We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Wednesday, November 24. 2010
Every Thanksgiving, we kids sang this merry song on the way to our Granny and Grampy's Connecticut house: five of us, bouncing in the back seat of the Chevy station wagon. Dad driving with a cigarette in his mouth and humming opera tunes.
Kents, as I recall.
Their house was a mansion to us, filled with mysteries. My Gramps was a doctor. They had owl andirons with eyes, bathtubs with claw feet, a real ice box in the basement, a big family Bible from the 1700s, a jar of formaldehyde with a dissected human heart, old medical texts about Syphilis and Malaria which used to be common in CT, Tiffany lamps, a Chickering grand piano, Persian rugs, the first EKG machine in Connecticut (German made, in a mahogany cabinet, which still worked and which works to this day), the rooms my Dad and Aunt grew up in with all of their books - and my Granny's Mom, sitting and knitting. She died at age 103. An old Yankee, raised on a hardscrabble farm and who worked as a nurse, she never said very much. She was half Iroquois (her Mom), and looked like an ancient squaw with her hair tied back.
They had a cranky, humorless Polish widowed cook called Mrs. Wos (which was an abbreviation of her last name which I never knew) who helped them in the kitchen and who would smack your hand hard with a spoon if you tried to grab something. Granny was not much of a cook, to put it mildly, but she would help Mrs. Wos when asked. Mrs. Wos kept a filled bird-feeder outside the kitchen window for entertainment, and banged on the glass when a squirrel got into it. Come to think of it, she banged all sorts of things: hands, windows, pots and pans, cabinet doors, all the time.
And they had an old widower black guy moved up from Mississippi who did chores and yard jobs, and helped with the garden - the sweetest and most dignified Christian guy you could ever know. "Uncle Ed," who my Granny called Mr. Evans, sang hymns while he worked, and read the Bible and philosophy (and W.E.B. DuBois and Albert Schweitzer) when he was off duty in his cozy apartment above the garage - with a wood stove (in addition to real heat) - and walls of bookshelves. He believed that fiction was the work of the Devil but he never refused whiskey.
Being alone in life, both family helpers joined us at the family tables for Thanksgiving dinner. Ed was always given the honor of offering the prayer which came from the depths of his heart. He went on for quite a while, as the soup got cold. Deep and yet simple, which are the things I still aspire to. He prayed for his country, for the enrichment of his and our spirits, for the soul of his dead wife, for his two boys in the service, and for the glory of creation.
I miss him because he was a dear buddy to me. He was the first black guy I knew. He had worked as a railroad Porter, and he said the railroad was the true friend of the black man. He knew the blues, and he knew the hymns. He taught me to fish, with great laughter and jollity. Bait-fishing from a rowboat, for food, with a bamboo pole. No fancy stuff. Long gone, now, but never forgotten.
Happy Thanksgiving, readers. Thanks to God, and God bless us, every one, living and gone - and our free country.
Photos: Station wagons were the SUVs of their time: if you had kids, you had one. '55 Chevy, of course. The '50 Buick? My grandparents drove theirs until the mid-1960s. Old people used to drive old cars. I recall theirs as having been brown, not black, but I couldn't swear to that. My Gramps, who was a doctor, totalled it into a tree while making a house call late at night in a snowstorm at age 84. He was OK, but the car wasn't. Bought a white Oldsmobile with power windows and began to cut back on work and grumble about socialism and socialized medicine. Johnson was President, with Medicare on the table - and he accepted vegetables, flowers, firewood, and labor as payment from those without money. He felt his poorer patients would feel demeaned by charity, so he expected something. I remember a bushel basket of fresh-dug potatoes on his back porch, with a note scrawled "from Sam." Another time I recall a bushel basket of sweet corn.
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Thanks, BD. Awesome - much love and many blessings to you and everyone at Maggie's.
A splendid essay BD.
The carcass of a 47 Buick rests in the shelterbelt north of my house.
A Happy Thanksgiving wish to you, the other contributors to Maggie's and of course the rest of the readership.
awesome picture of a Nomad. Not too many two door station wagons were ever made.
My father bought a 1957 Chevy 2-door station wagon. Not the fancy Nomad or Bel Air, but the plain model. I was driving it when it hit 100,000 miles.
Those front doors were big.
"55 Chevy Nomad wagon. When I was 17 (Summer, 1958) I took a trip from Maryland to Acapulco, Mexico in one of those. We were two adults and 4 teens, all guys. We camped out and cooked out most of the way. We slept on the beach in Acapulco just a ways from the cliffs where the divers did their daredevil stunts. Spent a week in Mexico City walking around. Got to the floating gardens south of the city. We always fought over the window seats and the guy in the front middle seat always felt like he was being punished. No air conditioning; no seat belts either.
Thanks also to you, Bird Dog. You, and the whole Maggie's team, have given us hours of interesting and diverse content for which I'm grateful. May God bless you all.
The cars they build today......look like shoe boxes on wheels. No class, no style, no lines, no nothing. How I miss the cars of yesterday. The power, the strength, the room in the back seat.
Thanks for writing this, Bird Dog.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and everyone else at or just visiting Maggie's Farm.
A Happy happy Thanksgiving to all who live, love and work on Maggiesfarm, and to all those who post comments here. Thanks too for the lovely essay on what Thanksgiving means, Bird Dog.
We'll be sending good wishes tomorrow in your direction ...
Affectionately, Marianne and Downs
Thanks, Bird Dog and the other contributors to Maggies Farm. Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thanks be to God, from whom all blessings flow.
Thanks for bring back some memories of better times than we have today. Maybe if this recession gets bad enough it will draw people back closer together like we were.
Have a great Thanksgiving there in the south ours up north here in Canada was a good one this year I hope yours is too.
Happy Thanksgiving From The Badger's Burrow, In Wisconsin! HUZZAH!
Great essay for your memoires, BD! I, too, remember the baskets of potatoes and squash my gramps accepted for payment.
Thanks to all at Maggie's and the many commentors who make this such a special site.
Thank you for a great piece of personal history. And thank you to all the other Maggie's Farm writers. I am glad that this site exists to show the world that not all of us Northeastern Yankees are drawn from the same mold as the Dodds, Franks and Kennedys.
A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
We used to actually go over the Sudbury River that the song was written about* on the way to Thanksgiving. Sudbury was getting rather preppy at that point, though, so the grandma didn't look the part for the song.
*My sons got rather tired of me pointing this out every year.