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From the Desk of Dora DePaoli Thankful for maple syrup, family and good friends

November 30, 2001

As in other years our family had lots to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. We weren't all able to be together, but we spent time with one another over the phone.

My daughter Mary and her family, and my son Tony spent the holiday in Orange County. Maple syrup seemed to play a big role in their meal. The turkey had a maple syrup glaze and Mary used maple syrup to sweeten her cranberries. The whipped cream topping for pumpkin pie was sweetened with maple syrup.

Mary felt lucky to be at the festivities. She could have been arrested for breaking and entering. The day before Thanksgiving her long-time, next-door neighbors moved out. Before they left Mary told the neighbors she was especially sad to see them move right before Thanksgiving because she might need to use their oven.

"No problem," they said. "Just raise the garage door and go into the house that way."

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Mary did just that when she ran out of oven space. She popped her pumpkin pie into the oven and went home. When her timer rang she went to retrieve the pie. This time there was a vehicle parked in the driveway. She rang the doorbell and explained what she had done. The new neighbors took it in stride.

Debbie and her family in South Carolina smoked a 20-pound bird and had several friends over for the day. Unlike here, the weather was beautiful there and the kids played outside all day. She had two slip-ups with the dinner. She was late with the mashed potatoes, and she forgot to put the oysters in the stuffing.

We were supposed to have our Thanksgiving in the desert beyond Glamis. Then the plan changed. Because of the crowds at Glamis, the desert west of Brawley was the new location. By mid-morning the wind came up and the plan changed again. Now we were to have dinner in Brawley.

There were four vehicles in our group leaving Holtville. In the lead was my great-nephew, Ryan, driving his grandfather's huge, converted bus. My brother-in-law, Charlie Nilson, the bus owner, hadn't had the behemoth out for a drive in over a year. As we were lumbering down the road we were all keeping our fingers crossed. Charlie isn't keen on vehicle maintenance. If we made it to Brawley and back without incident it would be a miracle. As it turned out we made it 10 miles out of town.

While traveling down Keystone Road north of Holtville the left front tire blew. Wonder of wonders, Charlie had a usable spare tire and tools with which to change the tire. As we waited along side the road Ryan and my son Steve changed the tire.

During this tire exchange Steve wrenched his back, smashed his thumb and Ryan dropped a tool on Steve's foot. Not a good beginning. Ryan had previous experience changing tires on the bus. He changed several on it three years ago when we all went to Texas for Christmas and Charlie took the bus.

It surprised all of us that no one stopped to ask if we needed assistance. Cars and trucks just zoomed by. Ralph Allegranza of Holtville was the only person to stop. My grandson Eric and I entertained ourselves with his walkie-talkies while on the side of the road. We now know the handy little gadgets have a half-mile range.

After the tire was changed we loaded back up and thought we were heading out only an hour behind schedule. This was not to be. The bus wouldn't start. Charlie, Ryan and Steve took turns crawling into the rear of the bus to try various engine-starting techniques. The rest of us waited a bit and finally headed off for our Thanksgiving rendezvous at the J.C. Reeves home in Brawley. A veritable feast awaited us there and a good time was had by all.

Charlie is the only one in the family with a fondness for the bus. His daughter, Becky, said the trouble-prone vehicle will be sold one day.

"It will be sold the day after Dad dies," she said.

The Friday after Thanksgiving my sister, Louise, and I went out to try to walk off some of the food we ate. About a half-mile from the house Louise slipped on some fine gravel and fell alongside the road. Her hat and glasses went flying, and she got a deep gash on the fleshy part of her left hand. As I was helping her stand, Steve pulled up. The next three vehicles also pulled up to offer assistance. Once again I must say, "only in Holtville."

Louise and I spent the next four hours in the emergency room, where she finally got a bunch of stitches. The moral of the story is to try not to get hurt on holidays. Doctors offices are closed and everybody and his brother heads to the emergency room.

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