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Revised 7 December, 2009

THANKSGIVING DINNER AND HUMBLE PIE

As a child, like most children, we sang lusty choruses of "Over the River and Through the Wood", only in our case, we did not to Grandmother's house go, she came to ours, a fact for which we were eternally grateful.

Grandma Lutes was one of the best cooks in several states, bar none. She could take a cupboard full of nothing and make it into a banquet. Thanksgiving dinner was her pride and joy and when Grandma was in the kitchen, the rest of us went into hiding and got out of her way or she would know the reason why. Sitting down to the dining room table was out of the question. There was no room for people when she got done and it required a proverbial crane to get you up after that sumptuous meal because one could not stop eating. I suspect there were occasions when we ate so much we hurt ourselves, and still had not the sense to quit.

I don't know what Grandma did to her turkeys, but they were always moist, delicious and browned to perfection. Our tradition was that we ate the one big meal together and then spent the rest of the next few days picking the rest to pieces. There was always a plate for one more. Nobody ever left Grandma's house hungry. She would not have allowed it.

As I told you once before, Grace and I would ride with Robert to his mother's house and my parents would pick us up from there, saving them the long drive to Indianola to get us. (If you look at a map of Iowa, you will find Indianola just south of Des Moines. Our home at that time was just outside of Harlan, Iowa (You'll find it in Shelby County.) My dad bought a small farm outside of Harlan when I went away from college and became a gentleman farmer. He rented the barns out to the local vet and the acreage out to the neighboring farm. The farm house was not habitable. It was an old two-story house that had seen far better days. The upstairs portion of the house had a definitive lean from years of withstanding the prairie winds. The prior owner had stuffed rags in the windows when they broke rather than fixing them. One climbed the narrow and decrepit stairway at our own risk. The downstairs, though, had one large sitting room that was useable and became a guest bedroom. Fortunately, the house did not fall down onto any of our guests. I am told the entire house eventually gave up the ghost and fell in upon itself, but that was not in my time or part of my story. As a result of the poor condition of the farmhouse, my parents bought a double-wide mobile home and moved it onto the property and that is where they lived from about my sophomore year in college until I graduated. Prior to that, they rented an apartment in Kimballton, about 15 miles down the road, give or take which way the crow was flying and the prevailing winds.

But back to the farm and Thanksgiving Dinner. On this particular occasion, Grandma outdid herself. Grace and I, both starving students with healthy appetites, came home for the week. Grandma and Grandpa Lutes drove down from Omaha (Nebraska) a couple of days earlier to prepare the feast. Dad had been looking forward to the dinner for days and had taken one of his rare days off to spend the entire day with the family, and mother pretty much made herself scarce and stayed out of everybody's way.

As the day wore on, we slipped out to the kitchen and hit the pile of left-overs. Grandma had made a larger turkey that year because she knew Grace and I would have healthy appetites. She had planned to take the final left-overs and put it all together into a big turkey pot pie. That evening, she went to the kitchen and opened the container which held the turkey carcass, expecting to spend a couple of hours deboning the remains and chopping vegetables, etc. for the pie and was stunned to discover that the entire turkey had been consumed. There was not a stitch of meat on that turkey. It was nothing but bones. And so, for our dinner that night, we all ate a huge helping of humble pie and a major portion of remorse and scorn about the big pigs who seemed to have moved into the family when she wasn't looking. At which, Grace and I found someplace else to be and Dad sat there looking up to the sky with a look of total (NOT!) innocence on his face. And nobody knew where Mom and Grandpa were hiding. You never saw so many "Not Me" birds flying about dodging her dirty looks.

And so, dear friend, may your Thanksgiving be plentiful. May your day be filled with fond memories. And, should you find yourself reaching for that one last mouthful of food you know in your heart you should not be eating--make sure Grandma is not looking over your shoulder, ready to smack your little fingers with her wooden spoon.