Black Horse Lies & A Cherry Tree…

Or – a belated birthday gift for Jack.

My post yesterday debunked some Thanksgiving myths and brought about a question from Jack, a childhood friend.  Literally we’ve know one another since Primary Sunday School at First Baptist Germantown where Adda Belle Riley was the teacher.

Jack said in his comment, “Jack Frost How very different the original was from what we were taught in our youth. Makes me wonder what else might be suspect. Next thing ya know people will be saying old George didn’t actually chop down a cherry tree. Wait…. Happy Thanksgiving however you celebrate it! Woo hoo!

“Woo-hoo,” is Jack’s trademark tag line, FYI.

His comment of course, lead me to remember some previous research on our First and Greatest President – I’m a big fan – surrounding the anecdotal and apocryphal stories we hear.  You know stuff like, he threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River, he had wooden false teeth, he wore a wig, that he’s secretly buried in a crypt beneath the Capitol Building in DC, that he hated black horses, and of course everyone’s favorite, the cherry tree story.

The story was relayed to history by Mason Locke Weems, an American book agent and author who wrote the first biography of George Washington immediately after his death.


He was the source of many of the unverifiable stories about Washington.

The tale of the cherry tree story is included in the fifth edition of The Life of Washington (1809 print, originally published 1800); a bestseller that depicted Washington’s virtues and was intended to provide a morally instructive tale for the youth of the young nation, who were apparently already going to hell in the proverbial hand-basket.

The story told by Weems and attributed to “… an aged lady, who was a distant relative, and, when a girl, spent much of her time in the family …” who referred to young George as “cousin,” goes like this…

“The following anecdote is a case in point. It is too valuable to be lost, and too true to be doubted; for it was communicated to me by the same excellent lady to whom I am indebted for the last. (Weems)

“When George,” said she, “was about six years old, he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet! Of which, like most little boys, he was immoderately fond, and was constantly going about chopping everything that came in his way. One day, in the garden, where he often amused himself hacking his mother’s pea-sticks, he unluckily tried the edge of his hatchet on the body of a beautiful young English cherry-tree, which he barked so terribly, that I don’t believe the tree ever got the better of it. The next morning the old gentleman, finding out what had befallen his tree, which, by the by, was a great favorite, came into the house; and with much warmth asked for the mischievous author, declaring at the same time, that he would not have taken five guineas for his tree. Nobody could tell him anything about it. Presently George and his hatchet made their appearance. “George,” said his father, “do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? ” This was a tough question; and George staggered under it for a moment; but quickly recovered himself: and looking at his father, with the sweet face of youth brightened with the inexpressible charm of all-conquering truth, he bravely cried out, “I can’t tell a lie, Pa; you know I can’t tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet.” “Run to my arms, you dearest boy,” cried his father in transports, “run to my arms; glad am I, George, that you killed my tree; for you have paid me for it a thousand fold. Such an act of heroism in my son is more worth than a thousand trees, though blossomed with silver, and their fruits of purest gold.”

Quite a bit for a six year old, doncha think?

In 1896 Woodrow Wilson (about whom history has also misled us) wrote in his biography George Washington that the cherry tree story was a fabrication.

Following that auspicious moment, almost all historians of the period climbed aboard the no cherry tree train.

The story was never denied by Washington’s relatives.

And it was most notably not denied by Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis (1779-1852), whom Washington raised as his own daughter, and who spent her life preserving his memory and debunking false stories.

So, I really don’t know.  It is of course doubtful that our nation’s first president pulled off this feat as a first grader. It is highly unlikely, but it’s not impossible.

George Washington was not simply a man “just like any other,”  his valor, greatness, and will to shape a new nation are gifts which continue to provide for us today.

Although it matters somewhat whether the story is true or not, the fact that Parson Weems possibly made it UP does not make Washington any less of a hero.

In fact, it says more about Weems than Washington.

The story was told to cement his place in history as the Father of Our Country.

Which it did, and he was.

Happy Belated, Jack!

Happy Thanksgiving

Have a Happy and Politically Correct Thanksgiving!


The Golden Fleece

“Do your homework; sit down right there and get started.”

“But Mom, I hate this stuff. Who cares about a golden fleece, it’s just a made UP story. It’s not even true.”

“Doesn’t matter, it’s required; get crackin’.”

Ah, if looks could kill!


Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. Click on the link right here to find out more and link your own post. While you’re there, click on the blue frog button to find more stories from some wonderful storytellers.

This week’s prompt was fleece.

Tomorrow Is Thanksgiving!

It’s a truly American Holiday; not that only Americans are thankful.  But with a few exceptions it is an annual holiday only in the USofA.

Virginia claims the first Thanksgiving; they hold fast to the tradition and stick by the narrative.  They claim their celebration was held on December 4, 1619, and it may well have been, but it was celebration of Thanksgiving in a religious sense. They even made a proclamation;

“We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacion in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

Prayer may have been on the menu, but a feast of venison, cranberries, and corn such as the Pilgrims of Massachusetts would have a few years later were not.

There was no pumpkin pie, turkey, or mashed potatoes on the menu that day in Massachusetts.  Potatoes had not been introduced to  the region, turkeys were deemed foul fowl, and there was no wheat for flour to make a pie.

What we deem the first Thanksgiving and what we learned in school was the three day festival of Thanksgiving held in the Bay State, er colony of Massachusetts.

The celebration was in honor of the first harvest the folks had, and supposedly, they shared their good fortune with the indigenous folks nearby.

Maybe, maybe not.  I wasn’t there.

This is the Thanksgiving from which we get our lore and to which we trace our roots as a thankful nation.  It was held at Plymouth Plantation, and there was a feast.

The celebration consisted of three days of food, hunting, games, and fun in general.

Squanto, a Patuxet Indian who had been captured by Virginian, John Smith in the Indian slave trade and then escaped or was released (no one is sure) and somehow wound UP in Newfoundland, made his way to New England and taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn.

No matter what the details, it was “big doins” and you know how we like to hold on to our traditions.

The First President to declare a day of National Thanksgiving was The First President, George Washington.  John Adams and James Madison would follow suit, but neither of those days were to celebrate harvest, they were celebrations of freedom, victory, and the American nation.

President Lincoln declared a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1863 on the last Thursday of November in the midst of the Civil War.

They celebrated what we do not know, but can only imagine survival was on the list.  Soldiers stopping to give thanks when they were never sure if a bullet was headed their way is a sobering and humbling thought.

That day stuck for a while until the Depression when FDR changed it to the 3rd Thursday in November to help retailers extend the Christmas shopping season.

The change was met with outrage by most. Some of his detractors called it “Franksgiving.”


A little later FDR issued a proclamation declaring the 4th Thursday as Thanksgiving forever. Congress not wanting to cede power passed a joint resolution on October 6, 1941 declaring the last Thursday of November as the holiday beginning in 1942.

But in December of that same year, the Senate came back and passed an amendment to the resolution that required the holiday to be celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November.  Subtle difference, but impactful nonetheless.

The amendment passed the House, the President signed the bill and voila! Now you have a National holiday when all government offices are closed.

Some states ignored the 4th Thursday rule and continued with the last Thursday.  Texas was the last holdout, acquiescing in 1956.

Hey, don’t mess with Texas, right?

Nowadays, its a day when we reflect on the things with which we been blessed over the year, eat too much, watch college football, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

And of course, start Christmas shopping!

This year, I’m thankful for much and could take UP pages with the blessings I’ve received.

But I’ll leave it at this.

I’m thankful for all of you who take time from your busy days to read my ramblings and ravings and I’m thankful that you chime in from time to time.

Happy Thanksgiving!