Boasting about their birds: Paycheck, Ruby Begonia are ready for race day

“He’s the baddest one in the pen right now, as far as we’re concerned.”

2022 King Turkey Day race team
King Turkey Day race team members include Captain Jason Johnson, Handlers Dawn Teerink and Genny McCuen and Coach Doug Tate.
Special to The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — The Paycheck race team is looking to redeem itself after a disappointing loss in 2021, and has turned to a Russian scientist and dietitian to help give the Worthington turkey an edge in Saturday’s big race against Ruby Begonia of Cuero, Texas.

Team coach Jason Johnson said they scoured everywhere after last year’s race for some help. It was during their search that they discovered Tough Tom’s Turkey Treats, developed by the aforementioned Russian scientist known only as Nikolai. Johnson said the guy’s experience working with an Olympic team convinced Team Paycheck to go for the gold.

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Or, in this case, to go for the turkey tallow.

That’s right — the no-longer top secret ingredient is supposed to be building a lean, mean, street-running machine out of Worthington’s racing bird.

“Our head trainer, Mike Thiner, is working with Paycheck and he’s been getting four to six hours of intensive workouts every day,” Johnson shared. “He’s looking mean and ready to go.


“He’s the baddest one in the pen right now, as far as we’re concerned.”

Johnson said race day watchers will notice a bit different look to Paycheck this year, aside from his muscularity and racing physique.

“He’s not quite the same color as normal,” Johnson warned. “We don’t know if that’s the training he’s been doing or the supplements he’s been taking.

“We’ve spoken to Nikolai. I don’t know what he’s saying — he has a thick accent — but it sounds promising,” he added.

Johnson urges the Worthington crowd to help Team Paycheck race to victory on Saturday and give the team a big lead going into the second heat of the Great Gobbler Gallop in Cuero, Texas, in mid-October.

“We have two beautiful women on our team, so hopefully that will distract Ruby a little bit,” Johnson said.

Cuero 50th race team.jpg
The 2022 Cuero, Texas Race Team includes Coach Trent Kainer (from left), Captain Joel Hilburn and Handlers ShaNon Henson and Butch Prause.
(Special to The Globe)

Joel Hilburn, captain of Team Ruby Begonia, said Ruby is blaring to go. The turkey and her race team set out for Worthington on Wednesday in their RV, and will arrive just prior to Thursday’s King Turkey Day Mixer at the new 10th Street Plaza, at the corner of 10th Street and Second Avenue.

Hilburn said Ruby has been pecking at gunpowder and chugging Red Bull — a powerful combination sure to get her fired up for race day. He said she’s got a bit of a racing heart beat, but it’s nothing the team of all guys can’t handle.


To keep up with their bird, Hilburn said team members have been doing a lot of walking, progressing to the run they will have to show off for the Worthington crowd on Saturday.

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“Right now our number for registered children in Nobles County is around 700,” Harrington said of the local Toys for Tots campaign. “Our goal is to provide three toys per child, so if we can get our toy count up to 2,500, that would be great.”

“We do what we have to do to catch that bird,” he added.

In recent weeks, Ruby Begonia has been practicing her running and getting used to crowds by being let loose in the junior high recreation area. Hilburn said the students have been chasing her around so she knows how to act come race day.

“Hopefully she goes straight and if she does fly, she flies to the finish line,” Hilburn added.

In all seriousness, Johnson, Hilburn and their Team Paycheck and Team Ruby cohorts are excited to be part of the momentous year — the 50th anniversary of turkey racing between the two communities who, long ago, each claimed to be the turkey producing capital of the world.

“It’s a real privilege to be on the 50th race team,” Hilburn shared. “We’re just all really excited to come up there.”

“It’s special to be a part of the 50th,” added Johnson, who eagerly anticipates the arrival of the Cuero delegation. In addition to the current race team, numerous former race team and board members are making the trip up from Texas for Saturday’s King Turkey Day.

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Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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