A classic rock
A rambling by Tom Knapp,
October 1994

Some things are better kept alive in the imagination. The real thing, when you see it, can fall far short of expectations.

Take Plymouth Rock, legendary landing place of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts in 1620. This rock, every school child learns, is where the bedraggled and starving Pilgrims stepped from their good ship Mayflower, thus ending their long quest for religious freedom, turkey dinners and witch hunts.

But the story, like much of popular history, is probably wrong. Many historians believe the small granite boulder was moved to the site by well-meaning citizens who thought the event deserved a landmark. Still, this rock is supposed to be a great American monument, one to inspire awe and wonder.

Well, it's not. It's a rock. Not very large and not very impressive.

It sits on the sand by the water, a ribbon of cement visible where the rock split in half and was repaired. Chiseled in the top is the date "1620." The rock is surrounded by a rectangular viewing stand and canopy, also granite, where people can gaze at the rock in rapture.

They don't. At least, not the ones who strolled up while I was there on a recent New England vacation. At best, they were amused. Most, particularly the children, were disappointed.

Luckily, the moment could be saved by a postcard-like view of the boat-filled harbor and the nearby Mayflower II, a reproduction of the original Pilgrim vessel, built and maintained by our tourism dollars.

[ by Tom Knapp ]