By Barb Hauge
"Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow. Yes, over the river and through the woods; now Grandmother's house I spy. Hurrah for the turkey and cranberry sauce; hurrah for the pumpkin pie!" That ditty from my childhood is a summation of all the Thanksgivings I've ever known. It wasn't always Grandmothers house but family and neighbors always get together to celebrate the bounty of harvest.
When Norman Rockwell pained his "Four Freedoms" for Saturday Evening Post the World was at War. His "Freedom From Want" was seen by many as a celebration of gluttony and so it may be. But only when humanity has freedom from hunger can we aspire to other freedoms: Freedom of Speech, of Worship and Freedom From Fear.
We are never truly free unless we are free to enjoy the fruits of our labor; to use what we produce. Only when we have enough to eat are we healthy. Fulfillment of our basic needs; food, clothing and shelter gives us time to educate and ponder and plan and become creative participants in a free and open Democracy. Where humanity is crippled and chained by slavery they are not allowed to make use of their own production. Their personalities are destroyed and they live in constant fear. This happens under totalitarian regimes of every type. It happens far too often in groups of people who have been ostracized because they are perceived as being "different." It happens to people who have been lured into Cults.
Yes, if you eat you are involved in Agriculture. As Americans consume our abundant Thanksgiving dinners we must all be aware that this great blessing of food comes from farmers and ranchers who must be allowed to sell the food they produce at a profit so everyone can be released from a life of bare subsistence.
Cowan Brothers were my husband's uncles. They had a huge sheep ranch on the Big Flat. After a son, Harold Cowan returned from World War I he came back to live on the Cowan Ranch. Art remembers Thanksgiving dinners with Harold, Alice and family on Woody Island. The family would hitch a team to the sleigh and over the hills they'd go. The old Cowan ranch house was a log cabin with spring water that ran through a trough. "About all we did was eat and play cards and we didn't go home until the next day. I got to help their sheepherders put sheep in a shed for the night to keep them away from coyotes. One of the men bragged about what a great sheep herder I'd make but that was his idea."
When I was a child on the Baird Ranch neighbors were Ed and Alta Jacobson who married late in life and kept separate pocketbooks. They loved company and often hosted Thanksgiving Dinner for the community but each would verbally invite neighbors and then say, "Don't tell Alta (or Ed) that I asked you or I'll have to pay." Whoever issued the invitations had to pay for the meal; otherwise they shared the cost. Once they got wind of it, neighborhood bachelors would head for a free meal without invitation.
One Thanksgiving food was so abundant there was scarcely room for place settings. Little brother Wes, age five, carefully picked up his glass of milk while holding its spot on the table with his other hand and loudly proclaimed, "I don't know whose payin' for this but it sure is good!"