Big gobbler wins woman's heart

Lucky bird

LUCKY BIRD: Pete Hansen, right, had plans last Thanksgiving to roast Pabst, a turkey he helped raise for the better part of a year in Salida, Colo., but Francine Singleton, left, came to the big bird’s rescue.

Arlene Shovald

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When Pete Hansen and Annie Gamber, of Salida, Colo., raise turkeys, they raise them big. That’s what caught the eye of a local newspaper photographer, and for Pabst the turkey, that was good luck.

Pabst’s photograph appeared in The Mountain Mail the week before Thanksgiving last year, along with a caption saying that the 35-pound bird had “a date with a guillotine and a hot oven sometime between now and Thanksgiving.” Seeing the item tugged at the heart of another Salida resident, Francine Singleton.

“I remembered the White House has an annual turkey pardoning, and I figured it would work in Colorado as well,” Singleton said.

Flying into action

Singleton called the turkey’s owners and offered a reprieve. She would initiate a campaign for donations to save the turkey, and the proceeds would go to The Grainery, a local food bank.

Gamber and Hansen had raised Pabst since he was a chick, feeding the bird with kitchen scraps and compost for the better part of a year, so Gamber didn’t like Singleton’s idea at first. When she learned that Singleton wanted to raise money for the food bank, however, she decided it would be a nice thing to do.

“Besides, we had several other turkeys,” she said. “It wasn’t like we weren’t going to have anything for Thanksgiving dinner.”

Singleton wasn’t a vegetarian out to save every turkey, Hansen said. “She just wanted to save Pabst, have a little fun and raise some money for The Grainery by doing this,” he said.

Singleton found some local sponsors, and the effort to bail out Pabst began. When Salida’s annual Parade of Lights was held the day after Thanksgiving, the sponsors helped provide a cage and a float, and Pabst stole the show as he rode proudly down the main street of town, gobbling at the crowd.

“Pabst was the perfect turkey for this little escapade,” Singleton said. “He’s a gentle bird, and he loved the attention.”

Singleton collected more than $200 for The Grainery, and she was also able to find a friend willing to adopt Pabst for a pet.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t plan to have turkey for Thanksgiving myself,” Singleton said with a laugh, “but I planned to buy a frozen one – not one I got to know personally.”