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AN OLDER relative used to sit us down at holiday time and tell us family tales. He invariably prefaced them with, “Now listen carefully, because some of the things I’m about to tell you aren’t true.”
Actually, I don’t remember many of his stories, true or faux. But I do remember a sweet little Thanksgiving tale which I share here: Myles Standish and John Alden were pals, both aboard the Mayflower on its 1620 trip from Plymouth, England, to the New World. Also onboard was Priscilla Mullins.
So the story goes, according to that older relative, John and Myles both had the hots for Priscilla, dual attention that she enjoyed during the long transatlantic voyage. Myles asked John to put in a good word for him with Priscilla. By this time, she had made up her mind and responded, “Speak for yourself, John Alden.” And they lived happily ever after.
Some of the things I’ve just told you aren’t true.
In particular, whatever happened didn’t occur on shipboard. Myles was aboard with his wife Rose at the time. There’s even pictorial evidence of this, if indeed an 1843 portrait showing a bunch of pious-looking folk and rainbow metaphor is admissible.
Myles had at least two wives. He married Rose Handley, 1601–1621, by about 1618. He was perhaps 34 at the time….
No jokes here. This was the colonial New World after all, not Alabama.
Rose died that first harsh winter, on January 29, 1621. By about 1624, Myles remarried, this time to Barbara Mullins, who came over in 1623 on either the Anne or the Little James.
Here, the story gets murky indeed. According to Wikipedia, “Historians suggest that she may have been a sister of Standish’s first wife Rose, and that he had specifically sent for her.”
What? Barbara Mullins was Rose Handley’s sister?
Some of what I’ve just told you….
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Courtship of Miles Standish, 1858, provides other narrative along equally definitive lines. It’s a love triangle among, you guessed it, Miles aka Myles Standish, John Alden, and Priscilla Mullins. Longfellow has Priscilla saying, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John.” The poet fails to pin down the date precisely, so we have no way of knowing whether Myles was between marriages or not.
So much for family tales.
Instead, I’m celebrating Thanksgiving with the help of Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America.
I listen with glee to the Puritans’ satirical “Take an Indian to lunch this week/Show him we’re a regular bunch this week/Show him we’re as liberal as can be/Let him know he’s almost as good as we.”
The refrain: “Two, four, six, eight; who do we tolerate? Indians, Indians, rah, rah, rah!”
I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving. With more than a dollop of respect for Navajo, Cherokee and Choctaw code talkers too. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017