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Thankful that it comes only once a year

Published 25 November 2001 in The Denver Post
Copyright ©2001 by Ed Quillen. All rights reserved.

One thing I'm very thankful for is that Thanksgiving Day comes only once a year.

Not that I have anything against expressing gratitude; such a list could run for pages, and even then it would cover only a few of life's daily pleasures: Simpsons reruns, a cozy fire in the parlor stove, an old dog who still enjoys a daily walk, public radio, Linux, and a small town with a high tolerance for eccentricity that sits far from scheduled air service or an interstate highway.

My problem with the fourth Thursday in November has nothing to do with gratitude. I have plenty to be thankful for, and I don't mind saying so.

The problem is that I don't care for turkey. Everyone else in the family likes it, and this is their annual opportunity to enjoy it in copious amounts, so I go along.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd prefer ham or beef or even tofu to turkey. Yet while there are busy national toll-free hotlines to assist fowl cooks, I don't know of a single support group for people who would like to say neither when asked Light or dark?

It makes one wish that the Founding Fathers had paid more attention to Benjamin Franklin, who argued the eagle was not a fitting mascot, and the turkey would be an improvement.

For the truth, he wrote to his daughter in 1784, the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, an withal a true original Native of America ... He is besides, though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.

If the turkey were the national emblem, then the birds would be protected, and we couldn't butcher and eat it, right?

By contrast, Franklin wrote that the bald eagle is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly.... too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

Thus, Franklin concluded, the eagle is like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing.

Which makes me start to think that perhaps the eagle really is a better symbol ... no, never mind. Nosing around Franklin's work often brings up subversive material like They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Thoughts like that are inappropriate in these safety-conscious times, when the snoops have been empowered. Consider what happened recently in the city where Franklin conducted most of his career, Philadelphia.

There one Neil Godfrey was attempting to board an airplane to Phoenix. He was detained and questioned for so long that he missed his flight, and even after he was searched, he was not permitted to board.

Why? Because he was carrying a book to read on the flight. The book was Hayduke Lives! by Edward Abbey. It has come to this in our Land of the Free: you can't travel if your choice in reading displeases an airport security screener.

Somehow, I don't think this is what Benjamin Franklin had in mind when he helped establish this country.

But if you want to be on the safe side when you travel, I'm willing to help. Franklin, like Abbey, wrote some insurrectionary prose. There is a chance that you'll encounter a literate security screener who knows about those works. Thus you could get detained or worse if you happen to be carrying Franklin-related material.

So, before you go to the airport, examine your wallet. If you find any engraved portraits of Benjamin Franklin, just mail them to me at P.O. Box 548, Salida, Colo. 81201. I'll take care of the problem then; it's the least I can do to help assure the safety of the traveling public.

And I will be thankful for this opportunity to assist my fellow citizens.

I am also thankful that the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. Suppose they had made their way to the Great Lakes before building their huts and settling down to farm in 1620.

Instead of encountering Squanto, Samoset and the Wampanoags, the Pilgrims might have settled among the Arapaho and Cheyenne, who lived beside the Great Lakes before migrating to the western edge of the Great Plains in about 1800.

A joint harvest feast could well have ensued, and naturally there would indigenous cuisine. Our Thanksgiving tradition would not feature a roasted turkey, but instead a roasted dog.

As far as I'm concerned, the only good turkey is a wild turkey -- especially when it's on the label of a whiskey bottle.

But no matter how thankful I am when we run out of Thanksgiving leftovers and I can return to palatable food, I am even more thankful that the Pilgrims didn't land in Minnesota. The traditional turkey is hard enough to swallow.


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