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THANKSGIVING AT PINE HILL

1938

By Orion J. Beadling

This story begins at the little house in Pine Hill where we lived when we were kids. It is November 1938.

A bright November morning nineteen hundred thirty eight,

The turkey not yet in the oven - squash still on the vine,
Has indicated to us there will be a little wait.
We have plenty of time.

There are Harry, Aussie and their brother Bob and me.
They have come to dine with us as have their family.
These are not the plushest times that ever we did see,
But folks share what they have.

The four of us are gathered out here by the front yard gate,
Trying to decide amongst us what we should do today.
Should we hang around and make a nuisance of ourselves?
Should we play the game about the Giant and the Elves?
Should we play some baseball near where Eddie Kesner dwells?
Should we take a little hike?

We don't know just where we'll go.
We'll decide that later.
It'll be a three mile hike or maybe even greater.
We will have a real good time - with lots of fun and laughter.
And we'll be back by twelve o'clock or very soon thereafter.

Don't take time to pack a lunch we won't be gone that long.
We won't bother anyone to tell him where we've gone.
If the little guys find out, they'll want to tag along.
That would only slow us down.

Off we head into the woods without a care or woe.
"Come on guys and follow me 'cause I know where to go.
We will feed on huckleberries I know where they grow.
And I will lead you there."

They choose me to be leader 'cause I know these woods so well.
I know where all the places are - every hill and dell.
I even know a place out there where bands of hermits dwell.
And I will lead the way.

Now where is that berry patch?
It must be here somewhere.
This field was blue with huckleberries,
Last time I was here.

Of course that was four months ago,
Much earlier this year.
Next time we will pack a lunch,
Before we come out here.

As keener grow their appetites,
More Clearly I recall,
Berries ripen in the summer.
This is late in fall.

We sure could use some Hershey Bars,
Or Mounds by Peter-Paul.
We'll stay alive on hickory nuts,
If squirrels didn't get 'em all.

Somewhere along the way, I happen to recall my dream,
To "take" Berlin and Clementon and highway in between.
For I have never travelled there by foot - seldom by car.
For in this day that trip would be considered pretty far.

I talk it over with the guys.
They do not seem to care.
"Just so we're back by dinner time,
We're game for anywhere."
And since they are amenable,
I determine to go there.

Three Mile Swamp

There is a place - Three Mile Swamp,
As long as it is wide.
No one ever has traversed it,
To the other side.

We come upon Three Mile Swamp,
And we're undaunted by it.
I have never crossed a swamp,
And think I'd like to try it.

So we slosh off in that direction,
With our spirits running high.
Although later, on reflection,
Four older men will wonder why.

About an hour later, we come upon some tracks.
Someone is ahead of us. It could be Lumber Jacks.
Another hour later, we come upon some more.
How many more have joined us? I determine it is four.
A mental calculation tells me now that there are twelve.
What was that game we could have played,
About the Giant and the Elves?

I become suspicious now,
That something isn't right.
If this keeps on happening,
We could be here all night.
So I abruptly alter course,
And put those footprints out of sight.

So we survive Three Mile Swamp,
And reach the other side.
So we may be the very first.
Though many men have tried.

(SLOSHING)

Leader: "Hey guys! Great hike isn't it?"
First hiker: "Oh yeah! The water's refreshing!"
Second hiker: "O boy"
Third hiker: "Hey guys, Hold up a minute there. Hold up; just a minute."
(sloshing stops)
"I'm not sure our leader has got both oars in the water. If you know what I mean. He's got us walkin' in this water. And you see that flat smooth area over there? Well, I'm gonna get out of this water. I'm fed up with sloshin'. I'm gonna go over there, and I'm gonna walk on that flat smooth area over there."

First hiker: "Yeah, me too. I'd go with ya. I don't like this sloshin either. I've had it with sloshin. I mean sloshin is out. No more sloshin!"

