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The first Thanksgiving may have actually been in Texas

Most Americans believe Thanksgiving celebrates a 1621 harvest feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts, shared by 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag natives. Before the Civil War, the first Thanksgiving celebration was thought to be the 1610 Thanksgiving feast in Jamestown, Virginia, by colonists celebrating surviving a harsh winter.

But some historians believe the first Thanksgiving celebrations actually took place in Texas.

According to a Texas Almanac article by Mike Kingston, Juan de Onate worked for the Spanish crown. In 1597, Onate sent Vicente de Saldivar to blaze a trail from present-day Chihuahua, Mexico, to what is now El Paso, Texas.

In March of 1598, Onate started a 50-day march across the Chihuahuan Desert with 500 soldiers and colonists and 7,000 head of livestock. The group ran out of food and water after enduring seven days of deluging rain followed by 43 days of scorching heat. When they reached the Rio Grande, two colonists and two horses drowned attempting to quench their thirst.

After recovering for 10 days, Onate’s expedition celebrated a day of Thanksgiving on April 30, 1598, with game provided by Spanish soldiers and fish from natives of the region. According to one expedition member: “We built a great bonfire and roasted meat and fish, and all sat down to a repast the like of which we had never enjoyed before.” Franciscan missionaries said a Mass, and Onate claimed what is now El Paso for the Spanish king. After the celebration, Onate’s group traveled along the Rio Grande River, eventually settling in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Onate’s expedition clearly indicated Spanish colonization of the American Southwest long before English colonists arrived on the East Coast. According to Ricardo Marti-Fluxa, Spain’s consul general in Houston, “We don’t want to fight against any tradition. But we feel it was a deprivation not to acknowledge the full history of the United States of America.”

The Texas Daughters of American Colonists claims an even earlier Texas Thanksgiving. The group placed a marker just outside Canyon, Texas, commemorating a 1541 Thanksgiving celebration by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in Palo Duro Canyon. Fray Juan Padilla said a Mass; celebrants procured grapes and pecans that are not native to the area for their feast. Some historians doubt this claim for Thanksgiving primacy; it may have been a celebration of the Feast of Ascension.

Congress declared the day after Thanksgiving Native American Heritage Day to celebrate Native American contributions to the country in 2008. A group called Native Hope points out that while the Plymouth Thanksgiving forged a treaty between Plymouth and the Wampanoag that lasted for decades, the colonists plundered Wampanoag graves and stole their food. Native Americans gather at Plymouth each Thanksgiving to commemorate a National Day of Mourning for the genocide of native peoples. While Native Americans are warming to the idea of celebrating Thanksgiving, they celebrated autumnal harvest long before colonists arrived in America.

Where the first Thanksgiving celebration was celebrated depends upon who you ask.

But it’s important to approach the holiday thoughtfully. The United States was colonized not just by the English on the East Coast, but also in Texas by Spaniards. Native peoples showed grace to colonists, and their contribution was significant.

Thanksgiving is an important national holiday celebrating harvest, blessings and family. President Abraham Lincoln was the first president to declare Nov. 26, 1863, Thanksgiving Day. In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill declaring Thanksgiving Day as the fourth Thursday in November.

Gratitude is the most important part of Thanksgiving.

Denton volunteers bring 35th annual Thanksgiving to life

Thursday brought a Denton tradition 35 years in the making back indoors at Calhoun Middle School.

A smaller-than-average army of volunteers were on track to serve 2,000 meals by the time doors opened in the middle school cafeteria for a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

The Village Church Denton hosted the Thanksgiving Community Banquet as usual, and a mix of church members and volunteers made the event happen with a week’s worth of preparation beforehand.

Jesus and Zoraida Valdez said they’ve been coming every Thanksgiving for the past eight years or so.

They said they were happy to be back inside around others after the abridged version necessary last year. Thanksgiving 2020, with an accessible coronavirus vaccine still months away, forced volunteers and diners outdoors for a drive-thru event.

Despite the asterisk on the record, it kept the tradition of volunteerism and community going amid a pandemic.

Thursday was closer to a typical year, but it wasn’t without its share of obstacles.

Jeff Woo/DRC 

Volunteers pass out meals to guests during the annual Thanksgiving Community Banquet at Calhoun Middle School on Thursday.

Stephanie Mabe, event organizer and Village Church member, said it takes roughly 90 20-pound turkeys by the prior Friday to make the Thanksgiving meal happen each year, but that wasn’t quite so simple this year.

“Usually we are able to call Costco and say, ‘Can I have 90 turkeys on Friday, the Friday before Thanksgiving?’ and they say, ‘No problem,’” Mabe said. “This time they said, ‘You may have two.’”

