Thanksgiving 2011 already kicked off with a twist, as we forfeited our typical hosting duties due to the closure of the hotel for renovations. This year, we hit the road to Jeff City; Emerilized Green Bean Casserole in hand, to share the holidays with Keith's family on a perfectly beautiful day.
That twist, we would soon discover, apparently sent Turkey Day into a Bizarro World tizzy. Our good-natured holiday intention was to come share a meal with the family and then encourage them toward a viewing of the new Muppets movie. That quaint, idyllic portrait of how the holiday should go would soon be literally blown away.
Once united at Keith's parent's home, we were soon off to the first adventure: four-wheeling with the kids. My first run with Tanner would literally send us careening over hill and dale and soon submerge us in a creek that was a tad bit deeper than anticipated. Eight-year-old Tanner proved quite adept at meeting the challenge and gunned us out and up the hill, where I would discover that my shoes and pant-legs were soaked. Whoo-hoo! Back at the house, we indulged in a few low-key moments....Sierra showing off her new cash register and "credit card" and the kids giving us awesome, handmade Thanksgiving presents.
Soon, I changed into sweats and new socks and found that we were off to the next afternoon activity: target practice. Uh....what? Kim and Dave had taken the conceal-and-carry class previously and had suggested some target practice in the field behind the garage. Out strolls Kenny wearing his holsters and bearing boxes of ammo. I was feeling a very heady mix of jangled nerves and strange fascination. For a guy who's typically of a more laid-back, non-violent nature, I have always been weirdly intrigued by weaponry of all sorts; both modern and archaic. I love to look at various weapons but my own personal history with them is muted. Dad took me hunting a couple of times and actually bought me a .22 shotgun that I practiced with every now and then. I didn't stick with it; sold the gun and maintained a mild wonder about weapons from then on. Having also been mugged once, I understand the violent potential weapons carry as far as criminal usage is concerned. Needless to say, when guns are brought out, I have a healthy dose of respect for them and not a little fear. This clearly was not the afternoon to bow to fear, however...
Dave, Kim, Ken and even Helen took their turns with the guns available: Dave and Kim brought their cocky-looking Glock and Ken provided .22 pistols among other guns to try out. I waited until the end and started off with the .22; earplugs firmly placed and hands shaking. It's an odd, slightly eerie and vaguely powerful feeling to shoot a gun. The noise, the recoil, the resounding echo, the shell going airborne, the residual vibration in your arm, the heady scent of gunpowder...it all combines into a serious rush. Well, I may have felt a rush but that didn't do a damn thing for my aim. Dave's an awesome instructor but clearly I need practice and the ability to just relax with shooting...out of multiple rounds with three different guns, I only hit the bullseye once. Keith, on the other hand, stepped up to the plate and displayed some seriously impressive shooting. It literally seemed a scene out of a movie, as minutes after claiming to have never fired a pistol, he shoots round after round into the bullseye. He just grins and apologizes for never having mentioned his secret agent past. When the inevitable zombie apocalypse happens, I have a newly-found sense of calm as I have been apparently living with Dirty Harry the past 12 years.
After another four-wheeling trip with the kids, we finally gave the adrenaline rushes a break....sort of. Even the turkey prep was a little concerning as this year the bird would be deep-fried. This was clearly not Ken's first trip to the deep-fried rodeo, though. He and Dave know the pitfalls to avoid like too much water in the bird or too much oil in the fryer....which is good since it WAS fried on a wooden deck. We even coerced Helen into eating in the actual dining room as opposed to the kitchen...a first for Dave and I both. The meal was a joy from start to finish....Helen's mashed potatoes, Dave and Kim's hearty cornbread stuffing and creamy pumpkin cheesecake with Grand Marnier-spiked cranberry topping and Keith's spicy green-bean casserole were all so delicious. Helen's cranberry sauce was a treat, as well, but not as much of a treat as watching her squirm when we got her to admit that it was deli-bought. That deep-fried bird, though, was an addictive revelation....crispy skin and incredibly juicy meat...Wow. So, so good. We weren't long for the world after that meal.
It was a joyful adrenaline rush of a day; one to put various safety advocates in a state of paralysis. Whatever, Martha....it was a whiz-bang of a holiday. One that even included an impromptu performance by the kids as evidenced in the following video. I'm thankful for a holiday with loved ones that was one for the record books.