Everyone arrived safely from Maryland last night and I’m about to return to Alice’s for dinner this evening. I was there earlier but everyone, grown-ups included, needed a nap this afternoon!
There isn’t much time to post anything before Thanksgiving, and who knows if there will be after, but I wanted to post something. I thought of Squanto whom I first learned about in grade school and who made such a big impression on my first and second grade self.
This is a copy of the book we used in Coffinberry Elementary School in the early 50s. I think a more colorful edition came out later which at least one of my brothers had, but this was ours.
Squanto was an Patuxant Indian who had perhaps a too exciting life. He was taken voluntarily to England when young, returned to the English colonies with the famous Captain John Smith, captured by an infamous Captain Thomas Hunt, who sold him as a slave in Malaga, Spain, and yet somehow was able to return to his original home with a better Captain a little before the pilgrims landed with the Mayflower.
But when he returned he discovered that every single person in his tribe had died of some terrible unknown illness. He was the last Patuxant Indian alive.
Squanto lived with a nearby tribe and became friends with an Indian who interpreted for the English, Samoset. When the pilgrims landed, they set up their village in the very place where Squanto’s people had lived. Their first year was terrible. They came with 102 people and 51 died that first winter. They had little food and were actually eating some of the seed that was supposed to help them plant their first crops. And they didn’t know how to farm in the much more difficult land on that coast.
Squanto, encouraged by Samoset, came to the pilgrims and showed them how to catch fish to use as fertilizer and how to catch eels to live. The idea of putting a dead fish into each hill of corn planted made a huge impression on me as a small child. I have a faint memory of putting a dead goldfish (we will not ask how it came to be dead) into the hole where I planted some zinnias one summer. At any rate, Squanto saved the pilgrims that year and helped them produce and hunt enough food to survive. He also helped them make a peace treaty with Chief Massosoit of the Wanpanoags. So he had everything to do with that first Thanksgiving in the Plymouth colony. Who knows how history would have turned out without his help? Not I.
I don’t know whether this story, a true one, is told in schools much anymore. I will ask my grandson this evening.