She said they put out the call to church members to buy up as many fresh 20-pound turkeys as possible. The call worked, and she said they had more than 100 birds by the time doors opened Thursday.

“It was a really neat thing seeing church members hauling turkeys in to the middle school, and it was remarkable because it was looking bleak for a little bit,” Mabe said.

Final numbers weren’t clear Thursday morning, but Anne Holibaugh, a church staffer, estimated 100-200 volunteers were on site for the big day. That doesn’t include the possibly hundreds more who made the event come together over the preceding week.

Jerry and Patti Baird were just two of the local helpers who showed up to lend a hand Thursday.

The Double Oak couple celebrated their 50th anniversary just over a month ago, and they were looking for a way to give back before heading to see family for a belated Thanksgiving holiday.

“We’ve been very blessed, and we like to serve,” Jerry Baird said.

Patti Baird said they’d recently helped to package meals with their church that would be sent to Cuba this holiday season.

“I think that, for both of us — you do serve in your local church, that’s your intimate church family, but God’s church is very, very big,” she said. “I mean, Jesus went all over, he didn’t just stay.”

That stream of compassion and a desire to serve was common across church staffers and unaffiliated volunteers alike.

Holibaugh, who has helped with the Thanksgiving event over the past six years, said the most important thing she considers each year is the communal meal’s ability to bring people together and provide dignity.

“When I think about this meal, that’s something that rises to the top,” Holibaugh said. “Just the opportunity to affirm the dignity of what it means to be a human being regardless of where you’re living, what resources you have, who you’re connected to.”

After pleading guilty, veterans can seek treatment for military-related trauma to dismiss crime

With more than a year of intense monitoring, counseling and peer support, veterans in Denton County accused of a crime can treat underlying military trauma and try to get the criminal allegation dismissed through Veterans Treatment Court.

With enhanced monitoring of any substance abuse through the first phase and many local veteran organizations to join for peer support after they’ve completed the program, veterans in Denton County who are accused of a crime and have an underlying mental health problem can get their case dropped if they complete a treatment program that can last at least a year.

It’s a program that started in New York and made its way to Texas in 2009. Judge Forrest Beadle said the program has between 25 to 35 participants at a time, and the number will drop soon as more commence after Thanksgiving.

“[New York] started seeing veterans coming back from Iraq primarily enter into their drug court and failing, and the reason why they were failing was they were treating them for substance abuse issues, and they suddenly realized [the veterans] had a lot of trauma,” Beadle said.

Beadle, then an assistant district attorney, said he was tasked in 2009 to create a pilot program for a veterans treatment court. It was modeled like a pretrial diversion program, which Beadle said he knew wouldn’t work.

The version in place today was born on Nov. 23, 2012, and has now seen 150 graduates. Beadle noted the Nov. 23 date because he believes that’s when their first veteran pleaded guilty to enter the new program, and that veteran is now close to graduating from Texas Tech University’s School of Law.

Beadle said most of the cases that come through the court deal with domestic violence and driving while intoxicated because veterans who have that military trauma may lash out against loved ones and also self-medicate.

It’s during this time in the treatment court that Beadle tells them to be selfish and look after themselves.

“Very rarely in life do you get an opportunity as an adult … to pause and be selfish about yourself and say, ‘Look, all you people, the haters out there that are a part of this usage life that I have, you’re all gone. I’m going to concentrate on myself for the next 15 months or so,’” Beadle said.

Anytime a case comes before the District Attorney’s Office, they ask the accused if they’re a veteran. They can then find out more about the veterans program, and Beadle said they get referrals from organizations and entities all over the place. The veterans they’ve seen come from various military rankings such as privates and a colonel.

Just like other treatment programs in the county, the veterans court works in a series of phases. Phase 1, Intervention and Stabilization, sees veterans sober up if they self-medicate while they’re being physically monitored for their sobriety.

Beadle said they’re heavily monitored for sobriety through a transdermal alcohol testing bracelet, an ignition interlock that tests for alcohol on a person’s breath, a drug patch and random urine testing.

The ankle bracelet will detect the presence of alcohol as it leaves the body as the skin breathes, the ignition interlock will prevent a car from starting if the driver’s breathalyzer test is over a certain threshold and the drug patch can detect the major opioids, he said.

“The key component of this program is the intensive supervision,” Beadle said. “When they’re in Phase 1, they’re either coming to court twice a month and the other two weeks, they have to go see the supervision officer. … That first phase, they’re seeing somebody or interacting with the court four times [a month]. … And of course, along with their counseling.”

