Local writer’s group pen a variety of reflections
Editor’s Note: The Dunn County Writers group shared their thoughts on a variety of topics, including the election, and the holiday season.
Freedom and Responsibility
by Ruth Granfor, Dunn Center
Today, November 7, 2016, is the day before Election Day. The candidates running for president of the United States are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Today, we don’t know who will win, but tomorrow we will. What a difference a day can make! We have a responsibility to vote for the president and other offices, but we have the freedom not to, if we choose.
I look at a map and marvel how the boundaries between the states came into existence. I think about those who surveyed the land, those who drew the maps and those who decided where and what the names should be. It’s amazing that our forefathers could lay the foundations of our country so many years ago. It is through their determination, responsibility and freedom that it was accomplished. Through the generations it has continued, but it hasn’t been easy. Many have lost their lives, but the determination is there, and will continue.
Soon it will be Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Celebrations of joy. May we appreciate the season with freedom and responsibility.
A Thanksgiving Event
by Verna Wolf, Killdeer
“To be reverent without irreverence is fatal. To be irreverent without reverence is lethal.”
This isn’t a word-for-word quote, but its essence delivers the same sentiment as my written ramblings.
Thanksgiving, the American family day of feasting. Our standard family fare? Turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes, stuffing, lefse, braided nut bread, squash and pumpkin pie.
Mom usually hosted the feast. And as per tradition, we all partook in the glorious meal: my brother and his wife, their son and two daughters, myself and Husband.
Mom was a practical, down-to-earth gal, but when the occasion called for it, she liked things to be in order and very appropriate. This day was to be honored.
Being the contrary soul that I am, on the morning of Turkey Day, I donned faded blue jeans, a sloppy sweatshirt and grubby tennis shoes. I defrazzled my hair a bit and marched down to the kitchen. There, Sister-in-law and Mom were peeling spuds, cooking squash and jabbering. When I entered the hub of food production, all grew silent.
Mom looked at me and raised her eyebrows. “It’s Thanksgiving Day,” she stated. “And you dressed like that?”
Sister-in-law stared, didn’t say a word, shook her head and went back to the potatoes.
“Why not? Its only us!” I countered.
“It’s Thanksgiving Day!” was Mom’s rejoinder. “Be appropriate!”
Husband waltzed in at that moment and took one look at me. “Where’d you get my old sweatshirt?” he asked. “I been lookin’ for it!”
“From the dirty clothes,” I shot back. “Where else?”
“Well, get it off! It looks terrible!” he said and out the door he went.
“Good idea,” agreed Sister-in-law.
Humph! So this 25-year-old-going-on-12 stomped upstairs and re-outfitted herself in a red skirt, black sweater, nylons and black flats. She managed to de-frizz her hair a bit more. Back downstairs, Mom’s eye looked over the change.
“That’s better,” she said, and went back to her cooking. Sister-in-law smiled and nodded. I grudgingly nodded back.
It hit me in the dining room. The good china was set on the white linen cloth. The silver flatware, engraved with the family initial “M,” was placed just so. Napkins, water goblets and wine glasses filled out the scene. (Looking at the flatware, I coveted it again, big time! Because my brother carried the family name, Mom always said he should get it. Yet I maintained that “M” upside down was “W”!)
The center of the table held turkey and pilgrim figurines. On the two ends were candy dishes of nuts and jellybeans, some a little old, but still OK.
No one around! Good! I found the oldest, driest, most awful jellybeans and nuts I could. I quickly placed those turdy-looking bits right under the turkeys’ tails and left.
We said grace and were all munching, smacking and yakking away when Mom suddenly stopped and stared.
“Oh!” she croaked. Everyone followed her gaze to the turkeys.
Little Niece queried, “Can these turkeys poop?”
And Big Niece’s eyes grew to quarter-size. My brother’s cranberries slooped as his mouth opened and Sister-in-law gulped. “Omigosh!” she said.
Dad just snickered.
Ahhh! Sweet, sweet revenge!
by Terry Moore, Dickinson
Today I am thankful I’m not a turkey.
Thanksgiving at the Raspantis
By Denise Sandvick, Killdeer
The aroma of turkey wafts through the air, rolls through the room and sneaks between the slats on the blue and white kitchen shutters. The essence beckons me around the corner just in time to witness the ritual of Uncle George proudly standing before the golden, perfectly-glazed bird, all 22 pounds of its delectably tanned little turkey butt.
Mmmmmm! My mouth is watering just looking up at it on the counter.
Standing at about four-foot-nuthin’, I watch Uncle George prepare the electric knife for carving, but not before Ma yells out across the room: “Don’t let me catch you kids picking at that skin, you hear me?”
Not a chance, I thought. She never catches me; I always get away with picking off the platter.