Second hiker: "Yeah! Me too, I'll go with ya. I don't like sloshin. I'm not gonna slosh any more. He can slosh if he wants. No more for me. I'm goin' with ya."

Leader: "Hey guys, ya see that flat smooth area over on your left?
Well, that's quicksand."

(Immediately: Sloshing resumes).

Leader: "There's quite a lot of it in this swamp, --- but as long as we stay in the water, we don't have to worry about it."
First hiker: "I think we're going around in circles."
Second hiker: "How much farther is it across this swamp?"
Third hiker: "I don't know about huckleberries, but with all these sticker bushes there oughta be some blackberries around here."
First hiker: "I still think we're going around in circles."
(pause)
"Oh yeah? Then why are we followin' twelve sets of footprints?"
Leader: "Quicher gripin'. You wanna see the world? I'm showin' it to ya!"
Second hiker: "How much farther is it to Berlin?"
Third hiker: "Never mind that! How much father is it to home?"
Second hiker: "If I'da known we were gonna have to swim, I'da brought my bathin' suit."
Third hiker: "Oh yeah? I'da brought my canoe."
First hiker: "I'da brought my rowboat!"
Second hiker: "I don't think he knows where we're goin."
Third hiker: "I don't even think he knows where we're comin from."
First hiker: "How much farther is it across this swamp?"
Third hiker: "About a half a mile. I checked it the last time we came by this place."
Detecting grumbling in the ranks,
I try to just ignore it.
To get their minds on something else,
The only answer for it. So I tell a little story,
And I have them sing a song.
This helps for just a little while;
Not for very long. So I sing a little solo.
And at first, I think they buy it,
But find out later when it's through,
They're just thankful for the quiet.

HIKER'S/SAILOR'S SONG

First verse:
We are not just boys out for a hike into the wood,
But we are British Sailors and we'd like it understood,
We like the kind of people who behave the way they should.
We like to get along.

CHORUS

In our imagination we sail o'er the Bounding Main,
Establish peace with Singapore, and go to war with Spain,
Command respect for Good Queen Bess, pay homage to her name.
Till we come back, the Union Jack and Order we proclaim.

Second verse:

We like so well to get along it fills our hearts with glee,
To embark aboard our ships, put out upon the sea,
And sail the oceans of the world, the rivers and the bays,
Discover wild savages - convert them to our ways.

In our imagination we sail o'er the Bounding Main,
Establish peace with Singapore, and go to war with Spain,
Command respect for Good Queen Bess, pay homage to her name.
Till we come back, the Union Jack and Order we proclaim.

Third verse:

We've sailed the seas with Captain Bligh
And Fletcher Christian too.
When Fletcher turned to treason high,
We were the loyal crew.
When Mister Christian took the ship,
And left us one canoe,
We stuck with Bligh; survived the trip.
Hope this one we will too.

In our imagination we sail o'er the Bounding Main,
Establish peace with Singapore, and go to war with Spain,
Command respect for Good Queen Bess, pay homage to her name.
Till we come back, the Union Jack and Order we proclaim.

First hiker: "Maybe he shoulda brought a compass."
Third hiker: "He doesn't need one. He's makin' perfect circles as it is."

** LEADER'S SONG **

The troops are getting restless and beginning to complain.
Their feet are getting tired and they think it looks like rain.
But I know as leader thoughts like this I must disdain.
So I just lead them on.

I do not remember who said, 'Power doth corrupt'.
Nor do I agree with him, although it gives me pause.
What does he expect of me? I am not Santa Clause.
I'll keep them marching on.

CHORUS

Nor do we remember who said: 'Power doth corrupt'.
But we do agree with him. You ask us why. Because,
We have also noticed that you are not Santa Clause.
As we keep marching on.

--------------------------------------

But once they've started griping, they will never be the same.
No matter what the matter is, they'll murmur and complain.
Their leader will be treated to "The Malcontent Refrain",
Till it's driven him insane.

