As we are finishing off the leftovers of another Thanksgiving, I would like to reflect back on some of the past Thanksgivings that I experienced as a kid growing up.
I can recall a few details of those Thanksgivings, but the most vivid ones are of Thanksgivings spent at my Aunt Ruby and Uncle Harvey’s house, which was right next door to ours. On my mother’s side, Thanksgiving was always held at their house and Christmas was always up at “the farm,” which was the home place where my mother grew up and later where my Uncle Orville and Aunt Millie lived. Theirs was the old Winjum home place and that house still stands today just off of Hammer Road. We never did host any of those events at our small house for that exact reason: too small.
Getting back to the Thanksgiving festivities; we would gather there for our traditional feast to which everyone contributed. If the weather was nice the kids played outside and the adult men would sit on the enclosed porch talking and telling stories while the women worked in the kitchen preparing the feast. There were times when I was hanging out in the porch listening intently to the stories when I was told to leave, which usually meant that there was a joke to be told that was unfit for a young kid to hear. Little did they know that we kids could tell a few of our own and I believe that some of them may even have made the adults blush.
Once the feast was prepared we were seated in the dining room and after saying grace, the feed bag was on. We had turkey and dressing with mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade buns, scalloped corn, sweet potatoes that were always served with melted marshmallows on top; evidently they were not sweet enough to begin with. There was cranberry sauce, salads and of course the traditional lime Jell-O with shredded carrots. Yes, it was a feast to behold and once everyone had devoured their fair share the men retired to the living room to watch the game while the women cleaned up the mess.
I can remember watching Bobby Layne and Dick “Night Train” Lane of the Detroit Lions take on Tobin Rote and the Green Bay Packers. This was an exciting time because the football game was being watched on Uncle Harvey’s new TV which he had converted to color by placing a sheet of plastic over the screen that was colored in red and green. It was actually even less impressive than it sounds, but there was no mistaking it was color.
While the game played on in front of them my two uncles, Harvey and Orville would lie on the floor moaning and groaning and making gastric noises all the while saying what a great meal they had just enjoyed. I took this as a ritual acknowledging the fine feast that they had just partaken in. I assume that they were just making room for the dessert that lie just ahead. This included pumpkin, apple, cherry and mincemeat pie with real whipped cream topping. I must have been a weird kid because I was one of the few that actually liked my aunt Millie’s mincemeat pie.
One Thanksgiving we traveled to my cousin Bill Christensen and his wife Cleo’s place in Conger because she was due to have their first child, Wendy, any day. It was cold, sunny and snowless that day and Cleo’s cousin Dennis, who was from Austin, and I took my folks’ car and drove around the countryside just to escape the crowd. We were friends and both of us liked doing things outdoors like hunting and fishing so we decided to spend a little time driving the country roads around Conger looking for pheasants. We had no guns along, but spotting them and other critters was still fun and there were a lot of birds to be seen in those days.
A few years ago my old neighbor, Bob Hillman, came to me with a picture of a dandy limit of walleye that he caught in the Shellrock River after church on Thanksgiving morning. This is another memory of this holiday which is also a reminder that as long as we have open water, there are fish to be caught.
Until next time; I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and didn’t get trampled by the Black Friday crowd. Remember: there is still time to wet a line before the water hardens.
Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we enjoy today. Take a little time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops who are serving today.