Tuesday, November 23, 2010
After driving literally thousands of miles and always being up before the sun (which is a challenge when you are on the eastern side of the timezone), I was starting to get tired. This was the first morning I was not out before the sun. I did not hit the beach until 8am.
Knowing that Black-headed Gull had been reported on Duxbury Beach just two days before and Plymouth Beach a few weeks before, I thought it was worth to check them both out. Both were, for the most part, devoid of any large gull numbers. Waterfowl had been the same but the gulls just where not really there. Any Bonaparte's Gulls (at left) present were often in small groups and close to shore so sifting through them was a cinch. No Black-headeds. Plus, vehicles were not allowed anywhere on the beach. Miles of beach where not covered as I could not drive it.
Now, I knew this would not be an easy species, but it dawned on me how much of a blunder I had made. I should have simply driven over to Halifax, Nova Scotia when I was in Truro. Black-headed Gulls are much easier to come by there. Such is birding.....
That said, the two beaches were not a total loss. I could have gently tossed rocks and struck Sanderlings, Dunlin and Black-bellied Plover. They were that close. At times, the flock (50 birds at least) wheeled and circled looking for places to land. They seemed leaderless and confused (Republican Party, anybody?). Savannah Sparrows and Tree Sparrows were out and about, too, so, I certainly saw stuff. The distant soaring Peregrine was nice, too.
As I made my way to another park for gulls, I found myself feet away from Plymouth Rock. THE Plymouth Rock. Needing a stretch, I had to park and see what the fuss was all about.
You know the story. In 1620, the Mayflower landed in the Massachusetts coast. The rock marked the location where they came ashore.
Except, apparently, it doesn't.
The idea of “Plymouth Rock” did not come about until over 100 years after they landed. Oh wait – did you know they landed on Cape Cod first? Yeah, they did! And, we now know that original journals don’t mention anything about a rock near Plymouth. It appears the story just came out of nowhere. In time, the stone was cleaved in two and a chunk of it was moved. Eventually, the halves were reunited and placed under this gorgeous stone portico. Ahhh, Plymouth Rock. Ahhh, history. Sometimes, they apparently just make stuff up...
For giggles, I paid the 10 buckos for a walk around the Mayflower. Mayflower II actually. No one knows what happened to the original. Rebuilt to the match the specs of the original as best as possible, it was really quite something to see how tiny that ship was. Forget privacy. How 102 people stuffed themselves on that boat is beyond me. Had I sailed, I suspect I would have died from a headwound. No, not gunfire. A concussion. My 6-foot height would have been a problem, for sure.
From Mayflowers, I moved to gunshots. Not just any gunshot – it was the shot “...heard 'round the world...” At Minute Man National Historic Park, a few miles from Plymouth (14-days drive in Boston traffic) stands the Old North Bridge. Straddling the Concord River, it is where “the shot” was fired. As the British advanced, the Colonists stood at the opposite end of the bridge. The shots fired basically began the American Revolution.
As you might expect, yeah, the bridge is not the original. What stands now was built '56...as in 1956. It was restored in 2005. In the visitor's center, one can see a piece of the bridge. That's all folks. In fact, for decades, there was no bridge here at all!
That said, get there. It doesn't matter that the bridge is not original. It is the spirit of the place and what it means. That spot is one of the most treasured locations in our history and, in that weird twist that only history can manage, one of the most significant locations in the course of world history. Our story, and ultimately the track record of the modern world, exists as it does today because of what happened there in April, 1775.
Of course, you can't talk about the American Revolution without mentioning the fellow who saw the signal in the Old North Church and rode through the countryside. All night long he rode, yelling and screaming about the British advance. By making it to Concord, he was able to spread the word in time for the townsmen to hold off the British at the North Bridge.
Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere!
Yeah, great. Let’s try the real version –
Read on, my friends, and you shall see, how Longfellow’s poem screwed up history!
After Dr. Joseph Warren discovered that the British were going to leave Boston by boat to march to Concord, Revere and another chap, by the name of William Dawes, took off (this would be the night of April 18, 1775). Dawes went south out of Boston on land while Paul (what a cool name!) went west by boat and then secured a horse. Both got to Lexington. There, they secured a third rider and moved on to Concord. Before they got there, the Brits jumped them. Paul Revere was captured. PAUL REVERE WAS CAPTURED!
Yes, folks, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” is very poor from a history standpoint. Dawes made it to Concord, not Revere. Oh yeah, there were also dozens of riders. The word spread that night like a…well, just insert your favorite euphemism here. Sure, Revere rode his butt off (really - little chunks of butt were found strewn all across the landscape the following morning…), but so did countless others now lost to history.
Way to go, Longfellow….
The road the British marched to Concord is either the trail that Revere and Dawes used, or it is now the main road out of Concord; I am not sure which. In any case, when the British were retreating from Concord and forced back to Boston, it was a “march” of 16 miles or so. During that time, they were basically under constant fire. For the duration of the march, at every turn, Minute Men would fire in organized groups either in the open or in location suitable for an ambush. As you might imagine, the “march” (if we can call it that) lasted hours and must have been quite draining for the British. In a sense, it was the Revolutionary War version of “Black Hawk Down” –they were stuck in the middle of hostiles, and had to get out on foot.
As I walked the trail, part of which is “the” trail they rode, Golden-crowned Kinglets were making a ruckus. A non-breeder in Massachusetts, they were migrating through the region the day of the April ride. Here I was standing on the same trail they rode and hearing the same birds they would have heard the same day. Neat.
Lodging was in Framingham. John Harvard's Brew House has an excellent array of beers. All were excellent (the Export Lager, Golden Spike IPA, Harvest Spice Ale, Kolsch Gold Ale, and Zoiglbier) but the spice ale had a unique answer to a long standing problem. Like I mentioned in the past, those pumpkin beers are not what they are cracked up to be. Here, they rimmed the glass with cinnamon and sugar just like you would do with salt for a margarita. Interesting idea. It worked. The pizzas, by the way, were made with the spent grains from brewing. Nicely done.
The next day? Into the bowels of the beast...