Always time for giving thanks

By JEFF NORTH,

We are in the midst of what I consider to be the best time of the year. Of course if you know me, you will immediately associate my statement of “the time of year” having totally to do with hunting season. I freely admit this has something to do with it, but I assure you, only in part. Though my passion for lurking into the haunts of our swamps, fields, and woodlands is undeniable, there is much more to this “season” than just carrying a weapon of stick and string or firearm to our favorite places in search of game. I will elaborate.

I fondly remember our chapel programs this time of year when I was in elementary school. Fall was in full bloom and you could just feel the excitement in the air. Halloween had just passed and Thanksgiving was just around the corner. Each elementary class had the opportunity to perform a Thanksgiving skit. Every student participated with each of us playing a vital role in the program. Now remember, there were only two first grade classes when I attended Daisy McLaurin Stevens Elementary in Brandon. Mrs. Barker and Mrs. Ponder, our first grade teachers, mentored us and did their best to work with what they had been given. They made learning fun and especially “this time of year.”

I will never forget Mrs. Barker asking me if we could use my BB gun in our Thanksgiving play. The whole story of The Mayflower, the Pilgrims, and our first Thanksgiving was presented to the other elementary classes. I will admit I was a little disappointed when I wasn’t the one chosen to run around the stage carrying my prize weapon of the neighborhood woodlots. No, Rex Miley was the chosen one, and I was left to recite a narrative of how the Pilgrims hunted for food as he jogged around the stage wearing a coonskin cap. At least it was my rifle that made an appearance onstage.

 

Everyone’s parents attended these chapel programs and there were snacks provided appropriate for the season. An assortment of goodies that I fondly remember, were roasted chestnuts and pumpkin pie. A sample of hominy and roasted corn on the cob was offered to each student to re-enact as closely as possible the staples of our first Thanksgiving. Of course we, as students, brought our experiences home to share again and again around the dinner table. The learning continued. Those were great times to grow up.

This past week I stopped by the Northside Sun to visit with the staff for a few minutes. I was immediately taken back to my childhood memories as some of them were talking about the upcoming classroom event for students at Jackson Academy, commemorating our first Thanksgiving and “Squanto.” Squanto, as most of you know, is given credit for befriending the Pilgrims in 1620.

Tisquantum, (“Squanto”), was a native of the Patuxet tribe. He became an integral member of the Plymouth Colony as a translator and negotiator between the Pilgrims and local tribes of the Patuxet and the Nauset. He facilitated peace and trading relations with the Wampanoag Confederation. Additionally, he taught the pilgrims to better utilize natural resources and to hunt, fish, and plant corn and other crops. He plays an influential part of our history and our first Thanksgiving. There is much more to Squanto’s story and I would encourage you to research further into this.

I listened intently as some of the moms planned what to bring to the school children’s Thanksgiving event. I reflected back as they spoke of the pumpkin treats along with cranberries and chestnuts. It brought a smile to my face as I often wonder if Thanksgiving and what it means to us and our nation is still taught to the degree it was when I was in elementary school. Kids are kids and I bet they still embrace “this time of year”, especially if it is taught to them in a fun manner as it was to me. I commend our teachers that keep this tradition going.

 

I left the office thinking more and more about Thanksgiving and everything I have to be thankful for. I reminded myself again to not be selfish. I thought of the generosities that Squanto offered to the people of the Mayflower. He could have easily viewed them as intruders and enemies. Just think how one of our nation’s most celebrated holidays came about as a result of people coming together. I would have loved to have been a witness of the Thanksgiving table to see what all was there to be enjoyed. Of course one staple in particular comes to mind and could be the inspiration for my next article.

Enjoy this season for what it brings and means to us. I hope your child gets to participate in their school program and I assure you, life will be fun around the dinner table with all the chatter about Squanto and our Thanksgiving. And by the way, please make an attempt to roast some corn or make a homemade pumpkin pie for your family. The Pilgrims didn’t go to their local market for these items. It will be a fun experience for your family to share.

Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.

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