Today's Myles Standish Is Not Giving Thanks for Bearing a Famed Name
No one, in New England at least, has much trouble identifying Myles Standish. He’s the fiery 17th-century Plymouth Colony captain who didn’t get the girl in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s romance, The Courtship of Miles Standish. The brave but tongue-tied soldier sent his best friend, young John Alden, to plead his suit with the Pilgrim maiden Priscilla Mullins, only to have Priscilla say, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”
But for a 23-year-old assistant sports editor on Vermont’s Rutland Daily Herald, the name of Standish has become a burden to bear. The reason: He is Myles Standish, an 11th generation descendant of the doughty captain. And no one, from his school teachers to total strangers, will let him forget it.
As a schoolboy in Concord, Mass. he recalls, “Teachers would bring up Myles Standish and turn to me, and I’d say, ‘Yeah, I’m a direct descendant. But it doesn’t mean that much to me.’ ” Then Boston University, from which he graduated last year, had a Myles Standish Hall. So when the hall ordered $81 worth of pies, Myles got the bill. “I taped it to my wall,” he says.
And still the jokers will not let up. “I’m always worrying whether I’ll get a plane reservation or will the agent hang up the telephone instead and say, ‘That was some fruitcake who says he’s Myles Standish.’ ” Even telephone messages themselves are a problem. “When I say it’s Myles Standish calling,” he reports, “there’s loud laughter, and they say, ‘Oh, sure.’ ”
In fact Myles would just as soon bag the whole subject. “If I met another descendant of someone who came over on the Mayflower,” he points out, “I wouldn’t say, ‘Let’s go out to the bar and talk about old times.’ ” So, would he name a son Myles? Still a bachelor, Myles reluctantly allows that he would. And a grandson? “I’m not superstitious,” he says, “but my son would have to deal with the idea of naming a Myles the 13th.”