One memorable Thanksgiving…

Meet Tater

The Saga of Tater…

Like a lot of people, my school experience resembled a roller coaster ride…it was filled with happy highs and not-so-happy lows. Normally I keep all school-based memories safely tucked away and deeply hidden in my memory bank. 

For some reason, the approach of Thanksgiving this year has unlocked a long forgotten experience from my elementary school days, and this fleeting moment has floated to the surface. In 1954, my dad was in the military and stationed at the Pentagon. I was 6 years old and we were living in Virginia for a few months. 

My memory of this community is filled with rolling fields and farm land. While we were living there, I attended a small K-12 school situated in this mostly rural area. The entire school had fewer than 100 students, and just one teacher per grade level. I was in first grade. 

On this particularly special day, I have a clear memory of our play yard bathed in sunshine, blessed with beautiful, clear blue Autumn skies, and a scattering of trees wearing golden, scarlet, and bronze crowns. 

Apparently, the school’s Head Master had let the teachers know that all students were to assemble in the play yard at a pre-determined time that morning. My first grade mind remembers our class being lined up and led to the yard in a flurry of excitement. This was an unusual event and cause for lots of whispered speculation among all the students, even the upper classmen!

Picture this…

There in the center of the play yard behind the painted hopscotch grid stood the Head Master and a TURKEY! Yes, you read that correctly…a living, breathing, gobbling turkey. The principal introduced us to Tater, the first turkey I had ever seen.  

Now, if this were to happen in a school today, I expect parents would be up in arms that the children were being traumatized. But this was 1954. Head Master went on to tell us, with overly dramatic gestures, that poor Tater was doomed to end up as someone’s Thanksgiving dinner. We were advised that it was our job to save him; we were challenged us to come up with a plan to save Tater from his fate as a Thanksgiving entrée.

I remember frantically trying to come up with an idea. I had nothing! My six-year-old brain drew a total blank! I think I ended up writing that they should eat extra vegetables. Lame, I know, but in spite of my less-than-stellar suggestion, that day was special. 

The students across all grade levels banded together with common purpose to fight a common battle… Save Tater! Student engagement was at an all-time high and collaboration was everywhere. I don’t remember my teacher’s name, I don’t remember the Head Master’s name, but the turkey’s name was Tater! Human nature was at its best that day and I learned a valuable life lesson. When we work together, when we are united for a common cause, we can achieve goals and exceed expectations. 

I belong to a group, Driven to Wellness, that is a great example of this theory in action. Our members live across and beyond the country, we are of different ages and stages of life, we come from different backgrounds, and multiple races. Members are facing many different challenges, but have a common goal: living a healthy, happy, fulfilled life. This common vision unites us and is consistently evident in the posts here on our page. When the world feels overwhelming, this is where I find respite. 

During times of national tragedy such as September 11, the Boston Marathon, the Pulse Nightclub attack (and many others), our country united and banded together to fight a common battle. My prayer this Thanksgiving is that we, as a nation, find a way to do this without waiting for a horrific event to spur us to action. Each of us can find a cause in our own community that allows us to feel love, passion and commitment; to collaborate and engage for the betterment of ourselves and our neighbors.

But, let’s get back to Tater. You are probably wondering whether or not we saved Tater from a ghastly demise. Well, Head Master neglected to tell us that Tater was actually a beloved pet. He was named Tater because his family would eat nothing but potatoes before they would ever eat him! So, Tater had a happy ending, and so does this post.  Have a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving filled with great food, good friends, loving family, and plenty of fun!!!

Author: Jennifer C. Walts, Ed.D.

I am a retired educator and School Improvement Specialist.

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