I always turn to history, our most reliable teacher, any time I become convinced modern man has cornered the market on folly and wickedness.
That’s how I found myself immersed in Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2006 book, “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community & War.”
I read everything he writes. He’s one of our very best historians, if not the very best. And like another national treasure, David McCullough, Philbrick hails from Pittsburgh, a place where people are renown for working hard and playing hard.
So I like to imagine Philbrick and McCullough spending a full day unraveling historic minutia and then marching into the friendly neighborhood tavern to share the juicy bits with the regulars, sort of like me only with acclaim, purpose and actual income.
Philbrick must be a veritable cornucopia of interesting facts.
For instance, I for years believed the kindergarden version of the Pilgrim story, that they fled England because of narrow-minded religious persecution and came to America where they made nice with the Indians before beginning to practice their own brand of narrow-minded religious persecution.
“Mayflower” teaches there was so much more to it. In fact, the Pilgrims had the good grace to wait three full years before beheading a once-friendly Indian, effectively ending the cultural share of those early Thanksgivings.
I make no hypocritical judgements. The Pilgrims must have by then been feeling about the Indians the way most of us feel about in-laws.
I figured this brutal beheading and subsequent killing spree would be my take-away fact from the book, the one I’d use to spoil my daughters’ fairytales about the Thanksgiving holiday. It was the same way when I told them there is no Santa Claus, which I did out of spite a few years ago when they agreed with their mother I was weird for liking Bob Dylan.
That was before I got to page 186.
Now’s the time for those of you with prim sensitivities to get back to your Sudoku puzzles.
Because this is very disturbing. I’ll leave it to Philbrick.
“In 1642, seventeen-year-old Thomas Granger was convicted of having sexual relations with ‘a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey.’ Taking their lead from Leviticus, Governor Bradford and his fellow magistrates executed Granger on September 8, 1642, but not before the boy was forced to witness the killing of his animal paramours, which were all buried in a pit.”
That is now what I call a brain barnacle, something no amount of alcohol or power spraying will ever succeed in scrubbing from my memory.
I mean, just wow.
Makes you dizzy, doesn’t it?
Filled with this information, I rushed downstairs to the bar to enliven the Happy Hour.
The inebriates were stunned, a rare case of the gassed being aghast.
We talked motives, facts and consequences. One sudsy sage was convinced he could have earned Granger an acquittal on the grounds that gentle farm animals were the only logical recourse for an adolescent boy in the throes of Pilgrim puberty.
“I mean, have you seen Pilgrim women?”
We wondered if Granger could be considered a founding father. Not of America, certainly.
I argued that the Pilgrims, not Obama, were the ones who brought Sharia law to our shores when they slew all the animals Granger was said to have raped.
Talk about blaming the victim.
And of course, this being a story about the Pilgrims, we talked turkey.
I mean, how on earth does a man look at a turkey and think it a suitable target for sexual satisfaction? The logistics defy reason.
Yes, I understand turkeys have anatomical breasts, but even our chemically souped-up ones don’t have what you call real hooters.
The mind boggles.
From his profile drawn from the other victims, you’d think Granger would have been more of an ass man. But if that’s the case, then why wasn’t a donkey among the victims?
The inclusion of a turkey as a victim leads me to believe the charges against the boy may have been fraudulent, that the prosecutor bore him some unimaginable grudge and was intent on infuriating the jurors. And presumably nothing ruffles Pilgrim feathers more than an accusation of deviant feather ruffling.
I don’t know what the rest of the book holds. I may never know. I just keep reading that one paragraph on page 186 over and over.
Maybe more wickedness will ensue. Maybe I’ll learn that the perniciousness of people we were raised to think of as quaint and wholesome surpasses even that of our own depraved society.
I guess all I’ll ever really know is that Pilgrims really, really love their turkeys.
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