Friends, the best part of Thanksgiving
Sometimes, a sound takes you back to another time. Maybe a song, or the sound of some machine or vehicle, stirs some activity in your brain and fires a memory to the surface of your mind. For me, this week, it was the sound of a distant train whistle. The weather has to be just right for me to hear a train whistle at my house. The nearest line runs from Thomasville to High Point, and when the weather is just right, the sound comes across the Rich Fork valley to my little farm.
When I heard that train whistle, it took me back to a classic November day when I was a boy. The grass had quit growing, the leaves were raked, and it wasn’t cold enough for me to spend a lot of time filling the wood box. Some times on those days, I’d go down to the barn and hang around. A barn in mid-fall is a wonderful place to a boy. Our cows didn’t stay in our barn much, but Dolly, the mule was almost always there in fall and winter when there wasn’t much forage in her pasture. The pleasant smells of hay and Dolly’s sweet feed combined with the barn smells would make a great potpourri smell. I admit, it probably wouldn’t sell too well, but I sure liked the smell and still do if my travels lead me to a horse barn.
This time of year was hog killing time. Hog killing was high adventure and meant the cessation of another one of my chores, feeding the hogs. Besides checking off a daily duty, killing hogs meant I’d get to see Uncle Jim and Clay Swaim working in their little slaughterhouse by the old cemetery. A .22 single shot rifle ended the hogs lives, and they were loaded on a sled or pickup truck and hauled to the slaughter house. Uncle Jim and Clay had an old bathtub where they scalded the dead hogs to make the hair turn loose. After scalding, the hogs were gutted and quartered and the meat brought to our kitchen for cutting and curing. We cured the shoulders, hams, middlings, or bacon sides, and cooked down the fat to make lard for cooking.
On Thanksgiving Day, our families all worked together to cut up the slabs that made the family’s fuel for the winter. Penn Fuller would bring loads of slabs, the rinds of logs left over from the logging process, and we used Uncle Bill’s Farmal tractor with a big circular blade saw to cut the slabs into short enough pieces for the stove. We cut the slabs for our woodshed, Grandad’s woodshed, then Uncle Bill drove the tractor back to his house, where we cut Uncle Bill’s slabs. All the kids rode behind the tractor in cars and Grandad’s truck. Afterwards, we ate a big lunch and often went on an afternoon rabbit hunt.
Somehow, most of my Thanksgiving memories have something to do with the outdoors. Deer hunting when I was young, bird hunts with Jack Leonard before Thanksgiving Dinner at his house, and fishing trips with my family to Cape Hatteras, all remind me of Thanksgivings with the people who’ve been kind to me and loved me.
There are so many sweet memories that come right here at Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for and the train whistle made me remember those wonderful days with my brother and sisters and Mama and Daddy. My family was close. My Mama and Daddy loved each other and I never saw them fight. They did everything they knew to raise us to be good people. All the family around me was the same way. My Uncles Bill, Jake, and Tal, were like different versions of Daddy. Aunts Dinky and Annie Mae loved me and treated me as their own child. Uncle Jim and Roby and Aunt Mildred were Mama’s aunt and uncles, but they still spent time with me, and were kind and generous. My uncles and aunts treated me the same as their kids, even to the point of administrating a little discipline, if needed. It was a wonderful childhood one far better than average, are probably much better than what most kids experience today.
On the other hand, a child’s life today can be pretty special, provided the right kind of people are around.. My preacher called this week to tell me his son, and my buddy, Adam, got his first deer. Adam harvested a nice six point buck and Eric reminded him of all the folks who participated. As Eric named all those who had a hand in Adam’s buck, it made me think of just what made my life growing up so special. It was the people around me that loved me and were willing to do something for me.
Adam Peacock has the same kind of friends I had. Before his deer hunt he spent time with me for a shooting lesson. Just last week, his Mom and Dad bought him a Remington 770 Youth rifle. I sighted in his rifle and we checked it when his Grandfather, Charlie, brought him over to my place when Dad was busy. His friend, Kevin Parsley, partnered with his dad in leasing the land he hunted on. His friend, Don Myers, built his stand last summer. His friend, Todd Pearson, recently checked on the stand and put out some corn.
Eric reminded Adam of how he should be grateful for all the people who cared enough about him to help him and he said, “And I have to thank God that I have all these friends.”
I think my buddy, Adam, understands Thanksgiving.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several N.C. newspapers as well as national magazines and websites. If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or offtheporchmedia.com