As we count down the remaining days before Thanksgiving in the USA, I would like to relate a story from my childhood. It concerns my grandfather and his father, Jasper.
My grandfather Ernest was born just into the 20th Century. He was the third child of Jasper and Sarah.
Jasper like his father was a farmer, and as most farmers in the downtime of late Fall and Winter, would turn to hunting to provide game for their family. It was during this time that Ernest was taught by his father the art of hunting.
The art of hunting is a special legacy which a father passes to his son or daughter. Women could hunt as well as their male relatives and many times with a deft precision.
Since they lived in a mountain hamlet wild game was plentiful back then. This was especially true during the holidays.
When Ernest was twelve, Jasper hung up his Winchester Model 1876, which his father has given him as a Christmas present. He bought the Winchester Model 12 which he passed on to Ernest before his death.
It was this gun that I tend to remember when I would go hunting with my grandfather. Grandmother always expected him to bring home the game for her to prepare.
One thing about my grandmother: she was an excellent cook no matter what it was, and I can still taste those fried apple pies from her cast iron skillet which she inherited from her mother. Her son, my uncle, was no hunter, but he knew how to catch fish, and I have many fond memories of going down to the river to fish with him.
Coming back to my grandfather, it was near Thanksgiving and grandmother wanted a fresh turkey and not one of those store-bought atrocities. In her way of thinking there was just something abhorrent about frozen meat unless she had prepared it and placed it in the freezer herself.
There was a shooting contest, and the winner would receive a turkey. So off we went, my grandfather and me.
Unfortunately, my grandfather did not win the contest. Therefore, no turkey!
However, he was resourceful, and we headed to the mountains. There were still wild turkeys roaming the foothills.
The air was crisp with a miniscule trace of snow. Once we got to the right place—how he knew the right place always eluded me.
So we sat under an old pine tree to wait. The ground was covered with golden pine needles which added a bit of warmth to our cold environs.
As we sat there, pine cones began to drop on us. At first we ignored the falling objects until they became numerous.
As we looked up, two feisty squirrels were in an argument about something. Their running on the heavily laden branches had caused the cones to fall.
My grandfather sighed, “Poor fellow probably has to spend the night outside in that robin’s nest. It’s going to be a polar night up here.”
He assumed the male squirrel was taking the berating thrashing. As I look back it was probably a projection on his part since grandmother made him spend a number of nights bedded down in his Packard’s back seat. The season of the year made no difference.
Being the trooper that I was, I would sleep in the front seat to keep him company. By morning grandmother would have breakfast ready, and all was forgiven for the time being.
Coming back to the pine tree, it seemed like an eternity before a turkey made its appearance. He was a tall one and plump.
My grandfather took aim and the gobbler fell to the ground. The sound of the shot from the Model 12 reverberated for several seconds down the corridor of trees.
To say grandmother was pleased would be an understatement. She commended him for such a prize and gave him a kiss, which was rare to see.
He went to the living room where he lit his pipe and turned on the black and white television. Mister Ed was his favorite program as was wrestling on Saturday afternoon.
Of course, we children would be drafted into service in plucking and removing the inwards before all the good stuff would be placed inside before baking. Making the stuffing was an art of scientific achievement because everything had to be just right.
The standard had been set by great-grandmother. She expected her girls to follow her example to the letter. It was pure culinary calligraphy.
On Thanksgiving other members of the family would show up to partake of the regal feast. There were always leftovers for sandwiches and a pot of stew with my grandmother’s secret ingredients.
There was nothing like turkey stew with warm cornbread and butter on a polar day in our mountain hamlet. Back then in winter there were many polar days with ample snow to make snow ice cream around the hearth or the potbelly stove.
My time with my grandfather was too short. He passed away when I was an early teen, but the memories of our time together still are as fresh as yesteryear.
Spending time with a loved one is what the holidays are about. Those memories of childhood will always be there after the loved ones have passed the confines of this planet traversing the cosmos.
As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year and glance around the table at family and friends, take a few moments to be thankful for the blessings of those present. It seems as time moves on, familiar faces will have faded around that table.
Enjoy the day! Express appreciation for those present and make a toast with a glass of apple cider to those who are no longer here to enjoy the meal and the day.
G. D. Williams © 2017