What would you do if you saw a person you knew as an acquaintance being taken away by two strange men?
John Price escaped from slavery in 1856 with few skills and in sorry health. When the residents of the utopian Christian town of Oberlin, Ohio took him in, they found Price odd jobs and had him stay at various homes realizing Price didn’t have the strength or skill set to make it further up the Underground Railroad.
As the leaves turned on a chilly fall day in 1858 an Oberlin teenager picked up Price who’d been gathering potatoes on a freedman’s farm at the edge of town, for Oberlin was fully integrated and strongly abolitionist. Oberlin had been established by two Presbyterians who believed that Christians needed to work out their salvation by living a truly righteous life–one that advocated freedom for slaves. Oberlin College was open to men of all races and their town had hidden many runaway slaves.
Let us stop to wonder about men who establish towns. From scratch.
Sometimes I fear I may offend a random visitor to my blog who hates Christians. This random visitor may see my favorite Bible quote , “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 and dismiss me as one of those people.
It’s obvious that I don’t have the moral courage to form a town based on my understanding of Christianity. I doubt I’d even have the courage to wear a t-shirt proclaiming my belief in the sanctity of all life (it helps ease my conscience that I look terrible in t-shirts, but still.). The men and women at Oberlin didn’t have to wear t-shirts. Their acts of courage and commitment were the greatest form of advertisement for the Good News of JC (I often cringe at saying Jesus Christ out loud).
My blog is a small one and I think it would be fair to admit that the likelihood of real harm coming to me for mentioning my Christian beliefs is relatively small and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but my ego is big. But enough about me.🙂
John Price, the runaway slave picking potatoes, rides along with the teenager from Oberlin. The teenager slows his horse as another carriage approaches with two strange men. The men are slave hunters. They capture Price quite easily since the teenager is an accomplice in the kidnapping. Further down the road two white students from Oberlin pass the carriage carrying Price back to slavery. Price calls out to them in their buggy, but they turn their eyes away.
Ansel Lyman, one of the students in the buggy runs through the town of Oberlin upon his return with news of Price’s kidnapping, and the town comes alive. As men and women race toward Wellington, some with guns, the crowd grows as news of the kidnapping spreads. No one sits at home watching TV or watching their fireplaces.
In Wellington the slave catchers and Price watch from their hotel as the crowds gather. The catchers are armed of course but they fear their fate will be the same as the building across the way which happened to burn down that morning. I imagine this was a bit more than the catchers bargained for. The Dred Scott decision had made it legal to catch slaves in free states.
The people of Oberlin considered the Scott decision unconstitutional and morally wrong as did many brave souls in the North. Here we must remember that abolitionists were painted as extremists. Most people chose peace over righteousness. I wonder if I would have done the same. I like staying home before the fire.
The Rescuers as the men who stormed the hotel and hid Price are now called are marched to stand trial before a jury and judge of the Democratic persuasion who hate abolitionists. Two men are tried and both are found guilty. All the others after the judge frees them on bail refuse to pay and spend time in the jail across the courtyard. The head of the jail happens to support abolition and opens the place to visitors. At first it’s just the families of the men but before long people from across the North journey to support the abolitionists. Black and white men and women flood the area united against immoral and corrupt government policies and actions.
The Democrats‘ worst nightmare comes true. War is just around the corner, but forgive them for not knowing it just yet.
**Featured image of John Mercer Langston, a lawyer and Oberlin’s town clerk, came from a family of abolitionists. His brother Charles and his brother-in-law O.S.B. Wall were among the town’s residents who rescued John Price from a slave-catcher.
“What do you mean, Phib?” asked Miss Squeers, looking in her own little glass, where, like most of us, she saw – not herself, but the reflection of some pleasant image in her own brain.”
Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby
The computer is over there. The dogs are over here. It’s raining. Need I say more?
The road less traveled isn’t always a good one.
Buck’s parents stayed at the Hotel Thayer during his recovery. After a week Margaret had the look of a child kept in at recess.
“Graham, won’t he ever speak up again?” Margaret whispered. “He had such a manly voice like my brothers.”
Graham shook his head. “Buck, you’re up and alive much faster than anyone would have dreamed. For that we must be thankful.”
