Outside Circle by Jan Swan Wood: Thanksgiving of snow and salad
This column is different from my usual news and events column, but with Thanksgiving week there just wasn’t much to share. So, my dear editor turned me loose to write something different. It’s a trip down memory lane for me.
With Thanksgiving close behind me, it made me think of other Thanksgivings in my life. I don’t ever remember there being a bad one. One that comes to mind in particular is the one from 1985. It had been a wicked November. On November 6 it was in the 70s and we had finished shipping the heifer calves off of the ranch my husband Alan and I worked for. The next day it socked in with heavy clouds and drizzle. The forecast was calling for dropping temperatures and snow. They were not wrong.
By the 8th, it was a winter storm. It snowed, the wind blew and the temperature dropped to down below zero. It got stuck there on the below zero area, apparently. By Thanksgiving, we had had nothing but snow, wind and bitter cold. The temperature never got above zero. We hadn’t seen anyone but each other in all that time, and as fond as we were of each other, we needed a break.
My sister and brother-in-law were hosting Thanksgiving for my side of the family that year and they were only about 30 miles away. If we could get there, and if we dared leave, we had decided to go. We were young, strong, tough and had no kids, so it seemed like we could do it.
In preparation for going, I had prepared a huge fruit salad. It was a labor intensive side dish but quite popular, so that was going to be our contribution to the meal. There was enough to feed the dozens of people that were going to be there.
Bright and early the next morning, we fed the cows, milked Hazel, and fed and watered the chickens. Chores done, we finally got our clothes changed, re-layered up to go back into the -20 windchill, grabbed our survival gear, and headed out. Alan led out with the big tractor and plowed the ridge trail. Mind you, we didn’t have a road into the ranch, just that three or four mile trail out to a very narrow county road then another six miles of that to the highway. I followed with our pickup in four wheel drive. It took a long time, but we finally got out to the county road. Alan parked the tractor and left it idling so it wouldn’t be dead when we returned. We jubilantly plowed our way to the highway and were on our way to Thanksgiving. We were so excited to see other people!
We had gotten about 10 miles down the highway when it dawned on me that I had forgotten that huge salad. I was so disgusted with myself! It was too late to go back and get it, so we just went on. My brother-in-law Bob let us in the door, and asked if we needed help carrying anything in. We sheepishly told him no. We were all there was.
There was definitely no lack of food in spite of the missing salad, but Bob razzed me all through the meal about how that salad would sure hit the spot. He never let me live that down. I don’t think there was ever another Thanksgiving that he didn’t torment me about forgetting that salad. It became the family joke.
We visited for a little while after eating, then had to head home before it got dark on us. The tractor was still idling patiently, and Alan plowed the way back in while I followed. It had been a good day and nice getaway from the daily work of feeding in the miserable conditions. We were sure glad we got to go.
The bad part of it is that when we got home, we had to eat that salad. We ate it for two meals or more every day. Day after day. I was too stingy to throw any of it away, so we plugged away at it and finally finished it. But, you know what? I’ve never had any craving for that salad since and I’ve never made it again. Ever. I think I even threw the recipe away.