Molly McMule's Horse Tales – 1001 Stall Stories


"There's a bit of a nip in the air tonight, Molly," said Ginny. "The frost is on the pumpkin, as the saying goes."

"Yep, the crops are ready for harvest. Have you noticed all the reapers and mowers passing by? The hay wagons are full and our people are making sure we have enough in the loft for the winter ahead," answered Molly.

"It's always a time for celebration when the crops are in, the work is finished and the food is safely stored, ready for the long winter" Molly continued. "I can remember being told about the first Thanksgiving feast that the Pilgrims had in 1621."

As usual, the questions started coming from the other horses. Desi wanted to know just what that feast was like. Deke asked if there had ever been a celebration of Thanksgiving before the Pilgrims came. Beau wanted to know when these celebrations started and in what country, and so on. So Molly told about the first Thanksgiving in the New World, held in Plymouth.

"It all started when the Pilgrims, living in England at the time, were not happy with the King or the Church of England. Sailing to another land to find the freedom to worship as they pleased seemed like the best solution. After being in Holland for a short time, they returned to England and in 1620 set out to find the fertile lands across the Atlantic Ocean that they had heard about in stories.

"One hundred and two passengers and the crew set out to sea on the Mayflower for a long voyage across the ocean. This was not the best time of year for this trip, but they were courageous and felt they had planned well, and they had enough supplies. Besides, they had their leaders, John Carver, William Bradford and William Brewster.

"After sixty-five days and nights, sometimes with waves as high as a house, they finally found land, but not what they were looking for. The harbor wasn't right, and they set out again for another few days' sail.

"Finally, they reached Plymouth, anchored the ship, and some began to look for a clearing so that they could plant the corn they found in an iron kettle in an abandoned Indian dwelling. Others began hunting geese and ducks for food. It was a very difficult winter and many of the Pilgrims were sick. About half of them died. Some began to wonder if they had done the right thing, leaving England as they did.

"But finally, one day in Spring, an Indian came and spoke to them in English which he had learned from men who had come there before. The Pilgrims were surprised to find that there were some other Indians who also spoke English and who would also visit soon.

"Squanto, one of the Indians, stayed in the colony and taught the settlers when it was the best time to plant corn, how to cultivate the land with quahog shells, dig for clams, and hunt deer. He taught them many things about their new land.

"During the spring and summer, the Pilgrims recovered from their illnesses and found there was plenty of food for all. The Indians became their friends as well as their teachers, so the women spent three days baking and preparing food while the men made tables and benches."

Molly continued, "Governor Bradford sent a message to Chief Massasoit inviting his Indian braves, squaws and their children to the Thanksgiving feast. When the day arrived, the Indians came; ninety-one in all, bringing some freshly killed deer, which were cooked over an open fire. There was also chowder made of clams, eels and scallops. And nuts, berries, corn bread and maple sugar. But best of all, they knew that there would be food for the winter ahead.

"When they had all gathered, they thanked God for safely bringing them to their new land, and for their friends, and the bountiful harvest. After they had their meal, the Pilgrims and Indians played games and just had a great time. The Indians did some of their dances and the Pilgrims held a tug of war and played other games.

"They spent three days celebrating because they knew that it would be a long time until the next harvest."

Molly concluded, "And so there you have the story of the Pilgrim's first Thanksgiving feast."

"Molly, you seem to know so much about this and I'm wondering just how you heard all this," said Pasquale. "I'm much older than you, and I never heard about this before."

"Well, Pasquale, the Indians had horses, and some of them watched from the woods. So it's all 'straight from the horse's mouth'!"

But Molly says, go to your library. There are a number of good books about the first Thanksgiving, particularly, The Plymouth Thanksgiving by Leonard Weisgard and Pilgrim Thanksgiving by Wilma Pitchford Hays. Another interesting book is The Thanksgiving Book by Lucille Recht Penner, which tells about the Ancient Harvest Celebrations and also the customs. There are even some recipes for some typical foods. You might want to try one for your Thanksgiving feast!