Escape From Lexington - Cover

Escape From Lexington

Copyright© 2024 by FantasyLover

Chapter 3

Wednesday Feb 22, 1843

I had noticed that the girls just seem to glow in the morning after last night. I wondered if I looked as smug as Isum and Jimmey did this morning. I sure felt like it.

After breakfast, I started working on the raft while Isum and Jimmey cut more trees. Looking at the large pile of cut trees, I decided to make an even larger raft than I had originally planned so we only had to make two crossings. I had paced off the area where we kept the horses and mules last night and now doubled that to determine the size of the raft.

With that decision made, I grabbed an adze and began squaring two sides of a tree. When Tara dragged the next tree over from where Isum and Jimmey were cutting them, I told her we only needed six more trees.

Just before lunch, Isum and Jimmey finished felling trees and came over to help me. Each grabbed an adze and copied me. When we stopped for lunch, I explained my vision of the raft.

Once the trees were all dragged to our site, Tara started using the spokeshave on branches of the birch tree I had Isum chop down. He and Jimmey used the saw to cut it into several six-foot lengths and split the lengths into staves. By late afternoon, we had nine pine trees squared off on two sides. We cut them off at forty feet since the tree trunks started getting crooked or spindly after that.

Next, we turned six of the trees so that every other tree was going in the opposite direction. The wider base of the first tree was to my right and the wider base of the second tree to my left. Since the bases of the trees were wider than the tops, that helped to even out the width of the raft. We cut four more pine logs into twenty-foot lengths. Alternating ends, we added them to the length of each log to make the raft sixty feet long.

The second log had the forty-foot-long section overlapping the additional twenty-foot section of the first row, as well as half of the first log. I then added a twenty-foot section at the end of it. Once they were properly aligned, we made any final adjustments with a drawknife and used the auger and bit to make holes eight inches deep. Then we glued and pounded three inches of the six-inch-long and three-inch-thick dowels that Tara had shaped for us into the first log.

After the holes along one side of the second log were finished, we put the hoof glue on the end of the dowels that were sticking out of the first log and hammered the second log onto the dowels, attaching it to the first log.

We admired our handiwork once the first six logs were firmly attached to each other, making our raft twelve feet wide and sixty feet long.

After dinner, exhausted from wrestling heavy logs into place and swinging the adze all day, I barely had the energy to make each girl happy.

Thursday Feb 23, 1843

Despite waking to a light dusting of snow on the ground, everyone was in a good mood this morning. I’m sure that our bedtime activities last night had something to do with it, but having the raft half complete had more to do with it.

Right after breakfast, we were back to squaring two sides of the remaining logs and Mahala and Sallie were carving the dowels with the spokeshave. Tara and the other three girls began laying the planks I’d purchased across the finished half of the raft and quickly determined that we had more than enough. With that, they began nailing the planks in place with a two-foot gap between each row of planks. This would be the submerged side of the raft. The top side would be completely covered with planks like a wooden floor.

By late afternoon, we had a twenty-four-foot-wide raft and had the bottom boards nailed on. We nailed two ropes side-by-side across each end of the bottom of the raft between the first two planks. Now we had to turn the damn thing over. Hooking three teams of six mules each to the end of the raft, we dragged it to within a foot of the pond. After driving stakes into the ground every foot between the edge of the pond and the raft, we hitched the mules to the side of the raft farthest from the pond.

We had the mules on the far side of the pond, more than fifty feet away from the raft when they started pulling. The raft slid until it hit the stakes and nothing happened for nearly thirty seconds. Then the far edge of the raft began slowly rising until it was vertical. Once it passed vertical, it fell, landing in the pond with a loud splash that knocked half the water out of the pond, soaking the mules and the three of us with the mules.

After a few seconds of standing there dripping like a drowned rat, I started laughing. Soon, everyone was laughing and I’m not sure that the mules weren’t laughing at me, too, as a couple brayed, and several had their upper lip pulled back.

Once we secured each end of the raft to a tree, we quit for the day, taking baths farther up the creek where the water wasn’t muddy. Then we hurried back to our campfire to warm up.

