Chapter 2: A Hunter, a Thief, and a Gift of Thanks
One cannot explain how a bag made in 1891 was said to have been at the first Thanksgiving, unless it (by unusual means) was given the gift of time travel—which makes sense as reports of the bag have popped up in the journals of Leonardo da Vinci and Marie Antoinette—but nonetheless it was there. Some say it was an accident that the bag made its way onto the Mayflower. Others say that it made the long journey for one purpose—to be safekeeping for the Mayflower Compact. One of the most believable theories is that it was brought as a gift of peace to the native inhabitants of America.
Legend has it that the bag was presented to the Wampanoag tribe by the Pilgrims. The chief was so impressed with its craftsmanship that he in turn presented it to the tribe’s best hunter, Big Hunter, and charged him to use the bag to bring back the finest meats for a feast with their new friends. The next day, Big Hunter brought before everyone a bunny, three deer, and two wild turkeys. It was a feast that would forever be remembered in the history books. At the feast, the chief proudly wore the gift across his chest, and in the years to come, kept many of the tribe’s most valuable relics inside.
One cold night, while the chief was asleep, a new member of their tribe who went by the name of Squanto, entered his lodging and stole the bag. When the tribe realized the bag had gone missing, they searched every cave, tree branch, and creek bed. Squanto, in a hurry to rid himself of the bag, hid it with a leatherworker who lived near Plymouth Rock. He hoped when the tribe came searching they would overlook the bag. As he had hoped, the tribe never found the bag. However, when Squanto returned, the bag was gone. Why Squanto stole and hid the bag in the first place is a mystery as well. Some people believe that he feared that the bag carried the same disease that had killed the people of his former tribe.
Many years later, a Frenchman heard stories of the traveling bag and set out across the world to find it. His journey led him to America and to a council of Native Americans who were said to possess wisdom of the bag’s location. There he found the ones called Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, Sitting Bull and Geronimo. With a translator by his side, he shared his quest as the men nodded their understanding. He explained that the bag was a gift of Thanksgiving—once given to their people by the people of Plymouth. Crazy Horse acknowledged that this was indeed true. The Frenchman continued to explain that the bag was said to have passed from the hands of Pocahontas and Sacagawea and then to many others—each time as a gift of thanks. Again Crazy Horse said that this was true.
The Frenchman explained that the bag was the rightful property of the people of France—dating back hundreds of years—and demanded that the council turn it over. The men laughed at the Frenchman and said they could not . . . because they did not have it. Tired from his journeys and angry at the council of men, the Frenchman begged to at least have a glimpse of the bag of legend. Again the men declined. What they said next angered the Frenchman so much that he tossed his hat on the ground, stomped on it with both feet and cried like a baby. They had told him that the bag of legend did not exist during this time, but if he would wait around for another ten years, he might find it in the territory known as Alaska. The man returned to France feeling disappointed and tricked.
The last recorded Thanksgiving for the bag dates back to 1901. Fredrick Bambach had made his home in a New York apartment. He had not been in the country long when he quickly learned that he had a knack for solving big cases. His unique ability found him a job with the New York police department. One of his last cases was the most important of all. It had to do with saving the president’s life, but despite all of his successes he could not save Pres. William McKinley from the radical Leon Czolgosz. Until now, Fredrick Bambach’s story has remained a secret, as it was never recorded in the history books. Bambach quit his job with the New York police department vowing to help people in another way. That Thanksgiving in 1901, he used the bag that he said he had bought from a Romanian traveler to carry food to needy New York families. On this day, it is said he met a little boy named Harry who had an unusual scar on his forehead. Harry had no parents and lived under the stairs of his aunt and uncle’s home. Appalled by the treatment of the boy, Bambach tried to have the boy removed from the home, thinking he could give no better gift of Thanksgiving than to give this boy a better life. When authorities refused to remove him from his family, Bambach thought of an idea. He scratched a few notes on a piece of paper, and stuffed it into the bag, hoping to one day write about the needs of children in New York. In the last days of his life, he remembered the piece of paper and regretted that he had never written the book. When he asked his nurse to retrieve the paper from his bag, it was gone, because so was the bag.