Darlene Ross' Thanksgiving memories go back a good 80 years. Or maybe make that
80 good years.
You awake early Thursday morning to the tang of woodsmoke pervaded by the pungent aroma of turkey. Not just turkey, though. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes - real mashed potatoes. And sweet potatoes too. And cranberry relish and pies. Oh, the pies. Pumpkin, mincemeat, apple, cherry. All flaky and begging for a fork to dig into them.
Such are the Thanksgiving memories of Darlene Ross, 91, who has lived in the area pretty much her whole life, now living south of Superior. She lived at Lake Park until she was five then moved to a farm just across the border in Minnesota. It's there where her earliest Thanksgiving memories reside.
"We always had a family Thanksgiving," said Darlene. And that was a family of nine kids - spanning 20 years - and their parents. "We always had turkey and all the trimmings," Darlene added.
"All the trimmings" could also aptly describe the love her family had for one another. Oh, it was hard work, sure, especially during the Depression. But then they had each other.
On the farm they had their meat - steers and pigs along with dairy cattle. And then there was the garden. Their mammoth cookstove was fueled with oak and ash and kindled with cobs gleaned from the pig lot. It was the cookstove oven where Mother made magic happen.
"It always smelled good when we cooked the turkey and the dressing," reflected Darlene. "I had a good homelife."
In a way, the farm insulated them somewhat from the depression. "We always had enough to eat," said Darlene, who helped plant the garden.
School was a mile and a half walk.
"It was good exercise for us. It didn't hurt us a bit," she said.
She went eight grades to country school, finding herself the only eighth grader when she was done. That was when it was time to move on to high school in Sioux Valley.
"We just survived the winter," Darlene remembered of the weather turning from the colors of fall to bare branches against snow.
For entertainment, they went to Spirit Lake Saturday nights. And come Christmastime, there were free movies.
So would she like to go back to the gool ol' days?
"Oh my no," Darlene said. "I would like to go back to my family, of course." I always had good memories of them. They all got along nice."
When Darlene's father passed away at 55, she was only 12 or 13 and a freshman in high school. That took some quick growing up then.
She did fine, though.
After all, there were nine others to help take care of each other.