With each cut of the knife the juices flow. The room dances with the smells and flavors of the approaching meal.
All of a sudden, my punky little brother rounds the corner from the hall with a big roar of his Big Wheel. He received it on his evil, October 31st birthday. He runs over my foot while I’m standing there minding my own business. Reality sets in and away I go—to find him and rip his ears off!
Dinner Down Under
by Jennifer Strange, Dickinson
July is as close as you get to winter in Sydney. At least that’s how it was before climate change.
1988: my second year Down Under. I was beginning to miss Stateside life, especially the holiday season. In Australia, there is no Thanksgiving. I had a pretty serious boyfriend, though, and that made it hard to buy a return ticket to the U.S.
Paul owned the business where I worked. He’d gone to college in Ohio and knew the Thanksgiving menu. One day in July, as the days grew darker and the nights downright chilly, I suggested we host a proper Turkey Day dinner. He was all-in.
Sourcing the ingredients wasn’t as easy as it sounds. This was pre-Internet and what we now think of as free trade. Where to find cranberries—that most American of fruit? Somehow, Paul got his hands on some fresh ones. The turkey had to be special ordered. When it arrived it couldn’t have been less familiar. Where was the great big, fat Butterball, straining against its plastic wrapping? This bird was mean and lean, unwrapped, its clawed feet wrapped together with twine. Thankfully, it was plucked. Pumpkin was no problem. The Aussies love to make a velvety, first-course soup of the puréed squash and chicken stock, served with a swirl of cream on top. But pecans? Back in the 1980s, it was pecana non grata in New South Wales. No pecan pie.
Thanksgiving colors and symbols—gold, orange, red and the aforementioned fowl—don’t really exist in nature Down Under. So, we decided to combine American motifs and went with white and blue table linens and a centerpiece of red carnations. We invited four couples from around the world. They all arrived in their winter best, toting an eye-popping amount of wine. For several hours we sat in that tiny living room ‘round the rented table, on rented chairs, eating from rented plates and sipping from rented glasses. The company was good. The loft was warm. The sun gradually set, bathing our wine-flushed faces in fuchsia rays.
I’ll be honest. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it’s the 28 years and just as many turkey dinners that have passed since that July evening, but I remember very little about the actual meal.
I do know I was truly grateful for the international orphans who honored my home country’s treasured feast. Yet what I remember most is a sense of displacement and an instinct that this would be my last July in Australia. I couldn’t live another year without pecan pie!
by Colette “Koko” Gjermundson
Can you feel autumn in the air? Can you see the candles and china gracing the Thanksgiving table? Can you hear the clanging of tableware and the voices of relatives as they chatter and chew? Can you smell the aroma of freshly baked pie? This is Thanksgiving, perhaps America’s favorite and most traditional holiday.
There was probably more than one Thanksgiving celebration in the 1970s where the setting was a tiny, white, corner house surrounded by a rolled-wire yard fence in Halliday, N.D. We parked our car along the street and walked down the narrow sidewalk, up two cement steps, into the small entry, through the kitchen, through the dining room and into the living room to await the feast. Present were my dad, my mom and my three siblings. Also my mom’s great aunt, cousins and their families. Everyone was visiting and laughing, playing games of cards and Password.
But the highlight of the day was in the dining room at the close of the turkey, dressing and mashed potato dinner. That’s when my great aunt—happy to have relatives gathered together and proud of the delicious meal she had served—would swiftly shuffle from the kitchen into the dining room to ask what kind of pie each guest wanted.
“Would you like pumpkin, apple, minced meat or cherry?” she might inquire.
My dad would engage her in his annual hilarity.
“Peach,” he’d request. Or blueberry or juneberry—any flavor that wasn’t crowded among the sea of circular sensations set on the kitchen table.
As the chuckle from that antic faded, Dad would switch tactics and request one piece of each. My great aunt would fill a dessert plate with the biggest pieces of pie she could cobble together. She would deliver it to my dad with a mile-wide grin, doing her best to serve a man who loved to eat and lived to tease.
by Pat Bailey, Dunn Center
The family is coming over for Thanksgiving again this year.
Where are all the card tables and extra chairs?
Will Aunt Ber try to make a pie again? I hope not.
It’s midnight and Mom put the turkey in the roaster, along with a pork roast, to cook slowly all night. The bread is dried, the cornbread baked, celery and onions are chopped for the dressing.
Where is the soup tureen for the gravy?
The rest of the dishes are right here, in the laundry room cupboard.
Here they come: aunts, uncles, cousins, boyfriends, girlfriends and a neighbor or two.
So many dishes to be served! Everyone brought two or three; why not just one, as asked for?
Chaos sets in but, as usual, it all works out. We had a great day.