Thanksgiving Revived

A week ago I  read an interesting, humorous post over at the blog, Tales From the Mama Duck. If you liked my story about Firecracker the rooster, you’ll get a chuckle from her post, titled I Can’t Have A Relationship With My Turkey. Click here to read it

Her post brought to mind the account of another dinner menu that was changed in a hurry one Thanksgiving morning. I first posted this in Nov 2013, so I guess can make a second appearance now. This account appeared in New England Scene almost 25 years ago in a collection of humorous Thanksgiving memories. It was submitted by a lady from Tuscon, AZ, USA. I’m retelling her experience as I remember it.

Turkey

Photo from Pixabay

The Thanksgiving Turkey
A Raw Experience

One year someone gave a young wife, new to the farming life, a turkey to raise for Thanksgiving. She got quite enthused and decided when Thanksgiving rolled around she’d invite both her family and his for this Thanksgiving feast.

So she set out to raise the turkey that would grace their festive platter. She decided that a happy bird is bound to be a delicious bird, so she fed her turkey chick by hand. No hard scrabbling for this bird. To encourage optimum growth, she gave her bird many an encouraging word.

The chick grew into a fine specimen of its breed that summer and by fall it had plumped up nicely. In spite of its maturity, it still came running if it saw her outside and tagged along after her. She smiled and pictured a family feast with all the relatives commenting on her tasty turkey. Thanksgiving Day was around the corner and she had issued her invitations.

Over time, though, she smiled less when she looked at her turkey. On the Eve of the event she knew it was time to deal with the Thanksgiving platter’s guest of honor, but a strange sadness niggled at her. When her turkey came running to meet her as she stepped out the door, she burst into tears. She went back into the house sobbing and told her husband, “I can’t do it!”

“Just leave it to me,” he comforted her. “I’ll take care of it. You make room in the fridge.” He went out and came in half an hour later with the limp turkey in his arms. She sniffed the air as he passed and caught a vague whiff of… Chloroform?

Hubby opened the fridge door and stuffed the turkey in, feathers and all. “It can chill in here overnight and we’ll pluck it in the morning.”

She was good with that. Avoiding opening the fridge that evening, she and her husband passed a few relaxing hours. Then, thinking of the busy morning ahead of her — and perhaps feeling some unconscious stress over poor bird — she said,  “I’m sleepy; let’s go to bed.”

She woke up quite early the next morning, her mind on the task at hand. She was anxious to have the turkey plucked, cleaned, and dressed for the oven in good time. She dressed and headed for the kitchen. And when she opened the fridge door the turkey leaped out at her. Its garbled gobble would have translated as “Mom! Save me!”

She screamed and fell in a dead faint. Her husband came running and found her out cold and the well-chilled turkey staggering drunkenly around the kitchen. He must have thought he could avoid the merry chase around the poultry yard and bloody-axe episode by drugging the bird, but hadn’t used enough chloroform. He grabbed it and ran outside, dumping it in the yard. Then he came back to revive his wife, and face the music.

His parents and siblings arrived on time for the Thanksgiving dinner and heard the sad tale of the Thanksgiving bird that got away. The couple invited all the family to a nice meal at the local restaurant. Strangely enough, no one ordered turkey.

From that day on the festive bird enjoyed an unthreatened existence in the farm yard and lived to a ripe old age.

Firecracker

Fandango’s prompt word for today: BELONG

FIRECRACKER: A Feathery Tale

Rooster 2

See that handsome young rooster over there. That’s Firecracker. Raised him from a chick, I did, fed him, fussed over him, gave him lots of TLC so he’d be nice and plump come fall.

He was a cute little guy back then, especially when he started following me around the yard. I’ll admit, I’m going to miss having him tagging along after me, but now that he’s full grown, he’s going to be the star of our Thanksgiving table.

He wasn’t very old when the grandchildren named him Firecracker — and we thought it was kind of a cute name, so it stuck. I’ll tell you why he got that name. Oh, yes, he can make enough noise when he wants to, like at 5am when you’re wanting another hour of sleep. But you should hear him explode when he catches sight of a mouse or rat around the chicken yard. One day the grandchildren were in the yard fussing over him like they do, when he spied a mouse in the grass nearby. They said he went off just like a firecracker and went dashing over to do battle.

He’s been really good that way. Every time he sees a rodent he goes after the thing, calling all his ladies to come help him. He has a certain kind of squawk that says, “Enemy spotted!” and the hens come running. Our dog, Duchess, dashes into the action, too, when she hears that sound. Between them all, they make short work of rodents. I’m thinking poor Duchess will miss Firecracker. The hens will, for sure, but he belongs on our Thanksgiving table.

One thing I’m happy about is how good Firecracker is with the grandchildren when they come over — maybe because they’ve fed him grain and other tidbits ever since he was just a spring chick. Roosters can sometimes be cantankerous, but not him. You know how kids are. As soon as they get here, they rush out to see Firecracker and he usually comes running when he hears their voices, to see what treats they might have for him.

