News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Breaking News

Mike Lunsford

November 29, 2010

The Off Season: Leftovers: Thoughts on Pilgrims, memories of family

TERRE HAUTE — You might think that the timing of this story is a bit off, being that it’s about Thanksgiving and all and we have now entered those frenzied and  commercialized weeks that lead us up to and include Christmas. We’ll soon be up to our eyeballs in “Early Bird” sales and “Musak” and mall Santas, but I figured most readers wouldn’t mind reading a little bit more about our day of thanks, especially seeing that it is now, unfortunately, often overshadowed and overlooked by things more pecuniary.

Surely, most of us know that the day we all call “Thanksgiving” was first proclaimed by William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony, after a particularly rough winter in 1621, although, like most historical events, even that is now in dispute. The Pilgrims had endured cold and deprivation that we can only imagine and had reaped a fine harvest that year. Only 53 of them to enjoy the feast that Bradford called for, even harder to imagine now in a day and age when we can turn a dial for extra heat, flip a switch for light and turn a tap for water.

The governor, “a person of a well-tempered spirit,” according to the great preacher, Cotton Mather, was only 31 years old when he issued his decree. But most folks don’t realize that he didn’t call for the same thing to happen in the next year, or even the next. The Pilgrims didn’t even call their day “Thanksgiving” at all, although that term was used for a celebrated day in 1623 after a providential rainfall. 

Several presidents, including George Washington, set aside days as one-time Thanksgivings, but it wasn’t until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln, undoubtedly searching for something to help unite his splintered citizenry, called for a national day of thanks, and he put it in writing. In part, he said, “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

I found the Pilgrims a rather humorless lot in grade school and junior high history, their “thees” and “thous” too stodgy and formal for my taste.  But, in fact, the Pilgrims were a gutsy and creative bunch who knew what great risks they were talking on when about 110 of them first boarded the Mayflower on their journey to the New World; for that, we have to admire them.     

I was obviously taught all about Bradford and the Pilgrims’ most fortunate partnership with Samoset and Squanto, their Native American friends. And I vaguely recall spending the days leading up to Thanksgiving in diligent labor at my desk, cutting and pasting together a turkey out of brown and red construction paper. The entire class’ turkeys would eventually adorn the walls outside our classroom door, waiting, of course, for the inevitable day when they’d face replacement by our crude snowmen and Christmas trees. My friends and I were a little intrigued by the Pilgrims’ blunderbusses and buckled shoes and apparent lack of interest in color, when in reality, at least two of those images are typical misconceptions.

My childhood Thanksgivings weren’t spent at a crude, open-air table eating corn meal and fish with a band of Wampanoags on hand, nor did we celebrate for three days, as the Pilgrims did (unless you count the turkey sandwiches we ate for a week afterward). Although we always spent most of Christmas Day at my Grandmother Blanche’s house just next door, we trekked the seven or eight miles over to my Grandmother Daisy’s place for Thanksgiving dinner.

My Grandfather Tommy — actually my step-grandpa — and my Grandma Daisy were an intriguing pair. Tommy always wore neatly pressed gray work clothes and a perfectly maintained fedora. He smoked Winstons and had a gold tooth and laughed easily, and we loved him for his quietness and simplicity, his impeccable, neatness and his appreciation for Perry Como and Patsy Cline records. My grandmother was a real study in psychology. She loved to wear house dresses and slippers, was psychotically clean and probably had about enough of the grandkids once they’d been in her house after 30 minutes or so. She was, however, one of the world’s great cooks, her table bejeweled with homemade pickles, juicy turkey and candied sweet potatoes.

My grandmother, with my mother’s able assistance, put on prodigious and memorable feasts. To this day, I have never tasted macaroni and cheese like hers; I have no idea what she did with it or to it that made it so unique, but whatever her recipe was, it went to the grave with her. 

It was in my grandparents’ tiny home near Burnett that we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in grainy black and white (my grandparents eventually owned a color television long before anyone else I knew), the huge Goofys and Donald Ducks yanking their tenders along in the breeze as Hugh Downs gave details. My grandmother’s clear glass coffee pot bubbled all day, and even a quick trip through her knotty pine-lined kitchen and its enticing aromas was a glorious preview of the meal to come.

