A plea to keep this Thanksgiving tradition alive.

By Rick Bragg
Ronald Reagan Presidential Turkey Pardon
Credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Dear Mr. President,

I am sorry for bothering you in this hectic season, and I hate to take you away from the 18th hole and your negotiations with the prince of something or other.

I'm a man who believes in traditions; we are funny that way down here. One of my favorites is the annual holiday photo opportunity at the White House involving the President, his family, and the Presidential turkey.

He—or she?—is always a really fine specimen of poultry and is still very much alive there on what I believe is the White House lawn. I do not know how they get the turkey to stand still long enough for a photo, since turkeys are not known for their attention spans. I think they used to bring the gobbler into the residence itself, but being a country boy, I can tell you that is not a good idea. But I digress…

I used to think it was sad that the bird would, as soon as the paparazzi were gone, be led into the White House kitchen and then be, well, dispatched. I know this makes me a hypocrite, since I have helped send many turkeys to their dooms without a care.

But I did not know them. They were not THE American turkey. The ones that I consumed came from the Piggly Wiggly; they were hard frozen and wrapped in plastic. As a little boy, watching that great turkey pose for the networks, I darn near cried.

Then, year after year, the camera would turn to the smiling reporters who explained that the turkey had just been pardoned and would be retired to a pleasant farm in the country to live out its days. And I was so happy.

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This Thanksgiving, though, I have some concerns. I know that you can tend to be, well, a little pugnacious. You ran on a promise to do away with politics as usual in Washington. Well, the Presidential turkey usually gets a pardon.

While I know you have a reputation to uphold and might think that if you pardon the bird, it will appear as if you're soft on crime, I do not believe this is the case.

I think you'll appear Presidential and benevolent—but, you know, not in any sissy kind of way. If it will make you feel better, you can chastise the turkey vigorously first, perhaps on Twitter. The thing is, Mr. President, that turkey deserves to live.

This year, I recommend ordering out for your Thanksgiving spread. Maybe on your way down to Florida, you could wheel through Alabama and get a whole dinner to go at Bates House of Turkey Restaurant in Greenville. Every day is like Thanksgiving there, because every meal they serve features turkey. I love it!

Please at least think about my request to be lenient, and remember, Christmas is coming.