West: Wishbone triggered memory

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Ever yank on a wishbone?

Call it a wishbone, pulley bone, furcula or whatever you like, this stirrup-shaped bone has long been associated with good luck.

For Cannon County folk, it was common to let two youngsters pull on the wishbone and try to snap it. After all the laughter was over, the lucky one who got the larger portion of the bone got to make a silent wish. That, of course, was followed by more laughter with everyone wanting to know the "secret."

Back in "olden" days, the wishbone had much more serious uses in prehistoric monsters like Tyrannosaurus rex. But superstitions surrounding the bone date back to at least the Late Medieval Period when a goose wishbone was used to divine the weather on St. Martin's Day (November 11).

"When the goose has been eaten on St. Martin's Day or Night, the oldest and most sagacious keeps the breast-bone and allowing it to dry until the morning examines it all around, in front, behind and in the middle. Thereby they divine whether the winter will be severe or mild, dry or wet, and are so confident in their prediction that they will wager their goods and chattels on its accuracy," Johannes Hartliebin wrote in 1455.

Even Teutonic knights in Prussia conducted war by use of the "goose bone" with it predicting in which order they would execute their campaigns.

The "modern" use of the wishbone developed in the 17th century. Of course at the time, the bone was called the "merrythought." The term wishbone didn't emerge until the time of the Civil War but the tradition continued.

Somewhere along the way (in 1945), World War II veteran Phillip Sollomi opened a family-style chicken restaurant in Kansas City, MO. It was called "The Wish-Bone." Yes, the restaurant was a success, but a few years later the Sollomi family discovered true, nationwide success when Phil began to serve his mother's salad dressing brought from her home in Sicily.

He was soon mixing it up in 50-gallon drums with the label "The Kansas City Wish-Bone®

Famous Italian-Style Dressing."

Known now days as "Wish-Bone" brand, the salad dressings were first acquired by the Lipton (tea) Company before changing hands a time or two.

Personally, my favorite "wish bone" story is more simple and involves a huge turkey that once lurked in my Grandfather's orchard out toward Short Mountain.

I was a little tyke, about the same height as that mean, old tom turkey.

Normally, I kept my distance from the tough old bird who usually hung around the far corner of the fenced-in orchard. While I don't remember, I was probably under orders not to go through that little orchard gate by myself.

Naturally, I didn't follow those orders and instead attempted to sneak my way across the orchard.

It didn't take long for old tom to catch me and to commence flogging.

The ruckus quickly caught my Uncle John's attention and he ran to the rescue with a stout stick in hand.

Alas, old tom soon perished and made his way into the oven.

It was an early Thanksgiving for at least one little city boy and the death of old tom became a part of the family's legacy.

Ironically, his story was to resurface decades later following the passing of my grandmother. We were searching and sorting through countless items of family legacy when Uncle John found a giant wishbone in the attic.

With a grin, he held up the big wishbone and asked me if I remembered that.

Yep, the passing of old tom was an event not to be forgotten. And no, I don't remember what happened to the old wishbone.

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Mike West column
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