Tranquility with a Tincture of Odd History

We did our first night sail on YYZ this past weekend, dropping the hook at about midnight in Cold Spring Harbor, further south in that bay than we had ventured before. In the past, we had always anchored off Cooper Bluff for lunch or turned west into Oyster Bay and West Harbor, where there is a roadway that produces an annoying din all night.  Instead, this was the definition of tranquility. 

This was our first opportunity to deploy our Rocna 33 anchor and we quickly discovered that the recalcitrant, French-speaking chain counter had not been calibrated, so we reverted to the ancient practices of bygone mariners, estimating the scope with a divining rod, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and a feather freshly plucked from a live turkey vulture kept for just such a contingency. With about eighty feet of 7/16ths chain rode payed out in 16-20 feet of water, the boat remained solidly in place and, snubber engaged, made no sound whatsoever.

Later, we taught the chain counter to speak Amurriken, and to count in real, capitalist feet instead of that socialist metric system they got over there in Yerp. Once thus tamed, we calibrated the counter to within a couple of feet of accuracy. Now that's freedom. 

Being explorers, we boarded "Lexi", our Zodiac dinghy, named for our little caramel Maltipoo puppy who left us too soon. We made our way south, weaving through a mooring field and some foreboding shoals, to arrive in the small town of Cold Spring Harbor where pop musician Billy Joel is rather pathetically immortalized by an aging, tarnished bronze plaque affixed in a haphazard fashion to a small (for an obelisk) bald boulder in Huntington Park, providing a perfect spot for a stray dog to relieve itself, thereby completing the whole metaphor for the singer's life in way that surely was never foreseen.

Had there been two boulders, an observer might have been inspired to think or even possibly exclaim "Billy Joel Rocks!" but, alas, he never really did, even with his lucky seven album, the new wave "Glass Houses", upon the cover of which our subject is seen to be defiantly casting a stone.  Who would have known it missed the glass house and landed in Huntington Park?

A little further up Harbor Road, one encounters yet another off-kilter historical plaque, this time memorializing one "Israel Ketchum" who "while jailed for counterfeiting" allegedly "revealed a plot to kill Washington". There are so many layers of academic incompetence in this simple plaque that one does not know where to start peeling away. 

For starters, the individual is an alleged counterfeiter and, were I to find myself in a similar position, I'm quite sure I might be given to spinning any yarn that might result in a release from behind bars.

Secondly, the plaque fails to specify whether the plot was to assassinate an entire state or just the District of Columbia. While I realize that the events in June 1776 predate the founding of both Washington State and Washington D.C., considering the plaque was erected in 1985, a reader standing on the curb craning their neck in furtherance of an education might be intellectually swindled and not even know it.

One wonders if all the political infighting (perhaps more than nine years worth, as you will see below) that was required to approve the erection of this historical marker limited the municipal budget to precisely a certain number of letters, and the simple matter of embossing the additional letters that form an essential clarifying element of the prose, "General George", was just too much for the Huntington town council. But budgetary constraints and political infighting only partially explain another oddity about this memorial: as the history goes, there were several prisoners in the jail that day in June 1776, including Thomas Hickey, Michael Lynch, Israel Young, and Isaac Ketchum.

Apparently, Messrs Hickey and Lynch were engaged in a series of bribes as part of a conspiracy to enlist Loyalists and other turncoats in an uprising against General Washington's army. Messrs Young and Ketchum revealed the plot and later testified against Hickey at his court martial. Apparently they were rewarded 209 years later with the false economy of having their names first truncated and then concatenated into "Israel Ketchum" which one supposes must have been preferable to having their necks truncated at the gallows, as was the verdict and punishment given to Hickey on the 26th of June for his act of treason and sedition.

Not to suggest any disappointment with the overall course of history and potentially be subject to a proceeding of treason myself, it is still deliciously ironic to think that perhaps Messrs Hickey and Lynch would have gone down as heroes had the British prevailed and vanquished General Washington.

Well, back to the sorry sign erected in 1985, in the end perhaps I should thank the Town of Huntington for providing the inspiration to track down the actual history and learn the correct names of the figures involved. But how many people simply read the sign, take it on faith that it has been accurately represented, and go on to write papers, make reports, and tell stories which only reinforce bad history? I don't think the sloppy record can be forgiven.