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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sewing (02/22/07)

TITLE: Coming For to Carry Me Home
By Ruth Neilson


Tomorrow was Christmas ‘n Masta Tomas had given Tess a cloth sack full of clothin’ fer the other slaves. He was a good masta—but Tess dreamed fer freedom—if not fer her, then fer her family. Her daughter, Maggie, was lighter skinned ‘n Moses was a comin’ fer her.

Swing low, sweet chariot.
Coming for to carry me home

Tess hummed as she studied the cast away clothing that the masta left in the cabin. Spring was a comin’ and her family was growin’ like a weed. She held up a gown that one of the masta’s daughters cast aside because there was a tear in a seam and the child had out grown it.

Yes, with a few minor changes it would fit her Maggie, perfect timin’ fer her impending trip. The breeches were wide enough fer Silas to wear, same with the work shirt that was in the satchel.

Swing low, sweet chariot.
Coming for to carry me home

“Dear Lord, ya know tha’ I need a new apron.” Tess prayed, adjusting the headscarf wrapped around her head.

She continued to sort through the sack. Clothes tha’ would fit other slaves—the masta was good to them this Christmas. He was even betta to them cause he didn’t need to sell any of them down south. But there was always tha’ chance of being sold.

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see?
Coming for to carry me home,

A new blouse fer Annie and a new kerchief fer Beth, the Lord was good. Needles and thread so that they could adjust the clothin' to fit. Michael would also have a new pair of breeches, but there wasn’t a new apron—Tess was goin’ ta patch the patches on her old one.

Tess continued to hum and threaded the needle. She had to adjust the dress so tha’ her Maggie could go ‘n work in the masta’s house. (At least, tha’s wha’ the masta believed.) Her dark hands moved quickly, fixin’ a snag tha the masta’s children had gotten in the dress.

A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.

Her needle moved in time to her humming. She had ta get this snag fixed before the new moon. Maggie would need it soon. Moses was a comin’ and she had ta make sure tha’ Maggie was ready.

If you get there before I do,
Coming for to carry me home,

Tess wanted ta go. But not this time. The masta would be angry enough wit Maggie gone. Tess knew how ta handle him.

She stopped sewing ‘n cut the thread with her teeth. Tess sighed heavily ‘n folded da dress ‘n tucked it away into a sackcloth bag. Pieces of dried meat ‘n fruit already hidden there.

Maggie was ready. Now they were to wait fer Moses.

Tess smiled ‘n picked up her apron off the wooden peg and began to work on her mendin’. She had to stay awake and listen for the singing. Maggie had ta get out before the masta decided they had to go down river.

Tell all my friends I’m coming, too.
Coming for to carry me home.

A husky voice was softly singing a new song. “Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus! Steal away, steal away home I ain't got long to stay here.”

Tess startled, almost droppin’ her bone needle. It was time. Maggie was gonna be free.
The Underground Railroad rescued slaves leading up to the Civil War. Over 30,000 people escaped, many of them not saying good-bye to their family so that their family could honestly tell their masters that they didn’t know where their family members went. The songs, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and Steal Away are songs that were used as code informing slaves of when and how an escape was to occur.

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”
Traditional. Lyrics can be found: http://www.osblackhistory.com/swinglow.php
“Steal Away”
Traditional. Lryics can be found: http://www.osblackhistory.com/stealaway.php

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This article has been read 714 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 03/03/07
Oh, this is good. I want to hear Maggie's side of the story now! I've always been fascinated by fictional accounts of slavery and the Underground Railroad. I also love how you wove the song lyrics in. It was a nice touch.
Joy Faire Stewart03/03/07
Unique story telling...loved it!
Jacquelyn Horne03/05/07
Wonderful account of an underground railroad story. I lived for years near the "Patty Cannon" house on the Maryland/Delaware borderline. Always loved the history told there. This would make a great book!
cindy yarger03/06/07
I enjoyed this. All along I thought that Maggie was dying! Nice job.
Joanne Sher 03/06/07
Just wonderful - I love how you worked the song into the story. I'll definitely want to read this one over and over
Jan Ackerson 03/06/07
Really good story, and very evocative of time and place.

I was slightly disoriented by the dialect--since it's written in the 3rd person, not narrated, it seemed out of place. I think it'd be more effective to keep the dialect, but narrate the story in the first person.

Just my opinion, because this is a really well-written story as is.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/06/07
A good story...got my attention and held it. I hoped she was going on the Underground Railroad.
Bonnie Way03/06/07
Great story! I knew right away it was the Underground Railroad and I was hooked. I liked the dialect, as it helped establish the setting and the narrator, though I agree this would be stronger in first person. I also liked the song throughout - I could hear her humming.
Betty Castleberry03/06/07
This piece whisked me away to another time and place. Loved the dialect that was used. Very well done.
Joanne Malley03/06/07
I enjoy stories like this that transport me somewhere else. I felt as if I were there. Wonderful writing and characterization. Blessings, Jo
Donna Powers 03/06/07
Very nice! I enjoyed this touching story and the blending of music and words. Well done. Thanks for sharing it
Patty Wysong03/07/07
I loved the history of this--I caught that it was about the Underground Railroad right away. The way you worked it I was able to easily read this and still get a flavor of the dialect, without struggling over it. Tess's personality comes through nicely, too. Good job!
Julie Arduini03/07/07
I love history, I love that song, and I love hearing about the Underground Railroad. This blessed me on a number of levels!