Thanksgiving’s Saturday-Second Draft
Some people have nice houses, luxury cars or designer clothes and some people have camps; not many people can afford both. We have a camp. The Far Red is our family shared hunting camp situated in the boonies of Northern Ontario. Approximately 50 kilometers North East of Nairn Centre, a small rural community outside of my hometown, the Far Red sits on the edge of John’s Creek: a small but fast moving river that flows along the coast of the wilderness leading to Agnew Lake. The camp is perched upon dark rock and is surrounded by mossy mountains and tall coniferous trees. The old pine logs of the camp are dressed in vibrant red, making it stand out in the heart of the great outdoors. Although the Far Red is a beautiful sight to see it is not the only reason that it is such a significant part of our family history.
In the Leson, family tradition matters. That’s why the Saturday of Thanksgiving each year is spent at our hunt camp. Since the year my grandfather built the Far Red in 1953, our whole family has been gathering at this family monument to celebrate and be thankful together. Because of this the Far Red has become accustomed to holding large crowds. The more the merrier is the Leson moto as aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, spouses and dogs come together. As most of our family members live in different parts of Ontario, there is great distance between us and most of us only see each other once a year, at Thanksgiving, so this holiday is especially important to our family, and this year was no different.
This Thanksgiving’s Saturday began with the hour drive out to camp; the time passed quickly as I took in the views of the old, winding dirt road and the tall, majestic maple and oak trees, that were at the peak of their transformation. The leaves paraded their bold shades of red and orange as they swirl around the speeding truck; we drove fast, the car was eager with laughter and song. The excitement was building.
As we pulled up to the cabin we were greeted with loud barking hellos from the yellow labs and the warm smiles of family. Drinks were poured, hugs were shared. After the bombardment of hellos and how are you’s, my aunts took initiative and decided it was time for the best part of our Thanksgiving celebration: the jeep ride. Our old, mint green Willy Jeep is a family heirloom and was passed down from my great grandfather, who served as a sniper in the second world war, to my two uncles. The jeep is kept at the camp and is used exclusively for our annual Thanksgiving adventures. Before we left, my uncle Bob, the hunter of the family, pulled out a ginormous bin of old, ugly hunting vests, jackets and hats. Another Leson family tradition is sporting raggedy, old hunting gear during the jeep ride. Not only does it keep us all warm but it provides a little extra humour and character to the family photos we took later on.
Once everyone was dressed and ready to go, we piled into the old willy jeep. Those who couldn’t fit into the crammed jeep took quads, dirt bikes or side-by-sides. With several loud honks on the jeep horn, we were summoned to start the journey! We took off down the old dirt road, bumping up and down on the hard metal seats of the jeep to explore the rugged, colorful land. The roads surrounding the Far Red are unkempt forcing us to drive slowly and enjoy the scenery; no one complained. We stopped to visit the old mining sites filled with sand dunes and broken down concrete buildings. The ancient, abandoned trappers’ cabin by Hunter lake is where we stopped to take a couple family photos. As we approached the site, the lake glistened in the sun and the dogs raced into the water before we could even step out of the jeep. On the edge of the lake we shared beer and discussed past Thanksgiving memories. Soon enough it was six o’clock and we knew dinner would be ready soon; we started back to camp. The aroma of deep fried turkeys greeted us.
As a big family we eat a lot of food, so each family is required to bring their contribution to Thanksgiving dinner. Every year my parents, brother and I bring the cooked and carved turkeys for dinner, however, since we recently moved we didn’t have an oven to cook the turkeys. Consequently, our tradition of oven seared turkey changed; the turkeys would be deep fried. All of us helped out to set the tables, one adult table and one table for the young people. By six thirty the table was filled with turkey, mashed potato, gravy, turnip, roasted carrots, peppers and sausage, sweet potato casserole, warm buns and cranberry sauce. We were finally ready to eat.
As a Christian family we always start our meals with a prayer. This year was no different. We gathered around the camp and joined hands as my uncle Bob, the oldest man of the family, thanked God for the time we had together and for the delicious dinner we were about to eat. We all agreed “Amen” and sat down to eat. Dinner was great and there was even enough for me to bring leftovers back to school with me. After a big filling dinner comes more food: homemade pumpkin pie. Although everyone enjoys pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, my Auntie Sandra makes the best. The pie crust is always crisp and the pumpkin filling is sweet and tender and on top is a generous scoop of whipped cream. YUM! As we ate our pie we sat around the tables altogether and drank coffee and caught up on the latest ups and downs of each others’ lives. After spending so much time apart, we miss out on many significant moments within each others’ lives, so we make sure to catch up on every detail. After visiting for a couple hours the turkey coma began to strike and my parents decided it was time to head home.
As my dad and brother loaded up the truck, I made my way around the room giving hugs and kisses and saying my goodbyes to my loved ones; “see you at Christmas” was a common farewell. As we got in the truck and pulled away from the Far Red I couldn’t help but be thankful for all of my loving and supportive family and for this special place that holds so dear to all of us. I closed my eyes and let my mind wander to what next year’s Thanksgiving might have in store.