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Paycheck wins in Cuero

CUERO, Texas -- Worthington's turkey has done it again.

Surrounded by thousands of race fans Saturday morning, Paycheck and her arch nemesis -- or rather, feathered friend, Ruby Begonia of Cuero, Texas, took to the street and ran as fast as they could -- right into the throng of onlookers.

In the second heat of the Great Gobbler Gallop at Turkeyfest in downtown Cuero, it was the race teams that were tested to see who could catch their bird and run the fastest toward the finish line. Paycheck team captain Dianne Schettler proved she had what it took for the snatch, foot race and win.

"You had to put all of your 'Minnesota nice' aside and run the crowd over," Schettler boasted after the race. She may have pushed a chair over and stepped on a few toes, but despite some anonymous claims, there were no babies hurt or strollers toppled in the incident.

Ruby Begonia forced her handlers into a rose bush to capture her. Ultimately, the prickly thorns proved to be a thorn in the side of the Cuero Race Team as they sprinted across the finish line 24 seconds behind Paycheck.

With a time of 1 minute, 3 seconds before penalties, Paycheck was awarded the Traveling Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph, while poor little Ruby -- with a pre-penalty time of 1:27 -- laid claim, once again, to the Circulating Consolation Cup of Consummate Commiseration.

"Dianne gets the game ball," said Paycheck handler Mike Fury of the race. "She's really the star today."

Paycheck had an overall time of 4:06 between her stellar finish at Worthington's King Turkey Day in mid-September, and her cradle-carry to the end zone in Cuero. Ruby, on the other hand, finished with a disappointing two-heat time of 8:19.

"She was a little feisty," said Paycheck Coach Vida Iten of the Worthington turkey.

Perhaps it was the performance-enhancing drugs that caused Paycheck's behavior. After all, she was being treated with Neosporin for injuries she sustained inside her cage enroute to the big state of Texas.

The drug claim went a little too far when, within an hour of the Worthington Race Team's arrival in Cuero, DeWitt County Sheriff Jode Zavesky handcuffed Iten, Schettler, Fury and fellow handler Jesse Teerink for the crime. Bail was set at a 1-minute head start for Ruby Begonia, but the charges were mysteriously dropped just before race time.

"We got stripes and everything. The paddy wagon ride was fun," Fury said of the arrest, then added with a laugh, "I don't know why we'd be treated that way."

The mock arrest was one of many opportunities for the two towns -- both of whom lay claim to the Turkey Capital of the World -- to enjoy some good-natured ribbing.

Still, when it comes to the turkey race, the teams take their work seriously.

"There was a lot of booing and a lot of nasty language," Iten confided. "They thought we were cheaters (for picking up our bird)."

When Ruby's handlers did the same, the claims of cheating subsided.

In the end, it didn't really matter that the Cuero crowd tossed about allegations of cheating. After all, Paycheck is coming home on Monday with the trophy and another year of bragging rights.

"We've had a good time," Fury said. "This was just a good race again."

Following the race and Turkeyfest parade, the Paycheck Race Team was geared up to enjoy some of that great Texas hospitality. The women were going shopping, and the men were going to help judge the barbecue contest.

"The hospitality is unreal," Teerink said. "It's an awesome time."

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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