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Chuck Hinman: IJM. A Memorable Hinman Thanksgiving

A Memorable Hinman Thanksgiving. This is Chuck Hinman's classic account of Thanksgiving 1933 in which he describes shucking corn, trading eggs for groceries, the special treat of raisins and celery, the stranger sharing the feast, and seeing a Marx brothers movie.
Read more stories by this author in Chuck Hinman - Reminiscences

By Chuck Hinman

A Memorable Hinman Thanksgiving

When Thanksgiving rolled around in 1933, I was a eleven-year old boy, growing up on a Nebraska farm. The famed stock-market crash of 1929 had not much immediate effect on our life. My dad had a few gold certificates which become worthless but no big deal. What did 'do him in' and other farmers, was the combination of the stock market crash or depression and a succession of years of various weather and insect plagues. All Hell seemed to have broken loose and there was no relief in between disasters. It was heartbreaking and scary times, nothing before like it!

Trading of eggs by farmwives provided cash flow

Life became complicated for parents trying to eke out an existence. For many, in the absence of cash producing crops in either the early summer or fall, or both, the only cash flow was created by a farmwife's weekly 'trading of eggs' on Saturday nights for groceries. She learned to be a real magician managing her meager cash flow.

That income source plus food products either canned during the summer, or stored in food cellars, combined with butchered livestock was the only thing standing between living and near starvation. It was a tough time for my generation's parents. Moms and dads became very ingenious in the new art of 'making do.'

Harvesting the corn by shucking it

Such was our life at Thanksgiving time in 1933. Fortunately there was a corn crop, small as it was, to be harvested.

Corn was harvested by 'shucking' the corn. It took days of going to the fields, a team of horses drawing the farm wagon, with bang board attached and a farmer and such of his family members available shucking the corn, throwing the ears in the wagon, and shoveling them in the granary at noon and in the evening. It was a slow, boring, time-consuming job.

Thanksgiving, when school was out, was a good time for my dad to get the extra help of his two sons, Bob and me, to harvest four rows at a time rather than two.

Work to be done on Thanksgiving morning 1933

So, on Thanksgiving morning 1933, Dad, brother Bob, and I headed for the cornfield riding in the wagon pulled by our faithful team of horses, Dick and Diamond. It was a brisk cold morning. You could see the breath of the horses, of Dad, of Bob, and my own. We were dressed warm, with long winter underwear, flannel shirts inside bib-overalls, and heavy winter-type flannel lined denim jackets. And oh, yes a warm over-your-ears knit cap. Standard equipment which we were putting on as we rode to the field was shucking gloves with a husking peg strapped to our 'husking' hand (over the glove).

Of course, Sport our collie dog was running like a crazy nut barking at everything -- his breath also showing on this crisp Nebraska morning. Sometimes his interest was diverted by a jackrabbit or cottontail. Eventually Sport would catch up with us!

By mid-morning you could see the ears of corn stacking up in the wagon and by noon the wagon was full. We rode on top the corn on our way to the granary to unload the corn and eat a hearty dinner prepared by Mom. It took perhaps half an hour to shovel the accumulated corn into the granary after which we headed for the house to see what Mom and baby sister Joy Ann had cooked for us 'men'!

Thanksgiving Day was special: raisins, celery, and a movie

Today was special because it was Thanksgiving and that wasn't just an ordinary day for the Hinmans! No siree Bob -- we had pride, and Mom by careful maneuvering of the egg money the previous Saturday night had managed to provide something special! She managed so she could buy a bag of raisins and a stalk of celery -- something special for us. Doesn't seem like much as I write this -- seventy some years later, but believe me it was special that day! God is so good!

Not only that, she had managed so that Thanksgiving eve, by doing the chores early we could go to a movie in Wymore at the glamorous Lyric Theater with thousands of glittering marquee lights. Wowzee! It doesn't get much better than that! There was even money for a five cent bag of buttered popcorn. Mom, you are a genius!

For Thanksgiving dinner, Mom had selected a setting hen, one whose laying days were over, for this special feast. When we came in from shucking corn, the kitchen was ablaze with the delicious smell of that hen roasting in the oven, stuffed with sage dressing like only Mom could make! Somewhere she had learned that raisins added to the dressing was a special treat. Of course she had the usual mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, and creamed turnips from the root cellar. And new to our table was some celery like only rich people could afford -- not the Hinmans. And of course there was a fresh baked cherry pie already cut and on the table so that Dad as his tradition was, ate his pie first. Oh yes, and there was always home baked bread with our own mill ground flour and fresh churned butter. Make your mouth drool?

