Some people think that Leif went off course, got lost and found the new world by accident.

I was Leif and we did not go off course, get lost and find the new world by accident. That is a reasonable assumption since many people thought that the world ended west of Greenland so I can see how the assumption was made. In point of fact it almost did not happen because of resistance from naysayers.

It was a conscious decision of the colony to trust me for the exploration and here is how it happened. The reason many people moved west to Greenland from Iceland was that the timber was gone on Iceland. Well, they must have been disappointed because I don't think there was any on Greenland.

We had to sail a long distance and trade for timber for building things including ships. One year it was time for us to get timber and it was my responsibility. I was thinking about having to sail east to Norway and pay for the wood and then having to row against the current with a fully laden ship to get home. I have to tell you anything sounded better than rowing against that swift northern current continuously for days and days without stopping.

I was thinking what if we could go west and could cut the timber ourselves and then run with the current back home. That sounded like a lot better idea but I knew I could never convice more than about 15 men to go with me. The boat I had to use needed 32 men to handle it in an emergency. I felt the idea would evaporate if I shared it with too many other people.

I knew there was wood to the west since ocean currents often brought wood in on the tides. In fact there had to be so much wood that it had to be falling into the water and that meant there was a lot of wood.

We would get a storm out of the south west which I guess were blown out Hurricanes and two weeks later we would get a lot of wood on shore. The salt water would mess it up and ruin it but it was enough wood to cook food for months.

I vividly recall finding a tree on the beach of the kind we made our boats with. The bark was coming off which meant it had dried out on land and then had been washed out to sea. Then it floated to the beach near my home. It was essentially cured wood and so it was identical to what we made our boats of.

I stripped the bark to see how soft the outer layer of wood was just as we would inspect the wood on a ship to see how long it had been in the water. The wood was not very soft so it had only been wet a few weeks. I got excited. There was a branch about 2 inches (50 mm) across and four feet long so I broke it off the tree. It snapped hard so it had not been in the salt water long enough for the salt to break the tissues down and ruin the characteristics of the wood. It was such excellent wood that we could have made bows from it. To narrow down how long it had been in the water I had only to look closely at the end of the branch.

I got really excited because it was completely dry in the center. It takes about two weeks for the water to soak through an inch of that kind of wood so that had only been in the ocean less than two weeks! Two weeks at the speed of the ocean current had put that tree at our doorstep.

That meant sailing west at the same speed as the ocean current for two weeks would put us into the middle of a forest! We could cut the wood ourselves. Then we could just drift and sleep and still get back home in about two weeks. That sure sounded a lot better than rowing against the current fully laden for 400 miles!

Like an idiot I went running around screaming excitedly waving the 'club'around. I lost everything. My father was Erik the Red and he had a nasty reputation of being a little on the violent side.* Actually his reputation was a lot on the violent side.

I was continuously being a nice Christian to make up for it. All the acceptance from others that I had earned being a good Christian evaporated in less than a minute of running around screaming and waving the branch.

The people who knew me just laughed their heads off about the whole thing.

Actually it was excellent because the next day everyone wanted to get it straightened out. So when we got everyone together I was able to apologize and at the same time sell my idea of sailing west for the timber that we needed. I must have been lucky because everyone was so happy that I wasn't trying to club them to death that they were ready to agree with anything!*

And that is how Leif Erikson got a full crew of men to agree to sail off the edge of the world.

*He was a wonderful person until he had his attacks. If you made much noise when he had an attack it would avalanche his emotions and he would destroy what ever and who ever was in front of his eyes.

It was simple to avoid. When his body started to shake you simply did not get in front of his eyes.

An attack of illness would continue for four hours unless we gave him three glasses of wine which he rarely drank otherwise. The wine or mead would reduce the time of the seizure to about 30 minutes or stop it from occurring. Today he would take a seizure medicine like Dilantin and he would never have another attack but all we had was wine.

We children never had a problem because we were short and so we would take him to the tavern to get the drinks and then wait with him until it took to take effect.

Every so often some drunks would see him at that tiime kind of shaking and 'say look at how that man is shaking. He can barely hold it together. With his child here he won't fight us so lets go mess with his head.' That would last sometimes only about 10 seconds and then my father would explode and occoasaionally he would kill someone and then the family would have to move to new land.

Since we were in Greenland we had run out of places to move to and it my father very glad to see me go find a new land in case we had to move again.

If he had been a real murderer he would have been treated like one and immediately been given a death sentence. Certainly the second time he killed he would have been given one. They knew it was a seizure and not his fault. So they did the right thing by exiling us to a place far from other people and that is how we ended up in Greenland and looking for more land in case we had to move again.

They doubted my father once when he injured some people so they went to the bar where he had just got the three glasses of wine. Just then he blew up and threw the stone table almost all the way through the sod roof. When they got there the judge and others tried to lift the table up and it took two of them to lift it. The table was stone and it weighed over 350 pounds and when my father blew up he threw the table up in the air and it bounced it off the ceiling and almost crushed to death some men but it came down in front of them and not on them. The trial was for trying to figure out how much to charge him for the roof but everybody in the village went because it was such an event that he threw that table partially through the roof.

Another thing that indicates that this was some kind of a seizure and not murder is that my father was an extremely productive person. He never had any kind of a destructive personality. While a bad person might do a few good things occasionally you don't get a lot of good from a bad person and he did a lot of good. Also, you don't get an Erik for a son unless you are a good honest, moral and honorable man.

Wait a second. Do you realize that I am still defending my father against detractors and he has been dead for a thousand years. So why am I so protective of this person as if he is still alive today? It's part of the Viking heritage to be so true to your family?

I went back just now and read what I have written and I'm not doing that bad a job of defending him, am I? We were absolutely the most moral people at the time.

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2003 John Pinil