Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mutiny about the Bounty

The word bounty conjures images of Fletcher Christian, Captain Bligh, Tahiti, and a long voyage. The HMS Bounty’s mission was to investigate sources of breadfruit for the Royal Navy’s crews. I wonder if there’s a good breadfruit recipe out there? The latex, a product of the tree and good for caulking, had the potential for sealing leaky hulls. Somehow, bounty as in a plentiful harvest of chow, sits in the shadow of the HMS Bounty for me.

And Captain Bligh, the mean guy, really has received a bum rap over the years having to co-star with Clark Gable, Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson. Bligh was a hearty chap, a tough experienced sailor. After the mutiny in April of 1789, Christian dumped Bligh and 18 loyal crew on a longboat, 23 feet long with two small sails. They made a voyage of about 3600 miles from Tofua in the South Pacific to Timor in the open sea. Everyone made it. Pretty amazing feat.

Bligh, a veteran of one of Captain Cook’s voyages (actually the last one) served as a cartographer, a master in the art of navigation with sextant and chronometer. On that voyage, one day, he was the officer on deck while Cook went ashore to try to negotiate with the tribal leader at the area we now call Kalakaua on the big island, Hawaii. Bligh watched helplessly out of range while angry warriors beat Captain Cook to death. Story goes that a marine on a longboat right offshore, fired his musket frightening the warriors.

Bligh was cold, Christian an idealist perhaps, and the Bounty's crew probably bored stiff seeking a bounty of breadfruit. All that traveling for starch. That mutiny over a bounty that never came to be.

All of this Bounty stuff has absolutely nothing to do with the bounties of the season. Words have a way of working their own magic, though, with suggestions out of our control. For me, the word bounty has a suggestion of harvest, a mere suggestion because I’ve never harvested a crop but rather been the beneficiary of others harvesting type work. I have no mutinous feelings about bounty. Our Thanksgiving traditions give me an appreciation for family, friends, and the concept of gratitude. I admire people who grow food and nurture the land.

These are lean times, leaner for many who’ve known lean before the lean times. It’s a worry, for things do not seem to be getting better. Yet in these lean times, personally I’m finding that people have a gentler nature, taking care of one another. That connectedness, that kindness in the face of an unkind economic atmosphere, the mutual concern could be the real bounty right under our noses.

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