Abraham Lincoln and Me

For those who don't know (and you should!); today is Lincoln's birthday.  (Back in the day it was a "real" holiday and you got the day off.  Of course Washington's Birthday was also a separate celebration.  Now we junk it all together for one "official" day:  Presidents Day.  If you want more on that you'll need to return to last year's blog post:  http://bfthsboringblog.blogspot.com/2014/02/presidents-day.html)

Every family has its stories, its tall tales and its myths.  There is lore that is passed down from generation to generation.  My family has the Lincoln turkey story.  How much of it is completely true?  It's a great story, so I ask:  does it really matter?

What is most definitely true is that my great grandmother's father, Nelson Tway, a farmer, was a member of the Union Light Guard of Ohio who was assigned to guard President Lincoln.  The Tway family went along to Washington along with Nelson.  It is documented that my Great Grandmother knew Mrs. Lincoln as she mentioned her in an interview she once gave to a newspaper in Ohio. (A copy of which I have buried in a trunk in the basement and some day will manage to dig out again.)  

But that is not the tale that I know and love so much. I've been told that my Great Grandmother played with the youngest Lincoln, Tad.  It is documented that Tad used the White House (and its grounds) as his personal playground, so why would my grandmother (and perhaps any other children who were there at the time) play there too?  The fascinating tale goes that during the holiday season there were live turkeys that roamed the grounds, being fattened up for a forthcoming meal.  While my great grandmother and Tad were playing on the grounds of the White House, one of these turkeys chased after them.  (Wild turkeys can be rather intimidating, especially to a young child.  I can attest that Canadian Geese and Swans can be nasty creatures when set upon so I can only imagine what havoc a wild turkey would cause.)  The story goes that both children shrieked and yelled as loudly as they were chased by the "wild turkey" that the President came out to see what the matter was.  Upon seeing the melee, he swooped both children up (one under each arm) and "rescued" them; bringing them into the White House.  What an image!  

It is a wonderful story and I knew it by heart by the time I was in second grade.  From what I understand my great grandmother told it to my grandfather who in turned passed it on to my mother.  Just last summer, my mother shared it with my son, who was enraptured by it all.

It is a wonderful piece of family mythology. To me it gives a human face to the man who is a historical legend. I know that when the time comes I will pass it on to my son’s children and hope he will pass it on as well.  In my opinion, it’s American mythology at its best.

So on this Lincoln's Birthday, don't just remember Abe as the great emancipator, but as a man you'd want to have around when faced with wild turkeys (or any wild fowl)!  


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