Sitting at a stoplight for any length of time, allows a person to explore his or her thoughts. It could be matters of the heart, a daydream, the search for a better song on the radio, or a consideration of the immediate surroundings.
“Wow a piece of Cheesecake sounds good right now. …. … I need to get the dog groomed…. ….. … What was the name of that actress in Psycho?… …. Do roller skates still have keys? … Hey, there’s Larry… Oh… he’s gained weight…. …. “
Honestly, the thoughts might be rambling randomness. Or perhaps we look around and wonder… about buildings… or landscaping… … or street names. Such was the case as I sat at the corner of Decatur St. and Barron St., while I was in Eaton, Ohio, today.
So tonight, as I reviewed this day’s historical events… I see that in the year 1820…. there was a certain U.S. Navy officer named….. Stephen Decatur. He was a hero of the Barbary Wars. These were not the Barbra Wars… which is what happens when two people do a Karaoke FaceOff with Streisand tunes. No he was a hero in the war in the Sea of Tripoli.
Anyway, on this date… Stephen Decatur gets in a duel with a Navy Commodore…. named… James Barron. Barron kills Decatur in this duel. Who knew. All these times I’ve sat at the corner of these two streets, I never guessed that 200 years ago, the namesakes got hacked off at one another, and fought it to the death.
Who peed in who’s Wheaties, you wonder?
Well, apparently, they were once friends. But…. Decatur sat in on the court-martial that suspended Barron from the Navy. Barron was suspended for five years in 1808. That left a mark. So years later…. Barron was trying to get reinstated. And Decatur opposed his reinstatement. This little non-endorsement lead to the the big quarrel between the two men.
It is a bit of a tangled story which mostly happened during the Tripolitan War. Decatur got to be a bit of a hero big-shot story. And Barron made some errors. He drew a bunch of scowls and grumbles when he failed to resist a British attack on his flagship, the Chesapeake. And that got the ball rolling for his court martial.
So…jump ahead to 1820… after these two had been stewing about one another. The relations between the two men had really gone south. Completely deteriorated. So….. Who knows why the challenge came along? But in March 1820…. Barron said “I’m gonna’ kick your butt in a gun fight.” And Decatur said…. “You and what Army big boy?” So they agreed to a duel.
Dueling was generally frowned on by that point. But apparently, it was still acceptable among Navy men. And…. on March 22, at Bladensburg in Maryland, …. Decatur and Barron paced it off. Then, they lifted their guns and fired. Holy smokes. Both of them got hit! But Barron must have been a slightly better shot. Decatur died several hours later in Washington. The whole the nation mourned the loss of the great naval hero.
But. Somehow. Barron recovered from his wounds and was reinstated into the Navy. He got back in to the Navy in 1821 with a diminished rank. Forgive and forget, I suppose.
So… what to take from all of that? Well… a lot can happen in just a few moments while you are sitting at a stoplight. The time swirls all around us in a rush of energy and continuance. It is all connected, from the very core of it… to the reaches of infinity. Everything we say, and think, and do.. reaches outward in that rippling effect.
Thankfully, the lead bullets don’t make the trip with the rest of it.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
“The past is never where you think you left it.”
― Katherine Anne Porter
“It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream.”
― Edgar Allan Poe