The Mayflower replica in Plymouth, Massachusetts
story: On our pilgrimage to Plymouth, Massachusetts we hit
the visitor center to ask directions to Plymouth Rock.
you guys brought a magnifying glass, snarked the lady
with the welcoming smile behind the desk as she pointed down
the road. Ah sarcasm, we had to like her.
fully grasping the gist of the ladys statement we headed
across the road, past the replica of the Mayflower, toward
the attractive ancient-Greek-esque monument that houses the
famous rock where the first Americans landed.
Giddy with the exhilaration that can only come from
setting one’s eyes on a truly epic piece of history, we leaned over
the rail and peered down into the hole where Plymouth
Rock is displayed.
crap! The thing is TINY! Only one pilgrim with REALLY GOOD
BALANCE could “land” on this pebble! Call us gullible,
but we always figured that Plymouth Rock
was towering cliffs, or at the very least, hefty enough that the
Mayflower could tie off to it. We were flabbergasted, felt duped.
people had thrown pennies at it, for luck we suppose, giving us
some perspective for a photo.
that almost everything we were taught in grade school about the
pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving — while we were drawing turkeys
from the outlines of our hands — was a complete fairy tale.
Indians were actually just so emaciated and weak from the
smallpox they had contracted from previous European visitors
that they had no strength to fight off the Pilgrims who were busy
raiding their food supplies, digging up their graves and squatting
on their fishing grounds.
Wait a minute,
The first time around wasn’t even remotely friendly. The Mayflower first landed on the tip of Cape Cod, where Provincetown is today. There’s even a huge monument marking the landing. However, the indigenous inhabitants had not been wiped out by viral onslaughts from previous pioneers and were not real big on having their buried food stores dug up and stolen, so they were decidedly unfriendly and sent the Pilgrims packing.
Everyone knows the Pilgrims first set foot on North America
fact is there wasn’t even such a thing as Plymouth Rock until
over a century after the Mayflower’s landing. It wasn’t until
1741, 121 years after the Mayflower landed, that 94-year-old
Thomas Faunce claimed he knew the exact rock that the Pilgrims
first trod upon. A few years later, in 1774 the townsfolk decided
that the rock should be moved to the town meeting hall.
For no apparent
reason, the good people of Plymouth decided that only half of
the rock needed to be relocated, so they split it in two. For
the next century, the rock was moved hither and yon as chunks
were hacked off of it for shows and souvenirs.
1880, with only about 1/3 of Plymouth Rock remaining, the famous
stone was returned to its original spot on the waterfront in Plymouth.
It was at that time that the number 1620 was carved into it.
Native Americans don’t tend to hold Plymouth Rock in high regard.
Twice, in 1970 and 1995, activists have buried it on the National
Day of Mourning or what is more commonly known as Thanksgiving
to us nonnative folks. Seems that the folks who wrote our grade
school history books and the original inhabitants of this country
don’t quite see things eye-to-eye.
from the Plymouth Pebble Monument, near a statue of Massasoit
(one of the friendly, helpful Native Americans),
is a plaque commemorating the National Day of Mourning. Given
by the town of Plymouth on behalf of the United
American Indians of New England, it states, “Thanksgiving Day
is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft
of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture.”
Its not fancy, but it is a nice gesture.
Once finished with our tour of revisionist history, we relaxed at
an outdoor café — sharing a lobster roll — as the ocean
cast friendly breezes to tussle our hair. The
fake Mayflower shared a bay dotted with sailboats and pleasure cruisers.
We stretched our legs and tilted our faces to the sun.
no wonder the Pilgrims and Indians loved this place so much.