Published: November 20, 2011
The first Thanksgiving occurred in the 1600s when Capt. James Smith stretched a turkey’s neck over a Plymouth Rock and was about to swing his ax when he was stopped at the last second by Indian princess Pocahontas.
Pocahontas, a member of the local PETA tribe, nagged Smith and the Pilgrims into swapping their juicy turkey dinners for thistle salads, thereby spoiling what should have been a festive occasion, especially after Pocahontas unexpectedly invited her relatives in from Cleveland.
Finally, Pokey and her folks departed after lecturing the settlers for hours about what terrible drivers they were, how bad their colonial educational system was, and how better things were in Cleveland. The Pilgrims were so relieved that they fell to their knees and gave thanks.
Or something like that.
Thanksgiving has always been an interesting holiday, one that reflects our national neurosis: As millions of Americans gather around their dinner tables, drooling and anxious to carve into a golden-brown turkey, the president is pardoning a gobbler on TV in a traditional White House ceremony.
How weird is that? Before eating a turkey we are made to feel all warm and fuzzy over one being set free. It’s a classic case of wanting to have our turkey and eat it too.
And a little-known fact: Once back on the street, 80 percent of the pardoned gobblers rob a convenience store within 24 hours and are back in the coop. That tells us all we need to know about the revolving door of punishment on our chicken house of justice.
Back before high-powered poultry lobbyists used their influence to get a gobbler a sit-down with the president, most turkeys roamed wild. They were a staple of the early settlers’ diet and played such an important role on the frontier that Ben Franklin wanted to make the wild turkey the national emblem.
But, the turkey lost out to the bald eagle after the powerful eagle lobby brought in big outside money to help sway the vote. There were whispers that some politicians were on the take, swapping their votes for beaver pelts in what would become known as “Eagle-gate.”
In Boston, several ballot boxes were thrown into the harbor during a midnight raid by New England Patriots disguised as Green Bay Packers.
At the end of the day the bald eagle was declared the national emblem, and to enhance its image, it insisted on dropping the “bald” reference. It preferred “feather-challenged.”
When Franklin later tried to revive interest in the Gobbler Movement he was told to go fly a kite – which, as every school-person knows, led to the invention of getting struck by lightning.
Consider how significant that moment was in our history: If Franklin had been successful in getting the wild turkey proclaimed the national emblem, today the gobbler would be gracing our currency and standing majestically stop monuments. And we’d be serving bald eagles and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.
Sometimes, I worry that we’ve lost the true spirit and meaning of Thanksgiving – a time to gather with friends and family, appreciate all that good things that have come our way, and be especially thankful that snowbirds from Cleveland are socked in and couldn’t make it down for the holiday.
Larry Woody can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.