It’s Not All About the Turkey (Only a Little Bit)" />
The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

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It’s Not All About the Turkey (Only a Little Bit)

THANKSGIVING? Junior Lizzie and her parents begin the day outside of the bed and breakfast that they stayed at forty minutes outside of Big Bend National Park. Turns out it serves quite a turkey dinner. Photo provided by Lizzie

Thanksgiving is kind of a big deal at my house. It’s not because of family, friends, football or even tradition. In my family, it’s all about the food.

On Thanksgiving morning each year, I wake up blissfully late (thanks to vacation, of course) and stumble downstairs to find my dad already hard at work in the kitchen. He brines the turkey for two days, bakes the cornbread for the stuffing the day before and gets down to the real business of roasting, sautéing and frying on Thanksgiving Day. My mom and I bake a pie—sometimes two, if we’re having guests—and make the cranberry sauce. And I mean real cranberry stuff, not the cylinder-shaped stuff out of the can. After all that work, we finally sit down at around six o’clock for one of the biggest and best meals of the year.

This year, Thanksgiving Day began with a five-mile hike. And no, in case you’re wondering, we weren’t trying to preemptively work off all that turkey and pie. This year, my parents and I spent our Thanksgiving in Big Bend National Park, an 800,000-acre West Texas park on the border with Mexico.

I must admit, I was a little skeptical at the thought of, as my dad put it, granola bars and beef jerky for Thanksgiving. Big Bend is not exactly an ideal spot for the food-obsessed; the nearest town, Terlingua, has a few mediocre-to-dreadful restaurants that all seem to serve variations on gloppy, fake Mexican food. The idea of spending the most food-centric holiday in such a place seemed not only unwise but wasteful—after all, Thanksgiving only comes around once a year.

When we arrived that Wednesday at the lovely Midland-Odessa airport, my fears were less than assuaged. Midland is not a pretty place; in fact, it’s more famous for its oil production than anything else, and we drove through a landscape dotted with pump jacks for as far as the eye could see.

But as we drove onwards towards the park, my skepticism changed to astonishment. We were driving through some of the most beautiful country I had ever seen: a vast desert stretching for miles in all directions that soon changed into mountains and mesas that reached for the enormous blue sky. This place was unbelievable.

Four hours later, we arrived at the bed and breakfast where we were to stay, an adorable recreation of a western town located about forty minutes from the national park. It sounds awful and hokey, but somehow it managed not to be. Instead, it managed to be both cute and intimate—thanks to the wonderful couple who owned it—and gritty and realistic—thanks to the incredible landscape that surrounded it. The isolation of it was wonderful too; the whole place was completely off the grid, run on solar power and without internet or cell service.

The Thanksgiving Day hike the next morning continued to impress. Those five miles took us along cactus-dotted trail, through a forest shaded by drooping junipers and down a rocky creek bed to the top of a dry waterfall that looked out over an incredible view of the desert. We ate sandwiches on the trail and spent the afternoon exploring the ruins of a nearly hundred year-old ranch.

Already, Thanksgiving was turning out to be more than satisfactory. I would have been perfectly happy to spend a quiet evening recovering from the hiking, but when we returned to the bed and breakfast we found that our hostess had prepared a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Along with our six fellow guests, who turned out to also be from Dallas, we sat down to stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and a delicious smoked turkey.

Dinner was wonderful, but what was more wonderful was realizing that, really, it didn’t matter. Because, yes, food is an important part of Thanksgiving. But some things can be even more important: exploring a new place, seeing beautiful things and spending time with family. Even eating a different Thanksgiving dinner with complete strangers became part of the adventure. And, okay, still having pumpkin pie that Thursday night was pretty great, but you know what? I would have been okay with granola bars, too.

– Lizzie

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