"God and America have been good to me," Uncle Spud said as we sat by the fire, toasting our socks while enjoying hot apple cider. "I have a lot to be thankful for."
He was in a deeply reflective, almost melancholy mood, so I didn't say anything and just let him talk.
"I was born in deep poverty in Ireland," he continued. "The great potato famine happened when I was just a kid. I remember the pain in my belly and the tears in mother's eyes as the food ran out and the family began to starve. Dad lost his little farm and we ate soup made from grass and leaves on more than one occasion.
"I was a boy trying to find work at the docks when I was pressed into service for the British navy," he said. "Back then they just took you and put you aboard ship against your will. They said I owed it to king and country, but I don't remember the king of England or his country coming to our aid when thousands of us were starving to death."
"I was a slave aboard his majesties ship for most of two years," he said. "Then one day the ship dropped anchor at the port of Quebec. I was not allowed to go ashore, but I looked out at the new world with wonder. I had heard so much about America, the land of freedom and opportunity.
"As the ship put to sea again, I waited until she was under sail then jumped from the rail and swam for shore. I knew they wouldn't turn that big ship around for a single, scrawny little Irishman. But, British marines shot at me with their rifles as I swam for my life. It was a long swim and I almost didn't make it. I stayed in Canada for a time, then crossed the border into New York. In America, the British navy couldn't arrest me."
"As a young man I worked for the railroad. I swung a hammer, laying track all across the American Midwest. It was hard work but I had enough to eat and I was free from British tyranny and Irish poverty. I earned American citizenship with firm resolve and the sweat of my brow. I was often treated as a second-class citizen because of my ancestry, but I worked hard and won the respect of my new countrymen."
"I followed the railroad to Utah, and here I found work in the coalmines. It was dangerous work, but a man could make a living in the mines and stay in one place where he could have a home and family. I married a good woman and raised a good American family. I spent the rest of my working life in the mines, and five generations of my sons have worked in the mines as well. Our family is firmly rooted in Castle Valley and our story isn't much different from hundreds of other families who live here."
"My family has prospered here. We have enjoyed a standard of living envied by the haughty British and undreamed of by my Irish ancestors. We have freedom to dream, freedom to act, and freedom to be whomever and whatever we choose. We have enough food to share, money to squander on foolish excesses, and clothing enough to donate to Good Will Industries. We have big cars, comfortable homes and modest bank accounts; things my ancestors would never have thought possible."
"It is good that America celebrates a special day each year to thank God for our blessings. Nowhere else in the world could a peasant and a pauper, through his own efforts and hard work, achieve a level of comfort and affluence beyond what most kings throughout history have known."
"Let us give thanks for this wonderful country and for the bounties and freedom we enjoy. No other nation has ever been blessed like ours. No other people have ever had so much to be thankful for."
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and may God bless America.