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ND gov pardons turkey, presents birds to charity

BISMARCK — North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple gathered several top officials in his conference room Monday to talk turkey, and the turkey cooperated.

Lena the turkey was unflappable, standing stoically in the middle of the conference table while Dalrymple pardoned the 26-pound, 20-week-old turkey owned by North Dakota Turkey Federation President Harvey Hofer in the annual pre-Thanksgiving holiday tradition at the Capitol.

“I think she’s had a little tranquilizer,” Dalrymple speculated, though Hofer said later that was not the case.

“When they get that old, they’re pretty docile,” the farmer said.

Dalrymple also made note of the blue tarp spread across the table, dotted here and there by feathers and refuse.

“We have learned some things over the years,” Dalrymple said.

The remark brought chuckles as many in the room remembered an incident in 2006 in which then-Gov. John Hoeven ignored the advice of then-Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson to “just leave her be,” and ended up chasing Mabel the turkey as she strutted and flapped around and relieved herself.

This year’s ceremony had no such theatrics, with Lena surveying the room as Dalrymple said, “I hereby pardon you and allow you to continue on with your life past Thanksgiving.”

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring told Dalrymple he was glad that the governor had specified the holiday.

“We might need her for Christmas,” he joked.

Before this year’s pardon, Dalrymple and Goehring presented frozen turkeys to representatives of the Abused Adult Resource Center and the Ruth Meiers Hospitality House for the homeless. The Turkey Federation is donating 24 turkeys to each of the charities.

When Dalrymple noted that the turkeys said “governor” on them, Agriculture Department spokesman Ted Quanrud quipped, “Don’t take it personally.”