As tradition goes in my family, every year friends and relatives descend on my house for Turkey Day, and more importantly for most of them, hunting season.
They never come empty handed — most show up on the doorstep with pies of every variety imaginable, at least one of these from each family would be pumpkin.
My grandmother pointed out one year that, for some reason, it never mattered how many pumpkin pies scattered the counter at my house, there never seems to be enough that everyone gets as much as one piece.
Each Thanksgiving morning — no less than an hour before the crack of dawn — the house would be filled with the sounds of several sleepy hunters coming downstairs, filling themselves with coffee, putting on their layers of camouflage and heading up the hill to deer camp. My grandmother could be heard yelled at them for hoarding the pies at our hunting camp, located about a mile up a steep, rocky, winding road meant for four-wheelers, or at least 4-wheel drive trucks.
Most of the hunters seem to look forward to the season the entire year, even if they don’t get a deer. I don’t see the appeal of sitting in the cold, damp woods for hours at a time. As the saying goes, ‘There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot,’ same goes for hunting in my book.
Meanwhile — once the men start their adventure — the women stay at home and begin to cook the annual feast. By noon, the turkey has been in the oven for several hours and the side dishes are waiting to be heated. We take the break in the action to visit, play cards and finish off the better part of a box of wine — nothing but the best for my family.
It was about this time of the day last year I revealed a secret I had been keeping from my family for nearly 10 years — the fate of the missing pumpkin pies.
You see, a great uncle of mine who happened to be quite ill, asked his wife to bring him a slice of pumpkin pie before bed. That pumpkin pie would prove to be the last thing he ever ate.
Some years later, on a night in April, my grandfather requested pumpkin pie to go with dinner, he passed away in his sleep that night.
I realized that connection as a sophomore in high school. After that, I made it my personal Turkey Day mission to rid the house of killer pumpkin pies, keeping my loved ones safe and sound in the process.
Each day leading up to, and including Thanksgiving Day, I would sneak out of the house as quietly as I could when everyone’s backs were turned, grab a pie or two… or three, go outside and dump them on the ground behind the barn.
This went on for four or five years, but I didn’t come clean to my family until nearly a dozen years later.
When I finally worked up the courage to tell them the fate of the missing pies, the looks on the faces of the women in my family were priceless. There was a small part of me that was a bit afraid they would be mad at me for turning hours of their hard work into a gourmet feast for the raccoons, deer, and the occasional bear, but they all just started laughing hysterically, tears running down their faces (and legs).
I’m still waiting for the gratitude, after all, prove to me I haven’t been saving their lives all these years.
We no longer own the family farm and our normal Thanksgiving crew will be spread all over the country for the holiday. My grandma has promised to throw a pie off the back porch to keep the family safe.
I’ve asked a friend to swing by the old farm in New York with a few store-bought pumpkin pies so the animals can have another feast.
After all, it’s tradition.
This post was originally published in Hornell, N.Y. Based Evening Tribune, http://www.eveningtribune.com