Last year was my first Thanksgiving as a married gal. Jim and I were at the 25 Ranch near Battle Mountain, Nevada, and invited the single cowboys from the nearby TS Ranch and the bunkhouse guys from next door over for a big traditional dinner. The turkey came out moist and golden, and only one drunk person puked off the porch, so I called it a success.
I bought a big turkey, a ham for my anti-turkey husband, plus all the fixings from appetizers to dessert. It was my first Thanksgiving as the head cook, and I didn’t want to disappoint the single guys who didn’t have family nearby, so I went all out. I set out a cheese ball, salami, olives and crackers for appetizers. For dinner, I fixed – singlehandedly, from scratch – turkey, mashed potatoes, cheesy garlic biscuits, candied yams, gravy and garlic green beans. I was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and as I stood in the kitchen the day before with Braxton Hicks contractions tightening my belly while I mixed specialty herbed butter, I asked myself, “Was this really necessary?”
I went ready-made and served canned cranberry sauce after learning you can’t buy frozen cranberries in Northern Nevada, exotic fruit that they are. I had a last-minute “we won’t have enough cranberry sauce!” moment and had Jim swing by the little grocery store in Battle Mountain to pick up an extra can on his way home from doctoring calves in the feedyard the day before Thanksgiving. Turns out, all the cranberry sauce I could eat was all we needed. The cowboys, with their sophisticated culinary tastes, poked at it with their forks and asked “What is it? Can we eat it?” Two of them bravely tried little bites, I think just to humor me.
I had the table set and appetizers artfully arranged by early afternoon. The bunkhouse guys, Dan and Clint, showed up to watch TV and eat cheese with us. We waited and waited for the TS crew, and finally the phone rang. Everett said that they were broke down a few miles from the house. Apparently, they crossed the railroad tracks doing 45 when they should have been doing 15, and the impact immediately following their airtime broke the fuel line in Ace’s car.* Jim and the bunkhouse guys hopped in Clint’s pickup and fixed Ace’s car with a roll of duct tape.
When the guys got back, we all sat down to our feast. The meal, which had taken me two and a half days to prepare, was consumed in 12 minutes. I looked around the kitchen and saw that every single dish I owned was covered in food and sitting on the table or countertop. I wanted to cry. By the time I heaved my pregnant self out of my chair, Ace and Jim were filling the sink with sudsy water. Those two washed every dish and utensil, even taking their best guesses at putting things away.
I was in charge of leftovers, and I set a clean Tupperware bowl on the counter while I grabbed a full dish off the table. By the time I had returned, the bowl had disappeared. Ace and Jim had washed it, dried it, and put it away. They were machines, those two!
After cleaning up, the guys went next door to the bunkhouse. They never returned, so Jim and I ate as much caramel pumpkin pie as we could and set out a few blankets and pillows on the couch for any vagrant buckaroos who needed a place to rest their weary selves for the night.
I wish I had a picture of the table all loaded down with food and 6 cowboys seated around it, but I never even thought of it at the time. I wasn’t yet fully ensconced in my role as Chief Family Photographer, plus I was exhausted and just wanted to sit my large pregnant self down. From diving in head-first to hosting Thanksgiving, I discovered the easiest thing to do is host: the turkey is the easy part, it’s just like roasting a big chicken. All those side dishes are what will tire a person out!
*It’s not really their fault – the sign says 45 MPH, and we usually remembered to tell people to slow down to 15. Every time we “forgot,” though, our visitors usually had a fun story. We really should have put a game camera on a fencepost and watched the tape until we laughed ourselves silly.
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