Thanksgiving, Plymouth, 1621, was three days of celebration and giving thanks to God for their first harvest in their new home. Their crops had almost failed because of a threatening drought during mid-summer. With visions of a winter of starvation — no trucks would be stocking store shelves at a local supermarket — they declared a day devoted to prayer, asking God to save their wilting crops.

Tisquantum, now known as “Squanto,” had taught them which crops to plant, and how to, that would grow in their new home. Their English seed did not do well in Plymouth’s acidic soil. For example, Squanto taught them how to plant “The Three Sisters,” long a successful Native American practice. It’s done, to start with, by making a mound of soil, 4-5 feet across. In it, you bury three fish. (Fertilizer.) In the center is planted corn. Then the middle ring is green beans. (The corn gives the beans a sturdy frame to climb up on and the beans give the corn needed nitrogen,) The bottom of the mound is planted ’round with squash. This produces large leaves that give shade over the area, thus helping to hold moisture in. Pretty dang clever.

Squanto had set up his wickiup beside the little village and lived there the rest of his life. Since the first warm day in that first spring when Samoset, the great Sachem from the Maine coast, strode into the village, raised his arm and said “Welcome English,” and then asked for a beer, the Indians of the area villages led by the Sachem Massasoit, the two groups had made a mutually beneficial treaty which was never broken for two-three decades, until after the deaths of the both the original Plymouth and Native leaders and thousands of new settlers had established new colonies, like Boston Bay, in the area.

Back to the day of prayer. Before the day ended, the heavens opened up with a gentle rain that fell for hours, saving the crops. The Indians were greatly impressed with what they took as a powerful God that looked with favor upon their new neighbors.

And so, at harvest time, with food assured to get through the winter, they declared a time of giving thanks — at the end of harvest, not the end of November. They invited Massasoit and some others from the village. They were surprised when over 100 braves with their families showed up. The Pilgrims were to learn an Indian custom: Invite one, invite all. They quickly envisioned their winter store of food dwindling. Massasoit understood the problem and sent five braves off hunting. They came back with five deer. And they all proceeded to celebrate for three days of games, prowess with weapons, singing, dancing and eating in the warm fall weather. They had the five deer, and “plentiful wilde foul, including the wilde turkey of which they took many” (as written by Governor William Bradford). They had plenty of fish, including shellfish, etc.

Now we celebrate Thanksgiving at the end of November. We hope for, at least, no blizzard, ice or snow to delay flights, make roads slippery, etc. And wouldn’t it be nice if it were warm enough for the kids to play outside?

Now, with my family that has grown and grown as grandkids grow up and get married, have their own homes (eight separate homes around the area), and in-laws with their homes and families, it’s getting nigh impossible to all gather in one place. We were thinking that we could consolidate a lot of us into one place by going out for a Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant. Good idea. But the world gone crazy has ruined that. There’s not a restaurant in the county that used to be open for Thanksgiving that will be open. Indeed, many are permanently closed.

So, next year, I’m going to pull out my “Matriarch Card” and declare our Private Family Thanksgiving Day for a nice warm autumn day with no blizzards to worry about, when the little ones can run and frolic outside, and people won’t have to split off to respective in-law dinners

And after dinner, everyone is going to have pie and coffee while watching the best movie yet made, as to authenticity, about the Pilgrims: “Desperate Crossing.” It’s time the great-grandkids also start to learn about their great-great-grandparents, 34 of them, who made that perilous journey on the Mayflower.

Time to learn and remember the history, struggles, and grit of this small band of people in their determination to establish a free society governed not by kings but by the people. According to the website mayflower.org, John Quincy Adams described the Mayflower Compact as the “first example in modern times of a social compact or system of government instituted by voluntary agreement conformable to the laws of nature, by men of equal rights and about to establish their community in a new country.”

Adams and other prominent historians felt that the compact, made and signed on the Mayflower, anchored on the shore of what is now Massachusetts, should be ranked with the Magna Carta and regarded as the seed that led to America’s Constitution.

P.S. The History Channel did the best and most accurate story on the Pilgrims, titled: “Desperate Crossing.” You can watch it on YouTube or get the DVD. A great family movie for the holiday and teaching children some real American History.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native, and a graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.

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