Thanksgiving. Not my favorite holiday but it is a four day weekend so I’ll take it.
I woke at dark o’clock, did the 6 am Crossfit workout of the day (“Helen” 3xrowing 500 meters, 21 kettlebell swings, 12 pullups), and drove home in the false dawn feeling all virtuous about burning off the worst meal of the year six hours before I even ate it. As I drove home, past Shoestring Bay and the little ducks paddling on still waters, I vowed not to write a cliche blog post about stuff I was thankful for, my most excellent Brussels sprouts and pancetta recipe, the tyranny of Black Thursday/Friday and rampant materialism, nor the existential silliness of holidays. Hell no. I wouldn’t post a picture of the Thanksgiving sunrise at Loop Beach just because the world needs to see another sunrise picture just as much as it needs to see 250 million Instagram/Twitter shots of roasted wallboard-tasting turkeys today.
I can handle holidays that commemorate dead people, the birthdays of dead people, the anniversary of big days (the Fourth of July commemorates an event that actually took place on the Second of July), and weird pagan-religious rites like Halloween. The Swiss are the biggest holiday takers I’ve ever known. Their best is Sechselauten, or the Burning of the Bööög — when they celebrate spring by burning old man winter in the form of a snowman effigy packed with fireworks. The local burgermeisters and “guilds” dress up in halloween costumes, booze it up on firewater made from distilled cherry pits, play off-key brass instruments and scare the bejeezus out of school kids waiting at the tram stops at the good and healthy drunken hour of 7 am. I witnessed the burning of the Bööög in Zurich and had it explained to me in a multicultural out-of-body experience by an Irishwoman who was as confounded by Swiss eccentricities as I was.
I won’t be a scrooge and poop on Thanksgiving. (Actually, in reading this after posting it, I am going to do exactly that). So what if the Pilgrims didn’t sit down on the last Thursday of November and break bread with the Wampanoags? Who knows what they ate. Who cares? It doubtlessly sucked. There wasn’t a lot of balsamic vinegar and wedges of Stilton hanging around Plymouth in 1620. They ate bad watery squash, maybe an unseasoned striper which tastes like a fishy newspaper in the best of times, some venison and maybe, just maybe, a wild turkey. Half of the Pilgrims were dead or dying from scurvy, scarlet or yellow fever, dropsy, scabies, etc.. The Wampanoags were there because they needed some allies with guns to protect them from the other tribes that had been kicking their plague-decimated butts. Now the Wamps call it a “Day of Mourning” and with good reason as they eventually had their asses kicked and saw their survivors deported to Bermuda or confined to Mashpee.
Thanksgiving is just another concocted holiday up there with Secretary’s Day and Mother’s Day we celebrate thanks to lobbyists on a mission a century and a half ago. In the case of Thanksgiving that lobbyist was Sara Josepha Hale — author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. She wrote letters for decades to Congress demanding a national holiday of Thanks. Lincoln obliged, making the holiday official in 1863 — when there was absolutely nothing in America to give thanks for — and it wasn’t until the 1870s that the day became nationally observed, coinciding with a revival of interest in the Pilgrims who had been all but forgotten by time, but were dusted off and held up by some ardent patriots like Ms. Hale as the true forefathers of the country.
There are some amazingly weird and ugly monuments from that period in in Plymouth (a place to definitely avoid on Thanksgiving as ye olde Plimoth Plantation is mobbed with families looking for some authenticity in lieu of the Best Buy Doorbusters). Among the Plymouth monuments to sentimentality is the incongruous Greek temple built over the randomly selected “Plymouth Rock” and another is perfectly captured by the demented Eric Williams at the Cape Cod Times, our friends at Cape Cast. I give you the National Monument to the Forefathers, aka “The Giant Statue.”
No. Instead of pictures of sunrises, turkeys, rants on bogus thanks or beefs about social media douchebags. I give you a Thanksgiving picture of a dredge. This baby is parked at Cotuit’s Town Dock.
Dredges are a big deal around Cotuit because we rarely see them. They make our channels deep again. They modify sand spits, pump sand to places that need to be replenished, and improve the flow of water in and out of our dirty bays. Dredges are cool. They made the Panama and Suez canals. They are the great modifiers.
This dredge is a bit of a mystery. I know there is a county dredge — basically the Cape Cod Official Dredge — but I haven’t seen it around these parts for a long time. Hell, the main channel in and out of Cotuit was last dredged in 1944 by the Army Corps of Engineers when Camp Candoit was training Higgins boats drivers to invade Normandy practicing invasions of Marthas Vineyard. Three Bays Preservation, the local nonprofit devoted to cleaning up the harbors had a dredge clean out some of the inside channels a decade or so ago. But this one …. a bit of a mystery that may be solved by looking up the permit posted on the Town Dock.
Indeed, this is project MA DEP SE3-4898, approved by the Barnstable Conservation Commission two years ago. In short, the dredge is going to make things deeper around the Town Dock and pump the muck over to Dead Neck. I noticed on the moon tide a few nights ago that the inner dinghy floats are high and dry and low tide, so this is a good thing. A lot of silting happens under the dock because the storm drains used to dump out underneath it.
"Town of Barnstable/DPW. Maintenance dredging at Cotuit pier and float areas, and beach nourishment at Dead Neck Beach (Sampson’s Island) as shown on Assessors Map 035 Parcel 089 (Cotuit Town Dock) and Map 050 Parcel 002 (Dead Neck Beach). SE3-4898
The applicant was represented by Bob Burgmann, P.E.
Issues discussed: • Dredging was last done in 1968. • Dredge spoil to be deposited at Dead Neck. • Standard conditions will be imposed with regard to keeping within proposed footprint and depth. • A letter from MA Division of Maine Fisheries was discussed and was noted for the file as Exhibit A. A motion was made to approve the project with special conditions. Seconded and voted unanimously."
I am thankful for the dredge and deeper water under my keel when I come in for landing in the sailboat next summer.