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Traveling Trophy stays in Texas

CUERO, Texas -- It was too little too late for Paycheck on Saturday.

Worthington's racing turkey got off to a slow start Saturday morning in the second heat of the Great Gobbler Gallop, and despite a late surge, Paycheck could not overtake Cuero's Ruby Begonia. Ruby posted a time of just more than 54 seconds in the second leg, and Paycheck followed with 1 minute 47 seconds. When combined with the times from the first heat in Worthington, in which Paycheck also trailed, Ruby had a total time of 1 minute 59 seconds and Paycheck, 4 minutes 1 second.

Consequently, the Cuero Turkey Race Team secured the Traveling Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph for its community and the right to be called the Turkey Capital of the World for the ensuing year. The Worthington team had to accept the Circulating Consolation Cup of Consummate Commiseration.

As the race got under way on Saturday morning, King Turkey Day president Kari Meyer described the scene for listeners on a Worthington radio station.

"Ruby's flying," she announced. "Paycheck's just taking his time, hanging out there."

Following the race, as the Worthington race team members cooled off in a Cuero coffee shop, they reflected on the loss via telephone.

"He had a hard time getting out of the gate," admitted race team captain Jim Von Holtum. "About half way through, he finally got moving, but by that point, Ruby was already across the finish line."

The Worthington team em-ployed a new strategy, using small brooms in an attempt to "sweep" their bird down the course.

"They were witches' brooms," clarified Von Holtum. "We thought we were going to fly down the race course. I don't want to use the word desperate -- creative is maybe a better word -- but desperate times call for desperate measures."

Handler Diane Dybevick reported that despite the width of Cuero's race course -- Esplanade Avenue is at least one and a half times as wide as Worthington's 10th Street -- Paycheck didn't get away from his handlers, as he has during some past races.

"He did not go into the crowd," she said. "He turned around and looked at us a couple of times, though. I think they just kept him up all night down here."

Handler Larry Iten theorized that Paycheck's outgoing personality might have been partly to blame for his poor performance.

"Our turkey is just so friendly, and he sees all these people lined up on the street down here, and he just wants to stop and thank them for showing up," Iten explained.

Certainly, the weather could have been a factor. When the team left Worthington, the weather was decidedly fall-like, and there were even a few snowflakes in the air. In Cuero, the temperature was approaching 90 just before noon on Saturday.

"It's 87 degrees here right now," reported Worthington coach Cindy DeGroot. "When we were training Paycheck, it was in the 60s at home, then the temperature dropped to 30. It was just too much of a climate change. It was just too warm for Paycheck, and he was sluggish."

There was something more than a trophy and a title at stake during the Cuero leg of the race. Cuero race team handler Jamie Wright had offered up his ponytail as a sacrifice should the Worthington bird overcome its deficit and defeat Ruby on Saturday. The Worthington team was reportedly packing scissors in preparation for such an occurrence, but it just wasn't meant to be.

"It's a painful loss," said Von Holtum, "but we've agreed as a team that it's just two minutes out of our lives, and the important thing is the lifetime friends that we've made. Don't get me wrong, we'd love to win, we were all about winning, but sometimes circumstances are just out of your control."

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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