Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Another Turkey-day has come around, and Jeannie and I are at her brother John's Virginia farm (as we always are) for this hallowed day. The weather has been cold...when we flew into Richmond back on Friday it was in the 70's and we rejoiced. Saturday it was still warm as we had a nice southern breakfast with Jeannie's sister Sarah and nephew Josh in Richmond, and then moseyed our way into the countryside in our rental car. By Sunday the cold front had arrived...with daytime-highs in the mid-30's,  lows at night in the teens. There was a big storm cruising across the southern half of the country this week headed east, and we've been getting the outskirts of it. On Tues...rain, rain and more rain. However it wasn't the flooding rains that others were getting...we just caught the fringes. Mid 30's and non-stop light rain. THAT is cold to this California-guy. John and I went out early into the drizzle and 'did' the turkey. He lived a good life with a couple of young hens, and is now in a better place (which happens to look JUST like the inside of a refrigerator).

John has been busy making pies for Thursday, we're doing some laundry, and watching "Game of Thrones" on DVD's on yet another rainy day. We've been busy stoking the wood-burning stove these last few days, which is the primary source of heat at the farmhouse. The backup oil-furnace is set to come on if the house dips below 60. Life in the country...if our house back in CA dips below 60 we'd probably die. This is surely a world apart from our day to day lives. Cows in the field. Turkeys and chickens to be fed. Guinea-fowl patrolling the property, keeping the bug population down yet constantly being alert for predators. Many years ago there were 7 of the pretty just the 2 most wary remain. They roost up high during the nights, typically back with the turkeys (company I guess? Or maybe because any disturbance awakes a plethora of gobbling in numbers). The goats and guard-dogs are this last year John got rid of them realizing it was a black hole...a losing game requiring daily attention and money, let-alone vet bills and such for the two guard-dogs (Great Pyrenees). They are now all part of a larger farm, where the dogs and goats live in a much larger pen (field).

For a 'fun' project John is rebuilding a 1970 GTO. It's out in the barn, slowly being disassembled piece by piece. He then refurbishes each piece to whatever degree of newness he can afford/the part requires, and puts it away for the future when it's finally time to put the beast together. He estimates it will take a few years (at best). Right now it looks like a LOT of time and money waiting to happen. But it sure will be fun when it's done. Everything else on the farm is as always...the outbuildings are still standing, the fields have been baled, the wind-turbine hums along with the high-breeze...and life passes by at the slow Virginia country pace that seems common out here in Amish country. Jeannie and I drove into Lynchburg on Monday for something to do (John had to work)...we found a mall and went and saw the new Hunger-games movie. Enjoyed it thoroughly...though for a long movie (2.5 hours) it was over all too soon, leaving us to wish for more. That will sadly have to wait for the next movie.

The drive to and from Lynchburg takes us through Appomattox...which is where the Civil War surrender was signed so long ago. This entire area is knee-deep in Civil War history and battlefields...and as I drive thru the countryside I can't help but wonder about armies marching, on their way to more slaughter. Last week I saw the "Killing Lincoln" movie (based on the book by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard)...really enjoyed that. Learned some new stuff,  but the most inspiring was the detail of the president on the train headed north to Gettysburg barely 3 months after the famous battle. He wrote the Gettysburg Address on the train himself, practicing it on his butler. Can you imagine a modern-day president actually writing his OWN speech? And then can you imagine the utterly important at that time to not alienate the newly defeated South, yet not coddle them either by alienating the North? It was a speech I'd personally rank as one of the most important ever given in the history of the world (as far as I know)...certainly in the fledgling United States of America. The man who spoke prior to the President talked for 2 hours, Lincoln only 2 minutes. There was no picture of him speaking as the photographer assumed like the man before it would be a lengthy diatribe, so he wasn't ready for his mere 237 words (that number is from my memory...forgive me if I got it wrong) that were SO utterly important in the history of this great country. Looking back historically, that it was so short allowed it to be sent coast to coast over the telegraph, and printed in  it's entirely in newspapers. In just a short amount of time nearly everybody in the country (and many abroad) had read or heard these inspiring words:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

And so, on this Thanksgiving day I once-again pause to give thanks. For my wonderful wife and family, my health, and that I had the good-fortune to be born into this great country in a time when I can use the internet, have a job, ride my bike for pleasure, and even criticize my government (or the people in it) if I so desire. Much like Memorial Day, this holiday lends itself for pondering the greatness of those who came before me.  Men like Abraham Lincoln. Reading his well-chosen words always brings a tear to my eye. We can only wonder what other great things he might have achieved had he not been assassinated...much like JFK and RFK. But that history is part of ours and we can't change it. We can only hope to do good things, to treat others how we would like to be treated, and to live a good life with the time we are allowed. It's a time to be thankful for all the wonderful things our lives have to offer. And to be thankful as we look back at the hard times, being glad they are in the past. I'd say life in general is easier these days than in years past, but that might not be totally correct. It's just different, easier in some, yet harder in totally different ways than could ever have been foreseen by our fathers and grandfathers.

I leave you with a picture of our noble bird who gave his all that we might thrive on this Thanksgiving day.

The rain has briefly turned to snow gently fluttering down thru the trees, though I doubt much will stick around for more than a few minutes. I urge you to take a moment and ponder what you are thankful for.

Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving!


  1. Good post Matt, and some fine words there.

  2. Merry Christmas Matt and Jeannie!

    Great post, Matt, it always sounds like a great time at the farm. You are blessed.

    The tilework looks great. Would you like to come do some work in my kitchen? The guys that I hired seem to think they are finished, although there is trimwork left. I have been painting (and spackling and sanding because I keep finding noticeably uneven spots: my contract said walls "ready to paint" and this is not what I had in mind!) #so-called professionals

    Janine, Theresa, if you are out there, best wishes to you for the new year!