Kent Bridge, Ontario
I turned 61. This date happens to fall on the 200th death anniversary of Chief Tecumseh, a member of the Shawnee First Nation. He was shot in the chest at the battle of the Thames in 1813. For me, he was a kind of hero. He lead a confederacy which opposed the US during Tecumseh’s war and the war of 1812. As a kid I knew little about him, even though I trekked his trail a century and a half after his time here.
In the early morning I had walked the Rosedale neighbourhood in Toronto before a trip down the 401 Highway and towards the Thamesville area where there would be a spectacular reenactment of the Battle of the Thames. Going westward I, as a passenger to a family from Florida, got a surprise, when we and all the traffic in that direction were lead to a major detour. What was the problem, construction? A colossal accident? We may never know.
We hooked up with a devotee friend from Detroit once the detour was over and drove to the scene of Tecumseh’s last stand (Tecumseh had victory at Fort Detroit and now took his men along the Canadian version of the Thames). In period costume were American militia who were in opposition to British soldiers and their allies, Tecumseh and men. The numbers were in the hundreds, not exactly of a Maha Bharat magnitude. Fire arms went off, the British retreated leaving the indigenous warriors somewhat vulnerable. The enactors were great. Tecumseh then fell. Some Native women sang a song in mourning. The show was completed within minutes, just as the actual battle had endured.
My sister, also a history buff and Tecumseh fan, was thrilled as was I. We went to her home for a nice vegetarian dinner which I consecrated being in the role of the priest. Other relatives came. The north Indian food (prasadam) was delicious.
Then the topic came up about an accident of Highway 401. One of the guests, Bernadette, mentioned about Robert McGuigan who died when a semitrailer crushed his body outside his vehicle. I know Robert from the summer of ’72, months before I became a monk. Robert, my brother Jerry and I were in BC having hitchhiked the country. We were downtown when three towering figures (monks to be more particular) shaven headed and in robes, approached us. Robert purchased from these monks, Hare Krishnas, the most recent issues of Back To Godhead publication for a mere quarter. I felt the monks were imposing. I ran quickly trying to evade them. It was Robert who soft heartedly took the magazine, which I then later asked to read on the ferry to the mainland. I was curious and impressed by its contents.
That same kind soul, Robert, just today, like a courageous Tecumseh, fell. He pulled out of a van of five people after seeing a semi trailer crashed in the ditch. He put warning flares out on the road so that oncoming traffic would slow down and halt. It was dark. While in the process, another semitrailer came at a speed and hit Robert.
The tragedy and necessary investigation and clean up caused the authorities to detour the traffic.
Although the dinner was fine, the topic of Tecumseh and Robert both came up. For Robert, whom some of us knew personally, and for me, the one who handed me reading material that would change my life, we felt somewhat uncomfortable. Now this group, our family and friends, are not regular church going types, but it seemed to resonate to them when I said we should pray for his soul. Thanks, Robert, sorry it happened on my birthday.