But Buck hadn’t a mind for gratitude. He returned to class with great fanfare. Sympathy poured out on him now that hadn’t dared express itself in summer. Buck shook it off like a rooster cleaning its feathers. Drill and artillery kept his attention, but not much else.
Fred, making use of the many plebes eager to bone popularity with upperclassmen, ordered them to find and deface anything of Streeter’s. They tripped him in line and spilled his food, but Streeter remained solid and nothing satisfied Fred quite enough. Streeter’s grades held slightly above average, and he conducted himself with a calm assuredness.
Exams now loomed right before the holidays. Fred, making a surprise visit to Buck’s room, found his brother, blouse untucked and face unshaven, staring at a piece of string on his desk.
“Buck, old fellow, have you finished your studies?”
Buck shifted in his seat. He opened his mouth, but Fred must strain to hear. “I was about to . . .” Buck crumpled a piece of stationary and threw it towards the wastebasket, missing.
“This room is a cesspool, Buck.”
Fred sighed. “Get dressed.”
Buck made no effort to move.
“Buck, there’s something I need you to do tonight. We should have done it long ago.”
Buck tried to speak, but hacked up phlegm and spit into a teacup.
Fred shook his head at the cup. “An officer has to be able to shout out orders, Buckie. Damn, this is a sorry state of affairs altogether. Get up now.”
Fred wrapped Buck’s neck with a scarf retrieved from the pile of clothes on his bed and flopped the soft hat Thankful had sent on Buck’s head.
Buck pulled on his coat and followed Fred to Streeter’s room.
“All you have to do is pretend, yet again, that you forgive him, Buck.”
“No!” Buck squeaked.
“Oh, don’t worry. Streeter will believe you. After all you’ve got a track record for such stupidity,” Fred said and slapped Buck’s shoulder.
Buck shoved his hands in his pockets.
“So, you’ll get him to come into the dark, and I’ll take it from there. This prank will surely make Streeter think twice about staying at the academy.”
“Will you be satisfied then?” Buck whispered.
“We will be more than satisfied,” Fred replied. “Now go make friends again and do it fast. I have plans for later.”
“Ha-ha. I’ve finished my studies days ago. I have my priorities straight, Buck Crenshaw—now go!”
Fred met with two plebes at the end of the hall and walked out into the night. Buck turned back to the closed door and knocked.
“Buck!” Streeter let him in. Through the window a carpet of shine covered the stone structures of the academy as snow fell.
“Streeter, I. . .”
“Buck, you know, I’ve only stayed on here in hopes that you would forgive me. I figured that if you could hold up maybe I would try as well.”
Buck considered escaping back to his room, but knew that he must stop being so drawn in by people. Buck was still trying to convince himself of this as they came out into the wintry landscape. Fred and his friends jumped Streeter, pulling a pillowcase over his head.
“Buck!” Streeter cried, but Fred said, “Remember how he abandoned you!”
They dragged Streeter along the steep little paths where the young ladies picked flowers in summer. Buck followed a few paces behind. So far nothing too terrible happened and Buck felt a small thrill seeing Streeter roughed up and frightened. He almost enjoyed being a part of something with his brother again.
After a long march, they came to a very secret place. No one spoke. One of the cadets, a pudgy and pathetic plebe, who couldn’t hold fast to even one friend, produced a rope and knife. They pulled Streeter’s boots off, throwing them into the soggy underbrush. Tying his ankles together, they nicked him with the knife when cutting the rope a few times.
“Fred,” Buck wheezed.
“Shut up, Buck!” Fred yelled as he yanked rope around Streeter’s wrists. He pulled out his own knife and again cut Streeter.
“Stop it!” Buck whispered and pulled Fred by the shoulder.
Fred shoved Buck back. The plebes dragged Streeter and kicked him a few times. Fred laughed. “Come now, Buck, be a man for once in your life! You’re so damned soft—like Father and Uncle Oliver, too! You’ll never get a girl now the way you look and think about your career—what he’s done to it! Be a man!”
Buck ran up and kicked Streeter’s body with everything he had in him, just once. He heard a rib crack, but Streeter didn’t cry out. Fred and the others laughed.
“Fred, this is wrong,” Buck said.
“You’re a caution, Buckie, after just breaking his bones!”
The plebes pulled Streeter up, only to knock him down again and the pillowcase slipped off exposing Streeter’s terrified expression.
