THANKSGIVING 2018 – THANKS A MILLION 'Outdoors Rambler' is 1 Year Old this Week
Updated: Feb 20
Benjamin Franklin is said to have written a letter to his daughter in which he suggested that the wild turkey might be a more fitting national symbol than the bald eagle to represent the fledgling United States. Of course, the eagle won out – and who doesn’t like to see a majestic bald eagle soaring overhead – but there is one day a year when the turkey does become our de facto national bird; Thanksgiving.
Many families roast a plump store-bought bird for the traditional feast. Others, the fortunate ones I believe, get to enjoy the tasty meat of a wild turkey. Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is part of the menu at our annual feast. Some years, it’s a whole roasted bird and let me tell you, cleaning and then thoroughly plucking a mature gobbler is no simple task.
I'm thankful for that bird and the habitat from which it came. I’m also thankful for my family and friends and the opportunity to share this bird and the experience of hunting wild turkeys with them. The void in the freezer will be rapidly filled by about 55 pounds of boneless, hand-cut venison from a deer I hunted. I am similarly thankful for that animal and the world in which it resided.
Whatever fare you’re serving on this uniquely American holiday, taking a moment to reflect on this great country’s abundant blessings is appropriate. The many things I’m thankful for began washing over me and warmed me one recent, frigid early morning as I was sitting in a stand of beautiful white and red oaks.
I’m thankful for the outdoors mentors I had as a child. My grandfather Walter, my Uncle Smithy, my mom and dad, and a handful of others willingly hauled me to the waters or the woods, encouraged me to develop outdoors skills and helped instill a lifelong passion.
Preserving our outdoor traditions is critical and I’m thankful for the family members and friends I’ve been fortunate to mentor, ideally teaching them not only how to hunt, fish or shoot, but also why we do so and the importance of doing it ethically and responsibly.
I’m thankful for healthy, wild fish and game on the table, and the memories represented by the wild game mounts on the wall – each is a time machine transporting me back to that moment when that revered animal’s life and my own intersected.
I’m thankful for the camaraderie shared before, during and after many outdoors expeditions and the many new friends I’ve met in hunting and fishing camps near and far.
I’m thankful when the bobber goes down whether I’m fishing alone or with friends. I’m doubly thankful when I hear squeals of delight and excitement from a young child as they watch that bobber dip and realize they’re about to catch their first fish. Watching those many youngsters catch their first fish has been an uplifting blessing for me, something that goes well beyond “thankful.”
So, yes, I’m thankful for fish that bite, boats that don’t leak, and glorious sunrises and sunsets on the water or in the wild that instill a sense of wonder and awe.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to help share information about events, people and places in our great outdoors and, occasionally, offer some of my own viewpoints about conservation and what Aldo Leopold called the “land ethic,” or as some have termed it, “moral responsibility to the natural world.” I’m thankful for fellow outdoors communicators who also bring their own unique and thoughtful experiences and insights to the fore.
In that vein, I’m thankful for faithful stewards of our lands, both public and private. I’m thankful for beautiful state and national parks, and for visionaries like Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir and others, who helped preserve and protect incredible places.
I’m thankful for our North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which holds, among its several tenets, that wildlife is something for all people and is not just private livestock.
The Little Things
Then, there are the little things.
I’m thankful for those contemplative moments when I’m sitting quietly in the deer woods, often around Veterans Day, and a strong breeze on a sunny day sends showers of leaves cascading all around and over me. I’m thankful for being able to listen to the gentle gurgling of a clear, cool mountain stream as it flows over smooth rocks. I’m thankful for being able to immerse myself in nature, becoming nearly invisible within that setting and watching nature’s tableau unfold before me. Whether it’s watching a box turtle carefully navigate along a creek bed, seeing a young raccoon exploring deadfall logs looking for snacks, or hearing the slight whoosh of a hawk’s wings as it silently glides by me while attempting to nab a squirrel, such moments inspire.
I’m thankful for a thunderous gobble on a crisp spring morning, a whitetail doe flying her white flag as she hightails it to cover, and flocks of birds urgently grabbing food from the water’s surface while tuna, bluefish or mackerel aggressively feed just below.
I'm thankful for big tracts of woods and places where traffic's din is faint, if heard at all, thankful for places where stars in the night sky shine brightly without need for the glare of artificial lights designed to further commerce, convenience or security.
I’m thankful for things we sometimes take for granted, such as clean air to breathe, clean water, fertile and safe soils for crops, warm clothes, freedom to vote, freedom of speech, the men and women of law enforcement, the military, fire departments and emergency responders, and the blessings of good health.
And, I can’t forget, I’m thankful for good Irish and rye whiskey, warm wood stoves, flannel sheets in winter, mellow, sweet-playing guitars, good dogs (especially my boy Jameson), hot crabs and cold beer, dependable trucks, and the Red Sox winning the World Series (four times now) in my lifetime.
Yes, when you start counting your blessings, the list can get a little long.
Finally, the Outdoors Rambler web site is one-year-old this week. I’m thankful for you, the person who checks in occasionally and took the time to read this. Happy Thanksgiving.