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Childrens book features Worthington’s ‘Paycheck’

Katy Efner is the author of “That Fast Turkey,” a book inspired by King Turkey Day in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — A brand new children’s book, “That Fast Turkey,” is all about the origins of Worthington’s speedy racing bird, Paycheck, as imagined by Worthington native Katy Efner.

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But serving up this helping of hometown lore was more of a marathon than a sprint, according to Efner, the book’s author and illustrator.

“I started working on it over two years ago,” shared Efner. “A friend of mine in England had written a story about a polar bear who wanted to see the penguins at the South Pole or Antarctica, and that planted a seed in me: What animal could I write about?

“I wanted to write a story about Paycheck.”

Finding a publisher for a book about a racing turkey is no easy task, especially for a first-time author, so Efner decided to pursue the self-publishing process.

That, however, takes money, and while Efner had no shortage of ideas, cash and great timing were a little harder to harness.

Ultimately, two King Turkey Day celebrations have come and gone since Efner finished the book, but she persisted nevertheless. A few weeks ago, the first printing of Efner’s books arrived, and she has since distributed them to several local retailers for sale.

“There’s a copy at the [Nobles County] library, too, and I’ve talked to Prairie Elementary staff about possibly doing a reading there,” said Efner, who currently works at Ridgewood and Golden Horizons in Worthington.

A 1983 graduate of Worthington High School and a self-described “band geek” who is a huge fan of singer Josh Groban (“It’s just too bad things haven’t worked out between us,” she said), Efner grew up steeped in Turkey Day traditions. She also was the winning designer of the 2007 King Turkey Day button.

“I remember Turkey Days through all of my life,” Efner said. “I always like the parade, and I remember watching it from my parents’ shop [the former Exclusive Cleaners on 11th Street] when it used to pass by there.

“People used to sit on the roof of the old YMCA building and watch the parade.”

Efner was an elementary student when the racing turkey rivalry between Worthington’s Paycheck and the Cuero, Texas, fowl Ruby Begonia came into being.

“The very first Paycheck was accidentally shot,” recalled Efner with a laugh. “Somebody sent in a letter to the paper apologizing for it, and it was talked about so much at school, but our music teacher was a little exasperated and said, ‘It’s just a turkey!’”

Still, that turkey settled deeply in Efner’s imagination, and besides the aforementioned friend who wrote about a polar bear, a long-ago episode of Animal Planet in which a daily jogger was regularly joined in his jaunt by a wild turkey provided a further spark.

“I’ve thought of writing children’s books for a long time,” said Efner.

“I’ve written stories for friends’ kids on their birthdays — like ‘Shelby and Joey Go To Mars,’ and ‘Cole Helps Out,’” she explained, adding that she holds a degree in English/creative writing from Southwest State University, Marshall.

“I went to college off and on for a long time because both of my parents had bad health problems, so I would come back to work in their business when they were hospitalized at different times,” explained Efner.

“That Fast Turkey” tells the tale of young Evan (named for the son of past King Turkey Day president Brian Almberg of Rushmore), who lives on a farm outside of Worthington.

Evan is training for a track meet, and as he strides down the country roads, he is accompanied by a turkey that also likes to run. Shortly before the track meet, the turkey stows away in a truck, arriving ahead of time at Trojan Field. Despite being worried about the turkey’s seeming disappearance, Evan participates in his race — only to be joined by the turkey in the midst of the contest. Evan ultimately triumphs.

The turkey’s speed wins him the name Paycheck, because (as everyone in Worthington already knows) “nothing goes faster than a paycheck.”

Efner plans to use the proceeds from her book sales to fund a second printing, and she may also donate a percentage of the profit to the King Turkey Day fund or to another local charity.

“This would be a great book to share with kids at Thanksgiving, or to give as a Christmas gift,” encouraged Efner, who also believes “That Fast Turkey” is a gobbling good way to promote King Turkey Day. “I want to see kids get excited about reading, and I think kids should be pushed to read.

“Writing and making up your own stories is one of the only ways to make something out of nothing.”

“That Fast Turkey,” written and illustrated by Katy Efner, is available for purchase at these Worthington locations: Sterling Drug, Lit’l Wizards, Schafer’s Health and Gifts, Hy-Vee and the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce.