The thought of Thanksgiving always makes me smile because it reminds me of my senile old uncle, Col. Shelton Haybasket. At every Thanksgiving when I was growing up, Uncle Shelton would gather all the children in the family together and tell us the captivating story of how Thanksgiving came about. He would always begin the story the same way:
"Go get me a beer, dag nabbit!"
But Uncle Shelton is currently off in an infirmary somewhere, so allow me to relay the classic tale in his stead.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the Pilgrims, tired of Europe's annoying tolerance for chain smokers and French people, set sail for America. According to history buffs, they arrived sometime between the 12th and 18th centuries, the "Age of Not Knowing Where America, or Even Asia for God's Sake, Is." The first thing they encountered upon setting foot in the New World was a band of Native Americans, or as the Pilgrims derogatorily called them, "Indians." The two groups simply stared at each other for several tense minutes, completely unsure of what to do. Finally, one of the natives broke the ice by offering a Pilgrim a high-five and saying, "Wut up, playa!" All the natives began laughing uncontrollably.
Chief Deer Antler calmed his people down and told the Pilgrims, "He's joking. He's named Silly Rabbit."
The chief then reached beneath his vest and pulled out a severed buffalo head, which he handed to the wary newcomers. This caught the Pilgrims off-guard, as they had no idea what to give in exchange for such a thoughtful gift. Finally, the leader of the Pilgrims, Jim, reached in his own pocket and pulled out a packet of Premium Saltine crackers.
"Jim, those haven't been invented yet!" someone frantically told him, shoving the crackers back in Jim's pocket. A proper gift exchange ensued, during which the Europeans offered the natives bread, clothes, goofy hats and malaria.
After the Pilgrims politely asked for some land, the natives consented and made an offer. They decided that the Pilgrims could have the eastern shore of Plymouth Colony so long as the natives could have the territory between the Pacific Ocean and Western Plymouth Colony. The Pilgrims shrugged their shoulders and agreed to what sounded like a pretty even deal.
Apart from the rampant death toll brought on by disease, the Pilgrims were quite content with their new way of life, particularly with the whole harvest thing. One day, they decided to host a celebratory feast to thank the natives for teaching them the ways of the crops, and more importantly the ways of the sacred pipe, which was pretty freakin' trippy if you asked the Pilgrims. While planning the menu for the occasion, someone pointed out the lack of protein in the collection of corn, beans and squash, which prompted them to seek the aid of the area's turkey community. Jim volunteered to negotiate with Turk, one of the most outspoken turkeys in the region.
"Listen, Turk," Jim said. "There's something I need to talk to you about."
"Cluck cluck cluck cluckity cluck," Turk replied.
"OK, I'm gonna have to stop you right there. I don't speak Turkey."
"Oh, my apologies, sir," Turk said. "Force of habit, you see. As I was saying, what is it you wish to confabulate with me about?"
"Well, we pilgrims are trying to patent a new holiday centered around turkey-eating," Jim explained. "And in order to do so, the federal government says we need the permission of the turkey community. How would you feel about a 500-year contract in which we grant your species annual publicity in the human community, in exchange for mass slaughterings every November?"
"Hmmm," Turk pondered. "I dare say it is a most intriguing proposition. Alright, we're in!"
"Great! Would you like me to shoot you now or later?"
"I'd prefer later, if you wouldn't mind. I'm running late for a doctor's appointment as it is. Just a check-up, mind you. Nothing to worry about."
"Oh, thank God!" Jim replied. "For a second there, I thought it might be something serious."
"Heavens no!" Turk chuckled. "As for the execution, shall we meet here tomorrow at mid-day? I can bring my friend, Cornelius, if you like."
"Perfect! See you then!"
The next evening, all the Pilgrims and natives gathered together to chow down on their elaborate meal and engage in several excruciatingly awkward minutes of silence, unable to overcome the language barrier. Upon biting a piece of turkey meat, one of the Pilgrims finally spoke up.
"I say!" he exclaimed. "This turkey tastes ... Well, pretty mediocre actually." Even the natives nodded in agreement.
"At least we don't have to sit through a Detroit Lions game!" Jim declared. Everyone gave him that look that Pilgrims give to their fellow Pilgrims when they are being historically ignorant.
This is the part of the story where Uncle Shelton usually passed out, so I don't really know what happened after that. Nevertheless, I hope you learned something about your heritage today, and may your Thanksgiving bring you as much pie and as little malaria as possible.
Nick's column runs biweekly Mondays. He can be reached at email@example.com.