2009-08-29 / Top News

Ode to Porter Hanks

Out in the Straits sits a rock,
Where tourists by the thousands flock.
Where horse is king, and reigns supreme,
From saddle horse to draying team.
Steeped in history and Indian lore,
Mackinac remains as before.
With echoes from her distant pasts,
The cry of, “Land”, from sailing masts.
Hark! The sound of an Indian drum,
Does this forebode of things to come?
But now the sentry calls to tell,
“It’s twelve o’clock, and all is well,”
While from the landing British creep,
With cannon to the hilltop steep.
And Dousman spreads the word around,
To the civilians of the town,
No choice has he, it’s later found,
But be a messenger of the crown.
Yet from the Fort’s ramparts wall,
We hear a tired sentry call,
No word of warning to foretell,
It’s four o’clock, and all is well!
And much to Porter Hanks’ surprise,
When the morning sun doth rise.
He is victim of circumstance,
And of defense he has no chance.
So if his mind we dare to tread,
And see the things he dared to dread.
Buildings burning, soldiers dying,
Civilians wounded, children crying.
For what! He had no defense,
For honor’s sake? It made no sense!
So with head held high, he leaves the gate,
Lays down his sword and capitulates.
Then called to Wayne to answer why,
Porter Hanks was doomed to die.
As before a hearing’s held,
By a cannon ball he’s felled.
Fate! You cruel and selfish thing,
Injustice to this man you bring,
That he should give his life in vain,
Without a chance to clear his name.
Cannot you see your error there?
To take his life, it is not fair.
Fate! Are you blind in your selection?
Cannot your methods bear perfection?
Can loyalty be paid for so?
Must you deliver such a blow?
His name forever to be disgraced,
As in the history books he’s placed.
As one who surrendered without a shot,
Against his name a permanent blot.
Or are you man’s imperfection,
Hiding from his own detection?
Is fate a term that’s loosely placed,
When man’s mistakes cannot be faced?
Can our conscience be a coward,
And be so easily over-powered?
That men like him should take the blame,
While we point our finger at you and claim,
‘Tis fate that left him in this condition,
Dead and shrouded in suspicion.
Or should we judge ourselves instead,
And leave the word “fate” for dead,
Banish it from the dictionary,
Take up the load that we must carry,
And look to ourselves the answer why,
This brave man had to die?
And leaves as judges you and me,
To judge the truth of history.
by Carlton L. Hughey, 1974
by permission of his widow Karen Hughey of St. Ignace
Carlton was a longtime resident of Mackinac Island

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