When I told the youngest grandchild last week that Firecracker is going to be our Thanksgiving dinner she got all sober and sad-looking for awhile. I probably shouldn’t have said anything. I guess they’re all going to miss seeing him around after next week.

One of the grandsons must have heard the news, too, because he phoned a few days ago specially to ask if I was really going to cook Firecracker for Thanksgiving. He sounded so blue about it. I told him that Firecracker has had a good life and now it’s time to say goodbye, because he belongs on our Thanksgiving table. That’s what we raised him for.

I’ve got the bread cubed and in the freezer for the stuffing. Next Tuesday my husband’s going to dispatch Firecracker. I’ll tell you, plucking that bird is going to be hard. Oh, hang on a minute…my phone’s ringing. I see my son is calling.

“Hi, Jason. How are things going? Glad to hear it. By the way, I wanted to let you know we’re planning to have our Thanksgiving dinner at 5pm this time… What do you mean, you’re not coming? … Are you saying NONE of you are coming? … But why? I have this huge meal planned… Your kids are all refusing to eat Firecracker? … But he belongs in our Thanksgiving meal. What am I supposed to do with him if… What!?”

Doesn’t that beat all! The grandchildren have emptied their piggy banks and say they want to buy Firecracker. They want to keep him as a pet, of all things, and we can just let him live here. And the family is offering to bring fish for the meal. Jason says none of them know any fish.

Oh, well. Anything for the grandkids, right? The hens will be more content having a rooster around the place, too. And Duchess will be happy if Firecracker stays around, seeing she’s grown so fond of him.

I’m not especially sentimental, but I have, too, if truth be told. 🙂

 

The Smell of Rain

The Ragtag prompt word for today is PETRICHOR
A word that neither I nor the Canadian Oxford Dictionary nor Merriam-Webster online have ever heard of.

However, Merriam-Webster, ever wishing to be helpful, offered me a dozen alternatives — just in case I was mistaken in my spelling somehow. And thus I learned a new word: PETRICOLE

Definition: A variation of PETROCOLE(S): an organism that inhabits or prefers rocky terrain

Something I am not. Keep your rocky hills; like the gopher and the sage grouse, I’m happiest on the prairie. Give me sunny Saskatchewan, where the passing cars all wave at tourists stopping to study their maps — if you read my last post.

Which reminds me of an old joke we prairie folk enjoy telling:
A prairie farmer visiting in British Columbia was asked what he thought of the Rocky Mountains. He replied, “Well, they’re all right, but they sure do get in the way of the view.”

Wiki helped me out with PETRICHOR.
Apparently it’s the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. It involves some complex blending of oils exuded by certain plants during a dry period and some bacteria emitted by wet soil.
Google defines it as “a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.”

Here in SK we may not have as much petrichor as some other places, because we don’t have as much rain, nor the kind of plants that produce the rich smell. We’re usually overjoyed when rain falls after a period of warm dry weather, especially if it fall in July, in time to give the crops a boost.
But there’s a limit, eh? Like another old joke goes:
A fellow from Saskatchewan moved to BC because the climate, but he moved back because of the weather.

Just like my Uncle Fred. During the winter he’d go stay with his son and family at Surrey, BC, on the coastal plain, but after a few weeks he was so disgusted and depressed by all that rain he’d head home to SK again.

Speaking of which, we had a dusting of fine snow in the night and Saskatoon temp was -12 C at 7am (10 F). Predicted high -10; predicted low tonight -18 (0 F). The milder BC climate does have its appeal — if you can handle week-long stretches of clouds and rain.

I’m sure the petrichor in the mountains is fabulous. Our neighbour to the north-west has been cleaning out his dairy barn this week and spreading manure on his fields. We’re right in line, wind-wise, to enjoy that particular aroma.

Of Mice and Man

It’s a windy, winterish day here with a light dusting of fresh snow.
Time for another seasonal haiku:

diligent deer mice
along the train track
harvest the harvest

Nature note:
Jack Miner, Ontario’s famous naturalist during the early 1900s, writes of a find he once made in a northern forest. He and some fellow hunters made camp near a large, dead pine tree. They felled this tree so it wouldn’t fall on the tent if a high wind came up, and they chopped the top branches into firewood.

Eighty feet up the tree they found a little hole less than an inch in diameter with an inner cavity occupied by a family of deer mice. Jack estimated that there was no human habitation for three or four miles and for sure no grain fields within fifty or a hundred miles, yet they found between one and two quarts of clean wheat stored in the mouse family’s pantry.

He explained that these far-sighted deer mice, no bigger than your thumb, would creep down the tree at night and make trip after trip to the railroad tracks thee hundred feet away. All through the fall they’d fill their little cheeks with kernels of grain that had sifted out of the boxcars en route to the terminal, then dash back home and up the tree to squirrel away their winter food supply. They performed this task in spite of the danger from lurking predators and swooping owls.

