80+ Thanksgivings and Counting
Melvin was one of the 200 Elders slated to receive a Thanksgiving meal box from the Cheyenne River Elderly Nutrition Center in Eagle Butte, SD.
Melvin was one of the 200 Elders to receive a special Thanksgiving meal to take home and prepare for his family. At 87, Melvin still drives and is still a horseman.
Although the family had a ranch east of town, where most of his seven children were raised, he and his wife, Melda, lived in a small home in town.
Melvin was proud that most of his children were college educated. He credited hard work and ranching in helping get his kids through college. He said that he told them to, “get all the education you can get. There are going to be pitfalls, but you can overcome them.”
He fondly spoke of each adult child, expounding on their educational and career backgrounds. This pleased father even shared about when one of his daughters attended a parochial school with a headmaster from Britain! Another daughter was working on her doctorate, one son was an engineer with the roads department, and another son served as Tribal Chairman in the mid-1980s. Family, education, and service to community was paramount.
Melvin himself did not finish high school — his education was cut short in the 11th grade when he was drafted into the Army. But upon returning home to Cheyenne River, his life took him all the way from serving as Tribal Chairman in the late 70s, working as a Chief Judge, and serving as District council representative. All of this was accomplished while ranching and raising his family with his wife.
Melvin recalled some of the hardships the reservation had faced, mainly due to harsh weather. The worst storm he remembered was in the 96-97 season. A blizzard took out much of their livestock. Another storm, widely publicized in the national media, was the ice storm in 2010. That took out much of the electricity and power to many of the 15,000 residents of the reservation. Melvin and Melda’s home turned into a shelter for friends and relatives who were stranded.
With a unique outlook, Melvin stated he had, “over 80 Thanksgivings!” He had seen many turkey days pass by and had outlived quite a few of his friends. He was looking forward to being with family, including fourteen grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and even one great, great grandchild who just turned a year old.
The center where Melvin received his turkey has been a Program Partner for over 10 years. On this particular day, two hundred frozen turkeys and complimentary food items were delivered by semi-truck to be distributed to the Elders of the reservation.
The turkey Melvin received from AIRC would certainly help to feed the large family that would gather at his table during the November holiday.
Volunteers helped unload the early morning truck and organized all the items into individual bags to be picked up by Elders or their families. Some staff took out the Thanksgiving meals to be delivered to their homebound Elders, but Melvin was self-sufficient, even at his age.
Melvin said he enjoyed eating stuffing during the holiday feast the best. He liked it with sage, the flavorful herb that grows wild on Cheyenne River. He added that one year there was a little too much sage included and they were forced to make another batch without it.
The turkey he received from the Northern Plains Reservation Aid (NPRA) program’s Thanksgiving service would certainly help to feed the large family that would gather at his table during the November holiday.
Thank you for helping make this service possible for Melvin and the thousands of other Elders like him!