Fall is heavy on the air. Storms far off at sea bring heaviness to the air. The falling of the leaves add a subtle scent. A light frost usually comes sometime before Thanksgiving. On my calendar, Thanksgiving is the close of Fall. The day after is the beginning of Winter
The weeks after Halloween leading to Thanksgiving were a time of preparation during my childhood as my mother, aunts and grandmothers began the system that led to a feast. Cake layers were cooked and put in the freezer. Some cakes were finished and frozen. Chickens were cooked and the broth saved. My mother could get more meals from one small fryer than anyone I’ve ever known. Cornbread was prepared for the dressing. But the deserts, the heavenly deserts.
Now I won’t call my mother cheap, but I will tell you that she could pinch a penny into quarters, both geometrically and financially. She came by it honestly though being raised as the youngest of eight children on a north Alabama dirt farm that raised more children than crops. As a matter of family legend, an exceptionally good crop was what led the family to becoming Republicans when a FDR bureaucrat came by and told my grandfather that he had planted to much of a certain crop and had to plow it back into the field
The delicious Thanksgiving meals merged with each other over the years becoming a vague memory of entirety mixed with entitlement. Not one meal or dish truly stands out on its own. It is the disasters, culinary and otherwise that stand out. And they usually involved me though not every time. When I was a late teen until my forties when GF straightened me out, I was the black sheep of the family. My notoriety was well deserved and there was little backup for me when things went wrong. Quite frankly, I didn’t deserve any though my Aunt Ninie was always available by phone when I had a culinary situation.
One time I prepared a pecan cake and applied the icing while the layers were way to warm. Even on the other side of the room I could see the crack appear moving from one side to the other. The crack moved in a fast slow motion. Slow enough to be surreal, but fast enough I couldn’t get to it in time to try to patch the cake. Instead half of it slowly tumbled off the plate and off the end of the counter. The disaster might have been limited to a single spot of cake on the floor if Smoke our gray cat hadn’t been walking past the counter. Cake, icing and Smoke rebounded off of cabinets and appliances as Smoke tried to get away from the hot sticky icing that was on him.
The cake was a funny bad, but the dog food was a horrible bad rating a 11 on a scale of one to ten. I was boiling scraps from where I had butchered a freshly killed deer just before Thanksgiving. Spooning out the meat, I decided to pour the remaining liquid down my mothers kitchen drain. Anyone familiar with venison knows that it has no fat, only tallow. The waxy tallow hit the cool water in the drain line and instantly congealed into a watertight plug about six feet long with the consistency of a warm candle. No, I don’t know what possessed me to do such a idiotic thing.
The only Thanksgiving disaster to beat it was the time I turned a corner and plowed into a freshly asphalted road which thoroughly undercoated my vehicle. At least until I parked it in my mothers driveway. While I was upstairs talking to my mother, Splat! Splat! clumps let loose and splattered like fresh cow pies. I spent most of the remaining days until thanksgiving with a square tip shovel trying to get up the asphalt. To this day, asphalt tire tracks crisscross the formerly pristine concrete parking slab
One year, after my mother had passed, I was having a Thanksgiving dinner at my house. I decided I had plenty of time having learned the value of planning from my Mother. Unfortunately, my mother made it look easy. And she papered over the unexpected happenings to where I didn’t even expect them to happen. So the day before Thanksgiving, I took off deer hunting. As long as I was home by noon, I had plenty of time. I made it back before eleven a.m. The first of the pecan tarts went into the oven and were burnt to a crisp. I blamed myself for mistiming them because of a couple of beers and feet up catnapping. Mid afternoon and I put in the second set. A short time later and they to were burnt to a crisp. Hmmm maybe this wasn’t my fault after all. Putting a thermometer in the oven, I found the temperature to be 500* and rising. The thermostat had given out. So here it was late afternoon on the day before thanksgiving and in need of a oven thermostat so I could cook the holiday meal.
2, my physical father and I mainly tried to stay out of the way in my mid teens, mostly by going hunting Thanksgiving morning and showing back up in time for the big meal. Eventually my mother put a stop to that after 2 and I showed up fashionably late a few Thanksgivings in a row
The last Thanksgiving, 2 and I left for our hunt with a strict warning to be back no later than 11 o’clock. 2 told me we needed to leave our stands no later than 9 maybe 9:30. Well, 10 if we hurried
So, naturally 1 killed a nice buck around 9:30 in a fine drizzle that had started the night before after 2 days of steady rain. 2 showed up shortly after he heard my shot. After quickly gutting him, (the buck not 2,) I threw him in the back of 2’s new truck ( again the buck not 2).
2’s new truck was a city truck if I’ve ever saw one. While I waited on him to finish some urgent business in the bushes, I admired the interior with both am and fm radio. It even had air conditioning something I never had until I bought 2’s last truck after he passed. I was in my sixties then.
2 had decided to take his truck rather than my usual vehicle, a VW bug. His truck was more dependable with gas gauges, batteries and a heater that actually functioned. And had a undercarriage that wasn’t undercoated with some of Phenix City’s finest asphalt.
It’s now almost 11 and once again we would be fashionably late to a dinner that our female members of the family had worked so hard on. By the time we got on the hard we would still be almost an hour from the house. I was driving and had to stop twice on the freshly graded logging road as 2’s case of the trots got the best of him.
At 11:30 we were in sight of the paved road when the truck slowly slid down an incline into a bank whose bottom had a consistency slightly thicker than quicksand. It didn’t matter which way I turned the steering wheel, the truck went in it’s own direction. Since it was 2’s truck and not my lightweight VW, pushing it out of the ditch it was bottomed out in was not an option. The nearest tree on this section of clearcut was further away then the reach of a come along and the amount of rope we had. There was no one else on the property to give us a hand and 2 was a little worse than useless as he repeatedly retreated to the bushes. Call for help? This was about 1978.
2’s new truck was now well broke in. Fine Alabama red clay caked both the inside and the outside. The bumper was scratched up from the jack. There was scratches and a couple of softball sized dents on the body from a sapling that stuck our from a clay bank.
The atmosphere was rather chilly in the house by the time
2 and I had dug out enough dirt and carried rocks from a culvert near the paved road to finally get a jack under the truck and topple it several times before getting it back on the road. The grand meal was over. There was some leftovers but nothing prime, I suspect the dogs had gotten those cuts of meat. I started to whine about missing the meal, but the look that my mother slapped me upside the head with sent me out to skin and quarter the deer before packing it on ice to age. It was probably just as well since the memory of the asphalt on her driveways was still fresh in her mind and the incidence with the plugged up drains still to come. 2 fortunately spent a lot of time in the bathroom away from the glares that my mother sent in my direction. It was our last hunt on Thanksgiving.