Friday Feb 24, 1843

It was cold again this morning, the coldest morning since I left home. Everywhere that the ground had been wet, it crunched beneath my feet as I sought a likely tree to water. Even my stream of pee gave off steam. The first two feet of water out from the shore of the stream had a thin layer of ice on top. Even Wizzer wanted to stay inside the tent and enjoy the body heat remaining in the blankets before he came out and marked trees.

We made a small fire to warm up our hands. I was glad that I’d gotten more and warmer clothes for the slaves, as well as heavy coats and gloves.

Everyone started working on the raft right after breakfast, starting with nailing planks across the top of the raft. I think it was as much a way to warm up as it was about getting the raft finished. I found the thick branch of the birch tree that I had Tara save for me and trimmed it down into a narrow “Y” to hold the rudder pole. Then I used a long, straight section of the upper birch trunk, splitting off all four sides so I only had the heartwood left.

Using the spokeshave, I trimmed the twenty-five-foot-length of birch until the six-inch diameter piece was reasonably round. I whittled two feet of the rounded end down even more, so it was narrow enough to grip. The other end I chiseled and planed until it looked the same as the broken piece that was still attached to the rudder. That rudder fit like a glove when I replaced the broken piece.

While I was working on that, Isum and Jimmey used the auger to make holes three feet from the edges of the raft, working where the girls had already nailed down the plank flooring. Sallie brushed glue around the edges of the holes and Tara hammered five-foot-long rounded staves into the holes to form a corral for the livestock. We split rough boards from the left-over skinny tops of the pine trees and nailed them across the top and the middle of the posts to complete the corral on the raft.

We finished the raft by nailing the ropes across each end of the raft to make two complete loops of rope around each end. Then we tied ropes to make a gate across the section of the corral where we didn’t put boards so we could load and unload the livestock from both sides. Finally, I used leather thongs to tie the rudder handle to the “Y” by making a figure eight over the handle and around the two tips of the “Y” several times.

My plan was to wrap a rope once around a sturdy tree along the riverbank. When I got out into the current, Isum and Jimmey could let the rope out slowly to keep me from going too far downstream until I managed to work my way farther out into the river. After that, they could play out rope faster while I used the rudder to make the current push us towards the far shore.

Once we were across and had unloaded, they could use a team of mules to pull me back across the river. I hoped. Sitting there relaxing before dinner, I remembered seeing pole boats, sometimes called keelboats, going up and down the Kentucky and Big Lick Rivers.

After toppling one more pine tree and shortening it to fifty feet, we split it into four, fifty-foot staves. By bedtime, we had half of each stave rounded and smoothed enough to grip without getting splinters, although our gloves would help avoid splinters.

Even after the ladies had their way with me tonight, I had a hard time falling asleep. “Excited?” Tara whispered.

“No, worried that I forgot something. I just pray that I remembered everything that’s important,” I whispered back.

Saturday Feb 25, 1843

I think everyone was excited, as we were all awake earlier than usual. Even before sunrise, we’d eaten breakfast and had begun loading the raft. By sunrise, half the mules and horses, half the supplies, and half the people were aboard the raft. I brought Wizzer on this trip so he could help watch over the girls. My worry that the raft wouldn’t carry so much weight without sinking proved unfounded yesterday when we tested it in the pond. We might even have been able to carry everyone and everything in one trip, but I wasn’t willing to take the risk.

Mahala, Edy, Sallie, and Cisley made the first trip with me. We had six thousand feet of rope attached to the upstream corner of the raft and thirty-five hundred feet aboard the raft. Just as the bottom of the sun cleared the horizon, I said a final, silent prayer.

“Push, girls,” I hollered to the four girls aboard with me. The nose of the raft was already partially out into the river, and they poled us farther out.

The current caught us shortly after the entire raft was out into the river, but the girls continued poling us towards the far shore. I had no idea how deep the river bottom was and wondered how long they could continue poling us.

The raft gave a small lurch that made my heart stop, but it was only the rope tightening when Isum felt we were far enough downstream. I was leaning on the rudder pole, holding it so the current pushed us towards the far bank. I was definitely glad that I made it from beech, and not pine. Pine might have snapped already from the stress I was putting on it.

