A writer inspired by nature and human nature


JFK by Norman RockwellNovember 1963

It was a time in history when most American families held high hopes for their future and looked forward to enjoying a Thanksgiving meal with family and friends.  A few days before the holiday, an unforeseen tragedy struck the nation—President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22nd. Although families from all walks of life were in mourning, most held that year’s Thanksgiving holiday in their hearts as they enjoyed a bountiful feast together and prayed for the healing of a stunned nation. Others were not so fortunate—the ones who did not know where their next meal was coming from. They were the poor, the indigent, the invisible people. They were praying, and they were hungry.

DOG BONE SOUP by Bette A. Stevens is a story about those invisible people.

DOG BONE SOUP (An excerpt from Chapter 22)

DOG BONE SOUP collage #1“BOYS, GET IN HERE. Hurry up!”

We set the groceries on the table and ran in to see what Mum was so worked up about.

“President Kennedy’s body’s back in Washington. Look, they’re switching from the Washington to that Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas. The world’s at a standstill and no wonder. I can’t believe that someone’s gone and killed the President…Sit down. Watch.”

“What’s for dinner?” I asked when I handed her the change.

“Good. We have more than a dollar left for the week.”

“What about dinner, Mum?”

“I’ll fix us some supper, later. We had plenty of hotcakes to tide us over this morning,” Mum sat there, captivated by the news.

Coverage went on all day and long into the night. Willie and I went out to cut and split fire wood for the week. Then we grabbed our fishing poles and ran down to the brook. I figured if we caught something, we could have a nice fry for supper, even if I had to fix it myself.

Willie peeled and cut potatoes while I figured out how to mix flour and cornmeal and get the fish going. I set the fish on the stove to keep warm while I fried up the potatoes.

We never did get Mum away from the darned TV.

I wondered if it was like that for other families that night. I wasn’t up to watching TV non-stop. I’d pop in every now and then to keep track of what was happening though. I kept thinking about President Lincoln. Far as I could see nothing good came from fighting, killing and wars. Why couldn’t people just treat everyone the way they wanted to be treated.

I got the washtub heated up before bed. The girls got their baths first, like always. Then Willie and I took turns. There’d be no hair cuttin’ this Saturday. There was only one good thing about this day—Dad didn’t show up. I didn’t want to think about that shotgun, but I couldn’t shake that Saturday out of my head.

∞∞∞

By the time I got up Sunday morning, the news was already runnin’ non-stop. President Kennedy had big dreams for America. He hoped we would land on the moon; wanted Americans to be healthy; wanted Negros and poor folks to have rights like everybody else and he wanted to make peace with people in other countries. I wondered what would happen to those dreams now that he was gone.

Mum had the volume turned way up, but she wasn’t watchin’. She had the wood stove blazin’, fresh biscuits warming on the stove top and scrambled eggs cookin’ on the griddle.

“I’ve been praying for the President’s family,” she looked up and whispered. “Call the kids and sit yourself down. Thanks for fixin’ supper last night, Shawn. I’ve been walking around in a fog with all that’s been going on. I still can’t imagine why anyone would want to kill the President.”

After breakfast, Willie and I ran out to milk the cows.

“Now you boys, bundle up real good. It’s mighty cold out there.”

Two heifers started mooing real low the second they spotted us. The wind was blowing so darned hard, the pails were swingin’ all on their own, even with the weight of milk jars in them. By the time we got back to the house the sky was spittin’ out snowflakes big as quarters.

“Let’s fix us a cup a hot coffee, Willie.”

“Mum’ll have a fit if she finds me drinking coffee.”

I threw in a few small chunks of kindling and set the coffee pot on top of the stove.

“You might like it. I mix it up with lots of milk. We’ll fix Mum a cup, too.”

“Boys, get in here quick,” Mum hollered. “Some night club owner named Jack Ruby just shot and killed that Oswald guy who shot President Kennedy!”

Bad news just kept coming. Cameras jumped from Washington to Dallas and back again every few minutes. We watched the casket being carried from the White House to the Capital’s Rotunda. In between, they showed pictures of the President’s family before all this terrible stuff happened. Caroline and John-John were just little kids and the family looked real happy doing things together.

Then, reporters started talking to the new president, Lyndon B. Johnson.

I poured up coffee and went in to watch the mess. My head pounded. I closed my eyes and tried to figure out how I was gonna get out of school next week. I had to talk to that recruiter.

Just as I downed the last of my coffee, I heard a knock at the door. “Please don’t be Dad,” I prayed.

I lifted the latch, opened the door and there stood two snow crusted ladies that I recognized from church. They were holding baskets chock-full of all the things us kids had been dreamin’ about. One had a turkey, a ham and all kinds of canned goods. The other held a plate mounded high with cookies and two pumpkin pies. I even spotted a can of cocoa.

“Come on in and sit down. I’ll go get Mum.”

“We’ll just set these baskets on the table. We have three more deliveries and we want to get home before the roads get any worse.”

“Mum, it’s ladies from church. They brought us baskets chock-full of food,” I hollered.

Mum and the kids must have flown out to the kitchen.

“What on earth are you doing here?” I thought Mum’s eyes would pop out when she spotted those baskets.

“Thanksgiving’s only a few days away and we’re out making deliveries this afternoon. I think you’ll find enough for a nice holiday feast, Mrs. Daniels. If there’s anything else you need, just let us know.”

“You have a wonderful Thanksgiving.” The ladies smiled before they turned to leave.

“You take your damned charity baskets and leave ’em somewhere they’re needed!”

The ladies spun around, looked at one another, then at Mum, then at us, then at the baskets. One of them held her hands up clutching at her coat like someone might steal it. The shortest one looked like she was ready to bawl. When they picked up the baskets and turned to leave, my stomach clenched up tighter than a double fisherman’s knot.