“He won’t be making exams in the morning, I figure. Come on fellows. Let’s go for drinks at Benny Haven’s. Leave him. We’ll have him fetched after our tests,” Fred said.
“But it’s too cold,” Buck said.
“Stop being a mother hen. Streeter wants to be in the army so bad, let him see what it’s like in Dakota.” Fred walked off.
Buck followed, quietly protesting, but he glanced back as the two plebes rolled Streeter over the Palisades.
“Oh, God!” Buck ran to the ledge.
Streeter’s body lay precariously on a narrow bit of rock five yards below.
“He’s dead!” Fred exclaimed. “What the hell did you go and do that for, boys?”
Buck caught a satisfaction in Fred’s tone that shocked him. “We’re murderers!” Buck cried.
Fred slapped him hard. “No. It was an accident. He slipped. That’s all.” Fred scurried down the slick ridge to Streeter, untied him and threw the ropes as far off into the night as he could.
“But Fred, the boots and the cuts! And I was the last to be seen with him!”
“Speak up, you fool. I’m tired of this act! We’ll say that you and Streeter were drunk.”
“Drunk? Everyone will know it’s a lie!”
Fred shook Buck. “I can’t hear you when you whisper. Everyone will be happy—don’t you see that?”
“Fred, I don’t see it.”
“Then you are no cadet. It’s too late to change anything. We’ll say that Streeter must have lost his way in the woods.”
Streeter moaned. The plebes ran.
“God damn those idiots!” Fred complained. “Well, maybe we should send him over the edge and put him out of his misery.”
“We have to save him! This is too much!” Buck choked out.
Voices called from the woods.
“It’s the guard!” Fred threw his knife over the cliff and ran with Buck following.
It was long after midnight when Buck came back to his room. Carter was awake. By the light of a candle Buck pulled his boots off and wiped the mud and snow from them. His coat, scarf and hat, he kept on, but still he quaked in the cold.
“Buck,” Carter whispered, “is everything all right? Shall I make us tea?”
Buck threw his boots beneath his bed and climbed under the blankets. Carter slipped his feet into his old reveilles and came to sit beside Buck.
“Friend, where were you tonight?”
Buck’s insides roiled. “I was drinking.” His teeth chattered.
“Come now, how am I to believe it—with exams in a few hours,” Carter laughed.
“I was drinking—with Streeter—but he’s lost somehow—I don’t know how—or where,” Buck’s lips turned blue with terror. “The guard came, I guess. Well, we heard something or someone. Then I came home.”
His old friend surveyed him. “You’d never leave another cadet behind. Wait a minute; I see it clearly now. Bully for you—finally you’ve gotten Streeter back! So the guards will find him drunk, you say? Perfect! Well done, Buck. It took a while, but finally you got it right. I won’t say a word. Oh, so he’ll probably miss exams, too! Ha! This is just perfect.”
Buck turned to the wall.
“Oh, yes, you’re quite right, Buck; we must get our rest for tomorrow,” Carter said and walked to his side of the room. He turned back. “Buck, are you . . . feeling unwell? You’re not sick or anything?”
Buck waved him off in the half light.
Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw and his misadventures when you buy the book today!
“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review
“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”
PART ONE HERE
PART TWO HERE
PART THREE HERE
PART FOUR HERE
PART FIVE HERE
PART SIX HERE
PART SEVEN HERE
PART EIGHT HERE
PART NINE HERE
PART TEN HERE
PART ELEVEN HERE
PART TWELVE HERE
PART THIRTEEN HERE
PART FOURTEEN HERE
PART FIFTEEN HERE
“Quartering the topmost branches of one of the tall trees, an invisible bird was striving to make the day seem shorter, exploring with a long-drawn note the solitude that pressed it on every side, but it received at once so unanimous an answer, so powerful a repercussion of silence and of immobility, that one felt it had arrested for all eternity the moment which it had been trying to make pass more quickly.” Marcel Proust,
I shoot an envious glance towards this house every morning on the way to our foster girl’s school. The house has an elegant sign out front “Testimony Farm.” I can’t help but wonder about testimonies. The great thing about stories of calling or faith or redemption in public testimonies is that they have beginnings, middles and endings. Like this house everything appears tidy and finished. Of course it’s an illusion. Termites work, people die and houses crumble, but still . . . there is a longing for enduring testimonies that offer the assurance that one day we will be complete and all will be well with our souls.
