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When Daddy came to Thanksgiving

What I remember most about Thanksgiving when I was growing up was eating dinner in my grandmother’s big, dining room, sitting with a napkin and my hands on my lap and eating boiled custard for dessert.

Thanksgiving is a special day for families to come together to give thanks for all their many blessings and we did that.

But, one Thanksgiving that stands clear in my mind is the year that we almost didn’t have Daddy at the dinner table.

The day before Thanksgiving, Mama and I went to Eufaula to bring my granny to our house for Thanksgiving. When we drove back in the yard at near dark, tall uncle was silhouetted in the light of the screen door as he went up the steps.  He turned and came back down the steps and hurriedly met us as we were getting out of the car.

“I have bad news,” he said. “William is missing in the woods.”
At those words, Mama went all to pieces, as she often did. She started crying and going around in tight little circles in the yard with my granny moaning and making bigger circles around her.

In her distress, Mama probably didn’t hear Uncle James say that some cows were lost on the way-back-forty and he and Daddy went looking for them. Daddy didn’t come back to the truck at the appointed time. Uncle James looked for a while before he rounded up men to help look for Daddy but they had not been able to find him. So, he had come into town to get the National Guard to join the search.

“I’ve got to go tell Daddy,” Uncle James said as he started across the road to my granddaddy’s house with me right behind him.

Pop was sitting in his chair in the den. Uncle James went over and put his hand on Pop’s shoulder to deliver the bad news, “Williams lost in the woods.”

Pop was hard of hearing so he didn’t react. Uncle James said in a much louder voice, “William’s lost in the woods!”

“I saw him up town a little while ago,” Pop said.

“He’s lost!”

“I saw him up town.”

Back and forth they went. Finally, Uncle James stormed out of the house with me right behind him.

In a thought, Uncle James stopped right in the middle of the road. He must have been thinking what I was thinking. He took off toward the house, rushing right past Mama and my granny who had slumped down on the steps, still crying and moaning.

I was right behind him.

Now, I’m not going to repeat what Uncle James said at the sight of Daddy sitting in his easy chair, eating Planter’s Salted Peanuts right out of the can and watching Perry Mason on the black and white television set.

What I will say is that Daddy had gotten tired of looking for the cows, walked out of the woods and caught a ride into town.

Daddy made it to Thanksgiving dinner. He and Uncle James didn’t talk to each other. Mama and my granny had cried out. I just sat with my hands and my napkin on my lap and ate boiled custard for dessert.