Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The Fincham family Thanksgiving, 1942, photography by Howard Hollem

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (neg no. LC-USE6-D-006813)

It's hard to believe that another year has passed and it's Thanksgiving already with  Christmas lurking in the shadows making ready for it's debut on the scene.  These two holidays always seem to bring emotions out in me that rarely appear at any other time of the year.  I notice with displeasure how marketing and advertising dominate the holiday seasons more and more every year.  This year it's black Friday.  Black Friday has been on the scene for years but it's "really" being talked about this season and it seems to be getting more attention than the holiday Thanksgiving is.  I hate that.  I haven't heard the word Thanksgiving once on the radio today.  Every conversation has been about Black Friday.  That's horrible!  It really is.  Of course Black Friday means nothing to me at all.  I'm just disappointed that Thanksgiving has been relegated to over eating, ways to cook turkey and discounts at stores.  I've even heard folks say that they hate the holidays because the stores are jammed and all the good deals are gone by the time they get there.  I guess that attitude is reinforced by the modern age of digital communications, where marketing rules and all else falls behind it.

I live alone, as everyone knows, and I'm not a social person anymore so I am kind of immune to all the advertising, mad rushes to get to the stores, the dinners and drinks after shopping and fighting the traffic on busy highways to get home.  There is no hustle/bustle in my life and I've given up being in a rush to get anywhere and don't follow any schedule, to amount to anything, hardly ever.  All the stores can discount everything they have to sell and I just don't care.  That all being said - I do have a complete understanding of what Thanksgiving really means, at least to me.   I think when one out-grows  the need to buy this or that on a whim and rush to beat the other guy to the deals - the excess baggage of maintaining airs of social status is disolved and there's nothing left in the end but realization of the truth and an honest evaluation of one's self.  Deep stuff..  Probably poorly stated as I'm an incompetent writer.

So then, what's Thanksgiving about?  It's about things, people and places that few folks belonging to the most "recent generation" think about these days.  It's an American idea and was created by people who existed for generations on a cold frontier where life itself was not guaranteed.  It is about those great, brave men and women who carved out an existence where a future  was highly doubtful.  It's about the perseverance of men and women who struggled fiercely against adversity in the French and Indian War and the Revolution.  Thanksgiving is a time to give thought and look in awe at the accomplishments of those great men who created the constitution that was, is and will continue to be the road map for the success of this fabulous nation.  It's about the knitting together of a great division in the nation after a viscous civil war that resulted in strong resolve for all people to live in harmony - to live and let live.  Thanksgiving reflects upon the tenacity of our parents who pulled themselves through a Great Depression by applying honest hard labor and belief in God and country to their troubles.  Thanksgiving to Americans is freedom to live as one cares to.  The interest on the loan of freedom has been high and apt to get higher.  The loan will never be paid off,  for freedom exacts a terrible price but, the payments are  worth it at any cost.  Much blood has been shed for Freedom yet it is one loan that Americans actually seek to pay on, with vigor.  The things I've stated are very important to me and they are inclusive of all values important to Americans.

There are personal day to day thoughts that  I have about Thanksgiving as the holiday nears.  There are many sentimental thoughts that pass through this dense head of mine.  Great parents is one of them.  They fought for two years to adopt that little one year old baby that was being mistreated by a 16 year old unwed mother in Chicago who took him to work at the bar she worked at.  That little kid was adopted and given a wonderful life on a farm in rural Pennsylvania by adopted parents who were selfless in their care for him.  That little kid grew up to be a business owner, fought in the Vietnam War and survived, got through a couple years of college and eventually migrated to Tennessee with expectations of waving goodbye to life here.  I'm thankful for meeting the guy in a wildlife uniform on the boat ramp at Norris Lake ten years ago who put the idea in my head that I also could wear the same uniform.  That meeting has rewarded me with the fantastic life I lead today.  There have been many, many people I can not possibly mention here who have influenced my life in a positive way.  I apologize for not mentioning them here.  One person who changed my life forever and whom I do not see anymore has brought the blessing of dogs into my life.. To her I am forever grateful and I wish her the greatest happiness and success.