Nor do we remember who said: 'Power doth corrupt'.
But we do agree with him. You ask us why. Because,
We have also noticed that you are not Santa Clause.
As we keep marching on.

---------------------------------------

The higher that our station is the less we tend to feel,
The masses know what's good for them, and thus we make them heel.
And try to keep them ignorant, and tell them what is real,
And keep them marching on.

Nor do we remember who said 'Power doth corrupt'.
But we do agree with him. You ask us why. Because,
We have also noticed that you are not Santa Clause.
As we keep marching on.

---------------------------------------

First hiker: "How much farther is it across this swamp?
Third hiker: "About a half a mile. I checked it the last three times we came across."
Second hiker: "The sign says we are now proceeding at our own risk."
Second hiker: "Whose risk were we proceeding at before.?"
Third hiker: "Hey guys, do you see that tree up ahead."
First hiker: "Yeah; what about it?"
Third hiker: "That's the tree I carved my initials into about three miles back."
The first sign of rebellion,
It behooves us all to know,
Is not knives nor marlinespikes,

Nor scaffolds in a row,
But a very simple question,
And all leaders are plagued with it.
It's when a sailor or a child,
Asks, "How much farther is it?".

We try to make them happy, but you know as well as we,
The only thing that will unite them is adversity.
They always do enjoy it, and they seem to crave it so.
What we could really use right now would be a "common foe".

A common foe is what we need to bring us all together,
An enemy, a flood, a war, or just inclement weather,
A common foe to bind our souls,
To attune us to each other.

When the troops are restless, sir, it is our firm belief,
(Because we know through leadership)
That's when they need relief.
But we don't pick our enemies nor those who give us grief.
'Cause they are gifts from GOD.

Only GOD can send us the common foe we need.
It isn't something we create with effort nor with deed.
But it's like manna come from heaven,
On which our souls can feed.

When our concentration flags,
And we are disarrayed,
That is when we are at risk;
When we could be waylaid.

When the course that we are steering,
Is in need of some correction.
We need to have a common foe,
To train our minds in one direction.

He will be a shining star,
That we can focus on.
So we will have, where e'er we are,
A fix to set our course upon.

PINE VALLEY ROAD

We come upon PINE VALLEY ROAD that parallels the track.
But only I know where it leads to; it could take us back.
In one hour we'd be home; our mission would be through;
"In a pigs eye", think I, "We'll pass it by.
We've hiking yet to do."
As leader of this little troop,
And charged with navigation,
I know that if we follow it,
We'll wind up at the station,
Which happens to be very near our final destination.

As we four sit on the track it does occur to me,
"The question that confronts us now is one of probity.
Should I put it to them straight and let them all agree?
That would be democracy."

But as occurs with leadership, a voice within my head,
Makes its presence known to me. And this is what is said:
Don't turn back upon this track.
But you must move ahead,
And take Berlin instead.

If he had known would Captain Bligh
Have blabbed it to his crew,
'Pitcairn Island lies right there.
It's just ahead of you.'?
He would have kept it to himself.
And that's what you should do,
Until this voyage is through.

He would have kept it to himself;
Avoided mutiny.
It would have made good sense to him.
As it does now to me.

So you'll completely disregard now,
Any kind of vote.
Just get them up - head down the road -
"Dear John", was all she wrote.

Why put that notion in one's dome?
Why light that little candle?
The prospect now of being home,
Could be too much to handle.

So why not keep it to yourself?
So why should you disclose it?
It will never hurt these guys,
If no one ever knows it.

Now you don't know these guys for sure.
But you will take no chance.
For you have seen guys chicken out,
In such like circumstance.
They make all kinds of promises.
You get a song and dance,
Before the job is through.

You are the leader of this troop,
And you will not forget,
That leadership is what they need.
And leadership they'll get.

These troops are not equipped,
To make decisions on their own.
Because of bad decisions,
Many missions have been blown.
So you'll decide alone.

