See that large banner up there? You can’t really miss it, can you? It floats in the breeze from one side of Main Street to another. Welcome to the Shady Pines Story Town Turkey Trot! And on this crisp, Thanksgiving morning, watch for honking and cheering visitors to arrive by the carload. They’ll play follow the leader all the way to Stonewall Park for the annual event. It’s time for the 2K and 5K run/walk race through Shady Pines. And after what happened last year, expect the unexpected!

The excited runners crowd around the registration table to pick up a map of the course and their numbers to pin on their shirts. Some wear colorful turkey suits, walking around making gobbling noises at one another. Others planning to walk the course with their dogs have dressed their poor, unsuspecting canine friends as little turkeys.

Harold Sanders, owner of the Nuts ‘N’ Bolts hardware store, is at the table going through his registration packet. His dog, Boomerang the Australian Shepherd, tries to stick his nose into the yellow folder.

“I’ve got my number #204 right here to pin on my shirt. We are officially entered. Don’t think they have anything in there for you, boy.”

“Ruff.”

“Tell you what. We’ll go find Edna and Halley. They’re serving up food somewhere around here.”

“Ruff. Ruff!”

It didn’t take Harold and Boomerang long to find Edna and Halley. With only a half hour until the races and the walk begin, there’s a long line at the Turkey Trot Food Truck. Edna Sanders and the other volunteers are busy serving hot drinks, breakfast sandwiches, and snacks. Over in a corner, high up on a stack of cardboard boxes, Halley’s Comet hangs out in her kitty carrier. The cooking smells make her sneeze.

“Ca-Chew!”

“Oh, Halley, sweetheart, it’ll only be a little longer. My shift is almost over, and then we can join the boys.”

Near the starting line, serious runners and leisurely walkers alike warm up by stretching and jogging in place. Hundreds of friends and family members gather to cheer them on.

Music blares from a big tent where a couple of guys play guitars and sing. Children from Shady Pines Elementary, dressed as Pilgrims, pass out water to anyone who wants some. And workers putting the podium in place on the platform where the winners will get their trophies bang away with their hammers.

Mayor Beauregard Fibbs is deep in conversation with farmer Fred Farnsworth.

“Farmer Fred.”

“Beauregard.”

“Please tell me you didn’t bring that fool turkey of yours with you.”

“I did. What have you got against Tiny the Turkey?”

“What have I –– have you forgotten how that gigantic beast of a turkey nearly bit my hand off last year?”

“You know that wouldn’t have happened if you’d any sense!”

“Why you –– you told me to feed him that grain.”

“Not with your fingers stickin’ up like that!”

Fred and Beauregard are at it again. Tiny is a big deal. He is the largest turkey in the Tri-state area and winner of the prestigious 4H fall whopper turkey award. And when Tiny is around, trouble is not far behind!

“Mommy, Come here. Look!”

“Oh, my goodness. That is one big turkey.”

Tiny struts his stuff around the pen Farmer Fred has put up for him. Tiny always brings attention to Farmer Fred and himself, wherever he goes.

Harold, Boomer, Edna and Halley make their way to the starting line. Edna’s carrying Halley, who doesn’t look happy being hauled around in her carrier.

“OK. This is it. We’re supposed to wait here by the starting line until our group is called.”

“How much longer, Harold?”

“Just a few more minutes, Honey. They’re just about to send off the serious runners. We’re after that, along with the second group of runners.”

“Ruff.”

“Yes, boy. You’re going, too.”

“Mee-ow.”

“Sorry, my sweet girl. Cats can’t enter. You and I will find some good places along the route to watch all the action. And, I brought tuna!”

“Prrrrr.”

The first group is ready to run, and the starter steps up to the side of the starting line. “On your mark. Get set. GO!”

And, they’re off like a thundering flock of – turkeys! A sea of colorful shirts and running shoes runs through the town like a river. The walkers and the folks who want to jog step up to the starting line.

“On your mark.”

As this next wave rolls into place, a crowd begins to gather around Tiny the Turkey.

“Get Set.

The group by Tiny grows larger and louder.

GO!”

Harold, Boomer, and the rest of the bunch take off. Edna and Halley wait somewhere on the course to cheer them as they go by. Running from the opposite direction is Farmer Fred with a line of people following behind. He heads toward Tiny and the crowd huddled around his pen.