Jack admired these ambitious, courageous little creatures. In Wild Goose Jack, his autobiography published in 1969, he writes:
“In walking along the railroad tracks with a lantern during October, before the snow has fallen, one will usually see deer mice by the dozens…gathering food for winter.”

More For-Fun Haiku

mission accomplished
Henry the Hereford rests in the shade
bull dozer

Local farmers plan their herd’s “seasonal activities” well. In the pastures around us now we’re seeing the offspring from last summer’s mating season. Though around here the cattle are almost all Black Angus.

Also noticed on a recent walk:

poplar shoots
punch holes in our driveway
a hostile takeover

Writing its memoir?

flick of my finger
sends the spider flying
scribbling its last line

The Bank’s Broke

In the past few days I’ve been doing more study on how to write haiku, so my mind was in poetic form yesterday on our trip to the city. Here’s another “just for fun” verse, reflecting our want of a good rain:

streaks in the west
someone’s getting rain
no socialist cloud banks

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Farming practices have changed so much over the years that you seldom see dust blowing off bare fields, but I did see one small bare patch of ground yesterday where the ground was being swept away in the strong wind. In the mall parking lot bits of dirt whipped in my face when I walked west.

The crops and gardens are all greening up here. We’re glad for the light showers we’ve had so far this week, but would gladly take another few inches. The sloughs around us are pretty much dried up already.

ducks search for water
to wet their toes
a dry spring

 

Thrift Store Finds

Here are a few writers and titles books you might watch for if you’re in a used book store. I highly recommend all of them as good reading:

Three Came Home, by Agnes Newton Keith © 1946, 1947
Published by Little Brown and Company, Boston, MA, USA

When the Japanese army took over Borneo in May 1942, Agnes and Harry Keith and their 18- month-old son were taken prisoner along with others from the British colony there. The men were put in one prison camp; women and children kept in another. This insightful book reconstructs the scene immediately before the invasion, the two years and four months they were interred, and their trip home.

With clarity and charity Mrs. Keith details life in the two prison camps, their ways of coping with abuse and starvation rations. She describes guards, prison commanders and interpreters as well as her fellow prisoners. In her opening she says, “The Japanese in this book are as war made them, not as God did, and the same is true of the rest of us… If there is hate here, it is for hateful qualities, not nations. If there is love, it is because this alone kept me alive and sane.”

She has also written WHITE MAN RETURNS, BAREFOOT IN THE PALACE, and LAND BELOW THE WIND, which describes their life in Borneo (an English colony in the South Pacific) before the war.

Hot off the press…

HOT APPLE CIDER, © 2008
A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider
, © 2011
A Taste of Hot Apple Cider  © 2014
Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon  © 2015
Christmas With Hot Apple Cider © 2017

These “Stories to stir the heart and warm the soul” have been compiled by N. J. Lindquist and Wendy Elaine Nelles and published by That’s Life! Communications, Markham, Ontario, C anada. Each book is a collection of stories by Canadian writers, sharing experiences of divine guidance and comfort, short fiction, and poems.

And three interesting books about the Depression years in Canada

THE WINTER YEARS by James H Gray
Published 1966 by MacMillan of Canada,
reprinted in ‘66, ‘67, ‘68 and ‘72

James Gray, born in Whitemouth, Manitoba, was working as a clerk for the Grain Exchange in Winnipeg during the Twenties. They were good years; credit was easy and work easy to find. He married, bought a home, and in the late 20’s he left the Grain Exchange to go into business on his own. Several things he tried didn’t pan out, then he started up a mini- golf business in 1930. This shut down that fall and he found himself in debt and out of work.

In February 1931, almost out of food and fuel, two months behind in their rent, with a wife and daughter plus his parents to support and absolutely no hope of finding work, he finally swallowed his pride and took that long walk down to the Relief Office. No one dreamed that this depression would last eight years!

Mr. Gray shares his own personal struggles; he also gives the overall picture of what was happening on the prairies and in Canadian society in general during those years. As the back cover says, “The Winter Years is a story of hobos and housewives, radicals and aldermen, farmers and judges. It’s a moving tribute to the courage and resourcefulness of the human spirit.”

The Great Depression
©1990 by Pierre Burton, published by Anchor Canada

This is an overall analysis of the 1930’s in Canada, starting in 1929 and going through the decade year by year. As well as covering the overall political scene, the author gives very interesting personal experiences, details about weird weather, plagues of insects, families applying for relief, prejudice and deportations, etc.

Apples Don’t Just Grow
© 1956 by Maida Parlow French

Widowed at the beginning of the Great Depression, with three small boys to raise, Maida Parlow found her earnings as an artist didn’t pay the bills. She chose to leave Toronto and take her sons back to the abandoned farm her grandparents had owned. It was still in the family, the old apple orchard sadly neglected, the house totally run down.  Still, she was determined to bring it back into production and sell apples.

Before she left the city a friend advised her to keep a diary of this new adventure. Years later she published it as this book detailing the highlights in their day-by-day struggle to survive and all the mistakes she made trying to grow and sell her produce. A compelling memoir!