The first phase lasts about four months, active recovery in the second phase can go about five months and the third phase, maintenance and reintegration, lasts from three to four months. The third phase prepares participants to go back to the real world, especially with getting connected to local veteran organizations.

While they do have that intense monitoring for substances in the beginning, Beadle said their hope is that the participant is honest with them about usage.

“It’s not a ‘gotcha’ game. I’m not going to throw you in jail immediately because, you know, you’re an alcoholic and you drank again,” Beadle said. “We anticipate that we’re going to have some bumps along the way but the main thing is for them to be honest with the court. I tell them, if you’re not going to be honest with me, you’re not going to be honest with yourself.”

Most of the veterans they see served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Beadle said, but more Vietnam veterans have been entering the program in recent years. Beadle said those veterans may have suppressed their trauma for a number of years simply by staying busy, but now that they’ve reached retirement age, they find themselves with more time and the trauma can creep back up.

There are a lot of people on the team from people in the courts and justice system, to counselors and mentors and then veteran peer groups and services. Paul Bastaich, the county’s veterans service officer, said the local officer normally doesn’t attend treatment court in other counties, but he was asked to participate early on.

Bastaich said his role is to make sure those veterans know about the Veterans Association health care and make them aware of what their benefits could be.

“There’s a vesting exam to determine the veterans’ needs, whether mental or physical, and that those needs are addressed,” Bastaich said. “What normally happens is most in our court system are in for a mental health disability. More than likely, that’s why they’re in the program. Often it’s tied to combat, military sexual trauma related or traumatic brain injury related. … Maybe some of the things they’re involved in, why they’re at the court, could have been resolved by a better quality of life.”

As the stigma around mental health problems decreases, Bastaich said he sees it happening around the veteran circle, too.

“We make it very clear that it actually takes a lot of courage to stand up and say you need help,” Bastaich said. “That just shows you’re a strong individual and not a weak one. … The veterans court is a true testimony to vets who say, ‘I messed up, I believe it’s due to my behavioral health, this is going to be the best way not only for me to seek help but also be a patriot for showing this works.’”

Mike Trimble, former award-winning editorialist for the DRC, remembered for his wit and honesty

Friends and former sources remember Mike Trimble, an Arkansas native and career newspaperman who ended his career at the Denton Record-Chronicle, as an inimitable wit who was as gentle and insightful as he was unabashedly honest. Trimble, a longtime editorialist and writing coach, died on Nov. 20 at age 78.

He died from complications of cancer in Denton while in hospice care.

Travis Mac Trimble was born Nov. 3, 1943, to Edgar Mac Trimble and Frances Trim Trimble, schoolteachers who had moved to Arkansas from Louisiana and settled in the small burg of Bauxite.

His mother taught English — Mike and his sister, Pat, were her students — but his father moved on to work as the personnel and safety director at Alcoa, which had a big aluminum-production plant at Bauxite.

Mike Trimble was the center and linebacker for the Bauxite Miners football team. His time on the team and the boys who played with him would become the subjects of articles in the Arkansas Times magazine that aficionados reportedly clipped, saved and read aloud at parties.

Trimble’s career spanned 48 years, starting at the Texarkana Gazette and followed by jobs at the Arkansas Gazette, Arkansas Times, Pine Bluff Commercial, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Denton Record-Chronicle.

Trimble met his late wife, Jane Ramos Trimble, at the Pine Bluff Commercial. She was the executive editor, and after they married, Jane Trimble had to fire her husband to comply with the Commercial’s nepotism policy. The couple were able to work together at the Record-Chronicle until Jane went to work for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She died in 2014.

Mike Trimble worked at the Denton paper from the late 1990s to 2012.

In 2006, Trimble earned an award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors for writing the best editorials in the nation that year.

His former colleagues recalled Trimble as a man whose wit could sting even as it delivered honest, wry observations about Denton’s peculiarities with comedy and the occasional gut punch. While assembling the local newspaper’s editorial page and herding its letter-to-the-editor writers, Trimble wore social Kevlar but required a softer touch for his battalion of dueling readers (he called regular letter writers “frequent flyers,” sometimes with irritation, sometimes with admiration).

“Now, listen,” Trimble would say at least once a week as he called to verify the letters, “you can write a letter, and you can call me stupid in it. But I won’t let you call other letter writers stupid.”’

When the company relocated several years ago, staffers found a pair of Trimble’s file folders in his old desk, one labeled “Why I Suck” and the other “Why I Am Wonderful.”

