Deer hunting season is upon us, and the men and boys in our family are busy gearing up for their favorite season. It has always been a tradition for our sons and now adult grandsons to gather long before daylight and partake of a bountiful breakfast together before heading for the woods. We fix fried potatoes, sausage gravy, bacon and eggs, hot biscuits and plenty of homemade jams and jellies. After this bountiful repast, they are ready to face the wilds of West Virginia.
Not only is hunting a favorite sport with them, but it provides wholesome food for the table. The boys enjoy warm companionship and good-natured kidding from one another. Hunting tales abound, and are rehashed over and over. Pity the poor hunter who misses his deer and gets a chunk cut out of his shirttail.
The womenfolk endure the tales heard many times, but the men never seem to tire of them. I will miss the yarns, the mud tracked into the house, the monumental cooking chores — and the excitement. This year the men will gather at the camp, but I won’t be there. Hunting season brings back sweet memories of my father, and the camping trips we made in the fall to Hickory Knob. We slept in a huge tent, crammed together like sardines in a can, and loved every minute of it. So many things bring back the past, vivid and bittersweet. The smell of wood smoke, hemlock boughs piled high under the tent to cushion the campers, yellow tomatoes streaked with pink all bring back memories.
Daddy always managed to save some tomatoes out of the garden to eat with squirrel gravy. We still have fresh tomatoes that son Michael picked green out of his patch that have slowly ripened. The only thing that the garden has to offer now are turnips, kale and mustard greens. When the wind strips the trees bare, and brown leaves cover the forest floor; when the wood is cut and stacked in neat piles under the shed; when the cellar is full of canned goods and the deep freezer is stuffed with garden produce and home-butchered meat; then it is time for Thanksgiving. We have every reason to be thankful. Psalms 68:19 says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.”
Daily blessings should inspire daily gratitude, but the season of Thanksgiving is a special time. The warm, spicy smell of pumpkin pies, the mouthwatering aroma of the brown, crusty turkey stuffed with onion-sage dressing, the yeasty goodness of hot rolls rising high and puffy — these are the smells of Thanksgiving. The excited chatter of the little ones, the contented murmur of conversation among the older generation, sudden bursts of laughter coming from the kitchen — these are the sounds of the season.
The satisfying closeness of family ties, the genuine love that radiates from heart to heart, the innumerable precious memories of Thanksgivings past — these are the emotions of the day. Thanksgiving is all of this, and more. Thanksgiving is not just a day, but a way of life, a deep gratefulness to God every day for his many blessings. I am glad that America has set this day aside for a special time of giving thanks. How anyone could celebrate this day and not acknowledge the great God of all heavens is beyond me.
The mind naturally strays back to the past, and holidays spent with loved ones who are now gone. When I was a child, we never had roast turkey, but Mom would stuff and roast a couple of chickens. She made the best dressing I ever tasted, with homegrown sage and rich broth made from the giblets. She spent two days making pies and cakes, and our mouths would water at the sight of all the goodies spread out before us. I can see the table now, with the red-checked oilcloth laden with dishes. A long bench behind the table is packed with eager, towheaded young’ens, anxiously awaiting Daddy to return thanks. Grandpa is in his usual chair, eyeing the grandchildren seated across from him. In my mind, I see Mom; her cheeks red and flushed from the heat of the stove, carrying in the butterscotch, lemon and apple pies, and our annual orange-coconut cake. She was an excellent cook, and prepared vast quantities of food for our large family.
Cousin Alyce Faye