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Down the Road

Was that Thanksgiving?
By Milton M. Gross
Nov 29, 2015 - 5:38:12 AM

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We got out this year for Thanksgiving. It came and went so fast, I'm not sure it was Thanksgiving.

When we were young(er) and still had good relations with our two families, of course we went there for Thanksgiving. Now that we're old(er), we go somewhere else for Thanksgiving. Or, as in the case yesterday, we ate dinner with a 96-ear-old lady who lives nearby. Good dinner too, and we brought home some leftovers and devoured them the day after Thanksgiving, as you're supposed to do.

As a kid in school, I learned -- from teachers who always told the truth unless it was about my behavior -- that the Pilgrims invited some Indians (which word we can't use now days....Native Americans...maybe) over for the big feast.

But I just read in The Free Press that by all accounts (what accounts?) the Pilgrims did have turkeys, cranberries, and sweet potatoes in 1621. But they had run out of flour and were learning to use cornmeal. It has been determined (by whom?) that the Pilgrims brought with them from their olde English "home" chickens and pigs, which they could easily confine. Cows came later, according to somebody not named.

But the Free Press wrote that without the aid of the Native Americans, and farming advice (Did you know that Native Americans farmed?), the Pilgrims would not have survived. (Of course not, there were no supermarkets.)

Historians agree, says the paper, that this 1621 harvest feast took place at the end of September -- boy did they have it wrong, we all know Thanksgiving's in November. The article also stated that the feast lasted three days (imagine Aunt Mable being at your house for three days!). Some 90 Native Americans and 53 colonists joined the fun. according to the article.

Since the colonists had been shopkeepers and professionals, they didn't know about fishing or farming. In their Merry Old Homeland, servants and slaves -- what! slaves in Merry Old Homeland? -- did the food preparations. So the colonists depended upon the (local Native Americans) to teach them how to raise stuff, cook, and eat new-to-them vittles to stay alive.

Today, on the other hand, we don't need to know about fishing or farming, unless that's what you do with your time. When I was a kid we fished along Valley Creek, which was -- guess where -- down in the valley, the valley so crowded. Fishermen lined both sides of the stream, and a good day was when your line didn't get tangled with somebody else's. (And it wasn't even Thanksgiving.)

Also today, who needs to know about food preparation. It's high, ho, off to the supermarket to grab the biggest Butterball you can find unless someone else beats you to it. Then, home to the electric oven, where after you clean off all that paper wrapping, you stuff it and throw whatever Butterball you could grab in the oven and wait several hours.

But Dolores and I have beaten even that group of turkey-throw-it-inners. We usually go to a favorite inn and share the space with the gabbers. Don't know if the Pilgrims had gabbers, but our favorite inn does. (The Pilgrims may not have yet invented the word "gabbers;" we use it for the lady at that end table who never is quiet.)

We're told those Wampanoag walked through the great forest to get to the feast, lugging their deer and other feast stuff to the great feast. (Did the cans of cranberry sauce rattle during that hike?) Things are better today, I think. I walk through the great forest on a trail someone else created, but I do it for pleasure when the weather's warmer than at our November Thanksgiving.

But getting there is tough today. I used to work at a newspaper and leave for Pennsylvania, family in tow in the back of the station wagon, at about 10 p.m. Drove all night with a few nap stops, which were never at a rest area because those places had too many hoodlums hanging around. After a miserable 12 hours, we arrived, had a nap, and were up for that Thanksgiving feed. In a way it was nice, because after all our driving Grandma cooked the big bird while we napped.

Often we were expected at both our parents' houses for that feast. The first feast was tough enough, chowing down on all the Butterball, store-bought stuffing, canned cranberries, and pie on top of all that. It was at the second feast that we definitely stopped being thankful. Who could be thankful with another whole Butterball laughing at you as you sat down.

I forget at whose house we slept, or we may have just fallen asleep at that second table.

Ah, such great memories of relatives fighting and arguing. My brother was always good for a battle. Too bad we had no Wampanoag for him to engage in battle. Of course, had we had the Wampanoag for Thanksgiving, they may have won that battle. (That would have taken care of my non-peace-loving brother.)

On our "good old today" Thanksgiving, we are inside, because its too cold to eat outside on Thanksgiving in November. No wonder those Pilgrims and Wampanoag held their great feast in September.

I've often wondered though, no matter when they feasted, if Aunt Mable ever showed up. Bet you that if she did, she didn't drive down from Connecticut, her home sweet home, in her 40s something Dodge. Imagine getting a Dodge through all those woodsy trails.

In those far-gone days, neither the Pilgrims nor Wampanoag drove Dodges. They had to lug their feast through the great forest.

But I also wonder, with so much woods and no Dodges created just yet, did Aunt Mable ever show up?

Remembering those good old days' Thanksgiving is great as long as you don't have to go through all the trouble they did to hold a feast.

And in September! Didn't they know Thanksgiving was intended to be in November -- at the end of a long, long drive down ye olde turnkpike?

Let's hear it for that inn, a short drive from here.

Or this year, let's hear it for our neighbor, a short walk from here.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2015

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