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It Could Have Been A Goose On Thanksgiving

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, I hope you’re having a good Thanksgiving.  As you probably know, Benjamin Franklin was so fond of turkey that he wanted to make it the national bird instead of the eagle.

Just think, if that had happened we wouldn’t be able to enjoy turkey on Thanksgiving but make do with goose. Nannie  Badley preferred baking hens to turkey and I still think I like them better.      

Guys who hunt wild turkeys tell me that they prefer them to the domestic variety. We hear about what dumb birds turkeys are but hunters say that they are a difficult bird to track and kill. Maybe since becoming domesticated they’ve  lost their wild instinct – their loss, our gain.

Legend has it that the Indians introduced the Pilgrims to corn and wild turkeys and shared the first Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t know if it’s true, but it makes a good story.  

Will Rogers who was part Indian, both on his Mother and Father’s side, said, “My ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower but they met the boat, and if they had known how things were going to turn out they never would have let them land.”  

I remember one Thanks-giving during World War II when Papa was recuperating from a broken hip. He had an onery old mule named Mike, who would somehow get out and wander away.  He would never come back but would keep going the other way.  

I was on my horse looking for the old rogue and even though we had put a bell on him, he would roll in the mud and clog the bell so that it wouldn’t ring – true story.  I finally found him miles away from home and got back about mid afternoon to eat Thanksgiving chicken and dressing – just Nannie and I, as Papa was bedridden and Mother was working at the Shell plant in Grenada.  

Papa never raised pumpkins, but Nannie made a fantastic sweet potato pie as well as other desserts. I never ate pumpkin pie until years later, and it is still not one of my favorites. I don’t remember ever asking Papa why he didn’t raise pumpkins, but in retrospect I think I know the answer. Papa was a very practical man and he simply didn’t see any real value to pumpkins.

He understood watermelons, which brought in a little money in the summer, and molasses, which provided a tasty treat and could bring in some  money during the winter. I never realized back then just how self sufficient he was on that hill country farm.  

He raised corn to feed the chickens and animals and provided meal for corn bread. His cows provided milk and butter, and his hog meat would last for months after being cured.

About all he had to buy from the store was flour, coffee, salt,  kerosene and clothes.  He never had a lot of money, but he had a good roof over his head and plenty of food on the table and he was happy and satisfied he had provided for his family.

Of course, those times are gone forever, but the eight years I lived with them gave me a strong survival instinct that has carried me over the years.

The only animals or birds that I dislike are snakes, monkeys and guineas. People never should have tried to domesticate a guinea. They are like cats, they just live with you but never really belong. I feel that I  owe an apology to my long time friend and contributor, Cathy Ward as somehow I must have missed an email from her.  

Cathy, you know I have always valued your input and I hope you are not mad at me. You were the first person to send me a hand written letter when I started this column ten years ago.

I remember you said since I was following Pee Wee Sartain and O.T. Parson, I would have big shoes to fill. Do you think I have filled them? Of course my style is totally different from theirs, as I just wander around and finally put it all together enough that people can make sense out of it  – most of the time.  

I feel a kinship with all of you readers and that is a great satisfaction to me and I try to never disappoint you. Your input is always appreciated so let me hear from you. My email address is or write me at P.O. Box 613189  Memphis, Tn 38101 and again have a happy Thanksgiving.

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