“What’s going on here?” asks Farmer Fred.

A little girl is in the pen with Tiny!

“Hey, there little girl. Don’t cry. Tiny is gentle as a kitten. Let me just get in there and we’ll get you right out.”

“Susie, mommy’s here!” Susie’s mommy steps out from behind Farmer Fred.

Farmer Fred tries to hold back the massive bird while shooing the little girl toward the open gate, and then two things happen at once. Susie flies into her mother’s arms, and Tiny flies from the coop! The last thing anyone sees are two, very long, skinny legs and a lot of feathers chasing after the last group of walkers and joggers.

Look out, everyone! We’ve got a turkey on the run!

Meanwhile, Harold and Boomer are making their way along the route when Boomer starts growling, something he doesn’t do often.

“Boomer, what’s the matter, boy?”

“What’s wrong with your dog, Mister?” asks a young man jogging by.

“I’m not sure. He must hear something that’s getting him riled —”

Before Harold could finish his sentence, something very large, moving very fast, rushes past him. And, in a flash, Boomerang’s natural herding instinct kicks in, and he is off and running, his leash trailing behind.

Tiny the Turkey swerves wildly past the walkers as if they are standing still. Bystanders gasp at the sight of the runaway. Some of them point and shout. By the time Tiny catches up with the runners, he has left a path of chaos behind him, with joggers and walkers tripping and falling over one another. Then he makes a detour. Just up ahead and off the race route, some young girls are jumping rope, and the big turkey ducks, hops and skips through the twirling pink ropes. The girls stop twirling the ropes and stare.

As Edna and Halley wait on the curb to see Harold and Boomer, they watch the confusion and uproar. Edna shades her eyes and cranes her neck to see what’s happening. Halley, sitting quietly in her little harness as Edna holds her leash, suddenly leaps in fear and scoots under the first chair she can find, nearly upending Edna.

“Whoa, girl. Hold on a minute.”

“Meeow.”

“Was that Tiny? Is that Boomer? Chasing him? Where’s Harold? What’s going on?”

“Edna!” Harold stops in front of her and bends over, holding his side. “Did you see,” he starts, panting, “Did you see Boomer come this way?”

“Harold. Catch your breath. Yes. He went that way.”

“Come on. Grab Halley and let’s go!”

It’s hard to tell who’s chasing whom. Kids in pilgrim costumes, runners and their four-legged friends in turkey get-ups, and party-goers dash in all directions, with an Australian Shepherd in full pursuit.

And way up in the distance, a large, white-feathered head sprints out ahead of everyone. The tape at the finish line falls. It can’t be true, can it? Tiny wins the race!

Mayor Beauregard Fibbs and the other official-looking people waiting on the podium stare, stunned at what just happened. For the first time, in along time, the mayor is speechless. The moment doesn’t last. When Tiny saw the winner’s podium, he jumped right on up to get away from Boomer. Farmer Fred got there just in time. Tiny was about to go after Fibbs.

“Fred. You get a hold of that darn bird will, ya?”

“I got him. I got him. I think he likes your bow tie. Tiny, are you hurt? Bet you’re tired, huh?”

“Balderdash, you fool farmer. What about the rest of us? What about the race?”

“Well, Beau, seems he won fair and square.”

And there you have it. The photo for the front page of The Gazette is one for the record books. Standing in the top spot is the biggest turkey anyone ever saw. Two humans took second and third. And while Mayor Fibbs’ looks horrified, Farmer Fred beams with pride. Boomerang looks plumb tuckered out, his head dropping as he stands with Harold, Edna, and Halley during the trophy presentation. Everyone claps, whoops, and hollers. It is official. For the first time ever, a turkey takes first place at the annual Turkey Trot.

“Harold.”

“Yes, dear.”

“After all this, and in honor of Tiny, I’m not sure I want turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

“What are you thinking?”

“I’ll look in my fridge. But, I think I have all the ingredients I need to make meat loaf.”

Meatloaf? On Thanksgiving?”

And that’s how Edna’s legendary, “Save The Day,” meatloaf recipe became the go-to dish when someone needs a quick dinner idea. Still, the best idea of all is to spend your day open to all sorts of new opportunities. Even the most unlikely event can turn into a winning moment. At least that’s how things are here, in the small Southern town of Shady Pines!

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