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Outtakes Around the Lakes: Thanksgiving changes over the years

Frank Weaver Jr.
Suburbanite correspondent

Today is Black Friday. It's the 24-four hour period of which I never quite understood why anyone would name the day immediately following Thanksgiving, in memory of the day two of the most beloved presidents in American History, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, were assassinated.

Frank Weaver Jr.

It wasn't until later when the wife enlightened me.

You see, during the 1960s, back on the farm in southeastern Pennsylvania, I remember our Uncle John having a turkey farm and he always brought us a big, fresh, 18 to 20 pound tom turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. That, of course, was on Thanksgiving Day.

However, I don't ever recall the Friday following Turkey Day as being called Black Friday. Oh, the women went shopping for sure, but not to the extent they do today. Of course they always invited the men to join them. But naturally, the men politely declined as the women watched them tinker with some unfinished project. Hoping their ladies would think this or that would finally get fixed after seeing them continue to tinker, the ladies left to shop, contented, while the men continued. That is until they were sure the women were out of eyesight.

Then they'd fix a plate of snacks from the leftovers, grab a few cans of carbohydrates, kick off their shoes, stretch out across the sofa and watch quarterback Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts annihilate the Dallas Cowboys or whatever NFL team it was they were playing that week. And this was before the birth of Super Bowl games or Howard Cosell and Monday Night Football.

By the time the ladies returned, the men were filled to the brim with turkey snacks, stuffing and pumkpin pie, snoozing on the couch or whatever chair was available and, dreaming of Unitas throwing one touchdown after another, having no idea who won the game.

I remember one year Uncle John couldn't make it for whatever reason. Leaving us know at the last minute, it left no time to purchase a big tom turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. About a month before, at the start of hunting season, a neighbor's bird dog trapped a ringed neck pheasant in a bushy nest near a harvested oat field. Its one wing was injured. Having already reached his limit, the hunter gave it to us. We put it in an empty chicken coop and fed it each day, hoping its wing would heal.

When we learned our uncle wouldn't be there, thus no big tom turkey and no where to buy any at this late date, Mom said she'd get a few of our big roasting hens and bake them. This was fine with us, since most of us liked chicken better than turkey. To us, turkey was just too dry. And then Mom indicated that if three roasting hens weren't enough, there was always that pheasant to enjoy.

Eewww! we all uttered together as if on key to respond. "You mean you'd expect us to eat that beautiful bird?! Eewww!" my one sister surprisingly asked.

"Why there's nothing wrong with it," Mom said. "Your grandpa went hunting and brought them home. I ate them. They're delicious. Taste just like chicken."

That evening my sister and I snuck down to the chicken coop where the ringed neck pheasant was recuperating. Slowly we reached the door latch, opened it slightly and snuck back to the house, hoping somehow the pheasant's wing would be strong enough to take flight and it would have enough sense to escape.

The next morning Mom, acting unconcerned, very casually mentioned that the chicken coop door was left unlatched and the pheasant escaped.

After all these years I still think of that and can't help wonder if she knew we unlatched the door and let us do it.

By the way, the three five pound roasting hens tasted better that Thanksgiving Day than they ever had before. And at least two of her kids were forever thankful they were.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Comments may be emailed to: Frankweaverjr@aol.com