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Talking turkey with the family

Back in March, while driving down I-65, just outside of Greenville, Alabama, my husband's head whipped ninety degrees in my direction with his mouth excitedly saying, "Hey, did you see that?"

"What," I asked, with sarcasm.

Since leaving Baton Rouge five hours earlier, he had unremittingly pointed out hurricane damage, such as topless trees and mangled interstate signs, and an array of exotic road kill, including an alleged wild pig, a questionable bear, and a cat that possibly leaped from a car in front of us. And he obsessed about a family, in an auto with Virginia plates, whom he suspected of racing us to the Georgia line.

Needless to say, I didn't look with much effort.

"That billboard back there," he continued, enthusiastically.

"Paw Paw's camper city?"

"No, Bates House of Turkey, where it's Thanksgiving every day. We ought to go there for lunch," he insisted.

"Creepy," I replied, immediately thinking of Norman Bates. But then worse nightmares came to mind.

Great-Aunt Eulene and Uncle Edgar go wherever Thanksgiving goes. And I didn't think I could sit at the table with Aunt Eulene's teeth in her water glass more than once a year. Recovering from the shock of Cousin Leslie Jack's kid wearing those dentures for vampire teeth took months.

"Maybe we should skip that exit and find a good Mexican place where everyone has the top button of his pants fastened and our relatives aren't sitting around with their hands tucked into their waistbands," I suggested.

"Get a grip, Lucy. We need to stop for awhile anyway. It can't hurt to taste a little local flavor. And [truth be told] I bet they have televisions everywhere with rebroadcasts of football games. Maybe Georgia's playing."

It seems, somewhere along the way, perhaps where I-65 split off from I-10, our fantasies about turkey day, how to occupy ourselves on a road trip, and lunch diverged.

Before I could protest further, we pulled into a dirt parking lot. I looked around for a house on the hill, spying none. Yet, I did spot an elderly lady creeping along at the elbow of a younger man. "I bet that's Norman with the body of his mother," I whispered.

My one-and-only waved me off.

Inside, the dining room decor, brown and orange, reminded us of perpetual Fall, accented with turkeys, wild and domestic, on every vertical surface.

Still looking around, mentally comparing the Psycho set to the restaurant, I asked, "So, what's good here."

"Turkey," she said dryly.

"What kind of turkey?"

"Domestic," she said, aloofly examining her cuticles.

"No," I said, "how is it prepared?"

"Well, we have roasted turkey, smoked turkey, honey glazed turkey, Bar-B-Q turkey, turkey gumbo, turkey salad, turkey . . ."

I stopped her in mid-Forrest Gump impersonation. "Just tell us what you recommend."

My spouse, dejected because the Bates Thanksgiving tradition did not include televised football, SEC or otherwise, ordered the full-fledged roast turkey feast with sweet potatoes, biscuits and green beans. I went out on a limb and ate a Bar-B-Q turkey sandwich. Admittedly, chills ran down my spine with every bite, while turkey eyes bore into me from the walls overhead.

At least Norman and my disturbing relatives from Arkansas weren't watching through a peep hole . . . I hoped.

As we gobbled the last morsels on our plates, I decided to give the Bates House of Turkey four out of five stars. But if I ever get down that way again, I will suggest they change the name to Bates Motel for Turkeys, where diners enjoy Thanksgiving long after the horror-days.



Web posted on Thursday, April 20, 2006













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