Reminiscences of a Mountain Man - An Old-time Thanksgiving

      Painting - "Holiday Survivors" - Terri Waters

     He sat whittling in the cool air of an early October morning. Although the sky was a brilliant blue, the sun overhead did little to dispell the fall "nip" in the air. The story, much like the man, was simple, direct and unhurried.

     "Things was different in those days. In the early '20's folks in this area made their livin' on a farm - not in the tourist trade. Thanksgiving was different too. Folks don't observe Thanksgiving as much as they used to. I guess they just don't have as much to be thankful for."

     "You worked hard during the year making a living so the one day set aside for Thanksgiving was very important. We figured it was most important to thank the Lord for the things we had been given."

     "In November, most of the people were still harvesting their crops. We had to plan our Thanksgiving day around the harvest and daily chores necessary to life on a mountain farm. Those things, after all, came first."

     "Not many folks in those days kept turkeys. Although there were a few wild turkeys around, it was hard to arrange to kill one just in time for Thanksgiving. Most of the huntin', gatherin' and such was done by the boys and young men of a family. the older family members bein', as I said earlier, still busy with the harvest."

     "Although we always had some form of wild game (squirrel, quail, possum, coon, bear or the like) most of our Thanksgiving dinner was made up of a special baking and long hardened fruits. Although every one tried to find, trap, kill or otherwise get something special for Thanksgiving dinner, we made do with whatever we had. Coon and possum, for instance, were both sweet meats (not strong or bitter like most wild game). Served up with spices and fresh baked sweet taters, either one make a fine eatin' dish. The one staple of Thanksgiving dinner was (and still is in most cases) Pumpkin pie. That was just a part of Thanksgiving, no matter how lean the harvest or hard the times."

     "There was one other tradition mountain folks always observed. We always gave thanks. That's what the whole day was about, after all. Thanking the Lord for the blessings bestowed on us during the past year."

     "Folks didn't live side by side in those days. Although we tried to hold a special Thanksgiving church service whenever possible, we weren't always able to do so. If there was no service, or you lived too far to walk back and forth, (the only form of transportation available to a lot of mountain families), you had a service of your own. One way or another, we made sure God knew we were grateful for everything he had give us during the past year."

~ Craig McCarter as told by Herb Clabo