A knock at the door as the meal began

Just as we sat down to eat, there was a knock at the back door. Dad went to see who it was and returned with a total stranger, a man, a vagrant. It wasn't unusual in those days for vagrants to roam the country roads asking for a handout of food. Dad announced that Mr. Fred Roberts was going to join us for dinner. Mom scurried to get another place setting on the table and in minutes Dad offered the blessing --
"Heavenly Father, thank you for your watch care over us during this past year and I thank you for providing our needs, not our wants. Thank you for bringing Mr. Roberts to our door to be our guest today and I ask that you bless this food in our bodies for thy service. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen."
The stranger at the feast

The food was wonderful. Everyone, including Mr. Roberts, dug in to what was nearest them and then passed it on. We knew from previous 'guests' that it was unnecessary to know anything about Mr. Roberts. We didn't ask and he didn't tell. He had a need.

If Dad had inquired, it would have been the same -- "...he had fallen on some hard times." My dad's response would have been -- "Except for the grace of God -- I could be walking the roads as you are, Mr. Roberts." Eat up!

Everyone, including our guest, seemed to be enjoying Mom's cooking expertise.

A real treat: seeing Duck Soup at the Lyric Theater

As we were finishing our dessert, Mom reminded Dad that she had enough money from the grocery shopping so that we could go to the movie "Duck Soup" featuring the Marx Brothers -- all four of them, Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo. It was supposed to be one of their funniest shows!

All three of us kids broke out in a simultaneous cheer for Mom. She's a honey!

Chuck trades work with his mom

Mom also reminded Dad he would need to come in from the field early, so we could get the milking done and get to the show on time. Mom then began to sigh that she didn't know whether she felt up to cleaning up the dishes and the kitchen from the Thanksgiving food preparation! Quick as a wink, I made a deal with her. I said "If you will shuck corn in my place this afternoon, I will put the food away and clean up the dishes and get the cows in ready to begin milking when the rest of you get in from shucking corn."

Mom instantly said, "You've got a deal!" I can't remember if we gave each other a high five or not. It would have been appropriate in this day and age!

Mom quickly made Mr. Roberts a chicken sandwich and placed it in a box along with some celery and an apple as she shook his hand and said, "Thank you Mr. Roberts for sharing Thanksgiving with us."

The rest of the day

The rest of the day went as planned. Mom, Dad, and Bob headed for the field to bring in some more corn, while I tidied up the kitchen and got the cows in. Mr. Roberts returned to the road carrying the box lunch Mom had prepared for him.

The show was wonderful. As I drifted off to sleep that night I couldn't help even as an eleven year old lad being thankful to God for such a wonderful family and home, "You are so good to us God. Bless Mr. Roberts wherever he is tonight."


Written by Chuck Hinman, Tallgrass Estates, Bartlesville, OK, 2005. This piece is included in It's Just Me, a collection of seventy-five stories, self-published in 2005.

Editorial Note: This was the first Chuck Hinman story I ever saw. I wrote to him about it and received a reply on 25 November 2006. RHS.
A message from Chuck about his writings

Hi Robert, yes, you are welcome to circulate my stories to your friends.

I am an 84 year old widower living in an assisted living residence here in Bartlesville. I have been here since my wife's death in 2002. I never wrote before but found when writing a few memories for my kids to have when I am 'out of here' that I loved writing. At the encouragement of a few friends, those few memories were put in a book It's Just Me that I self published last year with the invaluable help of a professional typesetter friend in North Carolina.

I love writing but have little interest in the publishing side.

The book has 75 stories including the Thanksgiving piece. I have around 85 stories written since It's Just Me in limbo awaiting a decision as to their destination other than for my family's interest about what made the old man tick.

Currently my effort rather than going the difficult (for me) publishing route is to circulate the stories to friends who have indicated an interest in my life. I have about 80 friends like long time friend Ruth Weldon to whom I email my stories hot off the press. Other than that I put a copy on each of the 113 apartment doors here at Tallgrass Estates where there is substantial interest -- I write of things of which our residents are familiar.

Last week, our manager told me the headquarters office in Medford, Oregon, indicated an interest in publishing some of my stuff in their monthly publication "la Premier" for distribution to their 270 facilities like ours around the world. Each of those facilities is jam-packed with old codgers like me that spend their days reminiscing the old days of which I am familiar and like to write.

This is the long answer to your question concerning 'when' I wrote the Thanksgiving piece. I wrote it last year but resurrected it for its topical interest a few weeks ago.

Thanks for your interest. That's what dogs on the next story, the subject of which I haven't a clue.

Have a nice day,
Chuck Hinman
Editorial Note: Duck Soup was first released theatrically by Paramount Pictures on November 17, 1933, so it was a 'new' movie when Chcuk saw it. - RHS

This story was posted on 2014-11-27 03:42:33
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