Tension was high just before the start. The turkeys looked around and clucked nervously as they tried to gain focus before the race. It would be an athletic event that would rank up there with some of the finest sporting events in Moffat County history. It was the second annual Feather Downs turkey races.
More than $800 was raised from the second annual Feather Downs turkey races. The event is sponsored by Jackson's Office Supply and the United Way with the proceeds being donated to the United Way.
Jamie Eckroth, manager of Jackson's Office Supply, called the event a success.
"The turkey race was unpredictable," said Eckroth. "It was pretty crazy, but everyone enjoyed themselves and we raised some money for a good cause. We appreciate everyone who helped with the event."
Wagering was heavy before the start. The crowd that had gathered was anxious. I watched from the gallery as the first four turkey jockeys readied themselves for the race. It looked like some real fine turkey jocks in the first heat, but I knew I would face the real competitors in the second heat.
The first heat was off and it was a battle right from the start. Turkeys sprinted in just about every direction. The pressure became too much for one jock's turkey and it sprinted under a truck where it tried to collect itself for a while. Another turkey headed for the Popular Bar. I can't say I blamed him. Things almost turned tragic as the bird flew into Victory Way. I saw the fear on the out-of-town hunter's face as the bird landed in front of his truckwelcome to Moffat County.
When I saw one of the jockeys sprinting through the street, I understood then that this turkey racing may be more of an extreme sport than I thought. In the end, it was the jockey from Northwest Title Company, Jessica Norman, who weaved her bird through the course first.
I knew my time to race was coming shortly, I finished my pre-race stretching and prayed that the years of training and preparation would pay off at the finish line.
I checked out my bird. He was a fine specimen of a turkey. His deep rich brown color, the large scalely feet, he was striking. I didn't know where this top example of fowl had come from, but one look into his fiery wild eyes made it clear, he was the ruler of his barnyard.
I looked down the line at the competition and I knew I was going to have to run the turkey race of my life if I wanted to win. I spotted Mark Samuelson, owner of Samuelson True Value further down the starting line. We engaged in some rough psyche-out talk and I knew who the competition would be. He told me to "keep your turkey out of my way... Turkey." And I told him, "You better do the same, or you may be eating turkey early this November."
It was obvious that things were going to get ugly.
The race started and I drove my turkey out to an early lead. He was a finely tuned athletic machineall jock. Samuelson and his bird were a close second.
Our turkeys did what is referred to in NASCAR racing as "trading paint" about halfway down the first straight away. There weren't any injuries, but both the judges and local veterinarian Kelly Hepworth, who was on hand in case there was an emergency, took notice.
Then tragedy struck, my turkey sprinted off course to a group of pallets and hid behind them. The bird had all of the god-given talent in the world, the passion and the drive, but he lacked focus.
I thought if I could inspire him we would still have a chance, so I grabbed the turkey and threw him back on course. Again, he sprinted back to the pallets. It was becoming clear that my turkey was a head-case that couldn't deal with the pressure of racing.
Samuelson and his bird ended up wining the race, but there was talk of steroid use after the competition. The turkey race committee will be investigating the bird. A decision is still pending.