In all the excitement of telling you about my second film adventure, I neglected to present the annual "From the Other Side Thanksgiving Column" and for this, I sincerely apologize.
Conversely, if any of you think perhaps you might have been spared it, think again!
Here we go…pardon me if I repeat myself:
You can, of course, read the history book version of the events that transpired back then, which are decidedly ethnocentric, meaning, told from a distinctly culturally biased viewpoint. Or you can take it from "oral indigenous tradition" which is merely distinctly culturally biased from another viewpoint altogether.
The first Thanksgiving has largely been attributed to the Pilgrims in Plymouth in the year 1621. You will recall that these stovepipe-hatted, feet-buckled laugh-a-minute folks were having a difficult winter here in the "New World" and were it not for the assistance of the indigenous population might well have not survived. Eating boot leather, while passing the time fairly well just to get a single mouthful chewed, has little nutritional value. Unless the hide tanner did a bad job, but that’s just too disgusting to contemplate.
I could go on and on – and have, often! – about how the Indians saved the whole Plymouth colony, only to be turned on later, how the Pilgrims were pretty ungrateful in the long run, blah, blah, blah, but I won’t. I won’t even bore you with the whole "picking brass shoe buckles out of their teeth" routine.
So let’s imagine then, William John Bartholemy Adams sits down to his Thanksgiving meal with Squanto, the native benefactor, and between bites they have a pleasant conversation.
"I gotta tell you, Squat, old cuss, this New World of yours is really tough to make a living in," William John Bartholemy Adams says around a mouthful of roasted turkey.
Spearing a cranberry with his knife, the Indians replies, "It’s Squanto. How’s the turkey?"
"Needs salt," William John Bartholemy Adams says. "What sort of Christian name is ‘Squat’ anyway?"
"It’s not…" Squanto begins to correct again but the feasting Pilgrim cuts him off.
"You bet your headdress feathers it’s not, Squirt. I think you need a good Christian name. How about: Thomas? Yes, you look like a Thomas. Thomas Sanders. No, that doesn’t have a ring to it for a fine looking savage such as yourself. Thomas…Franklin! No, no, still not right. Pass the bread, will you? Thanks. Thomas…Thomas…Thomas Jefferson? Naw, who would name their kid Thomas Jefferson?"
Squanto is getting irritated now, and has speared a turkey leg with his knife. He chews it grudgingly. "My name is Squanto. Skuh-wahn-toh! I am not a Thomas – Sanders, Franklin or Jefferson."
"You betcha," William John Bartholemy Adams said. "And I sure ain’t no King George!" This seems to be very funny to William John Bartholemy Adams and he slaps his knee while roaring laughter. Squanto just stares as if the man has lost his mind. William John Bartholemy Adams chokes on his bread in his hilarity and, to save his life, Squanto hits him in the back with a stout limb to dislodge the piece of bread.
"Thanks," William John Bartholemy Adams gasps.
"Is it all out?" Squanto asks, holding the limb reared back.
"Yes, much obliged, you saved my life."
"Are you sure?" Squanto asks again. "Let’s give it another good whack just to make sure. Can’t be too careful about such things, can we?"
"No! No! It’s fine, thanks. You’re a hero."
Disappointed, Squanto throws the limb away and sits back down to his meal. "About all this ‘new world’ business," he says to the Pilgrim. "I wish you guys would quit calling it that. There’s nothing new about it. I been here all my life, and my father was here all his, and his father was here all his, we’ve been here since the world was made."
"Well, it’s new to us, then," the Pilgrim says. "Devil of a place, regardless. Any witches?"
"Witches?" Squanto puzzles.
"You know, witches. Bad, bad folks. Doing the devil’s work. They put curses on you. They act strangely and talk in languages you don’t understand, that sort of thing."
Squanto leaps up, grabs the limb again and hits William John Bartholemy Adams squarely across the forehead, knocking him out cold.
"Why did you do that?" demands John Alden, founder of the Plymouth colony.
"He was a witch," Squanto explains.
"Why do you say that?" Alden asks.
"Well, when we first met, he acted strangely and talked in a language I didn’t understand," Squanto explained patiently. "Bad, bad folks."
It took some time to explain all this to Squanto, who never really got it but pretended he did just to stop all the jabber-jawing that was giving him a headache. About 71 years later, in Salem, Mass., one of Squanto’s grandchildren would tell his own kids, "See? Granddad knew the neighborhood was going downhill even then."
But by the time the feast was over, everyone had made up, William John Bartholemy Adams had been revived and all the ladies were cooing over the bruise on his forehead, which they swore resembled Christopher Columbus, but most of the elder Pilgrims thought this was hogwash, as the bruise was clearly identical to Hernan Cortez.
It was late in the evening when the Indians took their leave of the Pilgrims – after explaining for the umpteenth time the whole idea of planting a mound with corn, beans, squash and a dead fish all together – and Squanto and William John Bartholemy Adams said their goodbyes.
"Sorry about the misunderstanding about the witches and all," Squanto said.
"S’alright," William John Bartholemy Adams said. "I shouldn’t have tried to name you Thomas Jefferson."
"No problem," Squanto beams. "Friends?"
"Forever!" the Pilgrim vows. They shake hands, then are both overwhelmed by emotion and hug vigorously, vowing tearfully to each name their first born sons after the other. "Squanto John Bartholemy Adams!" the Pilgrim cries happily, tears streaming down his face. "Sure to be a great scholar!"
"William!" Squanto hollers, overjoyed. "Sure to be a great warrior with many wives!"
William John Bartholemy Adams’ mouth drops open at this, his eyes go buggy by the sheer notion of having more than one wife, the buckles on his shoes pop off and a sudden tirade of parables, verses and preachings erupts from him, forcing Squanto to grab the stout limb and deck him in the forehead yet again, leaving another bruise that looks suspiciously like – you guessed it – Gen. George Armstrong Custer, though no one realized it, of course, because he wouldn’t be born for another 218 years.