Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Bridge (07/31/08)
- TITLE: The Bridge (i)
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His first Master, had been so kind. He had even taught all the young male slaves their numbers and letters. He loved to tell the boys how God had changed him. He had each of them read out of the big black book about his God.
But, all too soon, when William was nine years old, Master Lanford’s heart was stilled. The Master’s oldest son had inherited the plantation. Although, knowing his Father’s final wishes were to set all the slaves free, the new Master promptly separated the coloreds into two groups. One group, he was to transfer to his plantation in Alabama and the other group was to be sold. William had listened in horror as it was announced that he was in the group to be sold and his mother was to be kept. Young Master Lanford had not even allowed goodbyes to be said. Even now, William could hear the cries and moans as his group was taken away. The young slave felt utterly alone.
Then, William experienced the horrors of a slave auction. He was sold to a plantation in Virginia where the overseer was very harsh. By the age of 14, all William could think about was escaping to the North. He had heard about the North and “The Bridge”. Old Ezra often talked about Sam, and Henry and others who had “made it to the bridge”. He was also painfully aware of the cries of the slaves that didn’t make it as the cruel overseer whipped them within an inch of their lives.
William had always prayed to Master Lanford’s God for his mother, but for about a year he had been praying to that God to help him escape. He remembered his first Master teaching that God could do anything. William was counting on that. He had promised this God that when he got to the North, he would save money to pay for his mother’s freedom. He was like a man possessed. Telling no one about his plan, he waited.
Then, one day, in his nineteenth year, as the slaves were working in the field, his opportunity came. The overseer was out riding with his new dog, when the dog attacked his owner’s horse. The overseer screamed for help and immediately all hands but William, began running toward the conflict. Much to William’s amazement, he found himself alone and hesitated only a moment. Running toward the woods with all his might, he looked back to see nobody looking his way. Remembering that Ezra had said at “The Bridge”, he would “hear music and see lights” at dark, he ran on. He came to a road just as it started to rain. He thanked The God because he knew the dogs could not follow him now. Staying in the woods, he ran along the road until he saw the bridge. It was his refuge and he had to get under it and stay until dark. He literally rolled down the steep bank to safety in the shadow of the structure. Only a moment later, several men on horses with dogs running in front of them came down the road crossing over the bridge. At the first sound of them, William had slipped into the water submerging himself up to his nose. As they continued on around the bend, he thanked God he had not been seen.
As darkness began to fall, he climbed onto the creek bank. His thoughts were of that God. It seemed to him, that Master Lanford had said that his God had a name. If he could only remember that name, he would be glad to thank Him just like he would thank a friend. Then, as if coming from the very depths of his being, he whispered, “Jesus”. He had hardly spoken that word when he knew he was no longer alone. He felt a rush of “goodness” like he had not felt since leaving Lanford plantation.
Suddenly, he was startled by the sound of music. He stood up and looking in the direction of the sounds, he saw lights and determined it was white folks singing hymns. His heart leaped in expectation of the hope embodied in that presence. He was out from under the bridge in a moment as he hurried toward his freedom. Every step, he was thanking his God that he had “made it to the bridge”.
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