Archive for November, 2009

The First Sunday of Advent

The Advent-Nativity Window (Douglas Houghton Memorial Window, detail), St. Pauls’ Episcopal Church, Marquette, MI. Clayton & Bell, London, England, 1887.

The Advent-Nativity Window (Douglas Houghton Memorial Window, detail), St. Pauls’ Episcopal Church, Marquette, MI. Clayton & Bell, London, England, 1887.

At Apostles Anglican Church this morning, one of our priests gave a beautiful sermon of hope for the first Sunday of Advent. It reminds us that those who are in Christ not only await the symbolic coming of the Christ Child, but the return of the King, who will conquer evil and death and make all things new. Thanks be to God.

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

— from the Book of Common Prayer (1979)

A prayer for Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

— Book of Common Prayer

Washington's Thanksgiving proclamation

George Washington

George Washington

A reader asked us to publish this in today’s paper, something I had planned to do anyway, but we ended up not having room for it. But there’s always room on the Web. — Randy Patrick, managing editor, The Winchester Sun.

President George Washington issued the following proclamation in New York, on Oct. 3, 1789 proclaiming Thanksgiving a national holiday.

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war — for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us —and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

The myth of the First Thanksgiving

"The First Thanksgiving" by Jennie Branscombe in the Pilgrim Hall museum, Plymouth, Mass.

"The First Thanksgiving" by Jennie Branscombe in the Pilgrim Hall museum, Plymouth, Mass.

Book seeks to expose
Thanksgiving ‘myth’

By Randy Patrick/The Winchester Sun

Maybe Myles Standish wasn’t such a stand-up guy after all.
Perhaps the Puritans weren’t so pure — at least by Southern Baptist standards.
And maybe, instead of being a gesture of political correctness, inviting the Indians to  dinner was just politics as usual.
That’s what Godfrey Hodgson would have you believe about the American legend of the Pilgrims and their Thanksgiving.
But keep in mind, he’s a bloody Brit.

First-grade history

The story of the First Thanksgiving is one American schoolchildren know by heart.
They can tell you that in 1620, the Pilgrims sailed for America on the Mayflower to gain religious freedom from a tyrannical king. That winter, they landed on Plymouth Rock, and established the first settlement in New England.
The Indians, led by Squanto, befriended the Pilgrims, taught them how to fertilize corn with dead fish and saved them from starving. Later, to show their gratitude, the Pilgrims had a big meal and invited the Indians to join them as they feasted on turkey and cranberry sauce and offered prayers to Providence for their good fortune.
Since then, we have celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday on or about the last Thursday in November.
That’s the short and sweet version.
But what if almost everything we think we know about the First Thanksgiving is wrong?

Moral minority

In his book, “A Great and Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving,” Hodgson makes a convincing argument that the feast recorded in 1621 by Edward Winslow and others wasn’t a Puritan thanksgiving at all, but “a harvest-home celebration, of the kind familiar from centuries of observance in rural England, interrupted by a force of Indians …”
In the first place, Hodgson says, the Separatists (they weren’t called Pilgrims) showed their gratitude to God not by feasting, but by fasting.
Being radical Protestants, they didn’t celebrate holy days (i.e.  holidays) such as Christmas and Easter, because they considered them superstitious relics of Catholicism.
Being English, however, they did celebrate the secular Medieval harvest festival, which involved eating, drinking beer and wine, and playing games.
Days of thanksgiving, like days of humiliation (repentance), were held irregularly and involved solemn worship without Sunday “dinner on the grounds.”
These wanderers (or “pilgrims”) were, after all, Presbyterians, not Pentecostals. They were called Separatists because they wanted to separate themselves from the Anglicans, though they were willing to deceive King James by swearing their fealty to the beliefs of the Established Church in exchange for being granted a colony.
These troublesome schismatists had been run out of their parish of Scrooby in England and ended up in liberal Amsterdam, where some of the women learned to dress provocatively. “Later, there were frank charges of sexual misconduct,” Hodgson wrote.
Finally, as much for economic as religious reasons, they left the Netherlands for Virginia, and because navigation wasn’t then what it is now, ended up in Massachusetts.