Annie and Molly stood there crying. Willie stared at Mum with eyes as round as donuts, shakin’ his head.

“I can’t believe you did that, Mum. You were rude and here we are starvin’ to death,” I scowled.

“I don’t want to hear any sass from you. And you girls stop your whining. We’re proud folks. We’ve never taken charity and we’re never gonna take it.” Mum shook her head and shuffled back in to watch TV.

I sat down at the kitchen table and didn’t know what to make of it. Mum couldn’t believe somebody’d killed the President. Well, I couldn’t believe Mum just killed our only chance of having a decent meal.

###

Today, more than 45 million Americans are living below the poverty line http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/16/poverty-household-income_n_5828974.html Most of them aren’t looking for a hand-out. They’re looking for a hand up—decent jobs that pay a living wage.

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About the author

BAS Author logo stamp 2015Inspired by nature and human nature, author Bette A. Stevens is a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of five. Stevens lives in Central Maine with her husband on their 37-acre farmstead where she enjoys reading, writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. She advocates for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies—an endangered species (and milkweed, the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat).

Stevens is the author of AMAZING MATILDA, an award-winning picture book; The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!, a home/school resource incorporating hands-on math and writing; and PURE TRASH, the short story prequel to her début novel, DOG BONE SOUP, a Boomer’s coming of age novel published in January 2015. You can find out more about the author and her books at http://viewauthor.at/BetteAStevens

[Explore Bette’s Blog]

Comments on: "DOG BONE SOUP: Remembering Thanksgiving 1963" (55)

  1. You did an excellent job of depicting how it was that day for many families. I’m from West Virginia and this is still how it is for many folks. Happy Thanksgiving, Bette.

    Like

  2. Thank you for sharing!!.. it were a sad Thanksgiving… I were in the Marine Corp stationed in Camp Lejeune, N.C…. as soon as it happened, we got order to prepare to mount out in full combat gear… rumor had it we may go to Cuba… fortunately cool heads prevailed… 🙂

    Have a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving and holiday filled with peace, love and happiness and until we meet again….
    May love and laughter light your days,
    and warm your heart and home.
    May good and faithful friends be yours,
    wherever you may roam.
    May peace and plenty bless your world
    with joy that long endures.
    May all life’s passing seasons
    bring the best to you and yours!
    (Irish Saying)

    Like

  3. A wonderful book, Bette, and a poignant exerpt for the day. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving. Hugs.

    Like

  4. […] DOG BONE SOUP: Remembering Thanksgiving 1963 […]

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bette I loved the episode and it was so sad for America when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Very sad. Happy Thanksgiving to you and to your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a sad but such a moving post, Norah I was 12 yrs old but still remember quite vividly how shocked everyone was in the UK and I still remember how it was to this day…a poignant excerpt… those poor children and it still is happening no one should starving in this day and age so sad …

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on Meeka's Mind and commented:
    I’m Australian so Thanksgiving is not something that resonates with me, but I do remember the assassination of JFK, and how stunned we all were. I also remember how very much I loved Dog Bone Soup. If you haven’t read it I really, really recommend that you do. It’s simply brilliant.

    Like

  8. I’d forgotten how much I loved Dog Bone Soup, Bette. That excerpt really hits home. -hugs-

    Like

  9. I remember that day too. I had such high hopes for this wonderful president.

    I need to read this book. You won’t believe how many books I have stacked up to read.

    Have a fabulous day and Thanksgiving, Bette. Big hug. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I remember that day as if it were yesterday.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It was indeed a tough Thanksgiving. But you captured it so well!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great excerpt, Bette. Very appropriate for this time of year. Happy Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for sharing, Bette. It was indeed a sad day in history.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A wonderful post about a sad chapter in our history, Bette! Happy Thanksgiving! 💖

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Although I wasn’t born when JFK was assassinated, growing up I remember my mother recalling the tragic event. This was a such a powerful scene, Bette. I thoroughly enjoyed Dog Bone Soup.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Bette, I remember this scene well and it is superb! First weaving in the everyday minutiae of life with one of the biggest news events of the time and then the mother’s speedy reaction to the Thanksgiving gift. Incredible writing and a terrific book! Wishing you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving. Hugs xx ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your visit and for your lovely note, dear Annika! 💞 Wishing you and yours abundant blessings during the Christmas holiday and throughout the New Year too! xo

      Liked by 1 person

  17. petespringerauthor said:

    A sad chapter in our history. It’s still hard for me to comprehend the hate.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Such realistic characters, Bette!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I remember the sad event in November 1963, and I do remember reading and reviewing your wonderful writing in Dog Bone Soup.

    Like you, I long to help the needy and do so by contributing to Feeding NE Florida and also to two rescue missions in our city. It doesn’t feel right to gorge ourselves when others are hungry for just the basics. Happy Thanksgiving, Bette!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sharing the love… our ongoing assignment! ❤ Blessings and love at Thanksgiving and always, Marian. xo

      Matthew 25:40
      “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

      Liked by 1 person

  20. so moving

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Bette, what a great post. I wish Americans would know how much he was loved even in the Alps in Austria, where I am from. He was assassinated the month I was born, yet I would hear about him all my life growing up.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Thanks so much, Darlene! Appreciate your support, my friend. Wishing you and yours a blessed and beautiful holiday season.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. So moving and thought-provoking, Bette.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I loved the excerpt, Bette. Those poor kids not having the baskets of food when they needed it so much, My heart really goes out to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. That last paragraph of the excerpt is just devastating.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. A perfect excerpt, Bette. It ties in with today and the upcoming Thanksgiving. You can just feel for those poor kids.

    Liked by 1 person

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