Thursday, November 22, 2018

Turkey by Taxi

In many families, conversations revolve around lore and tradition origins during the holidays. A couple of years ago at a family reunion meeting, I learned the whole, or at least more of the a story about a Thanksgiving turkey first told to me by my mother. When she told me the story early on, she just said a headless fowl chased her around the yard in Smeltertown.
For years, I only knew that some headless fowl had chased my mom around the yard after being beheaded. All these years later, and I still didn't know if it was a turkey or chicken, or for what event it had been slaughtered. Now she and my father had both died, and the story held, incomplete until one Sunday when I met with my two uncles and many cousins at my cousin Gloria's house that sits near El Paso High School.
Towards the end of our organizing meeting for our first ever Gonzalez family reunion, our tio Roberto started explaining that one year there was a major labor strike against The American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO). Supposedly, it would last well into or even past November.
His brother Ricardo further explained that whenever my abuelo came home with 50 pound bags each of beans and rice, there was going to be a long strike. At those times, the family had meat only once a week. 
That year at end of the summer, the strike began. As the strike continued past Halloween, the family feared there would be no Thanksgiving dinner that year. No guajolote, no mole de guajolote, no big turkey drumsticks. Solomente frijoles y arroz y Kool-aid.
But cunningly just before the holiday, my abuela took the bus and went "to town," by herself. She was emboldened to solve the problem of the Thanksgiving dinner for her 12 children. Usually, she never left Esmelda. Instead, everyone came to Esmelda to see her. After she left for town, my mother and her siblings wondered what my abuela was up to doing. 
Later that afternoon, abuela pulled up in a taxi with ...a live turkey! Apparently, she  crossed the bridge  to Cd. Juárez for the fowl and rode back across the bridge to El Paso. Then, she rode back to La Esmelda in the taxi. We don’t know how she did it, but she came back home with the a taxi.
All that remained was to do the deed —chop the head off the fowl. And so abuelo did, but my mom had to hold the large bird as abuelo swung the ace. His aim was true, but the turkey was not yet willing to call it a day. He ran around the yard chasing my mother as she screamed aloud.  
In the end,  my abuela and tias made tortillas, frijoles, and rice, stuffing, mole, ice tea with limes, and turkey. Everyone enjoyed el cocono (guajolote) that year. Soon afterwards and before Christmas, the strike ended.

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