Since we weren’t usually allowed in my grandparents’ bedroom, with the possible exception of putting our coats on her bed for the day, we spent most of our time in her living room, playing in the brick alcove near her spotlessly unused fireplace where firewood was supposed to be stored.  Her bedroom was particularly off limits to me; it was there that I had once spent a memorable afternoon playing, that is after I had locked my grandmother and sister out of the house while they’d gone to the clothesline.  I suppose we had argued about something.

I can still hear my grandmother vigorously rapping away on the rattling windows, telling me in a muffled voice through the glass that my grandpa would whip my 7-year-old backside unmercifully when he got home from work. I never had the nerve to tell her that when he took me outside to discipline me an hour or two later, that he let me ride on the back of his Rambler up their winding drive to get the evening newspaper, then drove me to a little country store in the tiny crossroads burg nearby to gab with a friend and drink Orange Crush. It remained forever our secret.

You know, I would hate to think that I am thankful for what I have on only one day out of the year, that I have so little in life that I can fit my gratitude for it into one brief space of time. If there’s anything the Pilgrims taught us, that the memories of my grandparents reinforce in me, it is that.

You can contact Mike Lunsford by email at or by writing to him c/o The Tribune-Star, PO Box 149, Terre Haute, IN 47808.  Read more of Mike’s stories at, and visit his website at  He will be speaking at the Parke County Extension Dinner in Rockville on Tuesday , and will be signing books at Kadel’s Hallmark at North Plaza on Dec.11.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Mike Lunsford
  • Turtle Hello.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Wet in Wyoming, wandering turtles and other tales of the road

    It is an odd thing, after all the miles I drove a few weeks ago — to the mountains of Wyoming and back again — that today I remember most of all stopping along the road in two places nearly 600 miles apart.

    July 6, 2014 2 Photos

  • Top of the World, Ma.jpg THE OFF SEASON: Go West, old man … there’s a world to see

    I am writing this story in the shadows of the Black Hills, nearly spitting distance from the rocky-pink Badlands through which I’ll drive today. My wife and I came here to see things only the American West could show us, and we have not been disappointed in the effort and the miles it took.

    June 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET060314 dandelionsblossom.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: It’s the true ‘face of spring’

    I’d be a liar if I said that I miss the yellow carpet of dandelions that dotted my front yard just a few weeks ago.

    June 8, 2014 2 Photos

  • Possum 3.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: A face only a mother could love

    It is fitting that Mother’s Day comes when it does, for spring is a maternal season, one for new beginnings, for birth and rebirth, for flowering and nurturing and caring.

    May 11, 2014 3 Photos

  • Kinsey 3.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Lasting beauty: Miss Kinsey’s forsythia

    It always seems like it’s Sunday when we notice Miss Kinsey’s forsythia. Joanie and I will be driving home from church, most often with our windows down so we can enjoy springtime breezes and smells.

    April 27, 2014 3 Photos

  • IMG_9352.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: One man’s trash is, well, another man’s trash

    Many people are growing weary of ecological doomsdayers, and if so, they are the folks most likely to tell us that Planet Earth isn’t in that bad of a shape, that it can repair itself, that new technologies just around the corner will solve our carbon emissions and greenhouse gases and oil consumption and the ever-growing pile of plastic in which we are drowning.

    April 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • Inscription 3.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: A book inscribed is surely a book treasured

    I don’t think it’s a secret that I value books as one of life’s great joys; “I am, therefore I read,” could be a T-shirt-worthy motto of mine.

    March 30, 2014 6 Photos

  • MIKE LUNSFORD: Something to crow about, as our neighbors return

    It is in the spring, I think, that I notice crows the most. They are noisy neighbors year-round, but they come calling (I resisted saying “cawing”) in early March in earnest, and they do so before the frogs on our pond and the buds on our trees make the new season official.

    March 16, 2014

  • Sworn In.jpg Author visits birthplace of Calvin Coolidge

    Editor’s Note: Today, in this seventh and final installment of Mike Lunsford’s “New England Journal,” the writer visits a small town in south central Vermont, birthplace of the nation’s 30th President, Calvin Coolidge. Be sure to look for Mike’s regular column in Monday’s edition of the Tribune-Star.

