Here are some musings about the season I originally penned years ago, most recently printed in the sage 1998 volume “Curmudgeon Chronicles.”
“The Puritans argued about whether Thanksgiving should be a feast or fast, even though they pretty much started it all with a feast. That first feast was in 1621; by 1685 the Massachusetts legislature couldn’t agree on what to give thanks for. Some wanted a fast first, then a feast. Of course, some wanted the feast first, followed by fast.
“This who’s-on-first argument lasted almost 200 years. Then, on Oct. 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a day of ‘Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficient Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.’ Time to feast.
“And so it was.
“Thanksgiving was rearranged in 1931 when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday in November, on the notion that Americans would start their Christmas shopping early. Business interests were pleased. Sports fans, however, ‘threatened to vote Republican if Thanksgiving Day football schedules were disrupted,’ according to Professor David Hackett Fisher of Brandeis University.
“This would never do. And so, in 1941, Congress moved Thanksgiving back to the fourth Thursday in November, where it remains to this time. Although some folks are still confused.
“Feast has won. Third or fourth Thursday is settled, at least for now. Time to talk about the important stuff: white or dark meat. What kind of stuffing. Cranberry sauce or jellied cranberries. Pumpkin or mince. Who gets to pick at the carcass.
“You know, the real issues.”
Bill of rights
“1991 was the 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. In 1987 one of those ubiquitous polls reported that 59 percent of Americans could not even identify the Bill of Rights.
“What the heck, the Bill of Rights can’t be all that important. Free speech. Free press. The right to keep and bear arms, specifically with regard to a well-regulated militia. Some stuff about protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. The right to a speedy trial. The right in certain instances to trial by jury. Various petty matters like those. Why, if things like that were all that important or significant, they would have been in the Constitution right off the bat.
“Oh yeah. The Constitution (multiple choice question):
• I know what it is.
• I don’t know what it is.
• A new rap group.
• Don’t care.
Check one box only.”
“It was splendid of several of our past presidents to have their birthdays on Monday or Friday so that sometime in the future patriotic Americans could enjoy three-day holidays. A couple of them even agreed to merge birth dates. A bit odd, but sporting, don’t you think?
“Recent presidents have issued declarations establishing Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day and July 4 at a more convenient time. Since even they won’t mess with the birth date of the Big Guy’s No. 1 son, Christmas has stayed put.
“But grown. Remarkably, Christmas sales pitches begin the day after Halloween. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, most people think the holiday must surely be over. Alas, it isn’t. The ‘X’ number of shopping days left ’til Christmas has just made them catatonic.
“The expansion, of course, is tied to a huge consumer spending orgy driven by retail stores — which hope to make up to half their yearly income during the holiday ‘season.’ Sort of like hunting season. The retail hunters ‘ho-ho-ho’ and us sitting ducks ‘oh-no-no.’
“Getting a load of buckshot via nonstop advertising certainly opens my wallet.
“New Year’s Day has secured its place in the holiday lineup by virtue of position. It’s hard to mess with the first day of the year. People will celebrate Jan. 1, 2000, as the first day of the new millennium whether it is or isn’t (It isn’t, really, but that’s another story). Americans stopped celebrating May Day when the Commies usurped it, using that innocent little holiday to display rocket launchers in their annual Moscow May Day parade. No more dancing about the May pole for Meg and me.
“Be thankful National Pickle Week, Cowboy Mime Day, International Migratory Bird Day, and Take an Intern to the Executive Suite Month don’t wander about the calendar.
“Let’s hear it for National Old Geezer Season, which precedes the Cardiac Arrest Festival. Held around the Vernal Equinox, every year. Like it or not.
A couple of days ago I had thought to write something nice about Thanksgivings, even some Thanksgivings I have personally known. Ya know, the softening of time but then the reactions of some of our current and prospective government officials and advisors and the reflex to deny refuge to modern-day victims was disheartening. When and where I lived growing up if I went through enough doors with “do not enter” signs on them I could emerge on rooftops and I could see the Statue of Liberty. She’s quite a sight. (I think I once tried to memorize her dedication but I never could.)
Dear reader, I hope you each had warm and fuzzy thoughts about family Thanksgiving when everybody has a good time, a few men help the women in the kitchen before and after the meal and there were no incidents that involved that uncle. If you don’t, try to start such a tradition this year. Hope that it spreads to other places and other countries.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And do, please, pay homage to your Thanksgiving birds.
Field Notes: The shuffling of winter wings continues. Flat Creek in the southern portion of the National Elk Refuge was a resting place for trumpeter swans (144 adults, about a dozen cygnets and some tundra swans). Observer Susan Patla also recorded a male hooded merganser.
Some flocks of red polls each numbering in the hundreds of birds were spotted by Beverly Boynton and Ray White as they approached String Lake on Nov. 16. On Nov. 18, 35 gray-crowned rosy finches were welcomed by Hunter Marrow and Tracy Blue.
On Nov. 19 Boynton discovered two horned larks welcoming people to Kelly.
Richard and Francesca Rice are enjoying their winter roster of birds, the latest being a great horned owl that perches next to one of their bird feeders, South Park. Latest-minute update: And their first ever Clark’s nutcracker.