Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without a turkey.
At least in the family I grew up in.
Some may celebrate with a ham, goose or duck, but we always had turkey. I don’t know how big they used to make those turkeys or maybe ovens were slower back then, but I remember my mother getting up at what must have been 5 o’clock in the morning to put the turkey in the oven, yet we would all be sitting around at 3 p.m. waiting for the thing to get done.
The table would be spread with all the other stuff — mashed potatoes, two kinds of stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, jello salad, green salad, homemade rolls, jam, butter, pumpkin pie, and mince meat pie.
Oh, and I can’t forget the platter of pickles and olives.
The crowning glory of the table was waiting in the oven for a thermometer to prove it was ready to eat. Thanksgiving just would not be Thanksgiving without the great succulent brown roasted bird.
It was so big I swear that between Thanksgiving and Christmas we just reached into the refrigerator and carved off a little more meat for dinner each night or maybe a sandwich for lunch.
Then there was one year that Mother Nature conspired to do away with our turkey.
It was 1983, as I recall, the month before I left for my mission to Scotland.
The last Thanksgiving I would have at home for a while. I was older, but by then the turkey tradition was strong with me.
My mother and step-father lived in a log home on Carlyon Beach, near Olympia, Washington. Carlyon Beach sits at the very end of a narrow piece of land that sticks out into the lower regions of Puget Sound, separating Totten and Eld Inlet.
From the window of their home to the west was the most beautiful view of the Olympic Mountain Range and straight out the window was a view of the sound with Harstine and Squaxin Islands, if I recall my geography correctly.
This Thanksgiving my mom had just put the turkey in the oven when I looked out the window and saw a storm heading our way.
I had seen storms out there before, but this was different. I could see the rain advancing towards us like a wall. The water under the storm went immediately from smooth to very choppy, as if someone had drawn an imaginary line in it.
I jumped off the couch and checked the barometer. The pressure was dropping so fast I could see the needle moving downward.
Just then the storm hit land, and it blew and blew. Kind of like the wolf in the three pigs, until the lights went out. The turkey in the electric oven was now without heat. My mom tried to put the turkey in the gas oven in the camper, but the oven was too small.
With a flash of quick thinking — and when I tell this story I am always the hero, though I wouldn’t be surprised if some else gave me the idea — I took the turkey which was in a roaster pan with a lid and placed it on the downstairs wood stove.
I then built the biggest fire ever inside the stove. I went down every fifteen minutes and stoked the fire with wood, like a furnace man on a steam engine locomotive. I kept my eye on the thermometer in the bird and made sure the temperature kept rising until it was thoroughly cooked. Between the gas stove in the camper and the upstairs wood stove, my mom managed to cook the rest of the dinner. When the turkey was done we sat down to a Thanksgiving dinner and ate by the light of kerosene and Coleman lanterns. It was the best turkey ever.