I have now finished the manuscript for Coming to Amerika and will be submitting it to the University of Kansas Press, which has expressed interest. Keep your fingers crossed!
In reading over the letters I was able to vicariously participate in the major family celebrations centering around Thanksgiving, Christmas and July 4th. As it is turkey time I want to share with you Thanksgiving on the Kansas Prairie in the 1890’s. Wild turkeys were plentiful at the time and as my great-uncle Will wrote to his brother in Missouri, farmers would herd, pen up and fatten the turkeys for feasting.
“I wish you would [have] heard [herded] those wild turkeys and git them good and fat til I can come down but then I don’t know how long that would be. Maby [maybe] you would git tired of feeding them before that time.”
But even wild as they were, they could be tamed. My great-aunt Mary wrote about some wild turkeys that became pets and then nuisances:
“We had some queer pets this summer, three little Turkeys and they were so tame, could do any thing with them. Lena [another great-aunt] petted them so much they stayed right around the door, would sit in her lap and if we had any thing for them in our hands would all three eat right out of our hand at the same time. We still have them, three big cuss gobblers, they are cross to the chickens, but the worst is they don’t like to see strangers, especially children along the road, will run right up to them within three feet or so and strut and gobble and fly up around them, make a terrible fuss, and some time have followed people a long ways. They treat me the same way. I stay in the house so close they do not know me. Will have to sell them.”
The pictures below show my grandfather Louis (in a stylish bowler hat on the farm!) feeding two wild turkeys out of his hand and then two of the ornery gobblers. Somebody got to eat them. I suspect the family, having had them as pets, was reluctant to slaughter them themselves. Besides they also had duck as an option for their Thanksgiving dinner.