It is truly cold this morning and I have my blankets pulled right up to my neck. There are noises in the kitchen and the smell of brewing coffee comes up the stairway. There are voices and the slamming of car doors woke me. I heard my brothers go down the stairs some time ago and remembered in my half asleep daze, that all the unusual noise and early rising means that the hunters have arrived.
A few nights ago, our kitchen was filled with hunters my father had recruited for a big hunting day. Mugs of coffee sat steaming while they pored over a map Dad had drawn for all to see. There would be a couple men to drive and others to sit and wait at a certain point. The names Furlong Pond, Overset Pond, Pine Mountain, Spruce Mountain, the old Ames Place all were bandied about as I sat in the corner reading.
Ma hunts as well, but today she cannot go with the rest as the sun is cresting over Moose Cove. Today is Thanksgiving and it will be just the three of us, Ma, Curt and me, in the house preparing the dinner. Curt won’t help with the dinner, but he’s too young to go along on the hunt.
I hear the door slam and know I should be downstairs as soon as possible to help Ma get the hen ready for dinner. We don’t have a turkey, though I’ve heard some of the kids talk about them. Dad made the trip earlier this morning to the Lester Cole farm and returned with a nice fat hen for us to dress and cook.
After I gobble my egg and fried potato, Ma asks if I am ready . She has the stove going nice and hot with a big pot of water boiling. She grabs the hen by its scrawny, ugly feet and dunks it over and over. What an awful smell, but it has to be done. We laid newspapers on the kitchen table and now, standing side by side, pluck the feathers out of the bird. Thankfully, Ma cleaned out the insides earlier. I helped her do that last year and told her it was not one of my favorite things to do and she said she wasn’t too keen on it herself. We finally have all the feathers out, so Ma goes to the wood stove and removes two covers. Time to singe the pin feathers! She grabs its scrawny legs again and puts the body down in the stove and turns it around until the pin feathers are all black and scorched. The smell is not getting any better, but I keep quiet as this is the unpleasant part of Thanksgiving Day and Ma is very busy.
We scrape the pinfeathers and out comes the roasting pan, kerplunk and the hen is now in the oven. Ma puts the stick up to the oven door to keep it closed real tight and declares it a job well done.
It is time to start on the potatoes as we always have a big bowl of mashed potatoes. Ma says she hopes this year Dad gets home to eat at a decent time. If he doesn’t, she says we will go ahead and eat because he knows what time the meal is going to be on and if he wants his cold, well that’s the way he will get it. She flips her apron when she says it, and I know she is remembering last year when Dad and the boys did not come home until about two hours after the food was ready. That is how my father is when it comes to hunting. He gets on the track of a deer and he forgets there is anything else in the world. Meanwhile, Ma is back in the kitchen making biscuits and mashed potato and looking at the pie she made yesterday to make sure it will pass muster.
Dad does not like holidays and makes no bones about it. He considers them a nuisance and tolerates them like he would a rash. He gets through them, but there is no excitement around him. Thanksgiving is like any other meal, but more food and a hen.
Biscuits are made, potato is mashed and the hen has come out of the oven, all nice and brown. Ma says, well here they come and on time for once. I put the six plates around the table and the water glasses at my brothers’ and my plates. Ma has opened a can of peas to go with the potato and hen. The table looks really full of food with the biscuits and oleo set out now.
Dad and the boys come in and announce there was no luck in getting a deer this morning , but they plan to eat quickly and go right back out somewhere by Overset Pond. We all sit down and Dad starts to pass the food. He hands the chicken and says the same thing every year. Here, have a piece of roadrunner. It’s been running around the hen yard for so long, we will probably break our teeth trying to eat it. Ma always replies the same way, Beryl Martin, that is a chicken and it is perfectly good. No matter. All through the meal, Dad will take a piece of chicken and hum..hmmm, good roadrunner this year. Ma says he should be grateful we have chicken on the table, but he just grins and taps his foot, which is what he always does when he knows he has made her sputter. He decides he will have a piece of the pie, but Ma sends me to get the red jello in the glass bowl which has set in the snow bank overnight. Curt and I especially like jello and the jiggling it does.
We have just finished eating when Dad tells the boys it is time to go back out hunting and before Ma and I can blink an eye, they are out the door and in the car. She looks at me and I look at her and we both look at the pile of dishes to be washed in the black iron sink and put away in the little cupboard.
Another roadrunner Thanksgiving is over. It was fun while it lasted and I think Dad just announced with no words that now we have eaten, all can return to normal…as normal as it gets around here.