Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Thanksgiving: The meal is the holiday

Wick's World


November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving is the one celebration America commemorates each year where the meal is the holiday. If Thanksgiving doesn’t conjure up images of a bloated belly on the couch, staring blankly at a meaningless NFL game on the tube, then you are living in the wrong country.

Wake up, America! We are still a great country, whether every player stands up for the National Anthem or honors our country with a prayerful knee touching the turf. Some may be just hungry and too weak to stand as they have yet to indulge in turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy ... and don’t forget the cranberries. I would rather not invoke images of 22 larger than life turkey-filled football players knocking each other around. Think of all the extra timeouts needed to keep cleaning up the field. By the time the games end, the nap will have melted into bedtime.

The scenario of Thanksgiving that I just laid out, excluding the football game, is the one that families all over America will enjoy. I truly believe, even if unconsciously, most Americans will express some form of gratitude on this tastiest of holidays. Who among us cannot be thankful for a great meal such as this? Even more so, Thanksgiving is a holiday where friends and family gather to enjoy each other’s company.

As a child, this was the holiday when my family would rotate amongst the grandparents and aunts and uncles, each taking their turn to have “Thanksgiving dinner at our place this year.” For me, that meant going to one of several different farms. We were the only family who lived right in town. We were right on the river in Chamberlain, the largest metropolis in a 300 mile stretch on U.S. Highway 16 in South Dakota that connected the Black Hills with the Corn Palace.

I lived for the times we spent going to Grandpa Jake Hoffer’s or Aunt Freida’s or Uncle Leo’s. One year my cousin, Denny, was born on Thanksgiving morning. After dinner, the cousins would bundle up and head outdoors. There you could see something resembling a football game. Even if the annual Thanksgiving Day football game existed back then, I don’t think it was televised. If it was, that didn’t matter either, because no one had television sets until KPLO put up a tower on Medicine Butte just north of Reliance.

Yes, Gen-Xers and Millennials, there are still some of us alive today who grew up without television. What did we do? We went outside and played touch football, tag, Annie-I-Over, Pump, Pump Pull Away and Red Light, Green Light. Then there was the best game imaginable that one could best play out on the farm — the age old game of Hide and Seek.

As time passed on, we reached adulthood, had kids of our own and basically followed the same traditions with which we were raised. Our Thanksgivings were often at our house, where we invited our friends because our relatives lived too far away. For several years, we had potluck Thanksgivings at the Beaver Town Hall. I think they charged us either $10 or $20 to rent the hall that was furnished with a nice kitchen and long table for dining. Many of us were living in log cabins we had built and with the 30-40 people gathered together, we felt like Pilgrims dining in the longhouse. In reality, the only thing we had most in common with Pilgrims was that we both had very little money, trying to scrape a living out of that desolate, swampy and forested township called Beaver.

The '60s and the fruitless, foolish thought of living off the bounty of the land (especially in Northern Minnesota, for God’s sake) had long since passed. Our babies began graduating from high school and many left home wondering, “What the heck were my parents thinking.”

By then, we had moved into Moose Lake, which also held some of the romanticism as Chamberlain, South Dakota. We were living right on the very highway made famous as a whistle stop along Bob Dylan’s Highway 61. The kids went off to college at Wisconsin, Arizona State and San Diego State and stayed there. For several years they returned home mostly for Thanksgiving and other holidays. Two sons set their roots in San Diego, “The city with the best weather in America.” The other one stayed in Phoenix, which I renamed “The city with the best weather at Thanksgiving.”

This marks the 13th straight year we get to stuff ourselves with turkey and gobble up the trimmings in sunshine on the patio. By the time I get to Phoenix, I’ll be starving.


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