Thanksgiving is upon us! Did you know that out of the 102 Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 to the new land only 56 settlers survived that first year? Did you know that the remaining Pilgrims would have died had it not been for the Indians who helped them? Did you know that in 1621 the Pilgrims invited over 90 Indians for a celebration feast that became the first American Thanksgiving? Did you know the preparation of this feast for around 140 people fell to only 4 surviving Pilgrim women and 2 teenage girls? Some things never change! Did you know that pumpkin pie was probably not served on this occasion because the Pilgrims only ate meat pies? Did you know that they probably did not have mashed potatoes either since the English considered them poisonous? And guess what? Although it's hard to imagine, did you know that they probably didn't have turkey either?
Let's talk turkey for a minute! Did you know that wild turkeys can run over 25 miles an hour and can fly almost 55 miles per hour? Did you know that the heaviest turkey ever raised was over 85 pounds? Did you know that female turkeys make a clicking noise but male turkeys gobble? Did you know that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey as the official bird for the United States? Did you know that if a turkey's water trough is too deep, he will stick his head all the way in and drown? Did you know that turkeys are mean? Did you know that turkeys smell bad when they are wet? Did you know that the average North American eats over 17 pounds of turkey per year? And most of that is on Thanksgiving Day? Just kidding about that last fact. We have to consider eating all the leftovers the week after Thanksgiving, too!
Turkey has become a vital part of our American culture. We have expressions like, "jive turkey," "you're a turkey," "cold turkey," and "let's talk turkey." "Let's talk turkey" is an American expression first recorded in 1824, but is probably much older. The meaning of the statement has shifted over the years. It used to mean to agree or say nice things. This could have resulted by idealistically picturing pleasant family conversations around a Thanksgiving dinner table with a turkey centerpiece. (I said it was an idea, not necessarily a reality.)
And then there is the theory (and I'm not making this up) that one day an Indian and settler went hunting, agreeing ahead of time to divide the spoils equally. They shot one buzzard (some accounts say it was a crow) and a turkey. The settler gave the buzzard to the Indian and kept the turkey for himself. I'm not sure how this theory shows where the expression "talking turkey" comes from but it may have been the start of someone getting the "bird."
Today if you say, "talk turkey," it means to speak candidly or get the straight scoop. This may be the result of suggestions that Native Americans and early settlers spoke a lot about the supply of wild turkeys. So whenever an Indian would meet a Colonist, he might say, "you come to talk turkey?"
So "let's talk turkey" about this Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be thankful for. When a nation comes through a crisis like we have since September 11, we re-prioritize. Family, friends, life, health become more of the focus instead of money, position, and power. If you have a turkey to eat this year, be thankful. In fact why not make a list of what you are truly thankful for? Then why not "talk a little turkey" to God and give him the straight scoop on how much you appreciate the blessings he gives you? (Psalms 92:1)
This column originally ran Nov 18-24, 2001
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