The Pilgrims on the Mayflower docked Dec. 16th 1620 at Plymouth Harbor. The Plymouth colonists settled in Patuxet, an empty Wampanoag village whose people either died from the plague introduced by European traders in 1616 or had been taken as slaves by European explorers. The winter of 1620-1621 was brutal and over half the Pilgrim colony, many of them women, perished.

The Pilgrims on the Mayflower docked Dec. 16th 1620 at Plymouth Harbor. The Plymouth colonists settled in Patuxet, an empty Wampanoag village whose people either died from the plague introduced by European traders in 1616 or had been taken as slaves by European explorers. The winter of 1620-1621 was brutal and over half the Pilgrim colony, many of them women, perished.

Because the Pilgrims had women and children, the indigenous Wampanoag looked upon the Pilgrims as peaceful people and the two cultures entered into a treaty of mutual protection. That first Thanksgiving followed a good harvest. Four Pilgrims went out bird hunting and the Wampanoag heard the gunfire. Alarmed the Pilgrims were under attack, Chief Massasoit came with 90 warriors to give aid. They were invited to eat but there was not enough food. Massasoit’s men killed five deer and presented them to the Chief of the English town, William Bradford, in a Wampanoag gift giving ceremony. The three-day feast in November of 1621 was prepared by the surviving four women, children and servants. Deer, wild turkey, cod, bass and Indian corn were probably on the menu.

Things continued amicably for several years, but Puritans came in droves and numbers of colonists continued to rise, forcing the Wampanoags off their lands. With an alliance of other tribes, Philip, Wampanoag leader and son of Massasoit, chief who befriended the Pilgrims, went to war against the colonists in 1675-1676. He was killed along with 40% of his tribe. Other members of the tribe were sold into slavery and sent to colonists in New England (including Philip’s wife and kids), Bermuda or the West Indies.

During the Civil War, the families who settled on the slopes of Rich Mountain just inside the Arkansas border also weren’t so lucky. The side of the mountain had poor soil, no water and often experienced strong winds. Why they settled there remains a mystery. One wicked winter storm blew in from Oklahoma. A mother of several children (husband that had either died or was fighting in the Civil War) was running a fever. She sent her teenage daughter to get water at the spring down in the valley. It is said the girl was chased by starving wolves, shimmied up a tree and was found days later frozen stiff in the tree. The winter continued to be brutal and some families ran out of their meager food supplies before spring and starved.

To temper these harsh bites of reality, look to the words in “Come, Ye Thankful People.” This religious song praises God and gives thanks for the harvest. “Prayer of Thanksgiving” is another faith-based song where ‘We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.’ Songs of thankfulness and thanksgiving. Not heard as often in today’s world. Whatever your belief, don’t take things for granted and be thankful for what you have.

Switch gears. Could you be a Rockette? My mother loved watching the synchronized high kicking Radio City Rockettes in front of Macy’s during the Thanksgiving Day parade. Each lady is under contract with the American Guild of Variety Artists from September to January. She must be between 5’6”-5’10” and trained in tap dancing, jazz and ballet. Each dancer is responsible for her own makeup, must be able to change costumes in less than 78 seconds and expected to kick up to 1,200 times per day. For this a Rockette is paid about $1500/week (total $38,000), but it does come with benefits. Thirty six are on stage during a performance with four understudies. Counting both morning and evening shows, there are about eighty Rockettes all geared to liven the Christmas season by performing four times a day. Powerful talent.

The marigold blooms! In the greenhouse is a plant going crazy with yellow blossoms. The Mountain Marigold, Tagetes lemmonii, (Copper Canyon Daisy, Mountain Lemon Marigold or Mexican bush marigold) is native to northwestern Mexico and Arizona. The perennial, wrapped in highly aromatic thin leaves, can reach 8 feet tall, but blooms in the fall. My mountain lemon marigold has exploded into full bloom inside the greenhouse. When it goes outside next spring, this marigold stops blooming and turns into a leafy shrub. The plant was labeled French Marigold. Wrong.

Someone stuck in the French tag and my plant has been under the erroneous impression it is French. I’ll have to break the news gently by saying Au revoir, wait a few minutes, then greet the marigold in Spanish with Hola Amigo and all the Spanish I know: taco, queso, and si.

Botanist Sarah Plummer Lemmon saw these marigolds on her way up a mountain 9,159 feet high. She was the first white woman to ascend Babad Do’ag in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson Arizona. In the Tohono O’odham language, Babad Do’ag (pronounced Bob-ott doe-awk) means Frog Mountain. The gutsy lady, her husband and a rancher made the climb in 1881. The mountain was later named Mount Lemmon.

Mountain lemon marigolds are semi-evergreen. In their native areas they bloom from August to November, grow along streams or moist grasslands or on cliffs of the Sonoran Desert Mountains beyond 9000 feet in altitude. The flowers, about one inch in diameter, look like bright cheerful yellow daisies. Drought and heat tolerant, these odiferous marigolds can become quite leggy. When stems land on ground, they will root and form new little marigolds. My plant rooted and sprouted clones of itself in mulch. This is one marigold extremely resistant to spider mites. Deer and rabbits find the plant offensive, along with my husband who exclaims ‘it stinks’ whenever he brushes against the marigold in the greenhouse.

Crinum lilies anyone? Crinum lily bulbs appeared at the last Master Gardener meeting, waiting for new homes. They were hidden in black plastic bags and paper sacks. I opened up one sack and eyeballed the largest bulb I have ever seen. How spectacular that lily could be in the Japanese Peace Garden.

What was I thinking? This gigantic food storage organ with the thick foot long stem was the size of a cannon ball and probably weighed 40 pounds. The Japanese Peace Garden? Trying to dig a hole one foot deep in that soil would require an auger, the tool used to dig holes for other plants there. The dense wet clay refuses to drain and enshrouds shovels with pounds of pottery quality substrate.

The subtropical Crinum lily, native to warm areas in America and Africa, thrives along streams, in swamps and marshes. This cemetery plant found in southern plantations can grow to 6 feet, and operates best in moist, well-drained soil from spring through fall to facilitate the production of slender long leaves and masses of showy flowers. Like the Oleander, all parts of the plant are poisonous.

Instead of being in the Japanese Peace Garden, a huge hole was excavated to the east of my house near the Compass plant. The bulb was sunk deep into sandy clay soil with a mountain of mulch heaped over the entire lily enterprise. If it survives, the two big perennials can become buds, or make buds, or drink Buds, whatever.

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.