Today is the last day for killing deer with a gun. In Oklahoma the start of Thanksgiving week in many places is heralded with gunshots; innocent victims are trapped inside shooting galleries.

Today is the last day for killing deer with a gun. In Oklahoma the start of Thanksgiving week in many places is heralded with gunshots; innocent victims are trapped inside shooting galleries. Camouflaged hunters adorned in at least 400 square inches of blaze orange (apparently deer can’t see orange, nor can some hunters) wander the fields and woods in search of the nocturnal animals. At least two deer were harvested in our neighborhood. Their white-tailed carcasses were dumped between houses just off the road with the head, feet, fur and non-desirable muscles and flesh still attached. Not only was this illegal (1/4 mile from occupied dwelling or public highway), it was down right offensive. The practical side of me says the scavengers will have a field day, but my spiritual side looks upon the wasteful field dressing and casual tossing away these animals of nature as callous, insensitive acts done by greedy individuals. I hope they get indigestion.

Nonetheless, my Thanksgiving preparations began on Wednesday. Most of the food had a three hour ride to the family homestead in southeast Oklahoma. Going home for me means entering hills covered in oaks, sweetgums and shortleaf pines. Too bad wildfires dotted the horizon as the area continues to plunge deeper into an intensifying drought. The azaleas in front of the house actually had large deep pink blooms this late November. The 5 gallon Treegator watering bags had been doing their job, but the winterized well, pump and hose would have to be reactivated during our stay as the plants and trees needed more water.

The house was ready for us. The lights came on (yay), the HVAC system revved up, the water flowed from the faucets and the gas heater in the front bathroom lit, blue-orange flames giving warmth to the small room. The fresh turkey from Benedict Street Market deli had been packed in ice inside its insulated container. This was carried to the cold patio outdoors. The thick walled ice chest was designed to float. I hoped those thick walls would also keep little teeth at bay. Raccoons, opossums, cats and other critters would certainly enjoy turkey. I then remembered the celery and sweet pickles that were still sitting in the refrigerator at home. Improvisation became the game plan.

Most of the furniture in the house was gone. My parent’s cherry wood 1950’s bedroom suite, dresser with large mirror, bed stands, dressing table, chair and bedframe with headboard had been secreted away months ago, along with the four other beds in the house. Yup. We came prepared with inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags, as four of us would be camping inside the house over Thanksgiving. Towels, flatware, coffee pot, a new small microwave and other things were brought to replace those that had also walked away.

Early Thanksgiving morning I lifted the 17 pound turkey out of the fridge and set it on the counter. The night before the front top gas burner heated the kettle (with its new improvised coat hanger handle), so I assumed the oven would also be fine. I turned the dependable Maytag oven on. Instead of seeing the temperature, I saw F5 streaming across the little screen. The oven then promptly turned itself off. Oh no. I tried it again. The F5 flashed in my face. I figure F5 probably meant ‘you’re screwed sucker.’ The stuffed turkey sat patiently in its pan, tented with aluminum foil. Let’s see if my uncle was home next door. Lights were on in his house. The fates were with us. He was up and more than happy to help. The bird was trotted over to his kitchen.

Meanwhile the old convection oven that apparently no one wanted was cleaned and worked like a charm. Everything came together and we enjoyed a great meal. The day ended with a walk around Quarry Island. Rocco, the black Labrador, chased sticks while splashing and swimming in the water. The sunset was spectacular over a quiet lake, with only one pelican and a dozen Canadian geese paddling across. The Quarry Island Christmas display had already been set up. As the sky darkened, the arches at the entrance, several Santas, Holly wreaths, light poles, dinosaurs, the American flag, Statue of Liberty, bear and deer, candy canes and other designs were turned on. We decided it would be safer to look at the colorful lights by car instead of on foot. It was truly a magical mystery tour since we couldn’t see exactly where to go using low to no beams and left the road a few times.

Next day: work. The exterior of the house and surrounding land had been left untouched for months and months. Living and dead branches littered the ground, the sunporch windows were caked in dirt and leaves and the pastures had become plantations of Chinese privet, Johnson grass and who knows what else. English ivy (Hedera helix), a cute ground cover planted years ago, had taken over the patio. It now owned the hackberry tree.

‘Hedera helix’ is Latin for ivy that spirals out of control. English ivy only attains 8 inches in height, but the vines can climb beyond 50 feet using aerial rootlets that function as holdfasts. The evergreen tolerates shade, but can bring down a grown tree if allowed to grow unchecked, crowding out tree leaves and adding tremendous weight. So it was with the hackberry at the edge of the patio. For years the ivy had been subtly progressing to the top of the tree. Some ivy vines were 4 inches thick. The hacksaw became my tool of choice. The vines were cut about 3 feet above the ground. A crowbar pried the vine ends apart. In time the vines will perish and in the spring I will cut the remaining living vines at ground level. The vines can’t be pulled off since too much bark would also come away.

Plants were watered, branches trimmed and stacked, pastures mowed, sunporch windows scrubbed and cleaned, leaves raked….done. For now. Time to go. The leftovers were loaded up and we said our goodbyes. Comfy beds were waiting for us at home. Air mattresses are cold!