- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 28, 2002

Happy Thanksgiving

And how did most of us come to get the day off today?

Pilgrims, of course, began offering thanks to God in the early 1600s, as did the early settlers of Jamestown, Va. In fact, thanksgiving observances would take place over the next century in several of the pre-megalopolis outposts that dotted the East Coast.

As this country began to take shape, Gen. George Washington, his British marauders sent packing, saw fit to carry on the thanksgiving tradition by issuing the following orders certainly forbidden today to his brigades:

"Tomorrow being the day set apart for public Thanksgiving and Praise; and duty calling us devoutly to express our grateful acknowledgements to God for the manifold blessings He has granted us. The General directs that the army remain in its present quarters, and that the Chaplains perform divine service with their several Corps and brigades. And earnestly exhorts, all officers and soldiers, whose absence is not indispensably necessary, to attend with reverence the solemnities of the day."

Later, as the nation's first president, Washington would issue a proclamation declaring Nov. 26 a day of national thanksgiving (although, with new laws of the land in place and the ACLU on their heels, perhaps? he stopped short of ordering people to church).

Around 1830, New York decided it needed an "official" state Thanksgiving Day. Other Northern states quickly followed suit. Virginia, in turn, became the first Southern state to adopt a Thanksgiving Day, in 1855.

Hoping to bring a divided nation together, Abraham Lincoln would proclaim the last Thursday of November 1863 "a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father." Almost identical proclamations were issued by subsequent presidents during the next 75 years, but still no holiday.

It was only after Franklin D. Roosevelt began tinkering with Thanksgiving in 1939 ordering the observance set one week earlier to lengthen the shopping season before Christmas, and thereby hopefully boost the economy Congress in 1941 declared Thanksgiving Day a legal federal holiday. And life for the turkeys of this country would never be the same.


Turkey trivia

According to the National Turkey Federation in Washington, 95 percent of Americans ate turkey last Thanksgiving, consuming 46 million of the large birds, or more precisely 690 million pounds of white and dark meat.

And if you think Americans consumed the most turkey in 2001, think again.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Israel last year consumed 28.8 pounds of turkey per capita, compared to the United States' smaller plate of 17.5 pounds.


Native bird

If Benjamin Franklin had had his way, none of us would be eating turkey today. Instead, we'd be picking the bones of roasted bald eagle.

"I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country," Franklin wrote in 1784. "He is a bird of bad moral character; like those among men who live by sharping and robbing, he is generally poor, and often lousy.

"The turkey is a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America."


Black November

"'When I was a young turkey, new to the coop, my big brother Mike took me out on the stoop. He sat me down, and he spoke real slow, told me something that I had to know. His look and his tone I will always remember, when he told me the horrors of Black November:

"'Come about August, now listen to me, each day you'll get six meals, instead of just three. And soon you'll be thick where once you were thin, and you'll grow a gross rubbery thing under your chin. And then one morning, when you're warm in your bed, in'll burst the farmer's wife and hack off your head. She'll pluck out your feathers, 'til you're bald 'n pink, scoop out your insides, leave ya lyin' in the sink. And then comes the worst part,' he says, not bluffing, 'she'll spread your cheeks, pack ya with stuffing.'

"The rest of his words were too grim to repeat; I sat on the stoop like a winged piece of meat. I decided on the spot, to avoid being cooked, I'd have to lay low and remain overlooked. I began a new diet of nuts and granola, high-roughage salads, and diet colas. I maintained my weight of two-pounds-and-a-half, and tried not to notice when the bigger birds laughed. But 'twas I who was laughing under my breath, as they chomped and they chewed, ever closer to death.

"And sure enough, when Black November rolled around, I was the last turkey left in all the compound. Now I'm a pet in the farmer's wife's lap; I haven't a worry, so I eat and I nap.

"She held me today, while sewing and humming. She smiled at me, said 'Christmas is coming.'"

Author unknown, contributed by Inside the Beltway reader Tam Kay


Gobbler

Hold your horses; we're not in a race. Get that drumstick away from your face. Now put your fork down, and stop making that frown. You can eat when we finish the grace.

F.R. Duplantier


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