    March 16, 2014 12 Photos

  • Waiting for Spring.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: The long goodbye to winter

    I have no idea what the weather is to bring to us on the morning this story runs, but on the day I write most of it, the sun is shining, and we have just come off a weekend of pleasant warmth and cloudless skies.

    March 2, 2014 16 Photos

  • The Inlet at Thunder Hole.JPG Heaven on Earth: Writer gets lost — both figuratively and literally — at Acadia National Park

    Editor’s Note: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of a day hiking the Atlantic shoreline and the trails of Maine’s Acadia National Park.

    February 16, 2014 9 Photos

  • MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’

    I’ve been thankful this winter for a full propane tank and ample cold cranking amps and school snow-delay days that have kept me off the roads until the sun is up on the most frigid of these mornings.

    February 3, 2014

  • MET010714 lunsford art.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: The night the snow fell

    You would think that the cold winds and deep snows that we endured two weeks ago would be old news by now, but as I stood in the checkout line at a grocery store just a few days back, a gallon of milk in one hand and a quart of orange juice in the other, a customer just ahead of me appeared to be stocking up to make a run for the Donner Pass, and all she could talk about was the storm.

    January 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET010414 lunsford 2.jpg THE OFF SEASON: Seeing the miraculousness of the ordinary

    It was just a few nights ago that I announced to my wife that I was headed outside to watch the International Space Station pass overhead.

    January 5, 2014 2 Photos

  • Millay at Steepletop.jpg ‘Afternoon on a Hill’: The formal poet who led an informal life — Edna St. Vincent Millay

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of an afternoon exploring the rural gardens and home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay near Austerlitz, N.Y. Join Lunsford in February for the sixth installment of this series as he wanders along the wooded shorelines of Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park.

    January 5, 2014 6 Photos

  • MET121713 lunsford radio.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Lying by the warm radioside

    I am writing this piece well before Christmas Eve, although you wouldn’t think that it can be far away by the look of things out my windows tonight.

    December 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • MET120713lunsford.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘The mind is a dark forest’

    If you hadn’t noticed by reading this newspaper or hearing me crow about it myself, I have another collection of stories out in print.

    December 8, 2013 1 Photo

  • Beach Roses.JPG Walk of a Lifetime: Writer discovers views fit for a painting while walking the cliffs of Prout’s Neck, home to famous artist Winslow Homer’s seaside studio

    Editor’s Note: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of a day walking the Maine seacoast in search of the great artist, Winslow Homer. Join Mike in January for the fifth installment of this series as he visits Edna St. Vincent Millay’s rural New York farm, Steepletop.

    December 1, 2013 8 Photos

  • MET100913 woolybear.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Inching on toward a cold winter?

    I’m not ready for snow and ice and the daggers of a north wind, but I have finally accepted the fact that winter is nearly here.

    November 24, 2013 1 Photo

  • B Plot at Epinal France.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘I’m going simply because I’ve got to … ’

    Late in the year 1944, the great Hoosier war correspondent Ernie Pyle, mentally and physically exhausted from his months reporting from the battlefields of Europe, came home for the last time. He was scrawny and gray.

    November 11, 2013 4 Photos

  • Black Cat.JPG MIKE LUNSFORD: Pumpkins: Good for the fork and the (carving) knife

    My wife and I are fairly frugal; we are budgeters and planners. In the fall, we set aside what we’ll need to heat the house and pay the doctor and buy sensible shoes for school. I think we’re going to have to open an account for pumpkins, too.

    October 28, 2013 3 Photos

  • Stephen Kim 1.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Déjà vu, courtesy of violinist prodigy

    It’s been said that the longer married couples stay together, the more they begin to think alike. I can’t refute that, although, for my wife’s sake, I hope a similar theory — that they begin to look alike, too — is far from true.

    October 14, 2013 2 Photos

  • Harry Evans Bridge II.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: The beauty, spirit of a ‘lonely’ bridge

    It was the best kind of day a few Saturdays ago: not quite 70 degrees, a slight breeze from the northwest barely pushed flat-bottomed white clouds around in an otherwise blue sky.

    September 30, 2013 6 Photos

  • MET0909113goldenrod.jpg Mike Lunsford: The golden rods of September

    The sunflowers that are framed in my cabin’s eastside window are soon to become things of the past, for no matter how much I water and weed, the time has come for them to go.