First impressions

By the time of the feast, probably in late September or early October of 1621, the English settlers of Plymouth had already had hostile encounters with Indians.
The Indians had good cause to resent the English, who stole from them, kidnapped them and sold them into slavery.
These Indians were no strangers to the white men. Englishmen had been coming ashore ever since John Cabot claimed Newfoundland for King Henry VII in 1497.
By 1620, when the Pilgrims arrived, “thousands of European sailors were accustomed to spending the summers fishing on the Grand Banks and along the shores of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Maine,” Hodgson wrote.
One rogue, Capt. Thomas Hunt, made a tidy profit catching Indians and selling them to the Spanish. In fact, Squanto had been one of Hunt’s captives and somehow escaped from Spain and England and made his  way back to the Land of Opportunity, where he became employed as a translator of English for the Wampanoag chief Massasoit.

Standish tall (not)

One of the meanest of the English was their military commander, Myles Standish. He was no Pilgrim himself, but had been hired as a soldier of fortune.
“Small of stature — he was known as ‘Captain Shrimp’ — he had red hair and a dangerous temper,” Hodgson wrote. “He thought nothing of cutting off an Indian’s head if he thought it was the right thing to do.” He was, however, a “brave and committed” member of the party who served the Pilgrims well in his job.

No RSVP required

Different tribes in New England were often at war with one another, and when the Wampanoags visited the English, they were interested in making them their allies against the Narragansetts and Massachusetts. When about 100 Wampanoag warriors showed up uninvited at the Pilgrims’ festival with freshly killed deer as a gesture of goodwill, they were angling for a treaty with the Anglo-Saxon tribe.
“It was,” Hodgson said, “a kind of backwoods diplomatic encounter.”
The Indians were friendly enough, but the feeling didn’t last. Within a generation, Massasoit’s son, King Philip, united the tribes against the English, who were depleting the natural resources and spreading diseases like syphilis and smallpox, which decimated the native population. The English won King Philip’s War, and had Phil beheaded and quartered to underscore their point.

Big bird

But I digress.
When the Indians dropped in on the feast in 1621, they brought food, according to accounts by leaders like Edward Winslow and William Bradford. But it’s unlikely turkey was on the menu, Hodgson said, because the eastern shore of Massachusetts was one of the few places in the country where the bird was seldom seen. In any event, the cumbersome matchlock guns they used (which fired by lighting a fuse), was no match for the wicked-fast and wily fowl.
They probably ate a stew consisting of venison, raccoon and beaver, with beans, squash and Jerusalem artichokes thrown in, says Hodgson, and they may have roasted some ducks and fish.
I’m skeptical of Hodgson’s argument about the turkeys, however, because in his book, “Mayflower,” published the same year as Hodgson’s (2006), Nathaniel Philbrick quotes Bradford as saying there was a “good store of wild turkeys,” which the Pilgrims liked to hunt in the winter, when they could track them in the snow.
One thing’s for sure: If the Pilgrims did encounter a turkey, they would know what it was because the Spanish had introduced the American species to Europe by way of the Ottomon Empire (thus the name “Turkey”) in the time of the conquistadors. By the 1620s, it was a familiar dish on the English table.
As for the pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce, Hodgson says, the English colonists didn’t have sugar until decades later.

Little rock

One of the fictions shattered (literally), is that of Plymouth Rock.
“Of all the patriotic myth that has become encrusted on the genuine heroism of these brave and godly men, the cult of Plymouth Rock is the most implausible,” Hodgson wrote.
The Mayflower didn’t land on a rock. If it had, it would have splintered. The ship’s hull was too deep to bring it ashore. It remained more than a mile from the coast while the Pilgrims came by boat to Clark’s Island in Duxbury Bay, not Plymouth Harbor, where the Rock still stands “under a pompous temple in the best 1895 beaux arts manner …” Hodgson says.
The small oval boulder was split in two when it was moved in 1774. Its “legend can be traced back only to the memory of a certain John Faunce,” a Plymouth congregation elder who identified the rock in 1741, when he was in his 90s, said Hodgson.

