Those words carry us back to when we were naïve children. Although these are my memories of simpler times in Tennessee, you may remember a similar country-style Thanksgiving too.
My family lived on a small farm in Macon County when I was a child. My maternal grandparents (John and Ida Freeman Woodmore) lived in a large house less than a mile from our small house. My paternal grandparents (Sam and Flora Gregory Porter) lived on a farm in Trousdale County many miles from our home place. In those “Great Depression” days, therefore, we could not afford to visit my paternal grandparents very often.
As the holiday drew near, my maternal grandmother would start preparing a bountiful meal for Thanksgiving dinner. To us country folk, “dinner” was the midday meal. My mother (Dorothy) and my sisters (Lenora, Peggy, and Linda) would help my grandmother fix “goodies” several days before the forthcoming Thanksgiving celebration. These “goodies” included various cakes and pies.
It was usually cold enough in November in those days to slaughter a hog without fear of the meat spoiling. Therefore, my father (Don) would usually kill a hog to provide fresh meat for the Thanksgiving feast. My maternal grandfather, my uncle (Turner), my brother (Bob) and I helped with the hog killing chores.
My family would gather at my maternal grandparent’s house early on Thanksgiving Day. The dining room was not heated, therefore, the “goodies” which had been prepared earlier would be stored there until Thanksgiving dinner. I would often sneak into the dining room to get one of the little fried peach pies before dinner.
While the women were in the kitchen cooking the rest of the food for Thanksgiving dinner on the wood cook stove, the men were in the living room telling stories about their “good old days” while enjoying the warmth of the wood fire. My brother and I usually listened to the tall tales being told by the men while sitting near the fireplace. From time to time, the women would ask us to draw another bucket of water from the well or fetch another load of wood from the woodshed.
The women would roast a chicken, make dressing and fix giblet gravy for Thanksgiving dinner. Our family was not rich enough to buy a turkey and there were not turkeys roaming through the woods free for the taking in those days. The women would also fry country ham and fresh pork sausage. In addition, they would cook dried beans, canned corn and make mashed potatoes. Lastly, they would bake a batch of homemade biscuits and a pan of cornbread.
After what seemed an eternity for us children, it would finally be time for Thanksgiving dinner. We would thank a gracious God for the bounty He had given us. Then, we would stuff ourselves with all the good food set before us on the table, including the various meats, vegetables, breads and desserts. In those long-gone days, the men ate first, the children ate next and the women ate last.
After dinner, the table would be cleared and the leftover food stored away until time to eat supper. We children would spend the afternoon playing games. If there was snow on the ground, we would slide down the hill on a homemade sled. If we got too cold outside, we would come inside and play checkers or Rook cards. The women would talk about local social affairs. The men would talk about the crops and livestock.
As night drew near, the men would go to the barn to feed the livestock and do the other farm chores. The women would prepare the table for supper. After eating the food leftover from dinner, we would walk home. That night I would dream of the next family gathering at Christmas.
Those family gatherings on Thanksgiving and Christmas provided us children with happy memories that we will carry with us through all the days of our lives. Now, 70 years later I still recall those childhood memories.
Will today’s children be fortunate enough to have such happy memories of their family gatherings? I hope all children have happy memories, especially our children (Venice, Lee, and Paul)!
[Author bio: Grover Porter, Ph.D., is a graduate of Macon County High School, University of Tennessee, University of North Carolina, and Louisiana State University. He is a Veteran of the U. S. Army, Tennessee Air National Guard, and U. S. Air Force Reserve. Grover and Dorothy are retired and living in Hendersonville.]