Alan Webber: Some post-holiday thoughts on Thanksgiving

November 29, 2018

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and 85 percent of us “average” Americans have consumed 4,500 calories, traveled 214 miles to see mom, and survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we have to start thinking of working off that 1.2 extra pounds we gained. (I gained two pounds just sitting too close to the breadbasket.) Speaking of Black Friday, did you know that also is the busiest day of the year for plumbers?

Fortunately, we only eat like that for one day; the original Pilgrims and their Indian counterparts gorged for three days at the “original” feast in 1621. I guess not having football would make you want to eat more.

There were 50 surviving Pilgrims, only five of which were women, and 90 Wampanoag Indians feasting, although ... not on turkey. Shellfish, deer, fruits, maize (corn), and a delightful dish of boiled pumpkin were on the menu that day. Really, that’s what they ate for three days?

Wonder what the other 15 percent were doing? Some might have been those misguided souls who convene yearly at Coles Hill in Plymouth, Mass., or Alcatraz in California to belabor the plight of the Native American Indian, only later to return home ... off the reservation, to feel better about themselves. I’m sorry, but can you envisage the world had the United States not been “created?” Think Sen. Warren was there?

Thanksgiving is a cornucopia of interesting historical facts. What seems to be perhaps most overlooked is the significance of an Indian by the name of Tisquantum, more commonly known as Squanto. A case could be made that had it not been for Squanto, there would be no Thanksgiving. Having been kidnapped from America to Europe to be sold into slavery, he escaped and returned, learned English, and taught Pilgrims how to survive in the harsh conditions of the New World. Ironically, during his imposed hiatus to Europe, his tribe, as well as many other Indian tribes in New England, were nearly wiped out by disease. Thought to have been somewhat a “double-agent,” his death might have been a result of poisoning by his own people.

If Squanto could be considered the Father of Thanksgiving, the accomplished Sarah Josepha Hale might be considered the Mother of All Thanksgivings. A teacher, prolific writer, influential editor and mother of five children, she is the author in 1830 of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” which has absolutely nothing to do with this Thanksgiving epistle. I just thought you would want to know that information, too. Her husband, David, passed away after only nine years of marriage, inducing her to dress in black for the rest of her life. She also helped to form Vassar College, at the time an all-women’s college, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Anyway, she got it in her noggin’ that Thanksgiving should be celebrated as a national holiday on the same date, by the entire country. At that time, Thanksgiving largely was just a New England holiday, and even they didn’t celebrate the festival on the same day. The South was not having anything to do with what those Yankees were doing either.

She began her quest in 1846 by badgering President Zachary Taylor. Continuing her pursuit on through presidents Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan, she finally convinced, who else, but President Abraham Lincoln, to support legislation to make it a national holiday.

President Lincoln also began the silly act of pardoning the turkey, when he pardoned his son’s bird. I personally think the Lincoln’s should have eaten the feathered fowl and saved us all this time and tomfoolery by politicians with better things to do. (That last statement might go a long way to explain why my wife thinks I’m a Grinch.) For a while after the Lincoln turkey incident, poultry farmers or children’s groups began sending turkeys to presidents as gifts. That lasted until Harry Truman brought back pardoning of the bird, largely for political reasons. I guess the buck didn’t always stop at Harry’s desk after all.

This year, President Trump ceremoniously pardoned two birds, drolly named Peas and Carrots. To demonstrate I am not always foolishly guilty of committing “Trumpisms,” which I gather is considered a bad thing to support our president in today’s America, I have to wonder how does that “Keep America Great?”

Originally from South Dakota, the birds now will “retire” to Gobblers Rest on the Virginia Tech campus, where other presidentially absolved birds by the names of Drumstick, Wishbone, Tater, and Tot reside. This country eats 580 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving Day and these six birds live in collegial comfort?

You can bet had those birds been sent to Chebanse, we’d have eaten them.

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