Better red than …

Over time, the story of the Pilgrims has been imbued with patriotic notions of  independence and rugged individualism. Notwithstanding the pious proclamations of Washington and Lincoln, and the rich poetry of Whitman, however, the Pilgrims were not Americans in the modern sense. They were loyal subjects of the king who wanted to rid themselves of the Church of England, but not of their English nationality.
And in contrast to the later image of New Englanders as fiercely self-sufficient Yankee capitalists, the Pilgrims were, at first, communists. Like the early Christians, they held their property in common and provided “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” — which may have been necessary for their survival.
The Pilgrims leaders’ attitude toward property is reflected in a sermon preached by Robert Cushman on Dec. 21, 1621 on the text from First Corinthians 10:24: “Let no man seek his own: But every man another’s wealth.”
But communism didn’t work any better in the 17th century than it did in the 20th, and it wasn’t until the leaders allowed each family to own its own property and provide for its own needs that the colony began to prosper, according to Hodgson.

Invention of tradition

Like Parson Weems’ tale of the young George Washington and his father’s cherry tree, the story of the First Thanksgiving is, Hodgson said, one of the “pious fictions of the American political religion.” It is an example, he noted, of what a group of British historians in the 1980s, called “the invention of tradition.”
While it may be a fiction, however, it is not fraudulent, he said. It is a tale that has been shaped into a “powerful and virtuous symbol.”
“One can deconstruct the idea of Thanksgiving as much as one likes,” Hodgson wrote. “It remains, not a hymn to battle or violence, not a festival of national pride and superiority, but a domestic celebration of gratitude, humility and inclusiveness. These are not qualities for which anyone need apologize.”
Indeed. Whether or not it started out that way, we have transformed Thanksgiving into a celebration of all that is good about America — a country where faith, family and generosity of spirit matter.
It is the best of all holidays.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun. Contact him at

Thy kingdom come …

Christ the King in stained glass

Christ the King in stained glass

Feast of Christ the King

Today is the Feast of Christ the King. The following liturgy is said in some Episcopal churches on this day:

Almighty and everlasting God,
whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son,
the King of kings and Lord of lords:
Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin,
may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Jerry Cecil: Soldier's story published

2009 paperback edition of Rick Atkinson's "The Long Gray Line" by Henry Holt & Company.

2009 paperback edition of Rick Atkinson's "The Long Gray Line" by Henry Holt & Company.

Last night I visited the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Lexington and was surprised by a selection I found in the new paperbacks section near the front door. It was a new edition of Rick Atkinson’s “The Long Gray Line: The American Journey of West Point’s Class of 1966″ by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Atkinson.

Although I haven’t read the entire book, I am somewhat familiar with it because one of the West Point graduates it profiles is Retired Col. Jerry Cecil of Winchester. I interviewed Cecil for a feature story for The Winchester Sun not long after I came here four years ago and used the book and a Newsweek magazine article about the “66-ers” as resources for the story.

Cecil, who still lives here in Winchester, is actively involved in veterans’ issues at home and around the country, and is a liaison between this community and West Point, was the most highly decorated member of the class that served in Vietnam after graduating, having earned the Distinguished Service Cross.

Cecil is mentioned a few times in the book, including an account of an act of heroism in which, Atkison said, he kept many of his men from being killed.

The incident happened on Nov. 11, 1967, when he was leading his platoon on patrol near the old French fort of Ben Het, not far from the place where the borders of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam meet. Sensing an ambush, he ordered his men to open fire, and for many hours they were pinned down by enemy fire while helicopters dropped ammunition and chain saws to clear a landing area.

“His sudden action saved the platoon from annihilation,” Atkinson wrote, although every man but one was either wounded or killed that day.

