OUR THANKSGIVING HERITAGE!!.... the occasional heartbreak of growing up at Thanksgiving time....

.... Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, along with the wholesome lessons about our national day of thanks, there is also the poignant side of the holiday tradition. How many of us as youngsters were shocked when we read John Steinbeck's "The Red Pony", "The Yearling" by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, or "Old Yeller" by Fred Gipson??..... what started out as simple fables of beloved animals and the children that adored them ends in horror and tragedy. That is why, as parents (or friendly adults in the neighborhood!) we must always be careful when allowing our young people to bond with animals that start out as companions...and end up as entrees! I am reminded of the lovely Ferguson family over on Elco Drive whose three boys ranging in age from 3 to 7 years of age, and with the brightest (almost glaring!) smiles, became quite enamoured with a local turkey named Big Tom at the Clara-Lou Spinnaker petting zoo. It was during a charity drive that Mayor Fred Buffington of the town raffled off a complete Thanksgiving dinner with all the side dishes to raise money for a new roof for the Shriner's Lodge Animal Husbandry Pavilion. Every Thursday after school the Ferguson boys would run to the petting zoo to feed their special turkey and pet him and tell him about their school activities; an A+ on a Sumatran geography test, a three-run homer in the Pee Wee League semi-finals, the new wheels on the lavender Soap-Box Derby cart, or being cast as Macbeth in the 3rd grade "Let's Like Shakespeare Pageant".... And then...one afternoon, it happened. Tom's pen was empty. The boys' dismay immediately alarmed their parents Doug and Kimberly, and the head manageress of the zoo, Miss Edith Kranque. Before the tears could start falling, the adults quickly brought Big Tom out from the janitor's store room where he had been put along with all the Chinese food containers of candied yams with orange zest and apricots, the rustic mashed potatoes, the crunchy buttered Brussels sprouts, the green beans with slivered almonds, the celery, chestnut, and oyster stuffing, and the many other delicious side dishes that the lucky prize winners had won! The grown-ups explained that Tom had just gotten a "haircut" and was taking a nap, and that everyone should whisper about their day at school, but "not to wake him up"!....The boys were much relieved, although little Dickie said he couldn't see Tom's head, but MIss Kranque explained that birds like to tuck their heads under their wings when they sleep...even if their wing was missing feathers and had a light coat of herbed butter on it!!.... And then it was 6 o'clock and time for the boys to go home. There was just one more problem; the Ferguson family happened to have been the lucky winners of the raffle!!.....Miss Kranque asked Doug and Kimberly what they would like to do..... they looked over at the boys petting Tom and smiling those special smiles and decided to donate the dinner to The Wayward Wives Of Sailors Home on the corner of Key Street and Holgate..... And on the Friday after Thanksgiving, they would tell the boys that Tom had moved to Ft. Lauderdale, where Grandma used to live ....before she passed away...

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