The moment Tom 1 stood up, the crowd knew he was the one. While his competitors gobbled in fits last Thursday morning, he stood tall, meaty chest puffed and tail feathers fanned, to a gaggle of elementary schoolers and reporters looking on. Clad in biosecurity suits and booties to protect the birds from stowaway viruses, they had gathered at the ranch in Modesto, California, to observe the selection of the turkey that President Obama would soon pardon. “That’s the winner right there,” one student shouted. “He’s perfect,” murmured one reporter to another. “He’s so Hollywood.”
For his part, Tom 1, as the bird was then called, seemed pretty blasé about the whole thing. And rightly so: Keeping cool during chaos is one of the virtues demanded of the presidential turkey. He and a second turkey dubbed Tom 2, now officially named Honest and Abe, earned a ticket to the White House Rose Garden for the annual turkey pardon, this year taking place the day before Thanksgiving.
Most of us come to know the presidential turkey only at the moment the commander-in-chief spares him from the buttery, cranberry-sauced fate that befalls millions of his brethren. But at just four months old, these birds have already experienced more than many adult humans: photo shoots, a trip to the White House, and a stay in one of Washington, D.C.’s toniest hotels. After the pardon, both Honest and Abe will live the remainder of their lives in luxury—but they may not live long enough to enjoy much of it.