Today You Are a Man, Part II

Thomas Jefferson, Turkey Slayer

Turning ten was a big deal in colonial America.

You could play a fife or bang a drum in the militia, sign on a merchant ship as a cabin boy, or apprentice yourself to any number of craftsmen in town, who would beat you senseless for the slightest mistake and send your wages home to your parents.

Having his pale, bookish son turn ten was a wakeup call for Peter Jefferson, father of the scribe of the Declaration of Independence and America’s third President. Peter handed Thomas a musket and sent him into the woods, telling him not to come home until he shot something.

Peter knew that historically, whenever Thomas went into the woods, he only came back with plants and herbs to study. “No salads,” Peter ordered, and nudged his son toward the killing fields.

Thomas wandered around for a while, finding nothing good to shoot at (and likely being distracted by some interesting plant or something arboreal) until he came upon a farmer’s turkey in a pen. He released the bird, tied it to a tree with his stockings, and shot it.

He dragged the bird home, his bloody socks hidden from view, and told his dad he had hunted down the beast and killed it.

Thomas Jefferson used the same tactic years later when he told everyone that he had written the Declaration of Independence.

All. By. Himself.

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There are many historical figures who seemed to have everything going for them — Aaron Burr, George McClellan, Herbert Hoover, Douglas MacArthur, and more — but lost out to people who had been relative nobodies. History’s Trainwrecks tries to figure out what happened…

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Historian

Historian

Host of the History’s Trainwrecks Podcast — this is the stuff they never taught us in history class.

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