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By Lou Washington

Most of my contemporary friends don’t know it, but I spent one fall of my young life coaching American football at the collegiate level. I make that statement both honestly and in a spirit of complete sincerity. I was, indeed an assistant college football coach.

You may recall that I grew up in a college town. There are three college level educational institutions located in my home, Columbia Missouri. First we had the University of Missouri, also known as Mizzou. Also, we had Columbia College which offers educational opportunities on campus as well as all over the planet through a highly evolved extended campus program. Finally, we had Stephens College.

Stephens was a unique institution. It was a four year, predominately female college.  In those days, Stephens offered excellent programs in music, acting or dramatics, design, art and literature.  Stephens gave Columbia a touch of class. It was small, exclusive and polished. Stephens students came from all over the US and even overseas, but mainly from urban areas in the eastern United States.

So, let me get back to my football coaching career. As you may have already guessed, I did not coach the Mighty Tigers of Ol’ Mizzou. My coaching career began and ended as an intramural coach for the touch football team of Lela Raney Woods Hall at Stephens College.

As a barely post-adolescent male, Stephens College was my idea of Disneyland. So, when my buddy Charlie Utz showed up one day, with a big smile on his face, and asked me if I wanted to be his assistant football coach at Stephens, you know how I answered. I just jumped on that like a big wet dog!

So that’s how Charlie and I befriended about twenty or so co-eds at Stephens College that fall back in 1974.

The ladies making up our football team were smart, dedicated and fearless. I’m proud to say our team was undefeated over their season. We trounced the teams from Wales, Pillsbury, Hillcrest, Tower halls and the rest. It was only natural that Charlie and I would reward the team with a party after each game.

Our games were played on Saturday mornings, so the entire weekend was typically required to get through all the eating and drinking following each victory. We would provide a venue and lots of beer and the rest we just made up as we went. That was pretty much how we coached the team as well.

In fact, now that I think about it, the training and practice sessions were just like the post game parties.

As football season wound down, the holiday season approached. As is customary in college towns, many students forego a trip home for Thanksgiving since Christmas break will begin just a few weeks later.

That fall, my parents were traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday and I was left to watch over the house. This happened occasionally. We would always have a solemn discussion about how the house needed to be carefully watched, how I shouldn’t have large groups over and how I should be mindful to keep things clean, locked up and safe while they were gone. Above all, NO PARTIES!

I always cheerfully agreed to these terms when they left me in charge.

I was also an accomplished liar in those days. As soon as their car was out of driveway, I would be on the phone getting the party machine in motion.

So, for that particular Thanksgiving, Charlie Utz and I decided to host a team thanksgiving dinner at my parent’s house.  This event became known as the Lela Raney Woods Thanksgiving Orphans Holiday Dinner. This was also the dinner which first featured Lou’s Famous Pregnant Turkey.

Most of the ladies on our football team were aces. Great competitors smart and fun to be with. We did have one person who was, frankly, kind of a pain. This lady was a bit self absorbed. She also was a bit picky about things. Above all, she was very open in her distain for Columbia, the Midwest and anything else west of the Hudson River.

Agriculture was not her strong suit.

Charlie and I decided to have a bit fun at her expense.

So, during the morning of Thanksgiving while everyone else was busy watching the Macy’s parade on TV, Utz and I were cooking and getting the beer on ice. We probably were sampling some of the beer as well.

As we got the big bird ready for cooking, I also pulled a Rock Cornish Game Hen out of the fridge. Charlie looked at me quizzically and asked me what in the heck I was planning on doing with the game hen.

I said, “Charlie, when we serve this turkey, it’s going to be preggers.”

So, with that understanding, we cleared big bird’s cavity of giblets and neck. Then, covering the game hen with butter slipped her into the turkey.

Later that evening, the team was assembled around our table, the beer was flowing and the side dishes were in place. The big bird made his entrance to a chorus of oohs, and ahhs. It was a splendid looking bird if there ever was one.

As the host, it was my responsibility to carve the turkey and distribute the first round. The table became quiet as I stood and started to do my job.

Suddenly, I dropped the knife, feigning great surprise. Looking at my guests, I made the announcement, “My friends, I think this turkey is pregnant!”

My guest looked at me with great incredulity. Actually most folks at the table were in on the joke. The object of the prank stared at the bird with her mouth hanging open.

I proceeded to “deliver” the youngster and, with a great flourish, place it on her plate. I explained that this was a rare event indeed and custom dictated that the most honored quest should have the privilege of eating the new born “turkey” pup!

She was, of course flattered. But also you could see she felt she was deserving of this great honor. And a fitting honor indeed it was!

So that is how Lou’s pregnant turkey came to pass. I highly recommend this recipe that combines a truly tasty meal with an exciting lesson in biology!

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

January 2019
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