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Uncle Fred’s Thanksgiving prayer

“Fred, would you ask our prayer?” Never were there words which filled an 8-year-old boy’s heart with so much fear and apprehension. “Fred” was our uncle, our father’s older brother who lived with his wife, Amelia, on a farm not far from our own. They were members of the Hickory Square Mehodist Church, which was located on Dry Hill. Inevitably, Daddy would ask him to pray. From past mealtime experiences, we knew that our uncle’s prayers could rival a presidential State of the Union address in both scope and length.

It was not that my brothers and I were irreverent or ungrateful for our many blessings, but we wondered why that particular prayer at noon on Thanksgivng Day had to be so all inclusive and the approach of World War II were being heard Europe. We should be relieved and grateful that our farms had been spared from storms, floods and drought through the past summer. We were happy that our silos and corn crribs were bountifully filled and that our granaries were bursting with barley, wheat and oats; that pantry shelves were crowded with ample canned goods and that there was meat hanging in the smokehouse. Uncle Fred was especially thankful that when a lightening strike had destroyed his barn this recent August, he had lost no animals, and nobody was injured in the disaster. He urged us to rejoice that the minister of their church seemed to be improving in health. Moreover, it should be gratefully acknowledged that the Methodist, Presbyterian, United Brethren, and Nazarene Churches were still proclaiming glory to God and salvation through Jesus Christ twice on Sundays and once through the week. Credit was to be given for our kind and generous neighbors who helped each other as several needs arose. Blessings were invoked upon all other families gathered in settings such as we were enjoying on that day. And thanks for all the food (at last), prepared and set before us by loving hands, (also blessed), fo our nourishment and strengthening in body and spirit — Amen!

Meanwhile, on the dining room table, the platters of roast beef and chicken had stopped streaming. The dumplings, swimming in a bowl of sauerkraut, were getting heavy and soggy. The mashed potatoes were getting gummu, the gravy was thickening, and all of the cinnamon had dissolved into the applesauce. And who was to know what was to become of the pies: apple, mince and pumpkin waiting on th warming shelf of the kitchen stove. Maybe someone would suggest that the pies should be served later. Later? I may starve before later would come. I didn’t.

Had I been more thankful and thoughtful then, I would have been glad that Uncle Ellis had come, and brought us a “Powerhouse” candy bar (1/4 lb) that we seven kids could divide and share. I should have been glad that our bachelor neighbor, Joe, brough us a basket of brown eggs. (Daddy always raised Leghorn chickens.) Joe also brought be a couple of Bull Durham tobacco sacks in which I could store my marbles and treasures. I could have listened more closely to Aunt Amelia tell about life in, and customs of, Sweden, her native home. If there is one lesson that I have learned from the memories of Thanksgiving Day on the farm, it would be this: We should pray more…and eat less.

Uncle Fred’s Prayer: “For as the rain and snow comes down from heaven and return not hither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word by that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that whicch I purpose and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10,11.

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The Rev. Robert L. Zorn is the minister of visitation at Lewistown Presbyterian Church, 17 E. 3rd St., Lewistown.

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