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Keeping track of Thanksgiving memories


Most of my good memories of Thanksgiving follow my marriage. When I was single and milking cows, that day was like any other – head to the barn before 5 a.m. and hope to finish the work day by 8 p.m.

Marriage meant a normal family with a mother- and father-in-law and other kinfolk of my wife to share holidays with. Later, our daughter decided it would not be Thanksgiving without a smoked turkey on the table.

I have my marching orders again and a turkey will be smoked per her orders on Wednesday.

I rebelled one year, joining two friends in deep frying three turkeys. Our turkey tasted fine, but the two turkeys who insisted on frying the big toms in peanut oil terrified me on their casual attitude toward safety.

I admire and respect most firemen I have known over the years, both the full-time, paid firemen and the unpaid volunteers who serve their communities. My brother-in-law, a man I admire, is a retired fire chief.

One of the two turkeys who wanted to fry our turkeys has a son who is a fireman. He is now a captain with an Arkansas fire department.

The equipment was erected in the driveway of the home of one of the two friends. He preferred the garage, but his wife ordered us to remain at least 25-feet away from their home and her new car parked in the garage.

For those who have not deep fried turkeys, the experience involves heating the peanut oil to boiling, then immersing the turkey into the bubbling oil. A few missteps and you have very hot oil splattering the not so bright cooks.

There was another problem. The wife of the friend with a fireman son made arrangements for a fire truck to circle the block where we were frying about once every five minutes. The firemen gave us an “are you guys crazy?” look each time they passed the bubbling pots.

After 30 minutes, the pumper truck stopped and four firemen armed with hoses and fire extinguishers approached us, indicating we posed a threat to the neighborhood.

It may have been a practical joke, but it was the only time I have fried a turkey for our Thanksgiving table.

Thanksgiving is a holiday with a unique origin: Early settlers of Plymouth Colony holding a three-day feast in the 1600s to celebrate a bountiful harvest. The Indians were never sure if they were guests or potential court defendants of the European settlers in North America.

Many Indians still believe that the white men speak with a forked tongue. All those treaties that have never been honored may have something to do with that.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 114.7 million households across the nation will celebrate the holiday Thursday.

Almost 65,000 grocery stores in the United States will be busy this week with customers preparing for their culinary delights, according to the Census Bureau. The bureau apparently keeps track of more than a population count.

The value of U.S. imports of live turkeys from January through July was $12.1 million, with 99.8 percent of them coming from Canada. We ran a $9.1 million trade deficit in live turkeys during the period, but Arkansas will produce 29 million of the big birds.

Too much government data can ruin your appetite.

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Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by e-mail at fugatel@sbcglobal.net or at (870) 329-7010.