If you were to drive a few hours south of Salt Lake you would come to a beautiful valley frozen in time. My town sits right in the center. You can still go to the hardware store, pick up what you need, and say to Carl, the owner, as you're walking out the door, "Put it on my tab."
A Friday night out means old fashioned hamburgers and huge shakes at the Malt Shop where you'll exchange small talk about getting a third cut of hay and shake your head in disgust at your cousin who just spent half his operating loan on a new Kubota tractor. You call the neighbors when their chickens are out, and you slow for sheep on the highway . . . but never come to a full stop.
You know it's time to transplant when the flax blooms and time to cover the tomato plants when the cows come home. You sit on the back porch in September and listen to the elk call, naming the gender, age and approximate weight of the animal. When someone dies, the whole community attends the viewing because you likely lost an aunt, uncle, cousin or grandparent. Everybody is related to everybody else—three generations back—and if you're not, live here long enough and you'll be adopted. You rake the neighbors leaves, attend the local halloween carnival—the hottest ticket in town— and decorate your ATV and trailer in miniature lights for the Christmas Night Parade.
Under no circumstances, though, do you ever speak of them—the ones that disappear every fall.
Their eyes peer out of squat steel sheds, with only the faint glow of heat lamps cutting through the darkness, reminding you of the ugly truth hidden inside. They cower behind great barbed-wire walls—straight out of a post-apocalyptic-distopian death camp. No one speaks of the camps. Not at community parties or the homecoming game. No one speaks of the millions slaughtered every year.
Why? Because without their sacrifice how would the cities celebrate gratitude, freedom and family?
Only we in the heartland bear the secret. Only we know the truth—when we're left with only silence. And feathers. Oh the feathers. Always drifting across the road. We never speak of where the turkeys go—not without shuttering our windows and locking the doors.
For my countrymen, fall brings joyful reminders of how much they are thankful for. But for our small town it's only a bitter reminder that eventually we all go the way of the birds.
For more holiday atrocities click hear and see the gruesome images of our family pumpkin harvest.