"A Traditional New England Clanksgiving Dinner"

Norma Rakehell
Metallic inks on tin
 

Norma Rakehell, unbeloved artist— or ar-TISTE as she called herself— of the Hudson River School Down Where It Passes the Gasworks devoted her whole brief, futile life to making Americans aware of the debt they owed to scrap metal in their daily lives. Some of her other works, namely her Portrait of George Washingmachine, Junk Dealers Descending the Missouri, The Persistence of Precision (Melting Watchworks) and Kettle-whistle’s Mother can be seen only at the Rakehell Foundation for fear of public ridicule if widely circulated.

The story the ar-TISTE fabricated for the painting as a sort of provenance goes like this:

“Sixteen score and two and a half years ago the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, and it was not long afterward that the first scrapyard was set up in the New World. With the help of local Indian tribes this modest pile of junk soon grew to impressive dimensions, attracting tourists from far and wide. After goggling at the immense pile from all sides, tourists might retreat to the Pilgrim Tourist Information Center where they could learn the history and meaning of scrap metals and their importance to the religious and cultural lives of the sect. After viewing slide shows and listening to informative talks by noted junkistorians, they would have a merry feed of succotash washed down with barrels of Wild Turkey. 

"Finding their way home after such a feast explains why early roads laid out along their customary pathways were so erratic, often ending in swamps or off the edges of convenient cliffs. One day a couple of barrels of Wild Turkey rolled off a distiller’s wagon, bounced into the scrapyard and shattered against an obsolete fabricating machine. Not long afterwards late-night passersby noted considerable activity in the scrapyard, mostly involving oxy-acetylene torches and arc welding. It was not long afterward that a proclamation arrived at the Pilgrim Fathers’ doors announcing the establishment of the Nation of Liberated Junkyard Turkeys and requesting all due protocols and diplomatic recognition.

"At first there was hostility toward the new tribe and several attempts at vigilante justice against its members. But as the Turkeys were bulletproof and the vigilante Pilgrims were not, a treaty of mutual amicability was soon signed by both parties.

One frosty late November day, the Junkyard Turkeys watched the Pilgrims and the local Indians whooping it up at their annual harvest celebration, and it was not long afterward they decided to follow suit. 

"Thus Clanksgiving was born. It has become a tradition for a wild robot to be served up at these dinners, with competitions to hunt down the biggest, plumpest robots for the Clanksgiving table. This delicacy is carved by the oldest tom turkey in the family, and, with plenty of fermented lube oil to wash it down a good time is had by all. Unless, of course, some juvenile prankster brings a couple of horseshoe magnets to the dinner to watch the youths and maidens suddenly thrown into compromising positions to their mutual embarrassment and the hilarity of family members. Although it must be said that many happy marriages have resulted from such inauspicious beginnings."

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Reproduced with the kind permission of the Rakehell Foundation. It is the Freedom from Rust panel from her 1944 Saturday Evening Post-commissioned series, The Four or So Freedoms.

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