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Trotting Turkeys put Cuero, Texas on the Map

November 25, 2013

Who knew that driving turkeys to their doom would draw droves of visitors to the tiny Texas town of Cuero beginning in the early 1900s. When a processing plant moved to the outskirts of Cuero in 1908, turkey ranchers began herding their flocks through the center of town on their way to the plant. The spectacle of thousands of fowl trotting through town drew spectators from far and wide. Cuero merchants capitalized on the attraction providing visitors with refreshments and rooms. Local leaders determined to reap the benefits of this annual poultry parade formalized the event in November 1912, declaring the first official Turkey Trot. Texas governor Oscar Colquitt and other  dignitaries attended the festivities and enjoyed a parade of “floats festooned with turkey feathers” in addition to 18,000+ turkeys strutting down Main Street.[1]

Turkey trot in Cuero, Texas, 1912, Francisco A. Chapa Family papers, MS 405

Turkey trot in Cuero, Texas, 1912, Francisco A. Chapa Family papers, MS 405

Governor Oscar Colquitt and other dignitaries at 1912 Turkey Trot, Francisco A. Chapa Family papers, MS 405

Governor Oscar Colquitt and other dignitaries at 1912 Turkey Trot, Francisco A. Chapa Family papers, MS 405

1912 Turkey trot, Francisco A. Chapa Family papers

1912 Turkey trot, Francisco A. Chapa Family papers, MS 405

1912 Turkey Trot, Francisco A. Chapa Family papers, MS 405

1912 Turkey Trot, Francisco A. Chapa Family papers, MS 405

Milton Brenner (standing) and Sid Daniels (in cart) in 1912 Turkey Trot parade, General Photographs Collection, MS 362

Milton Brenner (standing) and Sid Daniels (in cart) in 1912 Turkey Trot parade, General Photographs Collection, MS 362

Quay Rathbone, first Sultana of Turkey Trot, General Photograph Collection, MS 362

Quay Rathbone, first Sultana of Turkey Trot, General Photograph Collection, MS 362

In 1913, a Turkish theme set the stage for the Turkey Trot as Sultan Yekrut (turkey spelled backwards) and Sultana Oreuc (Cuero reversed) reigned over the festivities. As the years progressed, the Turkish pageantry became more and more splendid. The royal couple became a royal court complete with attendants decked out in elaborate costumes. Cuero was thus transformed from tiny town amongst the mesquite trees and sagebrush to an exotic oasis replete with the splendor of a Turkish court.

French S. Tarkington and Mabel Claire Hall with unidentified girl, Turkey Trot Sultan and Sultana, 1922, General Photograph Collection, MS 362

French S. Tarkington and Mabel Claire Hall with unidentified girl, Turkey Trot Sultan and Sultana, 1922, General Photograph Collection, MS 362

Coronation of Sultan Yekrut and Sultana Oreuc at Cuero Turkey Trot, 1934, General Photograph Collection, MS 362

Coronation of Sultan Yekrut and Sultana Oreuc at Cuero Turkey Trot, 1934, General Photograph Collection, MS 362

Turkey Trot royal court with turkeys on ranch, 1934, General Photograph Collection, MS 362

Turkey Trot royal court with turkeys on ranch, 1934, General Photograph Collection, MS 362

John J. Bell and Mabel Claire Breeden, 1936 Turkey Trot Sultan and Sultana, General Photograph Collection, MS 362

John J. Bell and Mabel Claire Breeden, 1936 Turkey Trot Sultan and Sultana, General Photograph Collection, MS 362

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[1] “The Cuero Turkey Trot,” [http://m.turkeyfest.org/p/About-Us/Cuero’s-Turkey-History/195], accessed November 11, 2013.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 26, 2013 12:20 pm

    Good article and history I never knew. And of course the photos are awesome.

    Here’s a video clip of First Turkey Trot, Cuero, TX (1912)
    http://www.texasarchive.org/library/index.php?title=2011_01529&p=video1&b=0

  2. Marian Martinello permalink
    November 27, 2013 10:08 am

    What a delightful story for Thanksgiving Day. I had no idea that Cuero had so elaborate a turkey trot. You’ve provided me with an interesting piece of Texas history to share with my friends over Thanksgiving dinner.

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