Thursday, November 24, 2016

4 Thanksgivings Before the First

The meal we eat today is to take the time to share our thanks. Even though the food choices and dates have changed over the years, the reason for coming together is still the same. It's my favorite holiday, but it didn't start in 1621 with the Pilgrims.


I believe in embracing the history of our land as far back as it goes. In other words, my history doesn't start when the Pilgrims landed, nor did it start when the Charter of the Virginia Company of London established Jamestown in 1607. Let's not even get into Columbus. This post is about Thanksgiving.

History Channel

After watching the few short videos made by the History Channel, I started asking a simple yet effective line of questioning. I wanted to know if the HC was missing anything. Let me rephrase that: What did the HC leave out?



For entertainment purposes, the content and history that HC puts out is limited, but it was still enough to spark a line of inquiry that led me to some information I had never read about.

I've found mistakes and gaps in the HC shows in the past, many of which are not shown anymore for these reasons, so I had to poke around and follow my nose. My first stop was the Library of Congress. It usually has what I need.

The First Four

It didn't take long to find several resources on the thanksgivings that predate the Pilgrim's feast with the Wampanoags. As I began summarizing the events, I decided to make a map and add some of the images I found.

Click on the flags for more information. Grab the map to adjust as needed. 



1. Texas Panhandle, 1541

When Francisco Vasquez de Coronado left Mexico City in search of gold, he stopped for a couple weeks in Palo Duro Canyon in what is now the Texas Panhandle. In 1959, the Texas Society Daughters of the American Colonists acknowledged the celebration Coronado put on for his men as the "First Thanksgiving."

2. French Huguenots, 1564 

The Huguenots were French protestants. When a group of them settled near what is presently Jacksonville, Florida, they celebrated a thanksgiving. I am not sure if the Spanish attack on the settlement a year later had anything to do with the religious wars happening in Europe during the decades leading up to the Edict of Nantes in which the Huguenots gained more rights.

3. Kennebec River, 1607

Leave it to Maine. If Vermont is the Texas of New England with all its independent nature, Maine is definitely the Florida with all of its ... well, take my word for it. In 1607, the same year Jamestown was settled, the Abnaki (not the Aliens of Sumer) and settlers led by Captain George Popham held a harvest feast. This settlement was abandoned a year later.

4. Jamestown Supply Ships, 1610

The settlers at Jamestown experienced a terrible famine in the winter of 1609-1610, which reduced the population by almost 90 percent. They celebrated a first Thanksgiving when the supply ships arrived.

Capitalist Harvest

The Pilgrim's Thanksgiving in 1621 was a three-day festival of games and feasting. We still do this, only it's been scheduled by politicians and now centers on rest, reconnecting with family, and spending money.

It's not an agrarian harvest celebration. It's capitalist. Spend money, get stuff, and find very little joy if you think the stuff itself will make you happy. Our people and our opportunity to share the gifts we give, whether harvest or stuff, will always be the source of happiness – something for which to be thankful.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Some Fools Never Learn

Before I left Texas, a very close friend and former band mate, David Shaw, told me that sometimes I need to give people more time to understand. We were standing in the backyard talking about the remaining items on my list. It was a day before I put Texas in my rear view, but I'll never forget the thankful feeling as he left me with some advice that he knew I needed.

Even though I'm an educator, and you would think that David's advice would be something always on the front of my mind, personal matters don't process the same way. I've had to reflect on what David told me several times over the last year, settling into Massachusetts with my family.

Will I Ever Learn?

At this point, you must be thinking, "Okay, what brought on this blog post?" I've been sick the past week and a half and had a lot of time to catch up on digital world stuff. Besides updating blogs, YouTube, and making better lessons for my students, I've been reminiscing on the music I've made with so many great people over the years. Now, that I'm back in Massachusetts, it's a new chapter for me musically.


This time, there will be no full calendars and weekend trips with regional legends. It's time to relearn about my voice as a musician. I'll get back to playing gigs with other bands some day, but now it's time to keep it close to home. I'll only play with my band, my music.

I did, however, come up with a few good shares. Thanks to Soundcloud, I was able to find recordings of tracks on albums that I never even received (I got a hard copy of the one below).

Something to Share

I'm excited to share the following song because it reminds me of my struggle to be a dad, husband, educator, and musician all at once. It never worked, as hard as I tried. I learned that much, anyway.

This song was recorded in Denton, TX about six years ago. The guitar player on the track was Rodney Pyeatt. If you don't know who this guy is, do a little Google search and look him up. We played with Mike Ryan for a bit after the album was done. I regret leaving that band, but I had a new career and a new baby. Something had to give.



On the Road Again

I ran into Rodney a few years later in Austin while playing at SXSW with Clay Thrash. I got off the stage after having to listen to sophomoric performers complain about tempos. The fact of the matter was that they didn't have much experience playing full band in shitty bars, and the feel was really loose with players tugging in different directions. I was also at the end of my rope with the situation and didn't care much if I played another show with them.

The pic below was right after I packed up my gear. Rodney bought me a beer and we drank and talked. Most importantly, he lifted my spirits. Anyone who knows him would agree that he's great for conversation and good vibes.

One of my regrets was not being able get a band together with him. He was back in Fort Worth at the time and playing around town during the week. It would have been nice. Rodney is high on my list of great musicians who have inspired me to be a good person and musician all at once.

I take this lesson of getting on the road and getting off, however many times I've done that, to the next chapter in my life. Although I'm not on any band's road, I would be a fool to forget what I've learned.