by Jim Harris
"In fourteen hundred and
ninety three, Columbus sailed the bright blue sea." Every
school child knows this simple rhyme, but who was Christopher
Columbus really? In this scholarly paper, I have humbly attempted
to separate man from myth.
The son of a simple wood weaver,
Chris was a born explorer. Even as a young child, he was always
wandering into the neighbors' yards and "discovering"
things. His folks thought he might grow up to be a tax collector,
but fate had bigger plans. One day while he was out exploring,
he noticed a faint line in the dirt. It was the 39th parallel,
and from that lone strand he wove a theory that the world was
not a cube, as most believed, but rather donut-shaped.
He theorized that by sailing
through the hole in the donut he could reach india from the East
and thus avoid the long lines for take-out occurring on the Western
border. He took his bold plan to Queen Isabella and her brother,
King Ferdinand, and they gave him some boats and money just to
get rid of him. They were quite sure that he would sail off one
of the corners of the cube and into the area called "Nowhere,"
never to be seen again.
So off he went in his three tiny
ships - only ten feet long by fourteen inches wide - the
Nano, the Piñata and the Mongo Santamaria.
On board were thirty lawyers, two hundred barrels of cheap wine,
and a five-piece dance band in the lounge. Three days later they
spotted what they believed to be India, but after rigorous inspection,
determined it to be seaweed. Eight weeks after that, on October
12, while hanging over the railing after another night of partying,
Chris noticed that his ship had run aground and a crowd of curious
natives had gathered.
He quickly communicated to them,
using a patented system of grunts, whistles, and oil paintings,
that they were "Indians," and that they would soon be
civilized like he was. They then held the first Thanksgiving dinner,
rang the Liberty Bell and finished off the last barrel of wine.
Sadly, after Columbus' third
voyage, it was discovered that he had been systematically dismantling
the new continent and smuggling the pieces back to Italy in a
fake wooden leg. He was arrested and brought to Spain in chains,
but managed to wriggle free and escape to Guadalajara where he
hid in a chicken coop until his death in 1506.
His was buried in Mexico, but
began harassing the other dead people, and was moved to the Abbey
at Madrid. When the abbey went condo, he was shipped off to Cuba.
Then in 1898, after a bitter custody battle in which neither side
wanted him, his remains were schlepped back to Spain. DNA results
announced in May 2006 showed that some of his remains remain in
at least seventeen different locations. In death as in life, truly
a man of the world.
In recent times, historians have
determined that Columbus was in fact not the first outsider to
reach North America. He was apparently preceded by Eric the Red,
Eric the Greenish-Blue, Girl Scout troop 184 from Oxford, England,
who rowed over and back in one sitting, and "Ajax,"
an escaped one-armed circus monkey who swam the entire 4,000
miles from France in just over a week. Only Columbus, however,
stuck around long enough to become the the new world's first illegal
In writing this piece, I have
discovered that being a learned historian is hard. It involves
many long minutes of research, but what's even harder is deciding
who I can make fun of without being sued, killed, or beaten up.
I figure anyone dead over five hundred years is probably safe
(except you-know-who,) but I'm screening my calls just in case.