Something to be thankful for

Happy Thanksgiving! What a remarkable week with all the celebrations for our state centennial and now one of my favorite holidays – Thanksgiving. Civilizations have had various types of harvest festivals for centuries to commemorate the end of another growing season and the successful harvest of grains, corn, vegetables, fruit and other food to help sustain them through the winter and into the next growing season. Our ancestors learned to save the best seeds or roots from one season to start the crops anew the next season. When the pilgrims made it to New England and struggled with the first crops as they were learning to farm the new land they were especially grateful for that first life sustaining harvest. The American tradition of Thanksgiving became our harvest festival that very first autumn. They shared the Thanksgiving celebration with the Indians they had befriended and who helped them get established.  This began the tradition of sharing this holiday celebration with family and friends. Since before we were a country we have gathered to celebrate our bountiful harvest and the many blessings we enjoy in our lives.

Although we still face lots of problems and challenges in our daily lives I have to think we have it pretty cushy compared to our forefathers when they landed on the east coast to establish that first colony or even our  ancestors who were settling our state a mere 100 years ago. Those early pilgrims had to spend most all of their time and effort planting, raising and harvesting the crops that provided them food, clothing and shelter. Even 100 years ago most of the early Oklahomans had to concentrate on raising the crops and the animals to provide their basic necessities. By statehood we did have local markets to buy and trade produce, eggs, grains and meat so part of the population was able to move into retailing, teaching, law, manufacturing and other activities besides farming. Most early Oklahomans were still tied to the land as subsistence farmers.  As the years progressed folks started growing more flowers or plants for beauty and personal enjoyment in addition to their all important food production. With the land run and the tens of thousands of new small homesteads and the influx of so many subsistence farming families the native prairies were cleared and planted from edge of property to edge of property.  In many cases this intense clearing and over use of the land helped lead to our serious dust bowl problems a few decades later in the 30’s when we hit a period of significant drought. Hundreds of thousands of families fighting for survival and to establish homes, farms and communities had cut down the native trees and brush for fuel and to maximize their growing land to support their families. For the most part the land responded and produced crops to support many growing families. When the drought hit families along with the stock market crash and the collapse of many financial institutions many families did not have sufficient harvests and had to leave this new land. Many headed west to California or back to where they had immigrated from. The early Oklahoma settlers had stripped much of the land and when the new crops would not sprout and grow from the parched land it left millions of acres to blow in the wind. As a result of that crisis Oklahomans learned the importance of working with the land and Oklahomans became leaders in conservation and have done a pretty good job at practicing sustainability before it was cool. These early settlers and farmers brought many new crops and plants to this state and did the hard work in figuring out what crops and plants grew here and over time have helped select the strongest and best plants we grow today.

 I am so thankful that I can raise vegetables, fruit trees and flowers because I want to, not because I have to. I am thankful for my wonderful and understanding wife, Dona, my remarkable Mom, my sweet sister and sharp brothers and their special spouses and my wonderful nephews and nieces. I am thankful for my special church family, the wonderful people I work with and so many fantastic friends. I am thankful for my good health, the talents I have been given and the special experiences and challenges I have enjoyed. I am thankful to be an American and to be able to travel where I want, work the kind of job I want, to be able to worship, speak and generally associate with those I choose. I’m thankful to be an Oklahoman and to share this young state with so many warm, friendly people who are usually glad to help when needed and still exhibit a pioneer spirit. Please take a little time to count your blessings and celebrate the life of choices we enjoy including the freedom from subsistence farming and the dust bowls that challenged those Oklahomans before us.

First we had the centennial to celebrate the first 100 years of our state as we look ahead to the next 100 years. Now we celebrate Thanksgiving and give thanks for our respective harvests and the fruits of our labor even as this growing season ends this Thanksgiving weekend with a hard freeze. We look ahead to Christmas, a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and to give and share from our bounty or harvest with family, those special people in our lives and those in need. As we look ahead to the season of poinsettias enjoy your family and be in a spirit of Thanksgiving.

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