Any mention of Thanksgiving — which I am about to mention — must first include a caveat that no one ever has or ever will write a Thanksgiving column like Furman Bisher, the late and great sports editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He owns that category like Ray Charles Robinson, of Albany, Georgia, owns “Georgia on my Mind.”
I am thankful for the times I spent with Furman and his wife, Lynda, in their home overlooking the marshes of St. Simons Island as we watched the sun set, enjoyed a crackling fire, an adult beverage and listened to stories of everybody from Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe Jackson to Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Cox. He knew them all.
A few of his successors have attempted to replicate Bisher’s Thanksgiving column, but they have all turned out poor imitations. This one likely will be no better but it’s the thought that counts. Some of you will see this after Thanksgiving Day, but that is OK. I haven’t checked the rule book but I think it is permissible to be thankful all day, every day.
I am thankful I live in a country where we can dispute election results but don’t have to worry about tanks in the street. I pray that never changes.
I am thankful for an automobile that tells me how to get to where I am going, honks at me if I leave my keys in the car and warns me when my tires need air. All the stuff I used to have to do myself.
I am thankful for good health, particularly after a period in which I didn’t have it. I discovered I was not as invincible as I thought I was and hope I never forget how fragile life really is, particularly when it is your own.
I am thankful for our military and for our first responders, and I would hate to think of the world without them.
I am thankful for dogs that don’t bark just for the sake of barking. I have always thought that a dog’s IQ could be measured by how little it barks. And if it does bark, watch out because it means it.
I am thankful for people like state Sens. Lindsey Tippins of Cobb County and Jack Hill of Reidsville, two of the wise men in the legislature. In these days of shout-down, camera-mugging ideological politics, they quietly and effectively do their jobs and give me faith that we can still get good people to run for public office.
I am thankful for smells: Freshly mowed grass, corn muffins in the oven, talcum powder, roses.
I am thankful for sounds: A child’s laughter, a trout stream, Chet Atkins’ guitar, Handel’s “Messiah.”
I am thankful for my church and the people within who have loved and supported us through some dark days. My spiritual leader, Bill Burch, currently has the assignment of trying to lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil. It is full-time work.
I am thankful for the chiming of the grandfather clock during the night. For reasons I don’t quite understand, it gives me reassurance that everything is OK and to go back to sleep.
I am thankful for our public school teachers. We expect them to shut the doors on society’s ills and teach kids how to read and write and think. Somehow, they do it despite of all the obstacles we put in their path and I thank God for them.
I am thankful for a family better than I deserve, including in-laws. They have taught me over the years that success isn’t measured in how many awards you win but in whether or not you have earned their love and respect. I think I have but I don’t know how.
I am thankful I have had an opportunity over the past 20 years to share my thoughts with you on everything from broccoli (I hate it) to the University of Georgia, the oldest state-chartered university in the nation, located in Athens, the Classic City of the South (I love it.) And that you tell me when you agree and when you disagree. I am also thankful to the editors who make it possible for us to meet like this.
Finally, thank you, Furman Bisher, for the inspiration for this column. You can rest easy, my friend, that I did my best but didn’t come close to your legendary Thanksgiving columns. For that, we can all be thankful.
Dick Yarbrough is a North Georgia resident whose column regularly appears Saturdays. Contact him at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com; or on Facebook.