Turkey Thanksgiving

It’s the week of Thanksgiving again in Floyd County. The leaves have long-since changed from green to burnt orange, and are transitioning to crinkled and brown. There’s a chill in the air and many mornings, frost in our front lawns and making our car windshields opaque. Many of us are looking toward family celebrations on Thursday and beyond with anticipation, anxious to spend time among loved ones in warm houses with delicious food.

When it comes to the reason for the season, no one can explain our annual ritual of giving thanks better than local kids. While it’s true that “kids say the darndest things,” they also have a special talent for getting at the core of an issue—for speaking up with wisdom and clarity. So, The Floyd Press decided to ask first through third graders at Floyd County elementary schools some questions about Thanksgiving—why and how we celebrate, what we like to eat, and most importantly, how to cook a turkey.

While some students, like Check Elementary third-grader Brody, could easily recite our traditional Thanksgiving narrative, even those students who couldn’t seemed to understand the spirit behind the holiday—family and good food. As Brody was eager to explain, “The Native Americans taught the pilgrims to make food…they taught them how to plant fishes, make food, and we celebrate Thanksgiving so we know about them.”

Dylan, a third grader at Floyd Elementary, offered a similar explanation for the holiday: “The pilgrims settled and had a big supper to appreciate the land they had.” And Anakin, a first grade student at Floyd Elementary, shared the same familiar story, with a local twist. “When the other people traveled here from England to Floyd,” he said, “They had to learn how to get along.”

Who decided that we get to celebrate Thanksgiving every year? “Pretty much, I think, the President,” explained Indian Valley second-grader Ryder.

Other students offered more philosophical than factual explanations for the holiday. Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? “Because it’s thanks for Jesus,” said Check first-grader Sadie. Her classmate quickly added, “And God.”

“It’s about family and people you love,” Leah, a first grade student at Indian Valley, said. “It’s for giving thanks and having family time,” said Julia, a second grader at Willis Elementary. Her classmate Haley added, “It’s so we can get together with our families. And eat.”

The food! A clear and crucial part of any successful Thanksgiving celebration. When asked what they most liked to eat on Thanksgiving, the students mostly stuck with well-loved standbys: turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, squash and stuffing. Easton, a third-grader at Check, settled on pumpkin pie as his favorite after lamenting, “I like cherry pie, but cherry pies are expensive.” As for things he looked forward to this Thanksgiving, he said, “I just hope I can shoot a turkey.”

Abel, a first-grade student at Floyd Elementary, expressed enthusiasm for helping with meal preparations. “Whenever I can help cook, I will,” he said. “I like eating some of it while I’m cooking it.” Braxton, a second-grader at Indian Valley Elementary, spoke with disdain of the hypothetical menu at the first Thanksgiving. “The only thing I like that they grew is green beans…but mostly, I eat shrimp poppers.” Another unusual answer on the typical Thanksgiving fare came from Shaylee, a kindergartner at Willis. “We go to my family’s, and have mac and cheese and pizza,” Shaylee said. Her favorite food, however, is the classic mashed potatoes. Riley, a second-grader at Check, said she doesn’t know what she’ll eat this Thanksgiving. “I don’t know what I’m getting, because we’re going to Ray’s,” she explained.

And what are local students thankful for this year? It turns out—mostly the little things. Top answers included family members, pets and food. Willis Elementary second-grader Haley said she’s thankful “that I have a family that really cares about me—a Beagle, two cats, and cows and chickens.” Her classmate Kenzie offered, “I’m thankful for the stuff that I have, and the stuff that I need getting taken care of. I’m thankful for the place that I live, so I don’t have to live in the woods.”

Richard, who is in kindergarten at Willis, said he’s thankful for “my grandpa, because he’s nice.” Eli, a first grader at Check, said he was thankful simply for “ham,” while his classmate Madison took a much broader view. “I’m thankful for everything. Even when it’s not Thanksgiving,” she said. Bentley, another first grade student, said he was thankful for “the Universe.” And the intergalactic gratitude didn’t stop in Check. Macy, a second grade student at Floyd Elementary, said she was thankful for “my friends, my family, and everyone in the whole Universe, even aliens.”

Jasie, a second grade student at Indian Valley, said she was thankful for everything she had, because “if I woke up without it, it would be kind of scary.”

Kallen, a kindergartner at Willis Elementary, said he was thankful for “being at school—the stuff we do, just everything about it.” Dylan, who’s in third grade at Floyd Elementary, said he’s simply grateful his “creek didn’t dry up.” His classmate Jax expressed thanks for his family’s tradition of fishing together each year, for the fishing gear they use, and for dirt bikes.

The toughest question of this holiday-themed interview was this: How do you cook a turkey? Here are some of the best (if not the most advisable) recipes for turkey that local students offered.

1. Get it out of the freezer

2. Preheat the oven to 80 degrees

3. Cook for one hour

-Haley, grade 2

1. Get all the guts out.

2. Clean it and put it in the roaster.

3. Use 100% heat for maybe 20 minutes.

-Julia, grade 2

Shaylee suggested that she would “pick it out at the store, then bake it in the oven for 16 minutes.”

“You could do half an hour in the microwave,” offered Oak, a second-grade student at Floyd Elementary. “But it’d probably bust!” his classmate Macy quickly interjected.

According to Brody, “You could take it outside and leave it in the sun—the pilgrims did it because they didn’t have electricity." Classmate Easton agreed you could cook a turkey outside, but you’d have to build a fire, put a stick through the turkey and “turn it like a marshmallow.”

Willis kindergartner Luke suggested that as long as you “pick all the feathers off,” a turkey could be cooked at zero degrees. Classmate Richard said it would need to be “put in the stove at five degrees,” but “not for that long.”

Eli, a first grade student at Check, was defeated by the question, saying it takes “probably thirty hours” to cook a turkey, and that “my mom makes it.” Jakob, an Indian Valley second-grader, offered the simplest solution: “I usually get mine at Kroger or Food Lion.”

However you cook your turkey, whoever you celebrate with, and wherever you hold your meal, it’s clear that the most important part of Thanksgiving is expressing gratitude with close friends and full bellies.

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