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For kids: Down on the turkey farm

These native American birds find a home in the Alabama countryside.

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Most of the turkeys produced by Ms. Pitman and Mr. Bates won't be around next season. But one fortunate bird from the Bates farm will be spared and presented to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, who will grant it an official "pardon" just before Thanksgiving Day.

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Patsy Riley, Alabama's first lady, likes to encourage people – including kids – to think less of turkey and Thanksgiving food and more about helping people who are less fortunate. She organizes Blankets With a Blessing, a program that collects and distributes blankets to shelters and the homeless.

The custom of pardoning a turkey, which is also practiced by other governors and the US president, is often said to have been started by Abraham Lincoln. But it's actually a more recent tradition. The first president to declare a formal turkey "pardon" was George H.W. Bush, in 1989. However, presidents have been presented with a Thanksgiving turkey from the National Turkey Federation since 1947, which is about the time Mr. Bates began giving turkeys to Alabama governors.

"This will be my 59th year of doing it," said Mr. Bates, who has named each of the birds Clyde. This year's Clyde will likely follow many of the Clydes before him and be returned to the Bates farm, where he will live out his days under those cool, shady pecan trees.

• A male turkey is called a tom, females are called hens, and a baby turkey is a poult.

• Male turkeys make a gobble sound, while females make a clucking or clicking sound.

• When astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, their first meal was turkey.

• Turkeys are now bred to be so big that they can no longer fly.

• A turkey has 157 bones.

• The world's biggest "turkey" is a 20-feet tall fiberglass statue in Frazee, Minn.

• The costume of Sesame Street's Big Bird is made from about 4,000 turkey feathers dyed yellow.

• Minnesota produces more turkeys than any other state.

• The average American consumed 17.5 pounds of turkey in 2007.

Sources: US Census Bureau, National Turkey Federation, the University of Illinois Extension, the city of Frazee

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