We do not remember who said, "POWER DOTH CORRUPT".
Nor do we agree with him, although it gives us pause.
What does he expect of us? We are not Santa Clause.
We'll keep them marching on.

When the troops are feeling weary. As with any horse I've known,
And their eyes are looking bleary,
One does not point them toward home.
So you stand now upon this track,
Uncertain of your crew.
There will be no turning back.
You know what you must do!

I know Thanksgiving dinner's just an hour hike away.
But I may never get these guys out here another day.
As I observe these Loyal Troops - HUNGRY - TIRED - BEAT,
And rather than to take Berlin, they may prefer to eat,
I completely disregard now, any kind of vote.
I get them up - Head down the road -
"Dear John", was all she wrote.

Down the black top road we trudge, a little slower now,
The sun is higher in the sky; a sweat is on the brow.
Oh, we will make it to Berlin.
But, Lord, I don't know how,
We'll make it on from there.

ALBION:

We arrive in Albion, and happy to be there.
We stop to rest our feet a bit,
And take some needed care,
Of our blistered toes and heels,
And reckon then to where,
We'll set our course from there.

The rabbit emerged from the bush;
The hunter from the blind.
The rabbit headed straight for us;
The hunter right behind.
The rabbit kept on comin' on.
The hunter lost his mind,
And raised his gun and fired.

We saw the flash. We heard the POW.
We felt the pellets strike.
If you've never been shot at,
You don't know what it's like.
It's something you might think about,
Before you take a hike,
Or set out on your bike.

The rabbit darted off the road.
Back to the bush he'd run.
The hunter grabbed another load;
Jammed it into his gun,
And just as quickly as they'd come,
The hare and man were gone,
And left us standing where we were,
The four of us alone.

Old Ned went out on Thanksgiving Day.
He needed a rabbit for the stew.
And he shot four boys, but the rabbit got away.
Now what is Old Ned to do?

Old Ned reloaded and he ran to the bush,
Where he last saw the rabbit on the run.
And he disappeared - into the woods,
With his smoking, ten gauge gun.

And we haven't seen him until this day.
And we don't mind, 'cause that's okay.
He wasn't that much fun.

We did not know that he would go,
And not stay to correct it.
But when he disappeared like that,
We started to suspect it.

He did not mean to shoot at us.
It was more by habit.
His mind was on his dinner,
And his eye was on the rabbit.

His eye was on the rabbit.
And we got in the way.
He was fixed upon that rabbit.
This is Thanksgiving Day.

His eye was on the rabbit,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.
Never mind his Habit,
Could have blown us all away.

He never even checked to see if anyone was hit.
His dinner was escaping, and he went right after it.
If our roles had been reversed, he might have had a fit.
We have our common foe.

If our roles had been reversed, and we had shot at him,
You can be sure, he would have seen, our futures would be dim.
Rest assured, if we had shot, and he had caught the blast,
We'd have caught his wrath a lot. And that wouldn't be the last.
He'd have disarrayed our lives. He surely would have sued.
Before that man was through with us, this day we would have rued.

But it was he who shot at us, whose name we do not know.
So we cannot complain to him.
BUT, WE HAVE OUR COMMON FOE!

Three stand here, with mouths wide open,
More surprised than hurt.
But Harry's face shows signs of anguish.
Blood is oozing through his shirt.

Harry with his jacket open, And he wears no vest,
Was completely unprotected; Took a bullet in the chest.
We tear his jacket off of him, and we open up his shirt,

Anxious to discover just how bad he has been hurt.
His flesh is torn wide open. It is wide and deep and mean.
It is the worst of gun shot wounds that we have ever seen.
It would have been more merciful if it had killed him clean.
Or, so to us, it does seem.

CARRY HARRY

We've witnessed in the movie house the deaths of many men.
We know "gun shot survival rate" is less than one in ten.
We know that once a man is shot he'll never walk again.
We'll carry Harry home.

