WASHINGTON – A good-natured President Barack Obama on Wednesday spared the lives of two turkeys that played their own parts perfectly.
In what has become a Thanksgiving-eve ritual, Obama offered a presidential pardon to Apple and its pal Cider. The turkeys remained calm and statesmanlike as the president blessed them with a pointed reminder of his own recent political woes.
“Let me say,” Obama said, “that it feels pretty good to stop at least one shellacking this November.”
Officially, Apple is now the national Thanksgiving turkey. Cider is the feathered understudy. Both of the 21-week-old birds were raised on the Foster Farms’ Wellsford Ranch, outside of Modesto, Calif. Both will now live out their remaining days at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home.
The turkeys will be part of a special holiday display through Jan. 6, and then will live with the estate’s other livestock.
Yubert Envia and Ira Brister of Foster Farms served as the chief turkey wranglers during the Rose Garden ceremony. Before the event began Wednesday morning, Brister stood by while Apple gobbled away and checked out part of the Rose Garden.
Weighing in at 45 pounds, Apple attracted some tart audience observations about its size.
While Obama spoke, Envia gently stroked Apple. It was also Envia to whom the self-described “leader of the most powerful nation on Earth” directed a post-pardon question.
“That’s some kind of wattle,” Obama marveled, upon approaching Apple. “Can someone explain to me what this whole wattle thing is about?”
For the record, a turkey’s wattle helps keep the animal cool. It also serves as a show-off display.
The event Wednesday marked the 63rd time that a president has recognized a national Thanksgiving turkey. The public relations conceit of a pardon only began with the first President Bush, in 1989. Before that, the birds served a more functional purpose.
“They used to eat the turkeys,” Envia said.
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