Thanksgiving was traditionally a quiet day for Valley residents, when families joined together to thank their Creator for the “joyous bounty” that had been bestowed upon them. As a child, I was never quite sure what a “joyous bounty” was, but I wasn’t about to miss out on the turkey and all the trimmings accompanying it.
It’s normal to look back on our youth as a simpler time, but Lennox Valley was anything but simple in 1998. True, the hysteria surrounding “Black Friday” had not reached the epic proportions the annual shopping extravaganza enjoys today, but there was no guarantee any day would be tranquil that year in our town.
Hometown News editor Iris Long was known to bring a chuckle or two with her headlines now and then. In 1998, readers were still laughing about her Thanksgiving 1994 issue. Traditionally, the Thanksgiving newspaper was the biggest of the year, filled with advertising related to sales which ushered in the holiday shopping season.
Iris worked even longer hours than usual to prepare the annual issue, which included pictures of elementary school children dressed as pilgrims, providing recipes and reminders of the upcoming Christmas parade.
So it was in 1994 when Iris, concerned after seeing a story on Nightline about the stress animals feel during the holidays, wrote a short story meant to help families prepare their pets for upcoming celebrations.
Her headline, “Preparing Pets for Thanksgiving,” still adorns refrigerator doors and bulletin boards throughout The Valley. To this day, no one is sure whether the headline was a mistake or an inside joke.
On Thursday, Sarah Hyden-Smith hosted a Thanksgiving meal for a few friends who didn’t have nearby family members. Sarah cooked the turkey, while Iris Long brought homemade pumpkin pie and deviled eggs.
Everyone loved Iris’s pumpkin pie. Until 1992, her pie won the blue ribbon at the county fair 10 years in a row. She finally made the decision to give somone else a chance to win the ribbon.
Juliet Stoughton arrived with sweet potatoes and green beans, while Frank Bell provided homemade rolls as well as cranberry sauce purchased on Wednesday from Perry Prince at the general store.
Following a prayer of thanks by Sarah, conversation revolved around the usual Thanksgiving topics.
“Your sweet potatoes are wonderful,” Sarah told Juliet.
“How on earth do you make such good deviled eggs?” Juliet asked Iris.
“This may be the best turkey I’ve ever tasted,” Frank offered.
It was the closest thing to a family meal these four would have, and truth be told, the three women had become as close as family. Frank and Sarah seemed to be growing closer with time, and if Maxine Miller’s “Rumor Has It” could be trusted, it wouldn’t be long before Frank became an official member of the family.
Across town, there was another gathering. Farley Puckett, owner of Puckett’s True Value Hardware, and his wife, Martha, were hosts to Raymond Cooper and the Walsh family, Marvin and Loraine. As you might imagine, their conversation carried a different tone.
“You know, I saw that so-called ‘newspaper editor’ going in that woman preacher’s house on my way over here,” Marvin blurted out while scooping mashed potatoes.
Farley was quick to jump in, “That’s interesting, because when I was at Perry’s store yesterday, I heard that Stoughton woman telling Perry she was going to be at that preacher’s house today.”
“They’re up to something,” Raymond snarled. “I don’t know what it is, but they’re up to something, and I don’t like it.”
Loraine wasn’t so sure. “I don’t know why you say that. You always think they’re up to something. They’re probably just enjoying Thanksgiving together. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“You women are so quick to be fooled!” Marvin shouted. “Anybody with eyes can tell they’re up to something. They’re always up to something.”
“I heard,” Farley added, “Iris Long has been going around asking people about A.J. Fryerson. She won’t leave that wild goose chase alone.”
“Boys,” Cooper interrupted, “I believe we’d better have a special edition of ‘Renderings with Raymond’ tomorrow.”
“What are you thinking about?” Walsh prodded.
“Don’t worry about that,” Raymond answered. “I know just how to handle these women.”
Read more about the Good Folks at www.LennoxValley.com. Writer Kevin Slimp is a Johnson City native known for his expertise in publishing technology. “The Good Folks of Lennox Valley” is fictionally based on people he has met in years of travel. Contact him at [email protected].