Joe’s Journal

Thanksgiving 2017

Posted:  Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 8:45am

This week, we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is my favorite holiday. Is it yours too?

We live at the edge of the sea, not far from an area where, in 1607, the English first tried and failed to establish a foothold at Popham.

A few years later, on Cape Cod, a group of religious separatists we call Pilgrims, who had no clue how to survive in the forest, were in a serious pickle when they ran into an Indian who happened to speak English.

How did that happen? An Indian who spoke English?

Well, this guy, they called him Squanto, had been kidnapped by English sailors and taken to Spain and sold into slavery. He made it to London where he hooked up with some explorers and made his way back to Massachusetts, but that’s another story for another time.

He showed these Pilgrims how to grow crops and helped them form an alliance with the local Wampanoag tribe. A footnote to the story of the Pilgrims is how they sailed a small boat to the fishing colony on Damariscove Island and begged for food. Legend has it that the island's fishermen gave them food the first year. The second year they had to buy the fish from Damariscove.

In 1621, after their first crops came in, Pilgrims had a three-day feast with their Indian friends who brought a half-dozen deer to the party. After all, it was November, and in Maine, that means hunting season.

They gathered together to give thanks for their survival. Most say it was the first American thanksgiving celebration.

Fast forward a few years and George Washington issued the first national proclamation to offer thanks for winning independence from Britain and the ratification of the Constitution. Later presidents John Adams and James Madison followed suit. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln asked the nation to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation,” according to an account on the History Channel.

How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving? Do you travel to gather with relatives? Do you host friends and relations? Do they gather in the kitchen as cooks prepare the turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, steaming boiled onions, mountains of mashed potatoes and pie?

This year, in our little corner of America, we have lots to be thankful for.

A week or so ago, we were all in the dark as Mother Nature masquerading as the big bad wolf, huffed and puffed and tried to blow down our homes. Sailors would say it was a pretty good blow. Weather folks measured the wind at about 70 miles per hour and that is almost hurricane force. Overnight, huge old trees that provided shade in summer and snow-covered scenes in winter were just ripped out of the ground and our lights went out. Sure, we were all inconvenienced. But, I have not heard of any local fatalities or serious injuries. Unlike scenes from Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico, we saw no local TV pictures of injured children and homeless adults.

After the wind died and the sun came up, our band of hardy New Englanders and those of us “from away,” just pulled on our boots and got to work. Churches and volunteers provided assistance. Firefighters and public works crews joined with neighbors firing up their chainsaws and cleared the streets. CMP crews arrived to clear up the mess of tangled wires and brush and hooked our homes back up to the grid.

At the Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library, lots of folks stopped to log in to check stock prices, news sites, email and Facebook pages filled with cute kittens.

The list of neighbors helping neighbors is a long and wonderful one and it includes golf course owner Paul Coulombe, who opened the doors to his posh waterfront resort inviting powerless locals, their kids, and their pets, to stay until the electricity was restored – at no charge.

When you come right down to it, we dodged a bullet.  We are all thankful.

At your house, I am sure you have a whale of a lot of things to be thankful for. That goes double for me.

Fifty plus years ago, while on leave before the U.S. Marines sent me overseas, I was introduced to a lovely East Boothbay woman who joined me for a drink at The Thistle Inn. That was the beginning of a wonderful partnership that lasts to this day.

Like the Pilgrims, who gave thanks after they ran into an Indian who just happened to speak English, we have a long “Thank You” list.

What about you? Think about it for a moment.

Happy Thanksgiving.