His editorials at the Denton Record-Chronicle earned a fervent following, and they sometimes got people out of their chairs. A Denton ISD superintendent donned a sandwich board and paced in front of the newspaper’s downtown office after Trimble wrote an editorial criticizing his idea of painting school buses with advertisements.

When Trimble wrote an editorial scoffing that the U.S. Air Force was scouring the country for accordion players in 2004 (musing uncharitably about pinkie rings and the less-than-soothing sounds of the instrument), a small group of accordion players came to the newsroom and subjected him to an abbreviated concert. Trimble grimaced but sat back and listened. In fairness to the accordion players of the country, Trimble had suggested an accordion player might best serve the country by being dropped from a bomber over hostile territory.

He could sling wry barbs at his subordinates, too. He once compared a reporter to “a scavenging possum.” One afternoon in 1997, a gaggle of Record-Chronicle sports writers were struggling to move an ancient desk to a better spot in their department. Trimble looked on and sipped his coffee. He finally remarked that the young men reminded him of three monkeys trying to romance a football, though he chose a coarser word than “romance.”

Denton resident Mike Cochran was a member of the Denton City Council during Trimble’s tenure.

“He was such an asset at the DRC,” Cochran said in a message. “His absolute integrity, along with his razor-sharp writing skills, were legendary. When something big happened in Denton, you could hardly wait for Trimble’s editorial. You knew it was going to be good. He really took the term ‘newsman’ seriously and was a consummate professional of the old school.”

Donna Fielder, who worked for the Record-Chronicle for more than 30 years, had lunch with Trimble each week for the past 15 years. When Trimble got too sick to meet Fielder at one of their favorite places, Fielder said she just went to his home.

Their friendship was a testament to the days when the American media wasn’t so balkanized; Trimble leaned left, and Fielder tilts more to the right.

But their friendship endured, and Fielder said Trimble’s death leaves a void in her own life and the world a touch dimmer.

“I would like to say that Trimble was a man of the greatest integrity,” Fielder said. “He didn’t just expect integrity of others, he expected it of himself. He lived his beliefs. He gave up a job he loved rather than surrender his integrity.”

At work, where he was considered a writing coach long before it became his official title, Trimble routinely demonstrated his ability in baroque swearing, initiating new staffers at the Record-Chronicle with his practiced, rapid-fire recitation of every obscene and vulgar word that isn’t allowed in the newspaper in a single breath.

He also dispatched his duty to remind the news staff to complete their timecards by cupping his hands around his mouth, and yelling the software brand used to process staff payment: “Kronos! Kronos! Kronos!” When the staff got email, he stopped yelling. He simply sent a department-wide email that shouted “Kronos! Kronos! Kronos!” in the subject line.

He also shared the many productivity tips he disdained from corporate sources with the subject line: “Harder! Work harder!” The harrumphing was implied.

Trimble wasn’t a fan of technology and often referred to himself as “a techno-peasant.” Once, after a particularly complicated data processing system was foisted on the newsroom, he grumbled to the human resources director that “this here is the [expletive] that makes people want to retire.”

Though Trimble enjoyed playing the curmudgeon, he wasn’t too proud to play. He once led the newsroom in the famous dance to the Village People’s “YMCA” during an office party and sometimes launched squishy balls at reporters who were gabbing too close to deadline. And when A.H. Belo Corp. renovated the creaky restrooms at the careworn downtown office, Trimble announced his approval of the “brand new E-flat toilet paper dispensers” that contained “enough flimsy toilet paper to run the length of a football field.”

For a Southern-born man who came of age during the sexual revolution, Trimble appeared unruffled by social change, and believed in the expansion of civil rights. He once told young Denton reporters that he surprised the big-haired emcee of a Little Rock drag show, where he was invited to be a judge.

“This drag queen looked at me and asked, ‘Honey? Do we disgust you?’ and then put the microphone up to my face,” Trimble said. “I had to tell her the truth. ‘Hey, I cover the state Legislature.’”

Trimble is survived by his sister, Pat Patterson, and her husband, Carrick, of Little Rock; his daughter, Erin Trimble Gray of Little Rock; grandchildren, Camryn and Turner; a niece, Julia Taylor of Little Rock, and her husband, Mallory, and their daughter, Mary Ruth; a nephew, John Patterson of Atlanta, and his daughter, Josephine; and Meranda Barks of Denton, his friend and helper.

No service is planned.

The six flags that have flown over Texas are (from left) Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the State of Texas and the United States of America. Some historians now say the first Thanksgiving celebrations might have taken place in Texas, involving Spanish settlers.

Members of the Veterans Treatment Court team gather at the Denton County Courthouse on Monday.

Mike Trimble