Also during the firefight, Cecil risked his life by scrambling up the ridge three times  to carry wounded soldiers to the landing zone.

James Salter of The Washington Post describes the book as “Enormously rich in detail and written with a novelist’s brilliance . . . A very moving book.”

Published by Henry Holt & Company, the 624-page paperback is available from Barnes& for $12.24.

Downtown living in Winchester

There's always something to do in downtown Winchester. Here a city worker prepares for the holiday open house weekend on Main Street. Sun photo by James Mann

There's always something to do in downtown Winchester. Here a city worker prepares for the holiday open house weekend on Main Street. Sun photo by James Mann

If historic downtown areas are going to survive and thrive, they can’t roll up their sidewalks at 5 o’clock.
One of the things that make successful downtowns succeed is having people who live, as well as work, there.
Winchester has taken some significant steps in the direction of having a 24/7 downtown, and recently, Winchester First received a well-deserved award from the Kentucky Main Street and Renaissance programs for its efforts.
Lara Thornbury, director of Winchester First, her husband Chris, attorney Matt Goeing, and businessman Roger Taft and his mother, Andrea Taft, were among those whose decisions to convert second-story spaces above downtown businesses into apartments were cited at the awards presentation in Frankfort.
Congratulations to those property owners and Winchester First for bringing positive recognition to our beautiful downtown.

'Tis not the season

Christmas has long been commercialized, as this drawing by Thomas Nast in 1855 shows. But starting the holiday hype a day or two after Halloween is absurd.

Christmas has long been commercialized, as this drawing by Thomas Nast in 1855 shows. But starting the holiday hype a day or two after Halloween is absurd.

Don’t hurry Christmas

The night of Nov. 2, after digging into the Halloween candy, I had gone outside to relax on my balcony and enjoy the warm weather and full moon when I noticed something I couldn’t quite believe: All the downtown street lamps were decorated in green wreaths and red-and-gold bows.

By Tuesday, the Bluegrass Heritage Museum was hanging the greens and one of the TV networks was airing commercials about holiday shopping in downtown Winchester. How ridiculous.

It used to be that the Christmas season began Dec. 24, after Advent, and lasted until Jan. 6. Then it was customary to wait until after Thanksgiving. Now some want Christmas to begin before the Halloween decorations have come down.
Let’s not cheapen Christmas by making it all about shopping, or starting it so early that everyone’s sick of it by the time it actually arrives. It just takes all the magic out of the most wonderful time of the year. Nine and a half weeks is too long for any holiday — even Christmas.

Daniel Boone: the rippin'est, roarin'est, fightin'est man the frontier never knew

The real Daniel Boone.

The real Daniel Boone.

Young boys have always chosen as their heroes adventurers from legend — men like King Arthur, Robin Hood and Daniel Boone.
As a child in the 1960s, I wanted to be like Boone. I had a Daniel Boone action figure (although they weren’t call that then) and a Kentucky long rifle cap gun that fired a cork ball a few feet. When I was old enough, I would roam the woods and meadows around our home on Irvine Road, with other boys or alone, looking for signs of Shawnees and buffaloes.
And I almost never missed an episode of the NBC TV series, “Daniel Boone,” starring Fess Parker as my hero.
Most of what people of my generation think they know about Boone they learned from that show, which aired from 1964 to 1970, and from the lyrics of its theme song, written by Vera Matson.
But so much of what we learned was wrong.

And the myth, as portrayed by Fess Parker.

And the myth, as portrayed by Fess Parker.

