Simple pleasures really ought to be enough to give thanks about

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A reader offered me the blessings of a good sneeze, a hearty laugh and tears.

Wonderful thoughts as we celebrate Thanksgiving, a day to watch football, fight with relatives, and eat enormous quantities of food such as turkey, yams, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce.

A day painted by Norman Rockwell. A food-oriented time of the year. A day to wonder how we could possibly have eaten so much. A little turkey is good. A little more turkey is even better. A lot of turkey is dreadful. It’s a great feed that few if any would choose as their last meal.

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I am thankful for many of the simple pleasures. Lying in bed and listening to the rain. Catching fireflies. That wrinkles don’t hurt. The outdoor smell of sheets sun-dried on the clothesline. Wildflowers. A favorite old song that doesn’t make me feel old. Having a hand licked by a faithful dog.

I have so much to be thankful for. English breakfast tea. Air conditioning. Birds that allow me to see them. Airplane landings. That there is always somebody willing to jump in and help. Flashlights. Central heating. Brandywine tomatoes. A library card. People who find a place away from others to use their cell phones. Peel-and-stick postage stamps. C-SPAN in hotel rooms. The car radio. Functional indoor toilets. Aspirin. Peanut butter.

Body piercings that don’t make me ill. Pie. That the AMC Gremlin is no longer manufactured. My wife’s screwdriver collection. Hardware stores with courteous and knowledgeable clerks. Books and movies. A dry basement. Free air at the gas station. That men don’t have to wear make-up. A Parker pen. That men don’t have to be very fashion-conscious. Swiss Army knives.

Firefighters. Police officers who give warnings. That the state of Minnesota is the largest producer of turkeys because that means they will always show up frozen. Friends, family, and readers. Seeing a beautiful sunset and knowing whom to thank.

Thanksgiving brings back so many memories. The year that the art student in the family carved the turkey into a likeness of Venus de Milo. My cousin drinking directly from the gravy boat. The doctor wannabe who carved the turkey and then tried to put the bird back together again. We liked chicken so much that every Thanksgiving, we stuffed a turkey with chicken.The year my neighbor shot a turkey.

He still isn’t allowed back into that supermarket. The Thanksgiving we learned that if we are going to sit by the roaring fire in the living room, it’s a good idea to have a fireplace. The year my aunt did a performance of The Wing and I.

The time our Thanksgiving was ruined when we ran out of ketchup. When I learned that the thing under a turkey’s beak is the wattle and the thing above its beak is the snood. The time my neighbor ate so much that he was responsible for a slight, but measurable shift in the earth’s axis.

He ate enough mashed potatoes to start another famine in Ireland.

In 1954, Gerald Thomas, an executive with C.A. Swanson & Sons, a food supplier, found himself with 270 tons of unsold turkeys just after Thanksgiving. The turkeys were packed in ten refrigerated railroad cars, 520,000 pounds of turkey in each car, the cars themselves continuously rolling across America because there wasn’t enough room in the nation’s existing freezer

warehouses to store them. Nearly 300 tons of turkey riding the rails, back and forth,

across the nation. Gerald Thomas got an idea.

Airplanes then used compartmentalized trays to serve food. There was less chance of spillage that way. Thomas thought, &8220;Why not cook the turkeys, slice them, and put them in aluminum trays with typical turkey trimmings?&8221;

He hired 24 women, gave them ice cream scoops, had them fill 5,000

aluminum trays with sliced turkey, corn bread stuffing and gravy,

buttered peas, and sweet potatoes. The dinners sold for 98 cents and became extremely popular. This is how leftover Thanksgiving turkey lead to the birth of the TV dinner.

Zig Ziglar said that feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.

Chief Tecumseh said, &8220;If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself.&8221;

Offer others the gift of your grateful heart.

I am truly thankful that I have so many things to be thankful for. I am thankful for each and every one of you. Thank you for making the world a better place.

May your mashed potatoes have nary a lump.

(Hartland resident Al Batt writes a column for the Tribune each Wednesday and Sunday.)