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In years past

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Posted: Monday, December 7, 2015 3:20 pm

Good memories are a wonderful thing, especially if they are of Thanksgiving with family and good friends. Thanksgiving Day 1947 was a most memorable one for me. My grandparents and I made the thirty-one mile drive from San Antonio to Rio Medina, Texas, arriving at the Rudolph Haby farm around 11 a.m. Rio Medina is about six miles north of Castroville. The smells emanating from the kitchen overwhelmed the senses. 

Rudolph and Agnes Haby descended from a small group of French/German Alsatian colonists, who, in 1844, settled in the Medina River Valley at present day Castroville, which is located in eastern Medina County 25 miles west of San Antonio. Rudolph and Agnes raised four strong, hard working sons – Emmett, Wallace, Leroy and Louis Joseph (L.J.). My grandparents, Alfred and Anna were good friends of Rudolph and Agnes. 

L.J., the youngest son, and I became close friends. Some of my fondest memories were the time spent on their farm and their ranch near Bandera. L.J. and I rode horses, fished, hunted and swam in the ponds and creeks. I cannot envision anyone having a more exciting time growing up unless it was Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. L.J. would spend a week or so with me in San Antonio during the summer. We canoed on the San Antonio River, saw movies at the Aztec and Majestic theaters, roamed all around Breckenridge Park – the zoo, Witte Museum and Playland Park. We had a wonderful time trying different Mexican restaurants. The Old Original on Lasoya Street was our favorite, but I digress. 

Mrs. Haby was a wonderful cook, but what German woman isn’t? Thanksgiving dinner was distinctively rural and typically German. It included fresh farm-raised turkey and corn bread stuffing with ground liver, gravy to die for, venison sausage (wurst), smokehouse ham, sweet & sour red cabbage, creamy mashed potatoes, homemade bread (brot) with fresh churned sweet-cream butter, homemade fig preserves, snap beans and other vegetables, cakes, pies, and molasses and cinnamon cookies (lebkuchen.) I know you may find this hard to believe, but in my mind I can still see, taste and smell that wonderful meal to this day, 68 years later. 

In the overall scheme of things, the food, though most delicious, was secondary. As we all sat around the large dining room table, a sense of thankfulness permeated the room. Two of the Haby sons had returned safely from World War II and the family was so grateful. I am also confident they understood the sacrifice their forefathers had made to travel to a strange country, to clear the land, and to endure numerous hardships. They understood that all they had worked for and accomplished, and all the bounties of the land they had received, were gifts from their loving Heavenly Father. A large picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus hung on their dining room wall. Their devotion was most evident as they gave thanks to God for all their blessings. 

Years later, when I had my own family, I attempted to replicate many of the Thanksgiving dishes I remembered from the wonderful days at Mrs. Haby’s house and the dishes my own grandmother, Anna, prepared. I feel that I must have come close because our children would always try to be the first to say, when they came for a visit on Thanksgiving and Christmas, “I’ve got dibs on the leftovers.” Some years later our grandchildren also hastened to claim their share of the leftovers. We always had to prepare more food than was necessary for the meal just so we could send care packages home with everyone. It is my sincerest hope that my children and grandchildren remember their Thanksgivings as fondly as I remember mine. 

 

In this fast moving world we live in today, many families find it difficult to get together at Thanksgiving. My wish for you is that if you cannot be with your family, be certain to get together at another time. The memories are just too precious to not have at all. Take a moment to reflect on what you have to be thankful for. The holidays are a great time for togetherness, a time for family and friends, a time to share a meal and a time for giving thanks. 

Our founding fathers believed that, as individuals and as a nation, we should give thanks to God. Yet, today, we see overt attempts to downplay, ignore, marginalize and even remove God from our lives. Thanksgiving is a reflection of our national religious character. Our forefathers came to America in search of religious liberty. As their heirs, and as God fearing Americans, we must be good stewards of tradition and permit no one to disenfranchise us from our Christian heritage and our public acknowledgment that we are dependent upon God. 

Offer a prayer of gratitude to God for His abundant blessings and for what those, who have gone before, have sacrificed for us. Let us be thankful for our family and friends, who have blessed and enriched our lives, and for wonderful memories of Thanksgivings past. I know I am. I also know that the Habys left this world a better place. Have a memorable and blessed Thanksgiving.

 

 

Walter Meller

Abilene

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