On, perhaps that most American of holidays, Labor Day, we went to Valley Forge to take in what is certainly some most American history. The idea of leaving the isolation of home to spend the day with tourist crowds had not been in my playbook, but I went with the flow. Not quietly though. Communal pressure had me in the car and halfway there before I could utter, "George Washington."
When I realized my fate was sealed, and recalling parental admonitions to my once young brood, I turned my childish petulance to making the best of the situation. More significantly, the wife told me to "can it." So I did. But it didn't stop me from making comedic hay from any source that presented itself. Like a provocative 5-year old I was itching for the moment when I'd be told to "shut up"- and I wouldn't!
There was plenty of inspiration for the infantile mind seeking humorous situations among the throng of history buffs and patriotic parents giving their kids a much-begrudged history lesson: for starters, the overly large folks who hadn't been on a bicycle for years riding the 10-mile trail of historical markers. There are just some folks who shouldn't pretend that they could do on a rented bike at 40 and 300 pounds what they did at 15 and half the weight.
We arrived at the huts, re-creations of the accommodations endured that winter when the fate of the rag-tag Continental Army, and indeed the Revolution itself, hung in the balance. Six bluecoats were stashed in a tiny log structure barely surviving on meager rations. Fearing all the while that the patently superior forces of the British and their Hessian mercenaries could overrun them at any time. One couldn't help but be impressed.
But then, like manna from heaven, I spied the comedic lodestone. There they were, three men with olive complexions, dark moustaches, and the obligatory, if understated, "bling". And then, confirming my fervent hopes, they spoke. The dead giveaway as to their origins was revealed as they babbled on about the sights in the guttural enunciations of Arabic. Or was it Urdu? Whatever. There was no doubt they were terrorists. If it walks (talks) like a duck....
By way of inverting my lingering displeasure at being there rather than almost anywhere else, I took on the role of G-Man. Lurking furtively behind log walls and taking diversionary tacks around groups of buffs consumed with a lecture on musket shooting, I was on a surveillance mission. Results of my reconnaissance were immediately reported back. Those who ordered me to behave and treated me as if I'd lost my mind couldn't help but be amused by the irony of what they too were witnessing - likely jihadists at Valley Forge.
Then, to my delight, I saw the Commander-in-Chief, yes, no less than General George Washington himself. Dressed in full Continental Army regalia, he stepped off of a bus, registered, I duly noted, in Virginia. My deduction from a hidden vantage point, that he of the supposedly wooden false teeth had come up on a day trip from Mount Vernon to relive old times. How would the Father of the Nation react to the presence of those intent on harming his descendants?
Was I seeing things? General Washington was conversing, apparently unconcerned with the swarthy ones. Good Lord, what next? Not content with just chatting, he gladly took their camera to take pictures of the clandestine band. Then, to cap it all, they each took turns to record their momentous meeting. Arms around each other's shoulders, smiling what still seemed like terrorist smiles, they brandished George's gleaming sword while he beamed as if receiving a delegation from a friendly land.
Camera shutters quieted, a throng, apparently respectable American folks, formed to get back on the bus, which I imagined was returning to the first colony. Just a moment, was that a French accent I heard jabbering as it neared the coach's steps? George, still enthralled with his newfound friends, ushered them off in the same direction. Believe it or not, they all got on the bus. Had they traveled with him, even been at Mount Vernon, one of the holiest of America's historic shrines?
What was I to do? Who should I alert? We've been told to be wary, to report the out-of-the- ordinary. I felt compelled to do my duty. I asked for instructions from those who would have me behave.
"Calm down! They're Americans," they said. So I did.
Shouldn't we all?
Tav Murray lives in Christiana. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.