Searching for the story behind an abandoned, fully cooked Thanksgiving turkey on Interstate 94

After swerving to miss a fully roasted turkey along the interstate on Thanksgiving day, columnist Tammy Swift asks: How did Tom Turkey get there? Who can even afford to throw away a turkey, what with food prices these days? And who would go through the trouble of stuffing, basting and roasting a turkey — only to fling it so callously out the window?

Tammy Swift online column sig revised 3-16-21.jpg

After a lifetime of traveling Interstate 94, I've spotted many strange items abandoned on its mighty shoulders. Like mufflers, a couch, a high chair and a mattress.

But on Thanksgiving Day, my partner and I spotted the oddest roadside spectacle yet.

It was a turkey.

Not simply a wild turkey gobbler strutting across the interstate with his harem of hens.

A fully roasted turkey, upside down on the pavement, without so much as a kale leaf to keep him warm.


Odd sights like these can really get the imagination going. Who did Tom Turkey belong to and how did he get there? Who can afford to throw away a turkey, what with food prices these days? Who would go through the trouble of stuffing, basting and roasting a turkey, only to fling it so callously out the window?

I posted about it on my Facebook, eliciting lots of theories, puns and one-liners about what happened. "What mile marker is it at?" one person responded. "Just asking for a friend."

"Someone decided to quit cold turkey," another quipped.

Based loosely on some of these Facebook suggestions, I've devised three possible scenarios for the Fable of the Forsaken Fowl.

Option 1: Some bold scallywag shoplifts a whole turkey by sliding the entire carcass beneath his parka. As he roars off in his Ford Focus while tearing off turkey legs with a Henry VIII-style gusto, he realizes he doesn't even like white meat. Also concerned that the bird could leave a trail of grease and croutons that would lead law enforcement straight to him, he merges onto the nearby freeway, rolls down the passenger window and chucks the evidence onto the side of the road.

Option 2: A family — I like to think of them as the McYankersons — hits the road to have Thanksgiving dinner with the parents and siblings of Mr. McYankerson (I like to think of him as Chad).

Wife, Pam, is already feeling resentful because she made the turkey, the stuffing and the pie — even though her diva sister-in-law, Yvonne, only offered to bring a veggie tray.

As Pam sits there, carefully balancing the beautifully glazed bird in a roaster on her lap, she is appalled to hear Chad praise Yvonne's veggie trays: "She does such a good job with those. Remember the year she made a turkey out of produce, using whole carrots for the turkey’s feathers?”


Pam thinks how she got up at 3 a.m. to chop vegetables for the stuffing and put the turkey in the oven. She smolders as she thinks of rushing home from work the previous evening to roast a sugar pumpkin so she could make real pie filling from Chad's mother's recipe. She nearly boils over as she thinks how she spent a half hour cutting out little pastry leaves to decorate the border of the pie.

Just about then, her daughter, who became a vegetarian two days earlier because of something she saw on TikTok, pipes up from the back seat that she is grateful for Yvonne’s vegetable tray, as anyone who eats meat is barbaric.

Pam loses it. “You want barbaric?” she hollers. “I’ll show you barbaric!” And with that, she hurls the bird out the window. “NOW ENJOY YOUR VEGETABLE TRAY!”

Option 3: The simplest explanation could involve something that all of us have done at one time or another: leaving something important on top of the car.

I envision a frenzied family hauling out bags and food in their quest to get to Nanna Jean's on time for Thanksgiving dinner.

In between yelling at the kids to remember the dog's food and telling their daughter to change into jeans that contained more denim than holes (“It’s a holiday meal, for Pete’s sake!"), the McYankersons finally manage to cram everything — the casseroles, the kids, the luggage and Rover — into the car.

Save for one plump Tom Turkey, suitably basted, roasted and dressed. He's been forgotten on the rooftop of their Subaru.

Just imagine it: Tom and his roasting pan booster seat probably manage to cling to the roof as long as the car is driving slowly through town.


Then Chad takes the freeway entrance, accelerating as he reaches the interstate. The speed and velocity are too much for Tom, who can’t even hang onto the sides of the roasting pan because he has those frilly turkey booties on his drumsticks.

In that moment, Tom slides right off the rooftop, is catapulted out of his pan, and experiences just a few seconds of rare Meleagris gallopavo flight before skidding, breast-side down, on the pavement.

In short, he flew the coop.

Or maybe, more accurately, the coupe.

Related Topics: FOOD
Tammy has been a storyteller most of her life. Before she learned the alphabet, she told stories by drawing pictures and then dictated the narrative to her ever-patient mother. A graduate of North Dakota State University, she has worked as a Dickinson, N.D., bureau reporter, a Bismarck Tribune feature writer/columnist, a Forum feature reporter, columnist and editor, a writer in NDSU's Publications Services, a marketing/social media specialist, an education associate in public broadcasting and a communications specialist at a nonprofit.
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