By LARRY WOODY
Sometimes it seems we've lost the true meaning of Thanksgiving amid the commercialized hustle-bustle of modern life, and forget it all began when the first Pilgrim peeked out of his cabin, saw his shadow, and was in for six more weeks of bad weather.
No, wait -- that's Groundhog Day. My mistake!
Thanksgiving Day began in 1621 when friendly Indians took pity on some famished undocumented immigrants and brought them a feast of Baked Bambi and Turkey McNuggets.
The Pilgrims, as they came to be known, showed their appreciation by naming their football team, the Plymouth Rock Redskins, after their guests.
Although the gesture was well-intended, some of the Indians considered the name politically incorrect and expressed their displeasure by going on a ticket-scalping spree.
Historians are conflicted about how to treat the holiday. Some view the initial Thanksgiving banquet as a sign the Indians and Pilgrims were willing to live together in harmony and either eat squash or play squash -- early transcripts are hazy.
Others, however, believe the whole thing was simply a ploy by the Indians to dupe the Pilgrims into signing time-share condo agreements.
More tensions arose after dinner when they all settled back to watch the Cowboys-Lions game on TV, and the Indians were conned into betting on Dallas. The naive natives had not grasped the Europeans' concept of "point spread," and ended up losing much wampum on a last-second Lions field goal.
Some of the Indians decided perhaps they had been a bit hasty in rolling out the Welcome Wagon, and were heard to mutter: "Well, there goes the neighborhood."
Just as things were getting testy, a beautiful Indian princess named Pocahontas intervened and saved the day by handing out complimentary casino chips to everybody.
As for the feast itself, PETA is peeved over the portrayal of a Thanksgiving table laden with the carcasses of fellow creatures. The animal-rights folks prefer a more critter-friendly image of the Indians and Pilgrims digging into bowls of tofu and bean sprouts.
There was probably more venison served than turkey, because it took only minutes to toss a Bambi on the barbi, while a gobbler took half a day to defrost and bake. However, the image of a large roasted buck sprawled on the dinner table with its tongue hanging out is not exactly Norman Rockwell-ish.
Decades later, Ben Franklin suggested making the wild turkey our national emblem, but the proposal was defeated by the powerful eagle lobby.
It is those subtle dips of the paddle that steer our national canoe down the gentle currents of history.
Imagine what would have happened if Ben had been successful, and the turkey had become a majestic and protected species instead of the bald eagle:
Today the wild turkey would proudly adorn our flags, federal buildings and national currency, and come Thanksgiving we'd all gather around the banquet table to watch grandpa carve the roast eagle.