The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Rave

November 21, 2012

Hello, pilgrim

It seems that Squanto, the Pawtuxet, spoke Pilgrim well enough to get by because he had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his American homeland in time for Thanksgiving.

Beneficent soul that he was, and despite the regrettable first impression, Squanto taught the Pilgrim settlers how to cultivate corn, extract sap, catch fish, avoid the bad mushrooms and get along with the Wampanoags.

So in November 1621, the remaining half of the Mayflower's passengers (those who survived long enough to land on the rock), celebrated their first corn harvest with a three-day feast that included their New World found friends, but no football.

Actually not much of a record exists of that first menu other than a journal entry about four men who went on a fowling mission in preparation -- so today's entree may be authentic.

The Wampanoags arrived with five deer, possibly Donner, Blitzen, Prancer, Vixen and maybe Cupid or Rudolph. (Dasher and Comet doubtless got away and Dancer may have shuffled off in four-four time).

Evidently, the telling and re-telling and grade school pageant preservation of this civics lesson has allowed the narrative to wander.

This much seems true: Those first planters of European culture were profoundly religious, faithful, brave, diligent, communal and dangerously free to exercise beliefs that killed half of them before their adventure took root.

Those are not bad seeds from which to spring this diverse nation now in the throes of fussier modern times.

Good neighbors and great dinner guests though the Wampanoags may have been, the feast of thanks followed more probably an earlier tradition of good harvest celebration offering thanks to heaven for the bounty that meant life would last a winter longer.

As we bow for grace this week, let us all reflect on our blessings, no matter how well or poorly they compare to the last time this American holiday brought us to a pause.

We are lives at a table in time, joined by that noblest and greatest human journey of community and liberty.

May our prayers this day honor the legacy of our ancestors, pledge preservation to our descendants, speak kindness toward our neighbors and show no less praise to providence than when we first began.

With eyes closed this day, true Americans will naturally speak Pilgrim well enough to get by. Amen, to that, Squanto.

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