Turkey Day, Opening Day and Buy Nothing Day

In late 1620, 102 religious freaks landed what I can only assume was a stuffy boat at what we now call Plymouth Rock. After being attacked before leaving the ship, they moved farther south and unloaded somewhere on Cape Cod, establishing the first of what would be tens of thousands of quaint New England Bed & Breakfasts. Within a year, half of them were dead. The dead half must not have been very popular among the other Pilgrims, because that fall the survivors had the first noted feast of Thanksgiving. Pilgrim Edward Winslow described the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving in these words: "Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling so that we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as ... served the company almost a week ... Many of the Indians came amongst us and ... their greatest king, Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought ... And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet BY THE GOODNESS OF GOD WE ARE ... FAR FROM WANT."

Two things jump out at me. First, "fowling." At the time, "turkey" was a word used to describe almost all of the known birds at the time. So instead of a golden brown, juicy Butterball, it is more likely that the first Thanksgiving table was piled high with doves, robins and larks. Second, the natives "brought" five deer with them, which they then killed. Leashes? Saddles? How does one bring five deer to a feast? There's something to be thankful for, housewives. "Hey honey - why don't you go out back and kill that thing so we can have it on the table by kickoff of the second game? And if you see any birds, get those, too."

Fast forward 141 years. At the height of the Civil War, a woman named Sarah Hale somehow persuaded Abe Lincoln to set aside a national day of Thanksgiving that would fall on the last Thursday of each November. This kept with the tradition of celebrating after massive loss of life - hot on the heels of Gettysburg and the NYC draft riots that summer. For some reason, Ms. Hale had been trying for 40 years to get such a holiday, but apparently it took 20,000 people dying in one weekend to get Abe's ear. Sarah's other claim to fame, incidentally, is that she wrote "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Anyway, she finally got what she wanted, and here we are. In a little-known historical fact, in 1939 FDR pushed the day up a week, to be observed on the third Thursday in November so there would be more time for retail shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Really. The unpopular decision was reversed a few years later.

It also was somewhere around that time that the tradition of one of the approximately 300 million turkeys slated for slaughter each year would be pardoned in a meaningless ceremony at the White House. I imagine there are some Marines who wouldn't mind a similar offer of clemency this year, but that's our George. Save two turkeys, kill 1,300 soldiers…using the historical model, this should be the best Thanksgiving ever!

About that period of retail shopping. In recent years, a group of well-meaning Canadians have made progress toward shortening it by one day. Long known as "Black Friday" in the retail industry, the folks at AdBusters magazine in Vancouver now proclaim the day after as "Buy Nothing Day." Now I know they mean well, but they're Canadians, and therefore by definition not included in our national holiday. Not enough of them have been killed in the line of imperialism, and so they have nothing for which to be thankful. I like the Buy Nothing Day thing, though. For years, it worked for me because I had no money, and it gave me a reason to ignore everyone who should be on my gift list. I have by now expanded it into Buy Nothing December, and January for that matter, all under the auspices of fiscal and social responsibility. I do understand, however, that many of you have been unknowingly conditioned to believe that if you miss out on shopping this Friday, you're missing out on the year's best deals and thereby hurting your family. That's not an accident - J.C. Penney, Sam Walton and Richard Sears went to their graves dreaming of your future birth and ensuing shopping needs. Fight the power - if you must shop, go to a crafts bazaar or buy from an artisan with a home shop. In short, keep it local. The idea behind Buy Nothing Day is to stick it to the man (Penney, for example), so keep that in mind. If you really want to be self-righteous and hyper-annoying, stand outside of large stores and preach to people about the evils of corporate retailers. People just love to be embarrassed in public, and you can get all of your holiday violence out of the way in one day.

With apologies to patrons of Wolf Creek, the rest of us can now celebrate the onset of ski season, as Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort is officially open for business. Some of us transplants actually moved to Colorado for the skiing, so this is a good thing. Within a few years, changes at the resort will have us remembering this era as "the good ol' days," when it was still just our little local mountain. I guess the same could be said for Wolf Creek. Soon, old timers might not recognize either place, but maybe we'll finally get those celebrity charity ski events that they always have at Vail or Aspen. If sacrificing the local character of the areas means that we get The Matthew Broderick Slalom for Sclerosis, we just might win after all.

Finally, an early heads up to musicians and the people who know them. In January, KDUR will continue their "Cover Night" thing with Ramones Night at The Abbey Theatre. If you are in a band or know someone who is, get practicing. The easy part is that it's The Ramones, and they only used three or four chords. But sign up now and be prepared when the big night comes. Call Liggett at KDUR - 247-7628 - to sign up.

I need new skis. ted@ksut.org . Shop til' you drop.




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