I named my son after a quiet and humble American hero: Simon Kenton. As is the case with most humble heroes, few people know who Kenton was. He was born in 1755, became a living legend, died in 1836, and was promptly forgotten by history. Kenton, along with Daniel Boone, Simon Girty and Jacob Greathouse, spearheaded the scouting and settling of the Ohio River Valley. He was a giant of a man: something like 6’5″, with a crazy shock of bright red hair, and his formidable adversary (whom Kenton held in high regard), Tecumpseh and the Shawnee considered his scalp their highest prize.
Kenton was illiterate, however, he was brilliant. He mapped and scouted the states of Ohio and Kentucky, parts of Indiana and Michigan. His knowledge of the people and the land made him invaluable to the nation, and his ability to see all sides of a problem along with his personal integrity saved many lives during the dangerous initial days of westward expansion. His military brilliance was displayed during the Revolution, the Battle of Fallen Timbers, and many other campaigns.
Simon was crazy brave, and strong. He once physically threw Daniel Boone out of danger, saving his life. Several times, the Shawnee captured Simon and made him run the gauntlet, and in September of 1778, he was forced to run it nine times. This was a horrific torture in which the tribe would stand in two lines with war clubs, rocks, briars, thorned sticks, and whatever else they could use as weapons. The captured prisoner was stripped and forced to run between these two long lines of hate (often nearly a quarter of a mile) as the armed tribe screamed and viciously attacked the prisoner. Simon’s survival after the nine runs during this capture, in spite of a collarbone and arm which had been broken by axes, and a pierced skull, earned him the privilege of being punished by being burned at the stake. The Shawnee tried this three times, failing every time. People rarely survived the gauntlet, much less being burned at the stake, but Simon did. During his life, he ran and survived the gauntlet a total of twelve times. The final time, he walked, and in a show of respect and fear, the Shawnee stood silent. They had come to believe Simon was protected by the Great Spirit, Moneto.
Late in life, Simon placed his trust in Christ. His faith was demonstrated in the most courageous and tangible way: he no longer carried his famous Kentucky long rifle, which earned him the name “The Man Whose Gun is Never Empty” by the Shawnee because of his skill in reloading while running.
There is much more to Simon Kenton’s story. Historian Allen Eckert’s masterful The Frontiersmen is the best place to start learning about this fine man. If you live in, or have spent any time in the midwest, you’ll discover the origin of many of the names of the towns, rivers, counties and cities of the area.
When we named Kenton, I guess I had a picture in my head of him growing up into this huge strapping oak of a guy, but Kenton got more than his fair share of genes from my side of the family, and he’s smaller than most other boys his age. He’s getting to the age where my job is more to sit back and watch him struggle to solve life’s problems on his own. This is not easy for mamas to do. Especially with a boy like Kenton: he’s thoughtful, inward, he shuns controversy, and he’d rather draw superheroes than toss the pigskin around. He has a brilliant sense of humor, a charming personality, and he’s quick to love. Everyone loves Kenton.
Except Christian. Christian lives four houses down, and he’s the neighborhood bully. Saturday, a bunch of kids, including my boys, were playing “Halo” with their nerf hand-cannons outside, when Christian arrived with a few of his disciples. He started to pick on Kenton, teasing him for being small. This escalated: the bully pushed Kenton, and Eric (my youngest) stood up for his brother. Christian turned his attention to my six-year old, pushing him, and then swinging at, but missing, him.
Kenton looked Christian in the eye and said, (and I quote) “If you do that again, I am going to hit you, and I’m not going to stop until you are bleeding.” Christian did it again, and Kenton threw a right hook. Christian fell down and yelled at his buddy, “Get him!” A bigger kid gave Kenton a half-hearted shove.
“I’m going home,” Kenton said. He and Eric came home and told us what happened, sure they were gonna be throttled for getting into a fight.
I told him I was very proud of him. I told him he was brave. I thought to myself, girl, you named that boy just right.
(Epilogue: about an hour after this drama, the boys went back outside. Christian is now their friend.)