Chorus:

We've witnessed in the movie house the deaths of many men.
We know "gun shot survival rate" is less than one in ten.
We know that once a man is shot he'll never walk again.
We'll carry Harry home.

-------------------------------------

Three will survive to live our lives,
And someday wives to marry.
But pencil in today's archives,
"DOES NOT - LOOK GOOD - FOR HARRY."

Upon our shoulders we do carry,
Aussie's little brother.
Back and forth we shuttle Harry,
First to one and then the other.

Our feet are so much lighter now, they hardly touch the ground.
That's the way it always is when common foes are found.
Oh! How happy folks must be where common foes abound.
How they must get along.

Someday we may laugh at what we've suffered here today,
Someday when the pain of it has long since passed away,
Someday in the future after men go to the moon.
But forty five or fifty years might seem a bit ---
too soon.

But we are not laughing now.
Perhaps we never will.
The only thought we have just now,
Is, "Get us back to Pine Hill."
Harry needs attention soon.
He's blue around the gill,
And heavier all the while.

This is our emergency. This is our common cause.
We can now cooperate, forgive each others flaws.
Even though that rabbit hunter wasn't very wise,
We now have our common foe, our blessing in disguise.

The sun is sinking in the west, and still we travel on.
Dinner must be over now. The pie will soon be gone.
When they ask us why we're late, whom shall we blame it on?
We have our common foe!

We march, triumphant, through Berlin,
And on through Clementon, And up the road to Old Pine Hill,
And Home Sweet Home again.

As we approach Tenth Avenue,
So dark we cannot see,
We hear Walt and Ollie call,
And even sweet Cherie.

We hear Walt and Ollie call,
And Mr. Hullings too.
As we draw near, we hear Walt ask,
"Now where the heck were you?"

And so to change the subject quick,
(We can sense that they are hot.)
We respond as in one voice,
"Help! Harry has been shot!"

They snatch him up, take him inside,
And lay him on the rug.
"This is not a gunshot wound.
He's been bitten by a bug."

They cannot find his gunshot wound,
Which long since has congealed.
"My gosh", say we, "How can it be?"
"He's miraculously healed!"

POSTLUDE

If Harry, Bob and Aussie feel that hike was ill advised,
I have thought it over now, and have apologized.
But we cannot change the past, and we can just surmise,
Where we might be instead.

Since we made it home again, and all survived that day, What alternatives exist, now who are we to say? I'm contented with my lot, and I'm inclined to say, That if I could, I know I would, Have it no other way. Well, Mom, that's my story. And I'm sticking to it. It doesn't matter what those other guys say. Sorry we were late for supper.

EPILOGUE

That hike was a traumatic experience. It's had everlasting effects on several people.

Harry: It's had a lasting effect on Harry. Harry, even after all these years, still does not enjoy standing in front of a gun while someone pulls the trigger. He'll probably never get over that.

And Bobby: Bobby suffers amnesia. He doesn't remember even being there; has never recalled one shred of detail from the whole trip. I think Bobby doesn't even remember that twenty bucks I loaned him that day.

And Aussie: Aussie hasn't been late for a meal ever since that hike. He hasn't missed a turkey dinner since that hike.

In fact, none of those guys have. None of those guys have missed a turkey dinner since that hike. If there's a turkey dinner within a hundred and fifty miles, those guys are there. It's had a lasting effect on all of them. They even show up in West Fulton every year when they're serving turkey at the firehouse. They wouldn't miss it. They're always there.

As for myself, you can ask Mary. It's had a different effect on me. I haven't been on time for a meal since that day.

And Mom: It's had a lasting effect on Mom. For years, for years after that experience in 1938, anytime anybody would leave the house for any reason whatsoever, Mom would always say, as they're leaving, as they're going out the door, Mom would always say, "Don't be Late for supper."


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