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Lauren Weetman

United States

The Broken Fence

April 16, 2016

All my life I have been forced to work with no education.  My daily schedule is performing chores among my master's house such as cleaning, cooking, and sewing.  I am the youngest in my family, and long for the day when the fence around me will be opened.  Ma tells us stories about Africa that her grandparents explained to her years earlier.  It was a beautiful place where everyone was free and had equal opportunities.  I continue working quietly, trying to push these "silly thoughts" out of my head.

In walks Mr. Butterwick grumbling angrily to himself, obviously having a bad day.  "What's wrong?" I stutter.  
"Oh, you know full well what's wrong.  You forgot to water the plants, and due to this the crops are dry as a bone.  Your mother stole some sugarcane from the house. I am sick of your carelessness and especially thievery,"Mr. Butterwick bitterly answered.  Without another word he grabbed my arm fiercely and dragged me out of the house.  Mr. Butterwick's two sons had also rounded up the rest of our family, accusing them of similar crimes.   Once we were all together Mr. Butterwick exclaimed,"I have had enough with all of you. Nothing but trouble to my family and the plantation.  A buyer is coming tomorrow for the women, and the next day for the men."
Horrified my Pa shouted, "How can you split up our family? Fine that you force us to leave your family plantation, but at least keep us all together."   Then cracked the whip and Pa was facedown on the dirt, nose bleeding profusely.  Mr. Butterwick gave us a warning glare then walked away.

Once Mr. Butterwick was nowhere in sight, we helped Pa to his feet. Handing him a hankie Ma asked:"What shall we do Charles?"
"There is only one thing we can do in order to stay together but run.  We need to get out of here.  The next masters we get will never allow us to see each other, and we will be forced to live apart from those we love. I cannot consciously live apart from my family.  Tonight, we escape."  Pa began explaining to us the importance of sticking together.  We have six members in our family so we planned to split off into pairs of two.  Ma cooked dinner for the Butterwicks and quietly sneaked bread and butter into her apron.  My sister and I began to patch clothing and Pa studied all the geography books he could find, despite the fact that he was illiterate.   After we were positive the Butterwicks had gone to bed, we were ready to head out.

I was terrified, but being the youngest I would get to travel with Pa.  We would be the last ones to leave the slave chamber. Ma and my sister went to the outhouse, hoping any watching eyes would assume they were going to the bathroom.  My brothers snuck behind the slave chambers, the most suspicious to be caught.  I held Pa's hand and he lit a candle and opened the creaky door for the last time.  We slowly inched our way into the moonlight, careful to tiptoe across the soft grass.  Suddenly, I heard a door swing open. Assuming it was the outhouse door we continued walking.  A gunshot rang loud and clear throughout the air.  Pa fell to the ground.  "Run Esther," Pa whispered brushing my cheeks with the back of his hand.  As his eyelids fluttered shut I knew he had been hit.  Tears streaming down my face, I began to run.  

I came up to the fence, enclosing my family for over 13 years.  I climbed over it, unsure where I would wander. All I knew was that I needed to run.  So that is what I did.  

I never saw my family again.  I knew Pa had lost his life to the gunshot, but was unsure if the rest of my family had made it out or died trying.  I am forever thankful for my father's bravery and his divine love for our family.  I will miss him so much.  He broke the fence at the the Butterwick Plantation.

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  • April 16, 2016 - 1:07pm (Now Viewing)

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