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Senior Citizens Find Dead End in Search for Free Turkey

December 13, 1989

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) _ Dozens of senior citizens who heard that free turkeys were available at the county courthouse packed a courtroom waiting for the judge to tell them where to get the free birds.

Turkeys, gift certificates and good baskets were to be handed out by a Boynton millionaire, they said. But there was no such millionaire in the Muskogee County courthouse Tuesday.

And there were no free turkeys.

″The court adjourned and all those people looked at him ... and looked at him,″ Judge Lyle Burris’ secretary, who asked not to be identified, said Wednesday. ″He said, ‘People you can leave now,’ but they wanted to know where to sign up. They were extremely upset, to say the least.″

Officials are sketchy on how the rumor got started, but it appears to be linked to a bond hearing Burris was conducting for Oklahoma American Veterans News. The Tulsa World reported that the group had advertised on radio for their supporters to go to the courtroom.

Somehow, the message got misconstrued, officials said.

″They announced that if we would be at the courthouse at 2:30 we would receive a free turkey and a food basket,″ Cora Harmon said.

Burris’ secretary said court officials were confused when about 50 senior citizens began milling around the hallways.

Temperatures were in the 20s on Tuesday.

″At first I was surprised, and then I got mad,″ Court Clerk Nadina Harnage said. ″I think it was tragic that all these people had to get out in the cold, especially when someone told me they paid $5 cab fare. It broke my heart.″

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