American society has constructed a number of traditions around the Thanksgiving holiday, many of which involve heartwarming stories about animals. One particularly inane tradition is the annual “Presidential pardon” for the White House Thanksgiving turkey. The President “pardons” the bird to great hoopla and approval – but what do they really eat for Thanksgiving dinner at the White House? In all the years since this travesty of a tradition began, does anyone suppose they don’t eat turkey anyway? What – did those birds fail to retain Hugh Rodham for pardon help?
Although Lincoln is usually credited with the first pardon at the behest of his son, the modern tradition began with President Kennedy in his first White House Thanksgiving. President George H.W. Bush later escalated the charade by issuing an “official” pardon to the bird, and each President since has felt obliged to do likewise.
A fine farce, since a fattened turkey cannot survive for long in any case – their weight is too much for their skeleton to support. So, it will end up being killed anyway, only as an “act of mercy” instead of for dinner. They could, I suppose, present the President with a lean wild bird instead, but these are notoriously difficult to capture and probably wouldn’t behave with grace at the post-pardon press conference. Besides, it’s a tradition to appease children and child-like voting adults, so who cares? Still, there is something missing from this heartwarming tale – guns and alcohol – to make it truly American.
In the movie The Christmas Story, at least a BB gun makes an appearance, and the dogs do wonders for Christmas dinner in bringing in the animal element, but it also lacks something. If the kid had found his way into The Old Man’s stash of homemade wine before taking his gun out to try, they might have had something going there. (The friend with the tongue on the frozen pole portrayed a fair approximation of adult drunken stupidity, though).
Leave it to Wisconsin to fill the void with the following charming holiday tale. After having no success all day at hunting but apparently better luck with drinking, a Wisconsin man demanded his wife bring him more beer. Being evidently bereft of holiday spirit and wifely devotion, she refused, so he naturally threatened to shoot their pet goats. The Associated Press has the rest:
The complaint said Mischler came home Saturday from hunting and became angry with his 22-year-old daughter for letting the goats out and making a mess. While she was talking on the phone to her mother, authorities said, he told her to tell his wife to bring home some beer, but his wife refused.
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After his wife arrived home, she and the daughter heard four gunshots and went outside and found one of the two goats with its entrails hanging out, authorities said.
The rest is at the link above. This story has it all – guns, beer, animals, drunk men and irritating women, law and order . . . there is a lesson here somewhere.
Perhaps we should let the Vice President get hammered and give him two shots at the National Thanksgiving Turkey on the White House lawn. If the turkey can dodge them, he goes free. This way we could add booze, guns and even a measure of meritocracy to a stupid tradition – not to mention it would make for more interesting television.