Without dogs I feel that my value as a human being would be diminished.  That's heavy, I know!  I have no wife, no kids and no serious girl friends.  Nor do I seek any of that.  Dogs, however, offer great company and companionship.  They are grateful, obedient, dedicated to the end and have a way of burrowing into one's heart like few humans can.  I believe it's the pure innocence of them.  They are born without anger and hold no anonymity toward anyone or anything.  Kindness is rewarded with kindness and my care and love for them is rewarded by the complete offering of themselves to me.  Each of my girls would follow me to the gates of hell and go through first without any hesitation.  That's a real friend.  That's total commitment.  Dogs have come and dogs have left me to journey where I couldn't go with them.  They've all caused tears and heartache with their passing.  They all are remembered and I will, someday, find them all again.  They've all left paw prints on my heart but none has pressured my ability to remain sane at his loss like Douglas, my first dog friend.  I won't dwell too much on him but, I give all the thanks in my being for his presence in my life.  I think of him at Thanksgiving because he was my first real partner on the planet.  He understood me better than I did myself.  Oh, the wonderful times we had during his short life.
I always knew he was on loan to me but the loan was defaulted on and nature repossessed him.  I have the memories of my sweet boy that surface daily.

I can bring him perfectly to mind at any time of day or night.  The canoe trips, camp outs and hikes were all for him.  It's hard to believe, isn't it.  I actually paid $3000 for a 17 foot canoe just so Douglas could go canoe camping with me.  I sold the canoe after Douglas left me.

It used to be just him and me.  I always didn't have my little family of three.  He was the first.  He was THE one.  I knew he was special the first day I met him.
Then Shade came on the scene.  She was discarded on an island, her collar removed, she was set on shore while her masters backed the boat away and left her there.  She waited and waited for them to come to get her.  They were not coming back yet, she waited.   As Douglas and I approached the island we would camp on for the night, he growled deeply.  The boat touched shore and a black dog appeared.  I grabbed her and pulled her in the boat and we returned home.  The rest is history.  Shade and Douglas quickly became partners.  I am very thankful for her.  I'm thankful we selected that island to camp on.  It saved the black lab, Shade.

They complimented each other.  They were a unit.  Shade was power and strength and Douglas was grace and eloquence.  They loved being with me and pleasing me.  How wonderful!  How "thankful" I was for them.
Happy came along shortly after I adopted Douglas.  She made me happy when I saw her at the fence she was being kept behind.  I had to bust her out.  My little Happy.
   Yes, I have a lot to be thankful for.  These dogs have caused me heartache, always when they leave me but,  I try not to think of the inevitable by enjoying them in the present time.  Each of them will break my heart and make that ultimate demand of me at some point.  I try not to think of that.  Old Sigh released me from my obligation to her on her own.  There was no decision to make.  She left me of her on volition.  Tears were shed as I laid her on a soft bed of leaves and covered her with nature's blanket.  I visit that hallowed ground every day.  
   I've got to stop talking about dogs.  I won't even go to Chestnut.  Can't do it.  They are so sweet - all of them.  But, "he" is and always will be "the one."  I miss him every day.   Every now and then a special entity comes into your life that causes change to every aspect of it.  He did so in mine.  And there is another who is working on my soul.  Shade is my right hand girl and Happy is - well - she's on my lap.

I think this is a good place to leave this.  I've probably jabbered too long about it already.  

I guess that nothing I write will change anything.  People will line up at stores for I Pods and lap tops while I sit in my canoe waiting for the sun to come up.  It's all about what is important to the individual.  

I hope the highly political atmosphere that exists today won't isolate your mind to the understanding of what it took to guarantee our rights in this great, free country.  After it's all said and done - the contribution of all those before us has guaranteed our ability to seek a comfortable life in a world that knows much pain and suffering above and beyond what we can begin to comprehend.  Have a great Thanksgiving.

 Don't wander off too far where I can't find you Douglas.