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updated: 11/23/2011 7:07 PM

A wild, traditional Thanksgiving remembrance

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The dining room in my Grandparent's apartment, as small as it was, seemed to always have room for one more soul.

Us kids stuck together, since it was an all-boy contingent, made up of Earl, Len, Burt, and myself.

Most of the adults pitched in so Grandma wouldn't have as large a burden in the preparation and cleanup. But this meal was strictly turkey and the "works," just so everyone would be satisfied with food they could stomach.

It was the next day's feast that hit the home run.

I started hauling a 12-gauge shotgun around the field when I was about 10 years old. My favorite field game at the time was rooster pheasants.

Our club dog was so eager to get out in front of us that he practically wet himself as he loped off into the high grass.

My father had a membership in a pheasant club that never planted birds. Well, that's not entirely accurate. When the club was first established on some 100 acres of prime ground a few dozen birds were "seeded," with the intention of prohibiting hunting for at least three years.

The experiment worked out well, and by the fourth year there were rooster pheasants in many "hides" of the vast chunk of land. That's when my father decided we would eat wild stuff for Thanksgiving -- wild, like pheasants, wild turkey from Iowa, ducks, Canada geese, and northern Wisconsin grouse.

Irv and I brought back a huge bag of wild rice from northern Minnesota, along with two big bags of cranberries from the bogs near the army camps in central Wisconsin.

I picked wild asparagus, mushrooms, and late summer corn, all of which graced the dinner table like colorful garlands snatched from a beautiful painting.

Mind you, the family already did the traditional feedbag with loud talking and tales from yesteryear holidays.

Our wild game table was also constructed for when it was colder, in the winter season. But both events were designed to celebrate our immediate family and a father who came back from the war in the Pacific with minor scratches and stories he never wanted to share.

I'll wager there is a massive number out there who can remember sitting in the front room during these holidays trying to look outside as the heavy snowfall kept re-painting the landscape.

Even though it was drummed into our heads that Thanksgiving was a special time for the families, not too many of us kids could appreciate the real meaning of the celebration.

"Be careful of the buckshot," Irv instructed at the table as family members sliced small pieces of pheasant in their plates. Of course I knew to eat slowly and guard myself against breaking a tooth.

"The wild rice is exceptional," my mother proclaimed as she passed that bowl and another one holding chestnut stuffing.

I often ask myself why is it that when one is a kid much of life moves at a slower pace, whereas life's events seem to zip right by when the senior citizen plateau is reached?

One year we ate moose and white tail deer, and loved every morsel of the meal's contents.

Maybe I can do that again with wild meat and more wild rice along with freshly baked bread along with wild onions.

Those of us who have toiled to bring our families good food and security can acknowledge the bounty from the fields and woods, and thanks those who continue to fight for our freedoms coupled to the precious earth that allows us to enrich our taste buds.

• Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM.

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