raised in Cuero since 1908.

Ruby Begonia had a lot of training and preparation to make up lost time in the second leg of the race at the Turkeyfest in Cuero after wobbling into the crowd and finishing four minutes and 22 seconds behind Paycheck in Worthington, Minn., on Sept. 17.

Ruby's coach, Greg Nemec, was optimistic that the warm weather in Cuero would be a shock to the system of the Minnesota gobbler.

Meanwhile, Ruby was seasoned for the race by exposure to large groups of people so she would be prepared to stay on track for the final leg of the race.

Gobbler Gallop veteran Erik McCowan, who is now the Cuero chairman of the race, saw that both Ruby and Paycheck were well cared for in the minutes leading up to the competition.

"You know this bird does not like cameras before a race," McCowan said of Ruby. "It throws her off her game."

McCowan said neither turkey was anxious to be caught and caged Saturday morning.

Once in her crate, Paycheck began sharpening her claws while Ruby was painting her toenails, according to a report given to the fans by Mayor pro-temp of Worthington, Scott Nelson.

By the start of the race, Paycheck had not only sharpened her claws, but clawed her own head, resulting in a very intimidating, "I'm sure not a chicken," wartime face.

Blessed with a kiss from the crowned Miss Cuero, 17-year-old Danielle Perales, Ruby Begonia was prepared to represent her city in the 39th annual Great Gobbler Gallop.

The race began with a flurry of feathers as both turkeys were given a starting toss.

As a crow flies, the race was about 600 feet - two blocks up North Esplanade Street - but as soon as Ruby was released, she waddled off to give face-time to her adoring fans.

Paycheck's captain, Diane Schettler, followed their team's strategy and scooped Paycheck up to make a dash toward the finish line on Main Street as Ruby's teammates hustled to point her back toward the finish line.

"If Ruby was even a little off pace, we knew we were picking up and going," Schettler said.

The penalty for carrying their frisky fowl was adding two minutes to their overall time, but Paycheck's teammates knew she had time to spare.

Realizing their goose was cooked, coach Nemec rescued Ruby from a rosebush and ran her to the finish line as well.

"This is the first time in the history of the race both birds were carried across the line," the master of ceremonies announced over the speaker.

Ruby's fans clucked their disappointment at what they believed to be foul play as Paycheck's team was presented with the Traveling Turkey Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph.

Paycheck's total time from both legs of the race was just over four minutes, six seconds, including time added for penalties.

Ruby's finishing time nearly doubled that - qualifying her to make it into the oven for Thanksgiving dinner.

"We are No. 2 in the world," said Bobby Phillips as he graciously accepted the Circulating Consolation Cup of Consummate Commiseration on behalf of Team Ruby Begonia.

Ruby and her team are already looking forward to next year, Nemec said.

"Ruby is probably coming out of shock. She's not used to losing," Nemec said. "But she's coming out of a sliding streak now and she's going to have to go home and re-think her situation and come back next year."



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