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The Last Windrow: A Thanksgiving Day on the farm

Grabbed the Model 1897 Winchester 12 gauge pump shotgun and a handful of #5 shot shells. Heard rooster pheasants cackling along the heavily weeded creek bottom. Accompanied by our rat terrier, Mitsy. She loves to hunt with me. PineandLakes.com Illustration.

Diary entry: Thursday, November 24, 1960, A Thanksgiving Day On The Farm

Woke up by Dad at 5:30 a.m. for milking 36 cows. Grabbed slab of cold liver on way out of house after warming up next to cook stove.

Got to barn in time to drop feed in front of milking stanchions. Radio was playing Roy Acuff tune. Turned on vacuum pump for milking machines and proceeded to wash cow udders ahead of hooking up milking machines. Hauled stainless steel buckets of milk to bulk tank. Cats were waiting for any spilled milk. Milking done by 6:30 a.m. Carried milk to baby calves in hog barn next door. Crawled up inside silo and tossed thirty-five forks full of silage out the chute and to the waiting herd below.

Wind is heavy from the southeast. Must be snow coming. Heard high flying geese heading south in the darkness. Headed in house for breakfast. Mom is up baking pies and cooking other food for Thanksgiving dinner. I love the smell of her special turkey dressing. Can't wait until noon.

Finished up chores feeding hogs and steers. Gave them an extra bushel basket of corn and ground feed as a holiday treat. They seemed to enjoy it. It's 8:30 a.m..

Grabbed the Model 1897 Winchester 12 gauge pump shotgun and a handful of #5 shot shells. Reminded myself to buy another box at Neptune next time I'm there. Hope eight shells is enough for this hunt. Headed out over the west hill. Wind growing stronger, pushing me into the tall grass of the soil bank land. Headed for Whiskey Creek on Peterson's farm, a quarter of a mile to the north. Heard rooster pheasants cackling along the heavily weeded creek bottom. Accompanied by our rat terrier, Mitsy. She loves to hunt with me.

A cottontail busts out in front of me and I think for a second of a rabbit dinner, but don't pull the trigger. Next time. Wind is bending the tall sweet clover, almost to the ground. Hit the creek bottom at about 9:30 a.m. Worked my way through the tall grass toward the abandoned farmstead.

First rooster comes up cackling out of the creek bed. Downed in one shot. Mitsy runs to where it dropped and starts barking. Stuffed the big bird in the back of my torn chore coat. Continued up to the grove of trees behind the vacant barn. Another rooster comes up out of the tall grass, careens into the wind and comes down to earth with the second shot from the Winchester. Two in the bag.

Moved around to the back of the grove at the edge of the picked cornfield. Mitsy barks and comes running out of the weeds with a rooster in front of her. Bird takes to the air. Three bird limit is reached. I head back home and flush six more birds. They'll be there when I return later.

Open the back door of our farmhouse to the smell of that wonderful dressing. The cook stove is putting off heat that feels good after my getting chilled while walking into what is now a gale. There is a cob basket sitting beside the stove and I drop the three rooster pheasants into it. Mom asks me who is going to clean the birds. She says she has enough to do to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner. I volunteer to take care of it. It's 11 a.m. and company will be arriving soon.

The dinner table is set in the living room and is covered by the special lace tablecloth that is used only at Thanksgiving and Christmas and other special occasions. The good dinnerware is in place. Relatives start arriving, each bringing a dish of some sort. The table is soon full of flavor. A kid's table is set up in the parlor where a dozen youngsters will be placed to eat. My stomach grumbled with the aromas coming from the table. We sat, prayed and passed the potatoes.

After dinner, the men sit and smoke cigarettes and cigars and talk farming. The women talk as they wash the dishes and then walk into the parlor wiping their hands on their aprons to continue the visit. The kids are shooed outside to play tag, toss footballs and climb up into dangerous places. The last car leaves the farmyard at 4 p.m. There were chores to do.

Chores start. Milking is done by 7 p.m. Snow is starting to fall. The wind is high. We eat leftovers for supper. I put the three cleaned rooster pheasants in the freezer.

In bed by 9:30 p.m.

Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1960. I'm thankful for it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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