INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - When the Maui Zoo first opened some 40 years ago, they didn't have any animals, only plants. So I called the former mayor, Elmer Cravalho, and asked him if he would donate one of his many turkeys to the zoo, which he was happy to do. Elmer asked me when I arrived what I was going to call him and I suggested Muhammad Alii, as the word "alii" means "chief" in Hawaiian. Elmer liked that well enough, gave Muhammad his blessings, and off we went to the zoo. Curator Eddie Smith (God rest his gentle soul) was waiting for us with open arms, and agreed to let me take Muhammad out on his birthday each year for a drink.Well that was a bad idea. It only happened once and that was enough.I put Muhammad on the hatch-back with a bowl of water, but every time I applied the brakes he came flying into the front seat, which was annoying.Our first stop was Apple Annie's. I walked Muhammad in on a leash and everybody started laughing, until he spread his feathers out like a fan and summarily relieved himself right there in front of the owner, whose face changed in an instant from friend to frost.We made the rounds that day, out to Mama's Fish House in Kuau, up to the Makawao Steak House, and back to Web & Betty Beggs' Landing in Kahului, where Muhammad switched from water to beer. After that there was no keeping him quiet. The little cone that had been standing proudly above his beak all day began to relax until it drooped down on one side, and he started singing, as best he could, like a songbird. It was really something to hear.Well I couldn't take him back to the zoo in his condition so I put him in the men's room at KMVI and put a sign on the door: OUT OF ORDER!But as it happened, the janitor got to work the next morning before I did. He was a mild-mannered elderly Pilipino gentleman, who, upon finding the toilet in working condition, took a seat, totally unawares of the company he was about to keep. Muhammad awakened, shook off his hangover, started strutting and fluffing his feathers, and just as Mr. Suero stood up, according to Mr. Suero, Muhammad attacked him, forcing him out of the men's room with his trousers still about his ankles, shouting, "BEEG BIRD! BEEG BIRD!" Just at that pregnant moment the secretary walked in and upon seeing Mr. Suero in that state of undress went back out, leaving her coffee suspended in midair. It must have been quite a scene, and I was secretly sorry to have missed it.Anyways, I got Muhammad back to the zoo no worse for the wear, but made a promise to myself to remember never to take a turkey out for a drink on his birthday ever again, and to this day, 40 years later, I have kept that promise.Happy Turkey Day...- Learn more about McAvoy Layne at www.ghostoftwain.org.
Pine Nuts: One lucky turkey is living the good life on Maui
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