COLUMN: Time to give thanks now

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Jack-o’-lanterns on porch steps, cardboard tombstones sprouting from lawns like toadstools and far too many homes wrapped in fake cobwebs can point to only one thing: Halloween is nearly here.

I’ll welcome nieces, nephews and maybe a few neighborhood kids to my door for treats today, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s Thanksgiving — not Halloween — that most deserves a slot on October’s calendar.

True, Thanksgiving is a month off, but the spirit of that holiday is upon us now. Why? Just look around. Farmers are wrapping up their harvests; gardens and fruit trees are giving up their final crops of late-fall vegetables, apples and pears and in the woods all around us, leaves of crimson and gold are at their peak.

Yes, Thanksgiving should be in late October, not late November. Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving in early October — a friend in Quebec City tells me the trees in his neighborhood are mostly bare. My suggestion for Indiana’s Thanksgiving is mid-to-late-October. Late November, I hate to say, well, is too late for Thanksgiving. By then, too many people are already shopping and wrapping for Christmas.

I visited an elderly woman a few months ago for a story and she led me down into her cellar. I gasped when I reached the bottom of the stairs and saw an ancient shelf of rough-hewn oak boards holding what looked like hundreds of fruit-and vegetable-filled jars. There were rows of canned green beans, corn and whole tomatoes

She canned most of the vegetables this summer, with a few rows left over from last year. “My pickles didn’t do too well, so I hope last year’s will get me through,” she said, picking up a quart jar holding bread-and-butter-pickle slices swirling in brine.

The thrifty lady, who just finished her last batch of canning in early October, even cans meat when her family butchers. That’s being resourceful.

Southern Indiana will hopefully never get hit with a massive storm, but should a calamitous blizzard or tornado come our way, folks like her will be the ones best able to cope.

So will people like the couple I saw digging a late crop of potatoes recently or who sow turnips in their gardens and enjoy late-season slices of tangy tubers.