Last night our foster daughter (M) and I went on our bi-weekly sibling visit. M’s sisters were adopted only recently but we all knew it was coming and on this particular visit the sisters saw fit to make M feel how lucky they were and, by contrast, how sad they were for her. Kids do this to each other. One sibling emphasized the word “MOM” every time she spoke with her foster/new mom before turning to M to ask her if she was all right because it looked as though she might cry. M refused to be goaded.
As we sat in a quiet McDonald’s (because where else is there to take three young girls on a dark Monday night in Upstate New York) the girls repeatedly brought up their impending trip to Disney. “Wouldn’t you like to come with us, M?” one asked knowing it was impossible and seemed sort of gleeful about it. M let it slide.
As the adults chatted about watercolor paintings and anniversaries the girls laughed and joked. They sang made up songs to amuse each other until the youngest tugged her new mother’s sleeve and pulled her aside. “M said something inappropriate.”
I was pulled aside then. It seemed that M had made up a song about throwing babies in the trash. “Okay,” I said, “M often has a less than funny sense of humor and it’s usually related to anvil’s falling on people’s heads and car wrecks.”
The little girl peeked from behind her new mother. “M said she wanted to throw our new foster baby in the trash,” she whispered.
I didn’t believe her. Yeah, throwing a fictional baby in the trash isn’t a fantastic place to go with your jokes, but M spoke quite fondly of the new foster baby in her sisters’ family. I went to M who sat watching the weather on the TV.
“Did you say you wanted to throw a baby in the trash?”
M said, “Yes. It was a joke in a song . . .” a look of panic flashed across her face as she glanced at her sister.
The sister’s new mom stepped in. “M, your sister says you wanted to put this baby in the trash . . .”
“No! She’s lying!”
The dinner ended abruptly, but as we walked to our cars the girls made sure to mention Disney one last time.
M stared after them as we pulled out of the parking lot and waved. They didn’t wave back. They didn’t see her.
I waited for M to say something. It came like a torrent. “Why do they get to go to Disney while we take care of stupid goats? I didn’t say I wanted to put a real baby in the trash and how come they look so pretty and I’m like trash? Everyone hates me at school and I try to be nice and they think I’m trash too. And my sisters hate my real mom and I love her even though she did bad things and why can’t you guys just adopt me already?” The talk went in long circles between sobs.
I said, “Well, M, I love you and don’t think you’re trash–it’s why I help you brush your hair in the morning.”
“Yeah, I know you love me, but no one else does!” More sobs. She settled down for a second. “But . . . when you get mad at me –when I do something–I think you might–you know–send me away and hate me–like trash.”
Trash was the word of the night.
We got home and M returned from her room after getting ready for bed. She was holding an mp3 player we bought her when she still lived at the group home. “I have this thing . . . and I’m afraid to tell you . . . but I recorded words I’m ashamed of and everyone’s gonna think I’m trash. The lady at the shelter said I should let out all my sexy thoughts–like what my mom did. I can’t get rid of the thoughts.”
“Wait, do you mean in your head or on the mp3 player?” I asked.
“Well, on the mp3 player which makes me think about it all.”
My husband sat reading about the CUBS. “Here, M, give me the player.” In about 2 seconds he figured out how to delete the offensive recordings. “All gone,” he said and tossed the thing back. ” Let’s just keep music on it from now on, okay?”
M nodded gratefully.
My husband of little words continued, “Oh, by the way. You do realize there’s no turning back. I spoke to your caseworker and the lawyer. The adoption is a done deal–just waiting for the paperwork.”
M covered her face and went to her room with her dog eagerly at her heels. We listened as she goofed around with the dog before falling asleep.
Today was M’s last visit with the psychiatrist. “I don’t see any reason for M to come anymore now that she’s off the meds. I see a bright future for her. One that I never would have forecast looking at her paperwork. I guess it was meant to be,” the doctor said. “Please let me know when the adoption goes through. M told me before you walked in that she loves you and your husband and that you love her so I’m done here.”
And there’s my testimony (for the moment).
Originally posted on Middlemay Farm:
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