One of the funniest traditions of Thanksgiving is the “Presidential Pardoning” of a turkey. There are more questions than answers as to how this began. It is true that since 1947 the National Turkey Federation has given the current president two ready- to-cook turkey carcasses and one live bird in what is known as the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. I have seen the televised report many times with our presidents talking turkey. I can see this would be a great advertising moment for turkey growers. Our presidents have carried many heavy burdens for America that demand their attention, and I don’t blame them for wanting a press conference where everyone is laughing at a few turkeys taking a stroll on the White House lawn. I watch this several times on the news every year, and you just have to smile.

There are several possibilities according to an article on Wikipedia, as to how this was started, some of which cannot be proven, but none the less they are good stories. President Lincoln is credited, in some accounts, to have “pardoned” his son’s pet turkey, assuring the turkey of a long peaceful life involving no hatchets, machetes or cutting blocks. Some tell the story that Ronald Reagan made a side remark, hopefully as a joke, that the Thanksgiving turkey needed a presidential “pardon” for their life to be spared.

George H.W. Bush (the elder) in 1989 made the tradition of “pardoning” the turkey permanent. The pardoned turkey lives out the rest of its natural life on a farm. In the last few years two turkeys have been pardoned, in case the first turkey, for some unforeseen reason, cannot accept the presidential pardon (really). Only politicians could have made up such a politically correct idea. However, Aunt Callie used to raise turkeys in the 1940’s and she did tell me that in a heavy rain storm turkeys look up amazed to see what is falling from the sky, tilting their nose holes upward and thereby drowning themselves. As ridiculous as that sounds, it is factual, turkeys are just not that intelligent.

The weirdest information from Alternet.org about Thanksgiving involves Professor Robert Jensen of the University of Texas at Austin who made the statement, “One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.” Don’t hold back professor……tell us how you really feel. I am thankful he is not my family member, or in charge of my Thanksgiving, aren’t you? Perhaps he also has strong feelings about Christmas, but I am not going to ask.

In 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as an official holiday. At this time the lives of the residents of Coryell County were greatly affected by the Civil War and in a personal and overwhelming way. Most men, except the very old or young, of Coryell County were fighting for the Confederacy and their families were seldom sure where they were, or if they were even alive. Two of my great-grandfathers fought in this war. The men suffered greatly, and were lucky to return home. If they were able to return home they found themselves destitute, their cattle stolen and farms in disrepair. During the war the women were unprotected from Indians and cattle thieves and had to try to feed their family and make a crop. There would not have been much to celebrate.

Today we should be aware of the tremendous blessings we enjoy such as having grocery stores, our family, our home, our jobs but especially the privilege of living in a free country. At this time we have freedom from war on our home soil because our finest young men, our soldiers, go overseas to fight for us. This Thanksgiving, stop and think about how many blessings we all have and be appreciative especially of your freedom.

Coryell Museum honors these soldiers and veterans and has a large military exhibit to showcase our brave men and women. The museum has on display uniforms, maps and photographs of veterans from Coryell County, as well as, exhibits on the following wars: War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II (men and women), Normandy Invasion, Ft. Hood and Camp Hood, Iwo Jima, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq War.

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