Daniel Boone “was a big man,” just as the song says, but he wasn’t “tall as a mountain” or like a “mighty oak tree.”
He was of average height, about five-eight, according to those who knew him, and he was muscular and stout. He was so broad that when he was kidnapped by the Shawnee and adopted as a son by the chief, he was named “Big Turtle.”
The statue at College Park in Winchester of a solidly built, short man is probably more accurate than the one of the lanky pioneer on Eastern Kentucky University’s campus in Richmond.
The song and TV show depict Boone in a coonskin cap, but he never wore one. He wore a hat with a brim to shield him from the sun and rain when he was hunting.
The song says he was “the rippin’est, roarin’est, fightin’est man the frontier ever knew.” But recorded encounters say Boone was soft-spoken and mild, and that he was a peacemaker who tried to avoid fights and never killed except in defense. He was reared as a Quaker, and learned the values of quietude, patience and peacefulness early on, although as an adult, he was a member of no church.
Boone most certainly wasn’t a rip-roarer. But he did like to sing and tell tales.
Although he had high ideals about justice and is seen today as an American patriot, the legend is a little too sympathetic. The song says “he fought for America to make all Americans free.” But not all Americans. Boone was a slave owner, and his family was on the wrong side of that issue well into 19th century. It’s a mystery why his well-honed sense of fairness did not let him see the evil in that.
And while he fought on the American side against the British in the Revolution (and for the British in the French and Indian War), he was friendly with British Loyalists, including members of his wife’s family. After the war, he abandoned his country to settle in Missouri, in what was then the Louisiana territory, and had to give allegiance to the French and their Spanish subordinates, as well as the Catholic Church. A few years later, when Thomas Jefferson purchased Louisiana, Boone became an American again.
I first learned about some of the contrasts between the real Boone and the myth when I bought one of my first books, a paperback biography of the frontiersman, when I was in grade school at Central Elementary. I was fascinated that so many of the events of his life took place near my Clark County home.
When the replica of Fort Boonesborough was built just across the Kentucky River in the 1970s, I was thrilled.
As I grew older, I put away childish things, including my worship of early American folk heroes. But just this month, I read a recently published biography, “Boone,” by Robert Morgan (Algonquin Books, 2007), that rekindled the old fascination.
Morgan is a novelist (the author of “Gap Creek” among other titles), so his work doesn’t read like dry, scholarly history. He brings Daniel Boone to life. I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about this mythic and real figure whose legend influenced Romantic writers in America and Europe while he was yet alive.
Tennyson, Whitman, Emerson and James Fenimore Cooper owe much to the legend of Daniel Boone.
In Morgan’s book, I learned much that I didn’t already know. For example, although I knew Boone and his wife Rebecca lived for awhile in town, in what is now Maysville, and was a failure as a businessman there, I didn’t know he soon thereafter moved to near Charleston, W. Va., to hunt and trap beaver. Nor did I know that he explored the American West as far as the Yellowstone in the Rocky Mountains, and that as an old man, he dreamed of going even farther west, to the Cascades and the Pacific Coast.
Although I knew his first view of the Great Meadow of Kentucky’s bluegrass was from Pilot Knob, I didn’t know that at the time, his party was making camp near what is now Irvine, where I once lived. Nor did I know that when his daughter Jemima and the Calloway girls were kidnapped by Indians in 1776, they were rescued near present-day Winchester.
There are so many paradoxes about Boone. For example, consider this passage from Morgan’s book:
“The story of Boone is the story of America. From the Blue Ridge to the Bluegrass, from the Yadkin to the Yellowstone, no man sought and loved the wilderness with more passion and dedication. Yet none led more settlers and developers to destroy that wilderness in a few decades.”
In 1790, the last buffalo in the Bluegrass was killed. By then, the beaver were gone, and so were the Indians. Most of the forest had been cleared, and instead of small farms, by the early 19th century, thousands of acres of land were in large plantations.
Although he opened Kentucky and the great West to American expansion, Boone wasn’t good at protecting his own claims in court and wound up owning no more land than that needed to bury him when he died in 1820.
Boone wasn’t successful in the conventional sense, but his contribution to American history is enormous. That’s why I think it’s a shame that on his 275th birthday, Nov. 2, he hasn’t gotten the same kind of recognition that Abraham Lincoln has gotten during his bicentennial year, or that Thomas Jefferson got for his 250th in 1993.
He certainly belongs in that same pantheon of eminent Americans because his legacy and his influence on what it means to be an American was every bit as great.

November 2009
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