Do you want to know when one of the main downfalls of human history took place? Well, I am here to enlighten. Always.
Actually, to back up a little, we have had major slides in the progression of the human race. Throughout time. It is like we do this little dance. Two steps forward, one step back. Two steps forward, one step back. But occasionally, there is a major “Cha Cha Cha” when we really thrust our booties in reverse.
So to this, I speak of the year, 1586, and one… Sir Thomas Harriot.
Now, this guy was pretty neato-gweedo, in his own right.
He was an English astronomer, mathematician, ethnographer, and translator. For those of you who don’t know…. and I didn’t…. an ethnographer is someone who studies human cultures. But they do it all up close and personal… by real time observation, and interviews, and such.
Harriot was the first person to make a drawing of the Moon through a telescope. He did this on July 26th in the year 1609…. AND…. he did it over four months before Galileo. Mr. Smarty Pants, I’ll tell you.
Back to the real story. After graduating from St Mary Hall, Oxford, Harriot traveled to the Americas, accompanying the 1585 expedition to Roanoke island funded by Sir Walter Raleigh .
He was awesome on this expedition. He picked up on the languages quickly…. and he translated the Carolina Algonquian language to his white dudes who came on the big boat with him. He learned the language from two Native Americans, Wanchese and Manteo.
Wanchese and Manteo liked their boy, Sir Tommy. So they showed him the way deeper into Indian Country. He wintered there, with the Indians, and made some fast friends.
They trusted him… so they showed him some stuff. Like openauk and uppowoc, otherwise known as potatoes and tobacco. He thought spuds were yummy, indeed. And bagged up some of those rooty goods to take back home with him.
Sir Thomas also sat around and smoked with his native friends. Good old tobackey. Smoking, he suggested, was a perfect way to purge ‘superfluous phlegm and other gross humours’ from the body. Like I always say… Light ‘em if you got ‘em. He took some of those Marlboro’s back for the Queen too.
When he finally got back to England, he handed over his finds to Sir Walter Raleigh to present to the Queen. Of course, Walt took the credit. It wasn’t until later that we found out that it was really Sir Thomas Harriot who had made the “find” for England.
But that is when the white man began to slide down the slippery slope. You know, drop the potato in the fire and it is still pretty good for you. But the White Man. The White Man.
Let’s add butter, and sour cream. YAY! Hey, here’s one better… let’s fry them in big deep vats of oil and salt the holy crap out of them. THEN… let us pile them up with cheese, and chili, and deep fried Oreo Cookies. YAY! Oh wait… let us mash them up… with loads of butter and the heaviest of whipping creams. YAY! You’re FIRED! YAY. … I mean… You’re FRIED. YAY.
The Indian would split the potato with his friend. And maybe chew on a little Buffalo Jerky. The white man pulls up to the drive-thru and Super Sizes those Chili-Cheese Fries with that order. Yes, the Triple Cheeseburger… and the Biggie Gulp too.
But… even though it was already here…. that is how the potato got its humble beginnings with us settlers.
A little more on Harriot, before I close. He was such an interesting guy. His whole life. But near the end….
Harriott went on to become part of a curious intellectual circle, known as the School of Night, obsessed by the occult. This was a pretty dang high-profile group. I mean… dudes like Marlowe and Shakespeare were a part of it…. and…. they would have frequent meetings. Its chief organizer, was called the Wizard Earl of Northumberland. HE…. was later imprisoned for life for supporting Guy Fawkes (Fawkes was a member of a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605.)
Raleigh was also tried for treason and eventually executed in 1618. In his will, he left Harriot a generous pension and all his ‘black suites of apparel’. Thanks for the threads Sir Walt.
Harriot himself was condemned as an atheist and homosexual. He narrowly escaped execution and died in 1621.
Harriott sort of passed into obscurity. But his legacy includes that good old spud. The potato is now the world’s number one non-grain food commodity, with annual production exceeding 325 million tons. Raleigh took the credit back then… but Harriot got some nice black suits out of the deal.
It all comes around. It all comes around.
“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”
― C.S. Lewis,
“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.”
― William Shakespeare,