The Wedge of the San Rafael

The Wedge of the San Rafael
Someone has to live here, in the middle of desert beauty. Might as well be the Kellys.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday

It's Black Friday and I'm going to the store. Don't try to stop me. We're out of milk. Then I'll go home and write.

What happened to Thanksgiving? I was going to just bite my tongue and not write anything about this big fat travesty where people bolt down their turkey or whatever it is people eat now on Thanksgiving, then go stand in line for five hours at Toys 'R Us so they can buy something a few dollars off the usual price.  According to the Deseret News, one woman also rented a moving van to carry away all this swag. Jeez Louise.

Maybe I'm a bit grouchy because our younger son didn't make it here for Thanksgiving. I'd been looking forward to seeing him, but he felt he didn't get enough time off from work for the drive. He asked me if I was mad, and I told him no, but that I was disappointed because I wanted to see him. And that's true. Plans change. We still had a nice Thanksgiving.

I had my own fun by watching that high-larious WKRP in Cincinnati episode about the turkey promotion. No one was better at comic timing than Gordon Jump who gave that immortal line (wait for it, wait for it): "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly." Ah, yes.

My personal Thanksgiving moment came as it usually does. I thought about the special kind of courage it took to get into a ship - a small one - and sail across an ocean to land on a shore no one of them had ever seen, and at a rough time of year. I'm forever grateful that the Separatists also took the time to draw up a compact that set out some simple rules for survival. It was the first governing document for Plymouth Colony and served notice that social order would be the rule of the day. Thank you, gentlemen.

My real Thanksgiving epiphany came about ten years ago, in December. I had flown to Charleston, South Carolina, to see my son graduate from the U.S. Border Patrol Academy. After the ceremony, he and his classmates (half of the ones they started with) flew out immediately to their posts. I had a few days to kill before my flight home, so I drove to St. Augustine, Florida, for a little research, and then back to St. Simons Island, Georgia, where I had spent some of my happiest childhood time.

I drove to Fort Frederica National Monument, built between 1736 and 1748 by James Oglethorpe. He had been sent to form the buffer colony of Georgia, to protect the more-valuable Carolinas from Spanish Florida. There are remnants of a few buildings - the barrack, the magazine, the fort itself - and foundations. The old moat is now a grassy swale. It's a lovely spot.

Ordinarily, Georgia isn't too cold in early December, but it was chilly that year, and there was a brisk wind making it colder. After a stop in the visitors center, I walked through the village down what I believe was called Orange Street. I walked to the edge of the village, past many foundations, and past the fort, until I was standing on the shore of the Frederica River.

I was the only visitor that early morning. I only had to stand there a little while to "get it."  If there had been trouble from Spanish Florida, and they did have some serious trouble in 1742, there was no help anywhere - no thundering cavalry to ride over the hill and save the day; no way to get a message through quickly to Charleston that gee, we're in a tight bind here. These inhabitants, soldiers and settlers, had to rely entirely on themselves. The only thing between them and disaster was, well, them.

It took real courage to be a Separatist, or a Pilgrim, or a settler on a remote Georgia island. Faith was a real component, too: faith in themselves and each other, and faith in God who wouldn't desert them in times of desperation.

I've not certain I'm that brave, but I like to think about it on and around Thanksgiving. It's more important to know what's inside my mind and heart than how much money I can save on a driveable pink Power Wheels car. I'm getting a little worried about some of my fellow Americans. If we forget our past, we'll be in our own tight bind.

So this is my shout-out to those hardy souls who had that special courage it took to scratch a foothold on the absolute edge of a mighty continent. I remember you, even if fewer and fewer Americans do. Maybe as long as some of us remember, it will be enough. But I'm worried.


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