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DAR essay winners

Special to The Star
The Star

The St. Joseph Bay Chapter of NSDAR recently recognized this year’s winners of the chapter’s annual essay contest.

Following is an essay on Columbus from Morgan Lakey, the high school winner. Last year, Lakey’s essay earned second place in state competition.

My father was in feeble health, and my two brothers and I knew that he would soon pass. On the day of his death, he grabbed my wrist and spoke.

“Son, there is a part of my life that I never spoke of. I am telling you now so that you don’t make the same mistakes that I did.”

My brothers and I shared a curious glance but allowed him to continue.

With a faraway look, my father started his story.

“When I was twenty-four, I was sent to jail for killing a man in a fight. My three friends were also imprisoned for trying to help me escape.” I was shocked, as my father had always been a model citizen. Weakly, he continued. “One day, the warden announced that any prisoner would be pardoned if they joined a ship’s crew led by an explorer named Christopher Columbus. His goal was to find a new route to Asia. Although most prisoners were afraid of falling off the edge of the world, my friends and I decided to join. We left Spain on The Santa Maria, Friday, August 3rd, 1492.

That was the day I met Columbus. He was the most passionate person I had ever encountered. He welcomed me aboard and explained the purpose of the journey. His goal was to find spices, gold, and most importantly, a new route to Asia. He immediately made me feel courageous and hopeful.” I listened in amazement. I couldn’t believe that my father had sailed with my favorite explorer.

“We soon reached the Canary Islands,” he continued. “It was the westmost Spanish territory and had many resources. For days, we gathered water from the island’s many streams and wells and cut down Pine and Beech trees. We took a few live pigs and sheep aboard to slaughter, but much of our meat was already butchered and salted. On September 5th, we gathered more freshwater and stowed our meat and lumber aboard. We set sail on September 6th.

We had not seen land for a month, and many sailors were discouraged. There was some talk of mutiny, but I tried not to listen. I trusted my captain and was worried that if I didn’t complete this voyage, I would return to jail.

On October 10th, Columbus gathered the men and declared that according to his calculations, land should be just across the horizon. He reminded us of the cash reward for the first man to sight land. On October 12th, a man named Rodrigo de Triana spotted land. When he went to collect the money, he was informed that Columbus had spotted land a few hours earlier. Rodrigo was angry, but I believed Columbus. I was just happy to set foot on land, regardless of who made the discovery.

It was a small island. After giving thanks to God, Columbus gathered us and proclaimed that the island was now called San Salvador. It was the newest addition to the Spanish empire. The natives were very friendly and ran to meet us. We offered them things of little value, such as glass beads, and they hugged them to their chests. They gave us cotton, javelins, and parrots. We were excited to see the parrots. We figured that we were close to Japan as they were thought to only reside in Asia. The natives were handsome people all under the age of thirty with good faces and hair like a horse’s mane. They seemed poor, and none of them wore any clothes. On the second day, we traveled around the island. We came across a few villages. The natives lived in framed houses with thatched roofs. I learned that they made jewelry, pottery, and woven cloth. They farmed corn and peppers and caught fish. We left San Salvador on October 14th. We took six natives with us to use as servants and guides. Columbus figured that the natives would make fine slaves once they converted to Catholicism.

We reached what we believed was Cipango, Japan on October 28th, but the natives called it Cuba. It was a paradise, unlike anything I could imagine. The luscious mountains, valleys, large trees, juicy fruit, and hundreds of birds all resembled the stories I had heard about Asia. Columbus sent two interpreters to scout out the land. They didn’t find the large city we were expecting, but a small village. The two tribes on the island were the Ciboney and the Arawak. The Ciboney were hunters and gathers. The Arawak were farmers and crafters. These tribes introduced us to tobacco, which we learned to smoke. On November 22nd, the Pinta left, without permission, to seek gold. Columbus was furious.

The next island we reached resembled Spain so much that we named it Hispaniola. They had the same types of trees, vegetation, weather, fish, and cultivated fields. Columbus recognized the aloe plant and ordered us to cut and stow 10,000 pounds to bring back to Spain. While on a hike, we discovered spices. They smelled wonderful! The Arawak people ate everything with a spice called pepper, and it was delicious. The best things we discovered were corn, tobacco, potatoes, and a new species of cotton.

On Christmas Eve, the Santa Maria sank. It was all my fault. At 11:00 at night, at the turn of the hourglass, I took over the helm. The water was very calm as the officer of the watch showed me the best way to follow the course of the Nina. I was exhausted. After a few hours, I woke the ship-boy and gave him the tiller. It was against the rules for him to take the helm, and now he was the only one awake. I woke to men running and shouting. We had hit a coral reef, and half of the ship was underwater. This forced some sailors to join the Nina’s crew while others were left on Hispaniola to form a new colony. The Pinta rejoined us on January 6, 1493.

We left for Spain on January 16th and arrived on March 15th. Columbus was received as a hero. I was one of many sailors who escorted him to the palace. In the parade, we carried bright-colored birds, rare plants, and animals. One man carried a long lizard called an iguana. The Indians carried gold armbands, spears, and arrows. Columbus greeted the king and queen. They allowed him to kiss their hands. He sat at their feet and told his story. It was one of the greatest days of my life! It was then that I knew the purpose of our journey. It was to pave the way for more expeditions. It was to pave the way for the future.

I needed you to hear my story because you are the future. You three will do great things. Learn from my mistakes as you chart your own course and embrace your own great adventures.” With a final burst of strength, he gathered us and gave us a hug. “Have courage like Columbus. I love you!” With a smile on his face, he passed away. My father was on his way to his next great adventure.