Monday, November 26, 2012

Presidential Turkeys Settle In At Mount Vernon

Cobbler and Gobbler are living in a rustic shack in a small fenced enclosure at President George Washington's historic estate...
After receiving a very public pardon from President Obama last Wednesday, National Thanksgiving Turkey Cobbler and his alternate Gobbler are now settled into their new home at Mount Vernon Estates and Gardens, located fourteen miles from the White House.  Their accommodations at President George Washington's historic manse are rustic:  A small wood shack with a single door and one tiny screened window sits at the back of a small yard surrounded by split rail fencing.  It is low enough that visitors can lean over and touch the two birds, Obama Foodorama observed during a chilly visit on Sunday.   Unlike wild turkeys, the duo cannot fly, having been bred with broad meaty chests suitable for deli meat and carving boards.

It was overcast and a bitter 38 degrees midday on Sunday, and Cobbler and Gobbler repeatedly flapped their wings and vocalized as parka-wearing guests paused to snap photos.  Their enclosure is located on a road above the visitors' center, along a brick wall that fences in one of Washington's recreated vegetable gardens.  (Above:  A visitor pulls a tail feather)

There was no Mount Vernon employee on hand to oversee guests or birds, but a simple laminated sign stapled to a post identified the Toms as the now-famous Presidential Turkeys. 

With visitors watching, Cobbler and Gobbler fanned their tail feathers and occasionally went to a small wood trough where they pecked at a mix of corn kernels and poultry chow.  A plastic bucket of water was available inside the small house, where straw, covered with droppings, was strewn on the floor. (Above:  A longview of the enclosure)

Cobbler is the only National Thanksgiving Turkey in history to be chosen by an online White House poll.

Now 20 weeks old, the two Toms were hatched on July 13 and grew up with the 40-member Presidential Flock in a climate-controlled converted barn dubbed "the turkey palace" by Craig and Nancy Miller, the farmers who raised them for Cargill Retail Meat Solutions, Inc. in Rockingham County,Virginia. (Above:  The sign that identifies the duo) 

Before their big day at the White House, Cobbler and Gobbler spent two nights staying at the lavish W hotel in DC.  They even held a press conference.  

"These two lucky birds will be swept up in a whirlwind of fame and fortune that will ultimately lead them to Mount Vernon, where they will spend their twilight years in the storied home of George Washington," President Obama declared as he granted clemency.

Cobbler and Gobbler could live as long as eight years, according to Dr. Bob Evans, the Cargill veterinarian who was the doctor for the Presidential flock.  Now weighing more than 40 pounds each, the birds could weigh as much as 80 pounds when fully grown.  But that's an unlikely future.  (Above:  Cobbler gets a drink in the turkey shack as Gobbler struts near the chow trough)

Liberty and Peace, the turkeys President Obama pardoned in 2011, were also sent to live at Mount Vernon's livestock facility.  Peace, the alternate Tom, was euthanized the Monday before Thanksgiving, Huffington Post reported.  Apple and Cider, the 2010 duo, were also ensconced at Mount Vernon, and have also died.

Cobbler and Gobbler are not the only livestock imported to Mount Vernon for the Christmas program:  There's also Aladdin, a five-year-old camel from Virginia, who is on display in a paddock up the road from the turkeys.

President Washington paid 18 shillings to bring a camel to Mount Vernon in 1787 "for the enjoyment of his family and friends," according to the sign outside the depressed-looking Aladdin's enclosure.  The Virginia camel is a holiday homage to the first President's love of exotic animals. (Aladdin, above)

Cobbler and Gobbler  and Aladdin will be on display through Jan. 6, 2013 for the Christmas at Mount Vernon holiday program.

Related:  How the President and First Family celebrated Thanksgiving.

*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama