My Imaginary Friends – The Pilgrim Fathers
The Original Party Animals
They turned us on to that whole Thanksgiving thing you know. But they started partying back on the boat. Actually their landing, way north of the bit of Virginia coast they were aiming for, may very well stand as the first alcohol-related boating accident on this continent. Writing a couple of years later they explained how they came to be unable to point the boat south and complete the trip, "We could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer.” So there you have it-- they had one grand kegger, drank up all the beer, landed on the wrong bit of beach, and were too pissed to turn the damned boat around.
Some historians maintain that with such behavior they were perhaps overcompensating for their backed up social life in the old country where the cool Anglican kids used to laugh and point at them. However, since there were 102 of this crowd on the boat, and only 35 of them were of that, self styled, “godly” persuasion that the Anglicans and the “non-Separating Puritans” found so amusing, that analysis seems a bit weak. The more general plan was that 30 or so of this bunch, the serious drinkers and layabouts, were to turn a tidy profit off the work of the rest of them, religion being only a side issue.
Despite the colder than expected climate, Plymouth being tad more chilly than Virginia in December, and their ignorance of farming methods suited to it, my virtual pals were still convinced that they had lucked-up on something good. Particularly as the former residents of Pawtuxet had been nearly wiped out by a plague (brought by another wave of Boat People 4 years earlier). John Winthrop, one of the layabouts, described it in these terms “miraculous…. But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by the smallpox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place...” Clearly the Nonexistent was showing favor for the “godly” by wiping out their competition and by extension, some maintained. granting John and the boys license to rob, displace and murder those who remained. And so they continued to think as things got worse. Well... perhaps not so much by the time of the “First Thanksgiving” when all but 53 of their number were dead and in the ground.
The First Thanksgiving
The one proper English item on the table was beer, brewed from the barley which was the only crop they managed to bring in. The rest was contributed by their Wampanoag “guests,” wild duck, goose and turkey and Bambi pies with corn meal crust. With enough beers they, the itinerant “godly,” probably did not even care that bubble 'n' squeak was off their menu. Anyroad, this feast was high living compared to the slim pickings got by robbing they Wampanoags' Pawtuxet graves shortly after they first landed.
One of the under-reported pressures on the “godly” is reflected in the sermon, delivered in 1621 by Robert Cushman, “The Sin and Danger of Self-Love Described” that some historians say was motivated by the fact that the Plymouth Plantation, going into its second year, had only 4 women and no sheep. These are probably the same scholars who read special significance into the biblical obsession with sheep. “After all,” they say, “Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks?” These troublemakers are perhaps forgetting that, for the “godly,” sporting with lower life forms is not interdicted. One need only reflect on their own accounts of the time roughly nine months before the First Christmas to confirm this.
Товарищ Х is a political activist and composer who lives in Cleveland, Ohio.