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Texans Celebrate Thanksgiving With the 4 Fs: Family, Friends, Food, and Football!

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The days are getting shorter. The leaves on the trees are turning beautiful shades of burnt orange, maroon, gold and plum. The election season is finally over, too. The temperature has dropped below 80 in Texas. For me, it is the best time of the year. Time to concentrate on the 4 Fs for the remaining weeks of the year: Family, Friends, Food, and, of course, Football.

Bountiful Feast

Pecan pie topped with dollop of whipped cream

Thanksgiving is all about the 4 Fs in Texas. Our turkeys are roasted, unless you are tailgating for the holiday. That bird is deep-fried in a propane cooker on asphalt in the parking lot. Our dressing is always cornbread (no exceptions). Our pie of choice is pecan (all 900 calories a slice!) 

Our main Thanksgiving meal is arranged around "the game," or, in North Texas,  "the games."  True Texas chefs will time the turkey so it ends up coming out of the oven roasted to perfection between the Cowboys' game at noon on Thanksgiving, and the main attraction, Texas vs. Texas A & M.  We superfans give thanks at odd times, mostly between quarters and at half-times.  A sit-down feast can be sandwiched in at 4:15, which accommodates both the networks and families.  

All Texas homes are open on the holiday for family and friends, both new and old. If you have ever been stranded and away from your nuclear family during a holiday, a Texas home is the place to be. We are all about tradition in food and fun. My first holiday away from home found me at my fiancée's home. My now mother-in-law asked if there was anything special she could make me for the dinner so I would feel at home. I asked for wild rice. My future husband didn't say a word; he just gave me an odd look.

Hold the gravy 

Later that day, I almost cancelled our wedding over the gravy, which wasn't silky and smooth, but chunky, with giblets and pieces of boiled egg.  Sorry, but I am just not from a giblet-eating kind of family.  I said to myself, "How could this marriage ever work?"  Fortunately, I calmed down when I realized the gravy was my husband's beloved grandparents' favorite part of the meal!  So, you see, traditions can take some odd twists and turns every now and then.  My son, for instance, insists on lemon meringue pie.  Perhaps not something in a Norman Rockwell painting of the perfect Thanksgiving, but every family makes the holiday work.  In fact, adding to family traditions is the best part of the holiday.

Sadly, things like time, distance and misunderstandings can end up separating family from the feast.  Bad weather can throw a monkey wrench into the best laid travel plans, and old conflicts, such as property disputes, personal battles, and whom granddad really liked best, can resurface.  We take family members for granted until they are not with us at a holiday, and realize they always brought our favorite pecan pie!

We gather together

Another great thing we do on Turkey Day is pray: for our family, our friends, our nation, our freedom, and friends who are not with us that day but are there in spirit; names like ... Vince, Colt, Ricky, Earl, Mac, Darrell, RC, Ryan, and Dat, and this year for "Johnny Football."  We will pray to find a defense, be bold enough to ask for a win, and in some years, we go for it all and pray out loud in unison from the oldest to the toddler for a Cotton Bowl victory or National Championship.  I am a proud 5th generation Texan. I have seen and heard it all! 

I am blessed that my nuclear family is still intact.  I might not be able to go to my in-laws for Thanksgiving this year  because my daughter's high school football team is in the play-offs, but I am sure my wild rice will hold my place until I can return. We will all talk on the phone and be grateful for a fruitful and healthy year.

Change in plans 

I was reminded last week at a high school football game that my other family, Longhorn Nation, is about to have a very unusual holiday this year.

I was talking the other day to a dear friend who was telling me how excited she was about Texas Christian playing UT on Thanksgiving. She had never gone to the game before and wanted to know what to expect. Would it be ok to wear purple or would UT fans not take to kindly to her display of 

Map of Southeast with football pin in Dallas

school pride. Where could her family go in Austin for a holiday dinner? She made me realize that our dear country cousins to the east at A & M were really not coming to the holiday feast this year, and that for the first time since 1893, the Longhorn and Aggie families will be separated on Turkey Day, the result of A & M's move to the Southeastern Conference and a lucrative television deal creating the Longhorn Network.  The Aggies won't be coming "home" for this holiday. (Indeed, the earliest the two teams could play again would be 2019!)

To make matters worse for both branches of our football families, legendary former UT coach and patriarch, Darrell Royal, passed away a week ago. We wil be a bit lost without him at this time of year. Who will take over as King of the Wishbone? So much of the entire state's holiday has been tied to and intertwined with this 60 minutes of football once a year! Every family has a member who has attended one of the schools or has an opinion as to their favorite.  

Traditional values 

UT's venerable mascot, Bevo, got his name after the Thanksgiving game almost a century ago in 1916.  After A&M won the game, 13-0, some Aggie fans kidnapped our Longhorn steer and branded him with the score! When he was returned, some clever UT students turned the brand into his name, BEVO, and he became a must-have guest for the Thanksgiving feast! For generations, skilled engineers, architects and hard worker/students from A&M spend 3 months building a giant bonfire to make a sacrifice to the football gods, praying for a win against the University of Texas. Meanwhile, in Austin, UT students ran around the campus chanting the Tex-Hex to undo the Aggie's curse, not the mention hiding the giant cow so he could never be kidnapped again! It was a tradition that was as much a part of being a Texan as our cornbread dressing and pecan pie!

So, this year, no game!  The steer is safe.  UT fans in Austin don't need to remember the words to the counter-curse.  Did they even bother to build the bonfire this year in College Station? Truly, it is sad to think about a broken family at the holiday season.

New beginnings 

Longhorn Nation, however, really does not have any time to mourn the loss of our Aggie cousins not coming to the holiday meal. We have more pressing matters to be concerned about.  Our Fort Worth 2nd cousins twice removed from T.C.U. are coming to town for the holiday. We have not seen the Horned Frogs in a while, and they have never come for a holiday. What will we do with them?  It being Texas, I am sure we will welcome them with open arms, including their strange horn machine, poisonous reptile, and odd and strangely styled purple uniforms. We are all members of the same family of Texas football, and we will find common ground, I am sure. We may even kidnap that reptile mascot and take him to the UT Biology department just to let them know it's part of the family, too.  Since we Texans love pranks, who knows? They may bring blueberry pie for dessert. I am sure we will learn to love it, too, in time. New traditions may be about to be started, but a holiday dedicated to thankfulness remains!


Dear Santa,

I have tried to be a good girl this year. I have only told two Aggie jokes. If possible, could you please put 2 tickets to the Cotton Bowl game under our tree? I hope so, because I could have family in town for the game!