Ah, late November. Winter’s in the air. Families morph into strange creatures, part flesh and blood. Part Zoom. It’s Thanksgiving Weekend and people — alone — will celebrate by sleeping 20 hours a day followed by bathroom breaks and hiding under their pillows.
New traditions are being born. Alone, we stumble to the refrigerator to gulp rum and eggnog straight out of the gallon carton, then watch 25 years of “The Office” reruns, wondering how life will have meaning after the show’s finale. From the solitude of empty houses, we knit festive COVID masks. Replacing holiday motifs are death skulls and bright green amoeba. We weep. Our souls so empty, for a brief moment, we consider driving into Downtown Los Angeles to topple statues and line up, elbow-to-elbow, with the forever angry, to scream our rage and just to have a little human contact.
Few may remember the rich and glorious days of Thanksgiving in the Santa Clarita. Feasts. Football. Family. DUIs. So many memories. Few realize that within the canyon walls of the SCV, we are wealthy. We hold the world’s most unique and strange Thanksgiving historical events. Here now are some of those stories that make us who we are…
STEVENSON RANCH — HOME OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST TURKEY — In 1952, scientists unearthed a 2,300-meter-long wishbone to a legendary beast, Tyranoturkeycus SClaritacus Rex, a Triassic turkey the size of nine aircraft carriers that stalked the SCV 241 million years ago. An epically stupid creature, scientists believed the turkey simply forgot to breathe and suffocated. Several wide belts, funny black hats and a copy of “The Scarlett Letter” still bookmarked to the naughty pages were also discovered, leading anthropologists to believe that Triassic Pilgrims, over several thousand generations, ate the great turkey, making the SCV home to the first Thanksgiving Dinner in history. The SCV Historical Society used to hold the wishbone, but, alas, a cleaning crew from Saugus High’s 1983 football team made a wish (for a 1.3 team GPA) and broke it.
EARTH’S RAREST FOOD-BEARING TREE — In 2003, Farmer/Restaurateur Greg Amsler successfully cross-pollinated a giant pumpkin plant with a cottonwood tree. Greg added vanilla beans, aluminum and sugar cane to create the world’s first self-sustained Pumpkin Pie Tree. Bonus? Come harvest time (this weekend) it can be plucked from the branches with the pumpkin pies already topped with whipped cream and resting in a nice aluminum foil pan. Pies are free for the first 2,500 visitors to Salt Creek Grille. Just ask for the John Boston Free Pumpkin Pie Special.
THE HONBY SCHOOL TRAGEDY OF 1907 — Few remember that there still is the community of Honby, right off Soledad Canyon Road near Home Depot. On this date, a primitive Junior College of the Canyons school bus carrying a driver and 39 students was hit by a storm of speeding turkeys, migrating to San Juan Capistrano. Only one child, Tom Frew, survived. At the communal burial of turkeys and students, the local pastor, Enoch Van Hook, asked mourners to look on the bright side: Most of the victims belonged to COC’s Glee Club…
THE SMYTH FAMILY DISASTER OF 1972 — Our beloved SClarita City Mayor Cameron “Diaz” Smyth made the world record books in a fashion no man or woman ever wants to achieve. Few realize that Smyth was one of the SCV’s only known octuplets. All identical, the eight babies were crawling around on an immense quilt in their backyard on Thanksgiving Day when a brood of turkeys swooped down, carrying off Cameron’s seven twin siblings: Spanky Smyth, Spunky Smyth, Loco-Chewy-Junior Smyth, Mowgli Smyth, Banjo Smyth, Cigar Boy Smyth and, the always effervescent, Juan-Manband Smyth. Finally realizing these weren’t corn cobs but babies, the turkeys flew over the border, found some wolves and traded the Smyth Brothers for some gravel. Cameron’s siblings were raised by said canis lupus and later grew up to become high-paid political consultants for a Mexican drug cartel. The Ernie Villegas Cartel. No relation to the former mayor of Fillmore.
HOW OUR INDIGENOUS TURKEYS BECAME EXTINCT — A few hundred years back, our Alliklik Indians worshipped volcanoes. Small problem? Except for the biker bar, The Volcano Room up Sierra Highway, the SCV has no active volcanoes. For centuries, the Allikliks gathered turkeys around Thanksgiving Day and placed the great protesting holiday birds in giant trebuchets. You know. Giant siege engine catapults? Our aboriginal relatives would launch turkeys by the thousands toward the then-active Aztec volcanoes several thousand miles to the south. Having no scientific knowledge or even conversational guesswork where, exactly, Mexico was, the Alliklik misfired. After centuries of hitting the active Krakatoa (east of Java?), the tonnage of turkeys jammed the volcano vent. In 1883, Krakatoa erupted, thus starting Climate Change.
THE THANKSGIVING HORROR OF CEDARCREEK ELEMENTARY — While the Thanksgiving holidays are normally a time of joy, terror can rear its ugly head. Third-grade teacher Miles derVonderfreu was holding down a part-time job as a turkey farmer up Bouquet Canyon in 1989. He was bitten in the neck by a rabies-infested turkey. On the next full moon, derVonderfreu turned into a werekey. You know. Half human? Half turkey? The affable elementary school prof ate six Cedarcreek PTA members and a Lutheran at the school’s Thanksgiving Pageant. He was chased by irate and farm implement-waving parents, cornered in a barn and burned alive. Old-timers swear derVonderfreu still stalks Canyon Country on holiday weekends, looking for straggling Thanksgiving carolers or solitary, depressed, family-less people in parked cars, sobbing over Zoom…
John Boston is a local writer and Thanksgiving celebrant. Special thanks to the SCV Historical Society for carefully authenticating all the incidences in this essay.