For this not-so solo road trip, pack tents, sleeping bags/blankets,  food and camping gear for 17 people (7 kids), guns, ammo and hunting licenses for hunting white tail deer, a 4-wheeler or two, fishing equipment for either flyfishing or not, and clothes that run the winter time gamut from rain gear to 70 humid degrees. Instead of pulling a trailer because the truck won’t hold everything, tow an old 4-drive Toyota Land Cruiser (1981) and shove everything in.  And plan on a ruined tire or two on some gravel road, and getting stuck up to your axle on some patch of bottom land. If you do all this, you’ll have the basic components for a Southeastern Oklahoma Thanksgiving.

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Every Thanksgiving is spent in Choctaw County, fishing, hunting, 4 wheeling, stomping around in heavy boots, stepping in cow piles, playing horseshoes, basketball, camping, and eating. We've outgrown the house and now have to set up camp to bed everyone down and remove some of the chaos from inside. It's still a zoo. Everyone seems a little too okay with that.

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Betsey, the white 1981 Toyota Land Cruiser was bought on Ebay. My Dad thinks we're insane. He's probably right.

Located in Southeastern Oklahoma, Choctaw County is economically poor. You can candy coat that and use words like impoverished, poverty-stricken, etc. but it all means the same thing. According to the US Census data in 2000, it was the most impoverished county in the state based on the percentage of individuals with incomes below the poverty line. Almost one third of the families with children under the age of 18 make an income that puts them below the National poverty line. 10% of the residents have Bachelor’s degrees or higher, less than half the National average. These are simply the economic facts. I was raised there, graduated HS there, and still spend a fair amount of off time there. So I can say these things.

My parents instilled in all of us the need for a college degree. We all managed to get one. That may be the only common directive from our parents we actually acted upon. So 2 of the 3 of us left the county to pursue our dreams. But we come back often, and we bring our children, who love it. And if I could have, I would have raised my own child there. My brother would likely say the same about his children. Economically poor doesn’t translate directly to a less than rich life. There’s a permeating sense the American dream is still alive and well. Of the contentment that can be achieved by hard work, early hours, long days, dirt under your fingernails. Of the honor of living within your means without the pressures of city life and its excesses. Simplicity is still king.  And we honor that simplicity by spending a Thanksgiving anyone would be thankful for.

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We fish. And some of us even catch something.

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Build rubber band balls

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Hang out with the dog on the back of Papa's truck during feeding time

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Practice fast pitch -- well only one of us does that

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Play barn side football

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Get hurt playing barnside football

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Pose with Papa while he's attempting to do daily chores. He has to work especially hard to get anything done.

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Gawk at Papa's trophy room.

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Pretend we're 4-wheeling

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Show the world how cattle are really just pets.

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Have Thanksgiving dinner in a large workshed.

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Take a moment to pose while playing on Papa's haybales.

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Were it not for the haybales, the kids would have absolutely nothing to do. NOT. But they are a fine playground.

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And one of us attempts to make art from a lone horseapple left hanging in a Bois'd arc tree. A weak attempt.

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