Thanksgiving Memory: The Turkey Shoot

“Full House Eastern Wild Turkeys” Wes Dewey
“Full House Eastern Wild Turkeys”
Wes Dewey

One of my memories from childhood is going with my step-grandfather to a turkey shoot. My grandfather Ernest was a good shot, but there were a number of men in our hamlet in the mountains who could shoot just as well.

I never saw any women at these events in November. It was a man’s world where boys and men came to watch and show their prowess with a rifle.

The turkey shoot harkened back to the days of the Pilgrims. Contrary to the popular sketches of the pilgrim aiming his blunderbuss, this would not have been a useful gun for killing a turkey.

The flintlock or longfowler would be the weapon to bring down the bird. Of course, it took a strong man to hold the six-foot rifle.

As time rolled over the years, the long rifle came in handy for the turkey enterprise. Based on the television series, the long rifle became associated with Daniel Boone, who shot his fair share of the American bird.

Perhaps another well-known turkey shooter was Alvin York, the World War I hero. His muzzleloader was legendary at local turkey shoots in Tennessee.

So my grandfather was following a long line of turkey shooters. Growing up, his father Jasper taught him how to shoot and bring in game from the woods.

If I remember correctly, his rifle was a Winchester 1890 which his father gave to him as a birthday present. Of course, he was expected to use it not as a toy but a tool for feeding his siblings at the dinner table.

I can remember that only once did he win the turkey shoot. I remember carrying the bird, and it was heavy.

Placing his trophy on the back porch, we went inside and told Grandmother Elsie. This was a couple of days before Thanksgiving.

She went out to the porch where various things had been deposited over time for her inspection and cleaning—fish, deer, etc. She sized up the prize and congratulated him on his win.

When times were good, Thanksgiving was a feast. We had yams, turkey, baked bread, corn, fried okra, buttermilk and sometimes eggnog, mincemeat and pumpkin pies and always a heaping helping of some sort of greens. Sometimes we had pecan pie or apple pie, but grandmother preferred to use apples to make fried apple pies in her iron skillet; these were always a delight on any day of the week.

For Thanksgiving 2015 things are different. All of those wonderful grandparents are gone. Their laughter and voices are silent.

What remains are those precious memories of those who loved and cherished us in the good and bad times of life. Their stories are things to remember and repeat.

In remembering who they were, they are given their proper place. As you sit around your table this Thanksgiving, take a moment or two to remember those days of youth when the family dinner table was the place where love was demonstrated and perhaps not fully appreciated at the time.

Perhaps it is in retrospect that we sense the momentous moments which we remember. In many ways those individuals who influenced our young lives are still influencing our lives today.

May you and yours have a great, safe Thanksgiving.

G. D. Williams © 2015

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Wes Dewey