We Christians believe that we have a benevolent God to whom we should give thanks, and every other religion is free to give thanks to whatever god they choose to believe in.
In addition, Thanksgiving emphasizes the extent to which we are still dependent upon nature for our very survival, and secondly, the extent to which Thanksgiving has been a family-oriented holiday.
As we become more and more urbanized as a nation, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to see how dependent we are on the whims of nature. Most of us, if we really wanted to, could sit down to a plentiful meal at almost any time of the year.
But those first Americans could only experience the benefits of nature’s bounty in the fall, when the crops became ripe and the game was getting fat in preparation for winter.
Anglers and hunters are probably far more aware of our inextricable ties to nature than “normal” urban dwellers. Yet, at least once a year, the rest of the populace gets a tiny bit of exposure that may help them to understand that we outdoors enthusiasts are simply seeking to be a small part of the natural scheme of things, not trying to destroy it.
If Thanksgiving served no other purpose than to promote tolerance of the outdoor ethic, it would be a most valuable holiday indeed.
The family nature of Thanksgiving is pretty well accepted by most. After all, when was the last time you went to a company Thanksgiving party? As is no doubt true for many families, Thanksgiving for me always provided an opportunity for family members to gather from far and wide on at least one day of the year and maintain and re-establish old family ties.
I don’t quite know how it evolved, but our family somehow developed a tradition of going outdoors in the late afternoon hours to work off the lethargy brought on by overindulgence in assorted foods.
Usually it was pheasant season, and of course rabbits and squirrels were fair game, too. If we were lucky, we would get a few shots and maybe even return with a pair of pheasants, or a rabbit or two for the pot.
Mostly what we got was a lot of camaraderie, and yet another retelling of Grandpa’s hunting tales of years gone by. We all knew by heart the story of how Grandpa went out duck hunting with only two shotgun shells and returned with four ducks — or was it five? We all knew equally well how Grandpa began tracking one bear in the snow and it was joined by another bear and another and yet another, until Grandpa finally decided he didn’t want to have to take on multiple bears with a single shotgun.
When I look back, I think that it was really immaterial how many, if any, creatures we brought home. What was important was that at least once a year, we got to participate in a familial passing of traditions and values from one generation to another, and yet another.
I, for one, am grateful for a host of blessings, but especially that we have an opportunity to gather together and give thanks to our God, however we perceive him, and for the blessings he has given us.
I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that we have the opportunity to fish in clean waters and hunt for wild game. I’m thankful for all of the generations who have been able to pass along such traditions, and who hopefully will be able to do so for many generations to come.
It is my sincere hope that you, too, will have so much to be grateful for.
Until next week, tight lines.
• Don Moyer, author and outdoors columnist for the Tracy Press, began writing Tight Lines more than three decades ago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.