21 November 2011

True Thanksgiving


Freedom From Want, by Norman Rockwell. This famous painting, made by Rockwell for the war effort in 1943, does not depict a 19th century family. But the grandparents featured at the head of the table would certainly have grown up in the late 1800s. And their parents would have remembered the Civil War era of the mid-1800s. And their grandparents would have remembered long before that. We need not go back very far in the generations to find people who were very familiar with the Agrarian Nation. If you are ever around Stockbridge, Massachusetts, make it a point to visit the Norman Rockwell Museum. My family was there a few years ago and enjoyed it immensely.

This is the month in which the people of New England, in imitation of the their ancestors, are accustomed to keep a Thanksgiving festival, in grateful remembrance of the blessings of the year. “I will rejoice and be glad in thee, and celebrate the name of the Most High.”  And have we not all reason to rejoice, and give thanks? “The husbandman now counts his sheaves, and reckons up his abundance. Do we not now live upon the gifts of summer and autumn? And with what activity has nature labored, in those delightful seasons, to accomplish the beneficent views of the Creator in favor of man!” We will be thankful, then, for all these signal blessings. Sing, ye farmers and husbandmen! Wake, wake into gratitude, and join in lauding Him who “makes the grass the mountains crown, and corn in valleys grow.”
[Thomas’s Farmer's Almanac]

J.C. Leyendecker's portrayal of a Pilgrim Forefather, with a gun in one hand and Bible in the other. That seems appropriate. But, as my wife said to me, "He looks a little too well fed." And though the Pilgrims were a serious people, I don't think it's fair to characterize them with an angry visage, as is on this man—unless, of course, someone was looking to take his gun or Bible.

I greatly admire the Mayflower Pilgrims, and not just because  my Grandmother Kimball told me I am a Pilgrim descendant. They were simple people of strong Christian faith who did something very difficult, and left a remarkable legacy.  That said, I recommend an essay I posted to the internet several years ago, titled Pilgrims & The Christian-Agrarian Exodus of 1620


I was pleased to discover a documentary about the Pilgrims that was on the History Channel. I don't watch television but someone posted it (a much-condensed version) to YouTube in three parts. It is well worth watching, perhaps even watching with your whole family. There is, of course, much more about the Pilgrim story than is in the short YouTube segments, but they do a decent job of providing a lot of perspective, and you can get something of a "feel" for what the Pilgrims went through in their crossing. I also happen to think the Pilgrim actors in the documentary look far more true to life than J.C. Leyendecker's painting (shown above). 

The documentary is titled,Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower. Here are links to the three parts of the documentary on YouTube ...


The above documentary features comments by historian Nathaniel Philbrick, author of the excellent book, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

I reviewed the book in my Deliberate Agrarian Blogazine for January 2010 and ended by saying:

"Mayflower is certainly not a mythologizing eulogy to the Pilgrim era of American history. It is a gritty and human account of gritty and enigmatically human people struggling with circumstances like you and I will never know. It is worth noting that the story in Philbrick's Mayflower is one man's historical interpretation of events that took place some 350 years ago. Some of the story, like all such stories, is undoubtedly inaccurate and incomplete. Nevertheless, it is clear that the book was very well researched and, though Philbrick is a secular author, his account is probably as honest and fair-mined as you'll find. I recommend the book to you."


Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey. The humor here is that Cousin Reginald is a city boy. Turkeys are big, surprisingly strong  birds. They can be intimidating to those who are not familiar with them, especially when it comes time to ax off a head. I speak from experience.


I wish all of you who read this a happy and blessed Thanksgiving 2011. May we all...

Wake, wake into gratitude, and join in lauding Him who “makes the grass the mountains crown, and corn in valleys grow.”



Ajay said...

Grateful thanks for your posts!

A minor detail as well - that middle Saturday Evening Post cover was done by another in the Post's stable of illustrators, J.C. Leyendecker.

You might be interested as well in the comment we often hear about this print at our shop in Stockbridge: "That doesn't look like turkey!" I think Rockwell "got it right" (in so many ways) - and people raised on commercial "Butterballs" don't even know what it is they're missing...

A happy thanksgiving to all!

Herrick Kimball said...


I appreciate your insights, and thanks for setting me straight. I have made the correction. Someone else e-mailed me to tell me the same thing. Which goes to show that some very smart people are reading Agrarian Nation!

I have to say that I'm kind of relieved to know that Norman Rockwell didn't do the cover. I firmly believe he would have presented a more realistic Pilgrim forefather.

Thanks again.

Herrick Kimball

Anonymous said...

It makes history more real when I think I actually knew someone in my life ( greatgrandmother) who was born at the time of the civil war and that she knew people who were born in the 1700's, it condences 3 centuries quickly!Only wish I had been able to ask questions back then instead of focusing on cookies! Karen