Even in the best of times, it can be a tenuous — even perilous — moment when the conversation turns to politics at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

But these are especially polarizing times. Indeed, a 2018 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic found that 39 percent of Americans said some political diversity exists within their family. And an ABC News study found that the 2016 election made family relationships and friendships more tense for about the same number Americans.

But if we can't find common ground on the issues of the day, perhaps there is one thing that everyone can agree on: The animal at the center of many Thanksgiving celebrations is a true American hero. So, for Thanksgiving 2019, the Curiosity Desk is arming you with some turkey tales, facts and figures to help you steer the dinner conversation in a more festive — and friendly — direction.

1. Wild turkeys are pilgrims, too.

We don't know for sure whether turkeys were among the wild animals consumed by the Pilgrims and Native Americans when they shared that famed Plimouth harvest feast in 1621, but we do know that the big birds were abundant in Massachusetts when European settlers arrived. Just over 200 years later, they were all gone.

"By 1850 or 1851 there were no longer turkeys in Massachusetts," said Dave Scarpitti, a biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife).

Scarpitti said there were a number of attempts to reintroduce the bird into the wilds of Massachusetts, but it took until the early 1970s for it to work, when folks from MassWildlife trapped a few dozen birds in upstate New York and brought them to the Berkshires.

The birds were released in Beartown State Forest in Western Massachusetts.

"Those turkeys fared extremely well," said Scarpitti.

They fared so well that MassWildlife was soon helping the burgeoning population along by transplanting the quickly thriving turkey population to various parts of the state.

Among the corners of the state where wild turkeys were not released are the urban and suburban areas where their population has been on the rise for about the past decade. As for why wild turkeys seemingly have become fond of the big city?

"They're figuring out where the food resources are really good," Scarpitti said. "Make no mistake ... that's why they're there."

2. You could fill all the seats in Fenway Park with the commonwealth's wild turkey population.

The population of wild turkeys in Massachusetts today is estimated to be between 30,000-40,000, according to Scarpitti. That's just about the capacity of Fenway Park, which is 37,731. As much as I like the idea of the Red Sox and Yankees battling it out in front of a sellout crowd of clucking, purring, gobbling wild turkeys — given that all the turkeys here essentially descend from a few dozen birds from New York, you do have to wonder about where their loyalties would lie.

3. Turkeys have two stomachs.

Perhaps you've found yourself filling up too quickly on your Thanksgiving day feast and wishing you had a second stomach. Turkeys, in fact, do.

Wild turkeys eat everything from snakes to lizards, insects to acorns and other plant materials. But they don't have teeth, so they essentially swallow whatever they eat whole, which goes into what Scarpetti described as a "little holding pouch," called a crop. From there, it's time for the turkey to "chew" its meal, with the two-stomach system.

One stomach, sometimes called the gastric stomach or true stomach, softens the food with gastric juices.

The other stomach is the gizzard. Scarpi says that turkeys keep their gizzard filled with a steady stream of material that can grind their feast down.

"They'll ingest gravel or stones or dirt and that allows them to grind up the food that they consume," Scarpetti said.

Turkeys essentially chew their food by passing it back and forth between the gizzard and the gastric stomach.

4. Yes they can fly, but they'd rather not.

"You can't believe how a 20-pound bird can get up off the ground in one flap of its wings," said Scarpitti. And yet, he explained, "they spend all their time on the ground."

And boy can they move. Wild turkeys can reach ground speeds of up to 25 miles an hour.

"They can run ... exceedingly well," said Scarpitti. "It's definitely faster than I can, and I am, like, really fast."

Turkeys are so skilled on the ground that Scarpitti said even when threatened by predators, their first impulse is to run.

"Flying is always a last resort," he said.

So what, exactly, inspires these birds to use those big, powerful wings? Wild turkeys sleep in trees. Scarpitti said turkeys will reliably fly two times a day: Once in morning to get down and once at the end of the night to head up to bed.

5. Benjamin Franklin never suggested that the turkey should be our national symbol, but he did once electrocute himself while experimenting with a turkey.

"Did you know that Benjamin Franklin suggested that the turkey should be our national symbol rather than the bald eagle?" That's a favorite "fun fact" thrown out by trivia-types this time of year. But it's not true.

"It's a common myth," said Jayatri Das, chief bioscientist at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Franklin was on the committee tasked with designing The Great Seal of the United States, with a proud bald eagle clutching both an olive branch and a quiver of arrows. But there is no evidence that he had turkeys in mind.

"What he proposed at the time was a scene from the bible," she said. "Nothing to do with turkeys."

The myth has arisen, in part, because of a letter Franklin wrote to his daughter years later. In it he references the bald eagle featured in another seal, one designed for an organization called the Society of Cincinnati, saying that it looked more like a turkey.

In the letter Franklin does take a few shots at the bald eagle, and he goes out of his way to extol the virtues of the turkey, saying "the turkey would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British guards who should presume to invade his farmyard with a redcoat on."

"He really sees the turkey as imbued with the spirit of the American patriot here," said Das.

Franklin's admiration for the turkey did not appear to diminish after a incident in 1750. Franklin was fond of entertaining. And at one point, he thought he might mix that fondness for festivities and his fondness for the newly recognized power of electricity.

"He had this whole concept of this electrical party where everything would be related to an experiment in electricity," said Das.

And the centerpiece of those experiments was a turkey.

"A turkey is to be killed for our diner by electrical shock; and roasted by the electrical jack before a fire kindled by the electrical bottle," wrote Franklin in a letter to a friend.

Das said that in his recounting of the party, Franklin noted that the electrocuted turkey was particularly tender. But the turkey wasn't the only thing electrocuted that night. Franklin himself sustained a nasty shock in the arm that left him dazed, with a serious welt on his arm.

"My arms and back of my neck felt somewhat numb the remainder of the evening," wrote Franklin. "And my breastbone was sore for a week after, as if it had been bruised. What the consequence would be if such a shock was taken through the head, I know not."