In 1975 I was living in Salem, Oregon. It was raining all the time and I was doing my first serious regular drinking because there was no heroin available. Which is primarily why I was there. That and the draft and the Brotherhood and the BNDD, the San Diego Police, and my girlfriend's dad who collected exotic WWI weaponry. But that's another book. I lived on the unincorporated west side in an old two-story farmhouse with blackberry brambles. Everyday I would take a dollar and go down to the IGA supermarket, buy a quart of Rainer beer, a newspaper, and a pack of smokes, and have 15 cents left over.

My worst job ever (so far) was during this period at Norbest Turkeys. My first day they put me on the beginning of the line where the trucks rolled in with three other guys. The trucks were tiered I think four high with cages and I don't remember how long, but lots. We were on a platform that raised up and down to put us level with the cages, each of which held three to four live turkeys. Directly behind us ran a continuous conveyer of stirrups. Our job was to pull the birds from the cage and hang them upside down in the stirrups where they ran the length of the open-air loading bay and a guy stood and cut their throats and the turkeys disappeared inside of the plant. The kill guy was a Viet Nam Vet who sharpened his knife all day and with a flick of the wrist cut those necks but did not remove the head. See, he was careful about that and was good at his job. The other three guys on my crew were veterans too and had been doing this for quite some time. They were the most stupid/crazy guys I had ever encountered to that point in my life. The demographics of Salem were unique because (a) it being the Capitol, there were legions of federal and state workers; (b) there were two men's prisons (one state, one fed); (c) one woman's prison (and all the aforementioned families); (d) the state hospital (where One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was filmed and the novel based and I was a brief guest); and (e) it is just one of those convergences of utter weirdness. Norbest would and did hire anyone at all.

Most people do not consider just what goes on so they can have a lovely family gathering around a Butterball once a year. A 20 lb. dressed turkey was once an incredibly large, incredibly strong and stupid living bird. Figure a wing span of six feet. I would reach in and grab both huge clawed feet, spin around while the great beast would attempt to take flight, almost lifting me off the ground and dislocating my arms clean out of their sockets. In their agitated state they would frequently loose their bowels and make hideous screams of terror. The lead guy would yell "threes!" and so every third stirrup was to be filled. The knife guy cutting cleanly, me reaching into the crowded cages, madly grabbing future drumsticks. Then the lead guy would yell "twos!" and we'd really have to hustle to keep the line fed. Feathers everywhere, in your mouth, eyes, ears. The birds shrieking. And while all this was going on my workmates were - SINGING - strange little songs with call and response that they would just make up. No kidding.

I lasted two and 1/2 days. They gave the employees ham at Thanksgiving. I know because I asked. 

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