The First Thanksgiving Day
Joseph walked amongst the untamed virgin forest of the new world. He carried a snaphance, one of only three amongst the group of pilgrims, the weapon, heavy and awkward to carry yet easier to manage within the dense undergrowth, much easier than a matchlock. His waist coat snagged on the sharp thorns of the native flora, he wore a cap made from beaver hair that he purchased in Plymouth, England before the voyage. He traveled with his father, they were “strangers”, common men, not Leiden separatists and they procured the opportunity to buy a spot on the Mayflower. Many of the separatists stayed behind not willing to give up life in the old country, fearful of the uncivilized land, leaving room for others to make the journey. 102 passengers boarded the merchant vessel, a mixture of Leiden and English separatists as well as those searching for a new start. The Mayflower took 66 days to cross the Atlantic. The new world, heaven in so many ways yet wild and primitive and sometimes hellish, the old country had become over populated and congested yet this new place at times seemed very lonely. The previous winter of 1620 devastated the colony. The face of the demon, an unseen, “great sickness” that struck the fledgling village, little did they know that the illness hid away on the Mayflower, an unwelcome stow away from the old country. The dark plague killed off half of the population including his father, Thomas Rogers, his mother had died years before in England leaving him alone in an untamed world. The village was now his family.
Joseph befriended a couple of young braves who taught him how to hunt the wild bird. The Wampanoag, people of the early light, natives, had kept watch over them since the pilgrims first touched ground. Earning the Indian’s trust became no small accomplishment. The first encounter consisted of arrows and gun fire. Three months later a tall native approached from out of the forest. Friendly, he spoke in broken English and his name was Samoset. He told of his capture by English profiteers who kidnapped him and brought him to England. He introduced the pilgrims to the Wampanoag and that indeed was a blessing from God above. The Indians treated them like old friends and introduced them to the indigenous plant called corn and showed the Pilgrims how to plant and grow the new food crop.
The Pilgrims called their new colony Plymouth, named after the last civilized town the pilgrims would ever see again, now had seven homes, a small meeting-house and a structure for storage. Joseph noticed a movement within the tall brown grass. A rafter of wild turkey emerged into the clearing, gobbling and stretching their wings. Joseph rotated back the clamp that held the flint. He took aim holding the weapon as still as possible. He breathed in a deep breath of moist cool air and held it firm against his shoulder. He pulled the long trigger. The clamp sprung forward striking the frizzen, a shower of white-hot sparks collected into the flash pan igniting the priming powder that traveled through the touch hole to set off the main charge of gunfire. The process took several seconds and ended in a loud boom, a gentle push and a puff of white smoke. The turkeys scattered into the sky, all save one. The feathered body lay motionless, a clean shot. The turkey, amongst dozens of birds brought back to Plymouth. A celebration of friends, shelter and survival, the feast lasted for days and included wild turkey, venison, wild duck, oysters, clams, eel, crabs, corn bread, leaks and watercress. All thanks given to God apply today as it did in 1621. I hope all have good and thankful Thanksgiving Day.