Still giving thanks for Leon’s bad aim

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I have no idea when you get old enough to “know something.” I was about five when I fell on the gravel running down what was then called the Como Road. I slid headfirst past six rows of cotton, two water troughs and a rusted out Arcade hay rake.

It hurt like you couldn’t believe!
Mom was on her knees with a pair of tweezers and a coal oil-soaked rag. She was alternately picking out the tiny shards of rock and dabbing the blood away. I promise I was trying to hold still…
When I noticed the tears silently slipping down HER cheeks.
My first fleeting thought was “Is she nuts!” I’m the one who has rocks buried a foot deep under his skin! And then the “know something” part kicked in.
You don’t always have to wait till the last Thursday in November to give thanks.
I grew up in a town where no one locked their doors. If we were walking to town, the first car that came along would almost always pick you up. Folks would ask, “How you doing, son?” and mean it. Everybody kinda looked after each other.
As young boys we complained about how slow everything moved in our little corner of the universe. But we had a picture show and a town square and a mayor who knew our names. We could buy an RC Cola on credit at Woodrow Kennon’s Grocery. And there wasn’t anything better than sitting on that little bench out front of Pat Houston’s store and opening up a pack of Topps baseball cards.
Giving thanks is not always about the big things in life.
Leon would pull out his trusty Red Ryder BB gun and make David Mark and me sprint across the side yard. He’d stand behind the stacked-up firewood “fort” and shoot at us. He had the worst aim you ever saw! He couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn… if it was standing still.
There is so much to be thankful for!
Our first-grade teacher was Carolyn Blades. She smiled a lot. And she never raised her voice. Now, that might not mean much to you, but when you’re a scared six-year-old thinking this school thing is going to be more than you can handle… I still give thanks to this day on my every remembrance of her.
And the summer after the eighth grade, Jane Hill told me I wasn’t all that bad “for a boy.”
You can’t put enough days in the calendar to give thanks for something like that!
Sure, we gathered every year for the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Mom had a covey of brothers and sisters who were all professional talkers, and eaters. And we had cousins by the dozens. It could be like a madhouse on steroids. The laughter, animated conversation and noise were overshadowed only by the love abounding in the room.
It was all about home, hearth and family. Sometimes easy things to take for granted…
Thankfully, that “know something” deal tends to grow and mature along with you.
Thanksgiving became a special holiday my first year in college. I was 212 miles from the house; with no way to get home; and so all ALONE! Listen, you don’t know lonely until your tears are falling into the turkey and dressing “Blue Plate Special” in the back booth of the almost empty Monteagle Diner on a high, wind-swept, freezing cold mountain in the southeast corner of Middle Tennessee.
Pa, for the first time in my whole life, was going to bless that food and I wasn’t going to hear it.
How does the old saying go, “You don’t miss the water… ”
It will make you think about life from the inside out. Not the fancy cars; or impressing everybody in the room; or hitting homeruns; or being named the most likely to succeed.
If you’ve got a brain in your head it will up your “know something” level forever!
That awakening moment at the Monteagle Diner took place Nov. 25, 1965. I have certainly been given lots of years to ponder on deep subjects and practice my thankfulness. You know, the “back end” of life is as fun and eventful as the days when Leon was shooting at us.
If you let it be.
This Thanksgiving Cathy and I, our boys and their families and Cathy’s brother and sisters’ families will all gather together. It will be as loud as a LSU football game in Baton Rouge on a Saturday night… back when LSU was winning games on Saturday nights in Baton Rouge.
I hope they let me bless the day and the food…
Happy Thanksgiving,

Kes

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