    September 16, 2013 2 Photos

  • MET083013lunsford squirrel2.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: It isn’t the end but it is the beginning of the end …

    I had every intention of writing about Labor Day today; it has become a tradition of sorts for me because it seems as though my column and the holiday have an annual convergence. But as I thumbed through a number of other stories I’d written on the subject, I felt I had nothing new to say.

    September 2, 2013 1 Photo

  • tslunsford MIKE LUNSFORD: A long day’s journey into night

    We arrived at the sprawling hulk of a motel well after dark, the parking lot pitch black except for a few spots illuminated by flickering blue lights that hummed a monotonous tune.

    August 19, 2013 1 Photo

  • Beulah Gravestone.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Searching for Beulah Jane

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s Mike Lunsford column is the second in a two-part story on his search to solve a family mystery. Part 1 was published in Monday’s Tribune-Star. Both are available at

    August 6, 2013 2 Photos 1 Story

  • MIKE LUNSFORD: The girl who wasn’t my grandmother

    EDITOR’S NOTE: We travel this week with Mike Lunsford on a journey across miles and memories, as he seeks answers to a long-ago family mystery. Today’s column is the first of a two-part story. Part II will run Tuesday.

    August 5, 2013 1 Story

  • A Sailboat on the Lake.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘Once more to the lake…’

    We are heading home today after spending a few days on Lake Michigan, and I am a bit sad for the leaving. We have made it a habit to come here every year, dragging weary bones and beach towels and enough breakfast food to last us a week. And, as expected, when I turn my back on the cool blueness of the lake for the last time this afternoon, I’ll know that another year has gone by, and there’s no getting it back.

    July 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • Frost Writing C…Near Ripton.jpg Poets at heart, writer, wife walk paths that Frost walked

    A few summers ago, my family traveled to New England to see what we could see. Along the way, we dipped our toes into Walden Pond, holy waters to those who have read Henry David Thoreau. My wife and I returned to the region last month to seek shrines that poets at heart revere: the Vermont homes where Robert Frost wrote magical words.

    July 21, 2013 7 Photos

Latest News Poll
AP Video
Robot Writes Jewish Torah Scroll Joy Fills Streets of Cleveland As LeBron Returns Bull Run Comes to Middle America Space Station Shipment Launched From Virginia Raw: Divers, Snorkelers at Undersea 'Concert' Wisconsin Cop Ready to Roll...On Skateboard Israel Deploys Ground Troops to Gaza Strip Giant Whale Vacuumed in New York City Raw: Australia Hosts Annual Beer Can Regatta Lightning Kills Two in National Park in Colorado Texas Shooting Suspect Collapses in Court Hamburger Champion Downs 26 Burgers Ana Ortiz on 'Devious Maids' Finale Raw: Truck Crash Spills Turkeys on Va. Highway Raw: Stunning Timelapse of WC Final Host City Diaz and Segel Strip Off for 'Sex Tape' Proposed Bill to Regulate NY Costumed Characters One Dead, 19 Injured in Greyhound Bus Crash WH: LeBron's Move a 'Powerful Statement' Soft Robot Fish Lead New Wave of Robotics
NDN Video
Germany Wins The 2014 FIFA World Cup!!! RAW VIDEO: Stampede injures ten at Georgia World Congress Center Cellphone Video Shows Assault Tracy Morgan released from rehab month after crash LeBron: Move Back to Cleveland 'Exciting' Cleveland welcomes home LeBron Houston Killer Collapses in Court When Read Capital Murder Charges for Allegedly Killing Family of Six Worst Valet Ever Wrecks $500K Lamborghini Glee Star Becca Tobin's Boyfriend Matt Bendik Found Dead in Hotel Aerial fish restocking in Utah ScarJo Channels Marilyn Monroe Obama Responds to Hecklers on Immigration Tiny Hamsters Who Ate Burritos are Back for a Tiny Hedgehog's Party Watch Kelly Ripa Get Soaked! 'Referee' Hands Out Yellow Cards for Social Faux Pas in NYC 2014 Emmy Nominees: 8 Snub Shockers Emma Watson Is Va-Va-Voom in Valentino 7 Infamous Sports Blowouts Argentina tops Holland in World Cup semifinals News flush: Japanese toilet exhibition making a splash

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010