Part Three: Thanksgiving on a different scale

Napolean the 20-pound turkey who fears humans and the woman who loves him

Peace Ridge Sanctuary
Tue, 11/21/2017 - 9:15am

BROOKS— Napolean is a 20-pound commercially bred turkey who was rescued from being on the menu one Thanksgiving. He was seized by the state in a cruelty case and brought to Peace Ridge Farm Sanctuary, a haven for farm animals. Unfortunately, the abuse he suffered from his original owners affected him so profoundly that by the time he was brought to a safe place on the farm, he was deeply mistrustful of human contact and would fearfully charge at anyone who tried to approach him.

Unlike the other geese, ducks and guinea hens that roam free during the day, Napolean has the privacy he wants and needs behind a fence with his own bird house to retreat to. Each day, he stomps back and forth along the fence line and has worn the grass down to dirt.

Cheryl Miller, a friend of Peace Ridge Sanctuary stands outside Napolean’s cage and talks to him.

“In 1998, I was working at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York, and I’d never met a living turkey before,” she said. “I was charmed by how sweet they are. I’d been a vegetarians since 1980 and that Thanksgiving, I’d participated in their ‘Gentle Thanksgiving’ event in which the staff and volunteers fed the turkeys a feast of greens, cranberries, squash, and pumpkin pie. It was so delightful for me to watch the honored guests gather round, cluck, and peck at the offering prepared just for them.”

This is our third story in a three-part series on Peace Ridge Sanctuary. •Rescued animals get a Better life at Peace ridge Sanctuary
What a tiny Angora rabbit and a 700-pound pig have in common

The National Turkey Federation estimates Americans eat approximately 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving day. So, Miller started painting small scale watercolors of turkeys to honor those that ended up as meals on Thanksgiving tables, and she has done so for the past 18 years. In 2013, she got an exhibit at a gallery in Hallowell, who wanted more portraits than she had, so she initiated a community art project to create more. That project spurred a worldwide movement to paint turkey portraits.

Toward that objective, the 46 Million Turkeys project invites members of the community as guests to a virtual Thanksgiving table to help create 46 million mini turkey portraits as a reminder that every single one of those animals was unique individual. “Through my website, I don’t ask people not to eat turkey,” she said, “I just ask people to participate in the project.” Anyone can contribute and join in—participation is not restricted by age, artistic ability, or diet.

Miller loves to spend time with all of the animals on her visits, but has a soft spot for Napolean.

“He’s five years old now, which is very old for commercially bred turkeys to live, especially males, but Napolean gets to live out the rest of his life in a safe space,” she said.

To learn more about Miller’s art project visit:

To learn more about Peace Ridge Sanctuary and how to volunteer visit:

Kay Stephens can be reached at