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Gardens of the Cross Timbers: Thank you

Becky Emerson Carlberg
Contributing writer
Pecan: THE Thanksgiving Pie!

Thanksgiving arrives this Thursday.  Should everyone take a Covid test before gathering around the Thanksgiving table?  Will the susceptible folk over 65 be seated in the other room at the kid’s table while the kids get to be at the big table at least six feet away?  Will you share your Thanksgiving feast via zoom, face time or pictures with all the home-bound relatives?  

“Here is the juicy turkey basted in butter and juices and cooked to perfection.  Smell the intoxicating odor of the sage dressing.  Look at the bubbling giblet gravy ready to be poured over creamy mashed potatoes.  See the spicy pumpkin and rich pecan pies on the sideboard flanked by dessert plates and cutlery.  To add ambience, talented children will sing the traditional Thanksgiving songs “We Gather Together” and Come Ye Thankful People Come.”  A Hallmark Thanksgiving.  Your relatives will leave even sooner than they do at the real deal and you don’t have to worry about dishes.

Pilgrim ready for action

“We Gather Together” was the song my fourth-grade classmates and I struggled to sing during the Thanksgiving program as we filed up steps to the stage where we put our canned foods into boxes for the needy.  It is a Dutch Christian hymn written in 1597 (music added in 1626) to celebrate the victory of the Dutch.  They rebelled against Spanish King Phillip II in the Battle of Turnout in the Netherlands.  Under Spanish rule, Dutch protestants were forbidden to gather to worship.  The song first appeared in American hymnals in 1903.  Various religions brought the hymn on board, but by World War II “the wicked oppressing” phrase was applied to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.  The hymn is sung the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

“Come Ye Thankful People Come” is an English harvest festival hymn written in 1844 by an Anglican priest.  Villages depended on the fall harvest to get them through the winter.  The tune “St. George’s Windsor” joined the words in 1858.  The hymn soon traveled to America and became a Thanksgiving song.

The morning of November 26th turn on the TV.  Macy’s is determined to host their Thanksgiving parade.  Not the typical parade Macy’s is known for, but a “reinvented

parade” for 2020.  Since 1924, Macy’s has had a street parade.  The first parades were sixmiles long and threaded up and down endless streets in New York City.  Macy’s parade was eventually streamlined down to 2.5 miles.  This year it will be even shorter as the traditional parade route will not be followed.

Is it that time of year again?

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade will appear on Twitter and YouTube and be broadcast nationwide Thanksgiving morning on NBC.  No spectators will be present, the number of participants has been reduced by 75% and those that are there will practice social distancing.  The giant balloons are flying although not handled by volunteers but rigged up to vehicles.  No bands, but 20 celebrity performers will entertain, including singers Dolly Parton, Patti LaBelle and Pentatonix.  The New York City Ballet troupe and possibly the Rockettes are scheduled to show.  Santa Claus will come at the end of the parade.  See.  Everything will be fine.

The “First Thanksgiving” is reported to have been celebrated by Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, 1541.  It took place in Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle.  The conquistador was on an expedition to find gold.  He left Mexico City in 1540 and reached Kansas by 1542.  His expedition was composed of 4,000 European men-at-arms (most Spanish), up to 2,000 Mexican Indian Allies, four Franciscan friars, family members, servants and several native and African slaves. As the company camped in Palo Duro canyon, Padre Fray Juan de Padilla asked for prayer and a feast of thanksgiving.

For your information, Coronado and his army continued on their way.  They encountered Native Americans who were unimpressed by them, their weapons and their “big dogs” (horses).  Coronado was impressed by their size and noted they were well built but did not possess the riches for which he searched.  The expedition saw the Grand Canyon, the Arkansas and Colorado Rivers, great herds of bison, and encountered several different Native American tribes but was considered a failure.

The “First Thanksgiving” is claimed by San Elizario, Texas,1598.  Wealthy Spaniard Juan de Ornate had been granted lands in the American southwest occupied by the Pueblo Indians.   He decided to cut across the Chihuahua Desert with his party of 500 soldiers, women and children to get to the Rio Grande.  They all nearly died of thirst and lack of food. For ten days near modern day San Elizario, Texas, the large contingency recuperated.  Feeling better, they build a giant bonfire and roasted fish and game in a feast of thanksgiving.

The “First Thanksgiving” is claimed by Plymouth, Massachusetts, December 21st 1629. Of the 102 colonists who arrived on the Mayflower in December, 53 survived the winter.  The Wampanoag chief was leery of the European Pilgrims.  After signing a peace treaty, the colonists, with considerable help from the Wampanoag Indians, managed to grow good crops of corn and barley the following year.  Wampanoag King Massasoit and 90 tribesmen brought five deer and all feasted for three days.  Early relations went smoothly, but as numbers of colonists increased along with their demands for land, relations soured.  Military force was used. In King Philip’s War, 8% of the English adults were killed……but 60%-80% of the Native Americans were either killed, had to flee or were shipped off as slaves. Not much to be thankful for.

Last of the tasty heirloom tomatoes

President George Washington marked November 26th 1789 as “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer…to acknowledge with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of the Almighty God.”  For a while, Thanksgiving was held on different dates.  Abe Lincoln officially chose the final Thursday in November as a national holiday in 1863, but in 1939, FDR by presidential proclamation changed the date to the next to last Thursday in November for business reasons.  Two years later, by joint resolution of Congress, Thanksgiving was moved to the fourth Thursday in November, where it is today.

We can’t undo or remake history but we can do much better, starting now.  Moments add up to hours, days, months and years.  Positive moments and good deeds come together to strengthen our country in beneficial ways.

Be thankful for each day you have, be thankful for your family and friends, and be especially thankful for the fruits of nature which made this Thanksgiving possible.  Go outside to get some fresh air and sunshine.  Listen to the birds.  It’s free, courtesy of nature.  

“For those of you who cannot be with family this Thanksgiving, please resist the urge to brag.”  Andy Borowitz

Showy Turkey

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at