The Thanksgiving Escape
by chandra mathis
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Back in 1968, we were living in a small town in Mississippi called Black Water. Everyone who lived there liked to raise meat for the table. Most of the local people there usually raised cattle, chickens, and hogs. My daddy raised some of all three. I made pets out of all of them.
During that time, I was just a little girl with a will of my own. I was constantly getting into trouble for one thing or another. It never failed, I got my tail whooped at least twice weekly. I remember one whooping I got How could I forget? It was on Thanksgiving Day. Seems like it was just yesterday.
One week before Thanksgiving, my daddy had gone to the Farmer’s Market to buy a turkey. It was to be the centerpiece for our Thanksgiving meal. I had other ideas for the critter. Eating him was not what I had in mind.
My daddy put me in charge of feeding the turkey. This was a big mistake, because like all the rest of the critters around our place, I had grown real attached to this one too. I called him Pete. The name Pete seemed to fit him real nice.
I knew what happened to most of the critters around my place when they came up missing. They would end up on our table. The thoughts of my pets being eaten were more than I could stand. I believe then I was animal rights activist in the making. All the protests of my refusal to eat meat didn’t make any difference. I would pout, refuse to eat ,but it never changed their minds. The critters would keep coming up missing anyway.
Thanksgiving was two days away. Daddy sent me out to feed the animals. He would tease me about Pete.” Make sure you give Pete plenty extra , cause I want him real fat for Thanksgiving dinner.” Tears would roll down my cheeks.
Thanksgiving Day had finally arrived. I had been up all night,"tossing and turning," unable to sleep for worrying about poor Pete. Then the plan came to me, I had it figured out perfectly. It was going to cost me.I knew it without a doubt, but I was willing to pay the price.
It was the "crack of dawn", I quickly climbed out the window so no one could see me. Then I ran to Pete’s cage. There he was sleeping with his head tucked under his wing. With a deep breath, I reached for the latch and swung the cage door open. Then I made Pete run out by chasing him with a stick. Pete took off to the woods. I waited till he was clean out of sight before I returned to the house.
My mother was in the kitchen and she was preparing the dinner. She wanted me to help her peel the apples for the pies. I guess she could sense that I was nervous, cause she noticed that I was a bit jumpy. “What on earth is the matter with you child.” I quickly answered, nothing mother, I continued to peel the apples.
A few minutes later, my daddy came into the house,his booming voice echoed through the house. “Something has happened to the turkey.I found the cage door opened.”
Then mother cried out with disappointment in her voice, “What are we going to do for dinner daddy?” I was trying to hide my face so they couldn’t see the guilt that was in my eyes, but my mother knew what had happened.
She looked at me with those blue eyes of hers and asked me “did you do this?” I could not lie. I got the nerve to confess. I did it mother, cause I didn’t want to see Pete eaten like all the others. I can’t stand the thoughts of all my pets being killed and eaten. It isn’t fair.
My daddy was so angry, he made me go to my room and wait it out for hours. Then finally he showed up with his worn out leather belt. I had seen it many times before. "You know what’s coming to you?” My daddy started into his speach . "You know I don't like to whoop you, but you got to stop all these bright ideas of yours.You got to learn one way or another." I was thinking to myself, it was a good idea, cause it worked.After daddy punished me, he made me sit in my room for a little while longer.
"I want you to think about what you did", daddy shouted as he walked towards the door. "Think real hard too. Maybe you have learned your lesson."
That night as I laid there in my bed, my backside was still burning from the whooping. I smiled ,It was worth it Pete, cause your free now and your not on anyone’s table for dinner. I would do it all over again if given the chance.
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I enjoyed reading your story! Light-hearted, fun, yet with a lesson in compassion with a different twist in it. Blessings! Gloria