Here's to one that got away, happily

A wild turkey crosses the road near the tolls at Exit 14B of the New Jersey Turnpike in Jersey City. "Tammy" was caught and resettled at a zoo in Ocean County.

About 45 million turkeys will be consumed today for the greater good, so let us pause to reflect upon one bird that avoided the usual fate.

Her name is Tammy the Turnpike Turkey. She's an 11-pound wild turkey from New Jersey (no, not all wild turkey in the Garden State comes in a bottle).

Tammy lived at the toll plaza at exit 14B of the New Jersey Turnpike. You know - the exit after Bayonne, but before the Holland Tunnel? It's not your usual wild gobbler habitat.

How she got there, nobody knows. It's not clear why she chose the Jersey City toll plaza. Maybe she heard about a stuffing surplus in Secaucus.

Anyway, the toll collectors grew fond of Tammy. They fed her Cracker Jack and sunflower seeds.

It wasn't a bad life for a turkey. Sure, she had to scurry to avoid the 18-wheelers now and then. But the food was free, and shotgun sightings were extremely rare. There were plenty of telephones nearby in case somebody needed to dial the state's poacher hotline.

Life was so good, in fact, that a turnpike spokesman said the bird showed up at the toll plaza more regularly than some of the employees. Perhaps the turnpike authority should offer free snacks to workers, but that's an issue for another day.

Unfortunately, happy turnpike stories never last. Word spread of Tammy's fame. Motorists would slow down from their usual 85 mph to see her. Spectators would run through traffic to take pictures of her.

Turnpike officials feared the distractions might cause an accident. How would it look in a lawsuit if someone were to claim that turnpike officials knew or should have known there was a turkey in their midst?

Then again, doesn't every government agency shelter at least a few turkeys?

At last, the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife sent out a biologist with a net gun to catch Tammy. Some people say turkeys are stupid, but Tammy knew a biologist with a net gun when she saw one. She evaded capture on the first attempt.

On the second effort, Tammy was caught. She was unharmed, except for a few missing feathers.

She was taken, not to the Acme, but to Popcorn Park Zoo in Forked River. There Tammy will live out her days, showing off her ability to fly, foraging for berries (except cranberries), and trying to resist the distant din of traffic from the Garden State Parkway.

Happy Thanksgiving to Tammy, who's earned it.