Meeting Col. Darke


Yesterday I was in a rundown pawn shop, in downtown Dayton, Ohio, when I ran across an old phone booth.  As luck would have it, the guy working in the shop that day was new; he started his job the day before yesterday and didn’t know squat about anything in the shop.

As I browsed, I came upon a used phone booth which I noticed immediately had once belonged to Bill and Ted back when they had their most excellent adventures. “Dudes, be excellent to one another” was one inscription carved inside the booth, along with “So-cratz once said that “The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing.”  Or as Bill and Ted interpreted Socrates – “It’s good not to know anything.”

I made the guy a ridiculously low offer and he accepted.  And then I recruited Keanu Reeves to help me get it home.  Surprisingly enough, when I dialed Keanu’s number, he picked up.

I’ve never been a guy who enjoys reading biographies; I just don’t.  But I do enjoy books on philosophy, history, and politics (the theories behind them, especially).  So instead of reading a book on Lieut. Col. William Darke (a person of interest to me), I thought I’d just travel back in time and chat him up a bit.

Many of you folks probably already know this but our beloved Darke County is named after him, as is Darkesville (an ancient township) in West Virginia, located in Berkeley County.

I’d once read that he was a descendant from early Quakers and that he was a farmer by occupation. But none of that mattered because I’d be talking to him soon. I set my time machine for July 15th, 1795, put her into reverse, and punched in the launch codes – and poof – I was gone.

The next thing I knew, I landed with a thud in the middle of Col. Darke’s den.  As I stepped out of my new time machine, I was greeted by a big man with large, strong, and callous hands, his right-hand swallowed mine whole during our introductory handshake.  It felt like I was placing my hand inside a first baseman’s mitt.

He was a big guy, with broad shoulders and was really quite rough around the edges.  He spoke like he knew everything, and he had the mannerisms of a bully. He was nobody’s fool, and he didn’t suffer them well, either.  He was scary, mean looking, bombastic, and ill-mannered.  Plus, he had the look of a man who had killed many people.

Oddly enough though, he didn’t seem the least bit concerned about me walking out of a phone booth which just randomly appeared in his den.  So, I took a seat, whipped out my nifty lil tape recorder and asked my first question.  What follows are the beginning snippets from our conversation.

Alan (A) – “Colonel, would you be willing to tell me a little bit about your military career?”

Col. Darke (D) – “Sure stranger.  I enlisted in the British Army in 1755. I served under General Braddock during the French and Indian War.  I almost died at the Battle of Monongahela.

Braddock’s plan was to capture Fort Duquesne from the French, but it was a complete disaster.  We got our asses kicked, to be honest with ya. It was one of the worst defeats the Brits suffered in over a century.

Braddock was an idiot if you ask me. I prepared myself for death that day but somehow managed to survive long enough to lead a group of other survivors to safer ground.  We were lucky that day, very lucky.  Braddock died the next day from his wounds.  George Washington was there.  He was working as a volunteer aid for Braddock at the time.  He was in his early 20s, I’d guess.  He was a good kid, but very anxious to make a good first impression.  And I noticed right off that his teeth were bad.  He had the mannerisms of a new soldier, plus he had a look of fear in his eyes that accompanies most young, new fighters.”

A – “Excuse me Colonel, but would you mind terribly if I stepped out for a few minutes?  My tape recorder just died, and I need a couple of batteries.”

D – “What?  You need what?  Speak up clearly, man.  For God’s sake, don’t mumble.   I can’t stand it when people mumble.”

A – I’ll tell ya what Colonel, I’ll be right back.

D – Sure kid, but I gotta tell ya.  You’re weird.

A – Thank you, sir – I’ll be right back.

Truth be told, I did not go back because Col. Darke scared the living bejesus out of me.  Next stop destination, the signing of the Greenville Peace Treaty.  I mean, how dangerous can that be?  I wonder if they will be passing the peace pipe around after the signing ceremony.  I’ll stick around for that, at least.