Thanksgiving. The time of year we set aside, as a nation, to thank God for all the blessings we receive throughout the year. Maybe you’re traveling to spend the holiday with relatives, or hosting a family gathering in your home, or just having a few friends over to watch television and relax. However you spend the day, please remember to eat responsibly, and set your bathroom scale back ten pounds on Thursday night.
For me, Thanksgiving has always been pretty much a four-day weekend designed to hunt deer. I never travel anywhere, and if relatives want to see me they’re welcome to come to my house. If I want to see them I might come to my house, too. Otherwise I’m gone hunting.
Now, turkey is the generally accepted Dead Animal Of Choice in most American homes for the Thanksgiving meal, and I’ve got nothing against that. Especially if the bird is deep-fried. That’s hard to beat. But the Hemphills also eat venison, which we chicken fry according to an old family recipe. My mom got the recipe from an old family once.
And when I say ‘we chicken fry’ the venison, I, of course, mean my wife does it. The rest of us help out, adhering to a strict division of labor we’ve perfected over the years. This is how that works:
I’m responsible for setting up the propane stove outside in my mom’s little greenhouse, especially if it’s cold outside. We (by which I mean my wife) usually don’t fry venison indoors, because it creates a greasy cloud that hangs around until approximately Armageddon. I set up the two-burner stove, and make sure we have plenty of propane, or at least enough to get the grease hot before we run out, and I have to go hunt up another bottle somewhere. This usually involves calling friends, since it’s hard to find a five-gallon bottle of propane on Thanksgiving.
The kids are responsible for making themselves scarce, lest we find a job for them to do. If we manage to collar one of them, we try to put him to work hauling stuff out to the greenhouse, such as the venison, or the flour, or the salt, or maybe paper towels or empty pans to put the fried venison on. These jobs are all evidently very painful, judging by the reaction we usually get from the boys when we ask them to haul something. It’s often easier to just haul the stuff ourselves.
My mom is responsible for standing in the kitchen and waiting for someone to come in the room. When that happens she asks them, “What do you need?” It might be me looking for more flour, or oil, or salt, or a flyswat, or it might be Jocelynn looking for me, or a pan, or a pair of tongs, or it might be one of the boys looking for a piece of prailene, or divinity, or fudge.
Invariably, the item in question is missing. According to Mom, it was on the counter just a minute ago, but now it’s gone. Panic ensues until the item is found, and then Mom quits looking for it several minutes later.
Everyone else besides Jocelynn is responsible for Staying Out Of The Way. This is usually accomplished by either watching television, or playing a game no one can agree on the rules for, or, if it’s cold outside, standing in front of the fireplace, making sure the fire doesn’t get loose and burn the house down.
This group is also required to periodically send a delegate, on a rotational basis, into the kitchen, so Mom will have something to look for. The delegate is required to also visit the greenhouse and ask when we will eat. He or she receives a series of answers, based on a graduated scale, ranging from a calm, sincere estimate of our predicted time of repast in response to the first query, to a frenzied, spittle-flecked ‘When the meat’s done!’ reply to about the tenth delegate. A hasty retreat at this point is usually followed by a lack of willing volunteers from the Staying Out Of The Wayers from then on.
Jocelynn, is responsible for doing the actual frying of the venison, which is the easiest job of the day, unless you happen to be Jocelynn. The grease cloud fills the greenhouse pretty quickly, and breathing in there can be a little crunchy. She does a great job, though, and the venison always comes out perfectly crisped and browned on the outside, as does Jocelynn.
The pile of fried venison always looks like enough to feed an average Honduran village for a week, but very little of it ever lasts until the next meal. The Hemphill clan has been known to consume ten times it’s body weight in deer meat at a single sitting. Give or take.
Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite American holiday. In then end, everyone is happy. Well, except for the deer. And the bathroom scale . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who would like to borrow a bottle of propane on Thursday. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org