Thanksgiving Thoughts

There’s nothing like a good snowfall to put me in the mood for Thanksgiving. The weather systems that moved across western Montana last week put a good cover of snow on the landscape and we’re thankful for that. Here in the semi-arid West we depend on winter snows to give us water through the rest of the year; water for irrigation, drinking, wildlife, fish, fishing and boating. Precipitation is always good in Montana. Occasionally it comes at inconvenient times, of course, but it’s always good.

A good snowfall also puts a cap on the autumn season so we can move on to winter. I remember a farmer friend back in North Dakota who was thankful when a good snowstorm finally came after an extended period of mild weather. “I can finally get a little time off,” he said. “As long as the ground was bare I kept tinkering around with stuff. None of it was important, but since I could do it I kept on doing it.”

Thanksgiving comes at a good time. We’re approaching the end of the hunting seasons and many of us have harvested wild game and have put this bounty of nature in the freezer to help feed our families over the coming months.

When the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors celebrated that first thanksgiving dinner in 1621, most of the food on the menu was wild game, including venison, turkey, ducks, geese, swans, fish, lobster and clams, plus wild berries and fruit. Pumpkin and squash would have been among the limited crops available for the dinner.

Hunting and fishing made that first Thanksgiving dinner possible. Indeed, hunting and fishing is the only way that tiny band of ill-prepared immigrants to this cold New England coastal area could have survived, and that was mostly due to the kindness of the Wampanoag Indian tribe who shared their food and hunting skills to help them survive their first winter. Incidentally, there are now about 2,300 surviving Wampanoag people, compared to the estimated 6,500 people at the time the Pilgrims came to Plymouth. In the 1600s, the native peoples of Massachusetts were pushed out of their homes, exposed to disease and killed in warfare. By the end of that century they had all but disappeared.

It’s almost 400 years since that first Thanksgiving and it’s good we still set a day aside to give thanks. Here are a few of the things for which I’m thankful this year.

I’m grateful for the gifts of family. Our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren give us hope and confidence for the future. They make us proud.

I’m grateful for the wild things of our creation. They fill the skies, the earth and the waters and give us food, a sense of wonder and a delight for the eyes. I’m grateful for the many people who work so hard to make sure that wild things continue to be a part of our lives.

I’m grateful for Montana Tech head football coach Bob Green. Coach Green is a total class act and has been through his career as a coach and mentor of young men who play football, study engineering and sciences – and graduate. I wish Bob and his wife, Pam, nothing but the best as he begins retirement. Football season in this part of the world is going to be a lot duller without him. I will share a bit of advice, however. Coach, there is life after football.

I’m grateful for the people who till the soil, produce crops, raise livestock, and produce the food for us on Thanksgiving Day and every other day of the year. Feeding the world is a noble profession.

I’m thankful for the men and women in our armed forces that serve our country so faithfully. My biggest wish is that our nation can find a way to world peace and bring you home. In the meantime, we’re grateful for your continuing service.

And to all of you, who read this column, may you and your families have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.