By Richard C. Snell.

Barton County Extension Agriculture Agent.

Western Kansas

Turkey!.

Of all things, why do we eat turkey at Thanksgiving, as opposed to something that we, in the Great Plains, raise more of, such as beef or even pork?

I suppose price is somewhat of a factor, but chicken or pheasant, that has been hunted, might be as cheap. Anyway, I always have pondered why. I guess, I thought, like most of you, that the real reason for it might be that the Pilgrims and Indians enjoyed turkey that first Thanksgiving, after landing at Plymouth Rock. That is, until I read up on it. I will share with you what I found out about a little American history.

Americans might be sitting down for a traditional Thanksgiving feast of fish or venison, if it hadn't been for some skillful marketing by turkey producers after the Civil War.

"There is really no rhyme or reason for us to have turkey on Thanksgiving, except that business promoted it," said Thomas V. DiBacso, professor of business history, at American University, in Washington, DC.

Then, again, the history of Thanksgiving is filled with commercialization, almost as bad as with Christmas, by an assortment of innkeepers, grocers and retailers of all kinds.

The Pilgrims who gathered for the first Thanksgiving feast, in 1621 in Plymouth, MA, probably ate fish and venison as the main dishes, because they were more plentiful.

The holiday was observed only irregularly in various parts of New England until the early 19th century, when it became a regional fixture. Thousands of people would trek to the New England area during this period. Business played a big role in it--the inns, the taverns and the sight-seeing businesses. But it still was just a New England affair.

As the population grew outside the northeastern states, grocers and other businesses looked enviously at the annual tourist exodus to New England for Thanksgiving celebrations. These business people decided there was money to be made in persuading people to stay home for a holiday, and several states were persuaded to declare Thanksgiving Days of their own.

Now, do realize that President Washington had proclaimed a Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, Nov. 26, 1789, as a holiday to honor the adoption of the Constitution. Similarly, President Madison held a Thanksgiving Day, in 1815, to celebrate an end to the War of 1812.

In the midst of the Civil War and partly as a sign of unity, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, in 1863.

Regardless of what we eat for Thanksgiving, we have plenty to be thankful for. I am glad that a holiday was set up, in order that we could officially recognize our need to be thankful. We need to thank God for the country that we live in, for the freedom we enjoy, for the good healthy bodies that most of us have.

We tend to be spoiled in this modern age of convenience and think everything should be handed to us, with no trouble on our part. We enjoy the cheapest, most abundant food supply in the world, thanks to the farmers that we have. The quality and selection is the best and, by far, the cheapest, especially when you consider the income level that the average American enjoys.

Over the past year, many people have gone through things that made them realize that we take a lot for granted. The tornado in Hoisington upset the lives of many people locally. The events of Sept. 11, affected things worldwide.

Most of us, myself included, tend to complain about such trivial things as when our football team doesn't win.

We can be thankful that we have the ability to see, to hear and to walk. We can thank God for our children, for the falling leaves, the seasons, the sunsets, the mountains and the oceans. We can give thanks for clean water, clean air and wide open spaces.

Most of all, we can be thankful that we can worship God and have the opportunity to serve him and other people. Happy Thanksgiving!.

Wichita is playing host to a statewide Agriculture Users Computer Conference, Wednesday, Nov. 28, from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.

It will be held at the Sedgwick County Extension Center, located at the corner of 21st St. North and Ridge Road.

There will be a number of exhibitors of computer software. Presenters will be from K-State and various farmers. Those attending will be able to choose three sessions, from a number of choices.

Internet use for ag producers, making technology purchasing decisions, spreadsheets for analyzing lease agreements, using palm pilots in your operation, deciding which farm accounting software is right for you are just some of the choices.

Let me know if you would like a ride. The registration fee is $25 at the door or $20 in advance. We have brochures with details.

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