This is a true Thanksgiving story, and one that is dear to my heart for we knew the principal characters featured in it.
Brother Harry Craig was a traveling evangelist, and his wife Sister Myrtle Craig was his faithful companion. He was a short man, but what he lacked in stature, he made up for it in vigor. He was a great tease, but all business when he stepped into the pulpit to preach.
Sister Craig was the epitome of a perfect grandmother. With her pert nose, twinkling eyes, and softly waving hair pulled back into a bun, she looked as if she had just placed a pan of cookies in the oven.
They were older when we first met them, but this story took place many years before. When Brother and Sister Craig would visit our congregation this time of year, we would always beg for the “Thanksgiving story.”
The three little boys had their heads together, whispering earnestly. As their dad came by, he asked in his odd, gravelly voice, “What’s the matter, boys?” Ralph, the oldest son, spoke up, “Dad, can we have a turkey for Thanksgiving this year? We would love to have one.”
The boys had heard about this grand bird, and had seen magazine pictures of roast turkey being taken out of the oven in all his crisp, brown glory, but they had never tasted one.
The year was 1934, and times were really hard. America was in the grip of the Great Depression, money was almost non-existent, and jobs even more so. Harry Craig preached the old time gospel and picked up odd jobs here and there, whenever he could find work. Many times there was no income at all.
He picked up the smallest boy and seated himself in the old rocking chair. The other two boys climbed up on his knees. “Boys,” he began with a lump in his throat, “Daddy would love to buy you a turkey for Thanksgiving, but I don’t see how we are going to be able to do it.”
Their eyes dropped in disappointment, but Ralph spoke bravely, if his voice did quiver, “That’s all right, Daddy.” Harry’s heart smote him. “Tell you what, boys,” he began, “If you want a turkey, we will have to pray it down. Have you got that kind of faith?” he asked. The boys had seen their parents pray for everyday needs, and had seen God supply it, so they were quick to respond eagerly.
Every night, included in their childish prayers, was the petition to God to send them a turkey. Ralph was seven, Charlie was five, and Frank was only three, but their faith never wavered.
The days came and went, and Thanksgiving loomed closer. There was still no job, no money, and no turkey. The night before Thanksgiving came and the boy’ spirits ebbed low. Their Dad tried to encourage them. “It’s not Thanksgiving yet boys, and God has never answered a prayer too late,” he said.
They prayed and went on to bed, as there was a 60-mile trip facing them the next day. They were going to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s for dinner.
It was still dark when they crowded into the old 1917 one-seated Model-T Ford. There was no heater, and the snaps on the snap-down windows were broken. It was very cold, but Myrtle Craig had heated bricks and wrapped them in an old quilt to keep their feet warm.
It was exciting to be making the trip to their grandparents, and the boys knew that there would be chicken, and spicy apple pies, and probably golden pumpkin ones too, but their minds were still on the turkey that had never appeared.
It began to break daylight, and houses and trees could be dimly seen. It grew perceptibly lighter and Ralph, who was standing on the floor of the car clutching the dashboard, said suddenly, “What’s that?”
There was a white, lumpy object lying beside the road. His dad glanced at it and replied, “Aw, that’s just trash or something, “and drove on. His wife Myrtle, with her soft red curls and cute, turned-up nose, always spoke in gentle tones. Loudly, she yelled, “STOP THE CAR!” They went back, and there was their turkey—all dressed and wrapped in white butcher paper, frozen and ready for the oven.
There was rejoicing and real thanksgiving around the table that day as the boys ate their first turkey. It was a lesson in faith that has been handed down to the Craig grandchildren and great-grandchildren to this day.
As we gather around the Thanksgiving table this year, let us come with a truly thankful heart for the blessings that a loving Father has given us. We take many of our blessings for granted. Sometimes it takes a special day to awaken us to the bountiful and manifold things that God gives us—not just the material things, but answers to prayer, and spiritual blessings without number.
God is greatly to be praised for all his blessings.