The rope continued to play out slowly, I continued to hold the rudder, and the girls continued to pole the raft. When I looked up and realized we were only a couple hundred feet from the far shore, I got excited.

Mahala jumped off when the corner of the raft nudged the far shore, and tied off the raft, followed a split second later by Wizzer who excitedly ran all around the area and marked at least a dozen trees. I waved back towards the other side to let them know to stop feeding out rope. Once we had both the front and back ends of the raft tied off, the girls made a rope corral. When it was done, we unloaded the animals and then the supplies. All four girls gave me a quick kiss and then we hooked two of the mules up to the rope we tied to the upstream corner of the raft nearest the shore.

I used the mules to pull the raft upriver until it was well above our starting point on the other shore. There, I looped the rope around a tree and tied it securely to the rest of the rope we brought with us across the river. I wasn’t sure how much rope they had let out on our way across the river and hoped that the thirty-five hundred feet now attached to the upstream corner on this side would reach back across. If so, it would make the second crossing easier.

All four girls gripped the end of the rope. “Ready?” I asked, receiving agreement from all four. I waved across the river again and the raft lurched several seconds later, headed back towards the far shore. Wizzer came running when he saw me leaving and almost looked dejected until Sallie used one hand to scratch his ears. The trip back across went faster and I didn’t float downriver nearly as far because I had a rope on each side of the raft keeping me from floating downstream.

“Shall we?” I asked once I was tied off across the river, and we started loading animals and supplies.

Once everyone and everything was aboard, I looked over our campsite to make sure we hadn’t forgotten everything.

“Push,” I finally hollered after we untied the raft, and they leaned into their poles, quickly nosing us into the current. This trip would be a little different than the last one. The only rope keeping us from drifting too far downriver was tied off to a tree on the far side of the river. The girls weren’t experienced enough to use a team of mules to pull us across the river.

The rudder used the current to push us towards the far shore while my four passengers poled as hard as they could. Even after making the first trip, I was still surprised that they were able to pole the raft clear across the river. For some reason, I thought the river would be much deeper and that we had just found a shallow spot on the first trip.

It might have been my imagination, but this crossing seemed to go even faster than either of the other two. Jimmey jumped when we hit the shore, ready to tie off his end of the raft. He slipped and landed in the mud on his face. Still, he was laughing as he scrambled to get up and tie us off. Having waited an extra second before jumping, his brother missed the mud and already had the front of the raft tied off. Wizzer was there to greet us and jumped back aboard.

Tara, Mahala, and Sallie mobbed me excitedly and then kissed each other. Edy, Cisley, and Lucey likewise mobbed Isum and Jimmey, not even complaining that Jimmey was covered with mud. By mid-afternoon, we had the raft dragged ashore far enough that it wasn’t visible from the river. I hoped that someone found it someday and put it to good use, and that the rudder blade would serve them well.

The ladies had started a fire using some of the firewood and extra planks that we brought across on the first trip. They heated enough water for us to wash with, although we only wiped ourselves off since it was far too cold to attempt a bath of any sort. Jimmey went last since he was all muddy.

When we sat down for dinner, Edy sat next to me instead of with Isum and Jimmey. I realized that my girls knew about this ahead of time since they had left the spot next to me when they sat down. Even Isum, Jimmey, Cisley, and Lucey seemed happy about it.

I looked to Tara for an explanation, and she looked at Isum. “You got us safely to Ohio,” he said emotionally. “We know we can be free here, but we want to make sure you understand how much it means to us that you agreed to be our Massa, even though we know you don’t really want to, and won’t really own us.

“Massa Greene took any of the slave women to his bed to breed them whenever he wanted to. Jimmey and I talked about it, and then talked to Edy, Cisley, and Lucey. We all want you to breed our women any time you want to,” he said. Even though I was shocked, I could hear and feel the sincerity in his voice.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” I replied. “If another man touched Tara, Mahala, or Sallie, I’d kill him. All the white men I know would kill another man who touched his wife. We would expect another man to kill us if he caught us with his wife.”

“Some of the older men on our plantation would get upset when Massa Greene bred their wives, but they never said nothin’ except to complain to other slaves. Jimmey and I are used to it since he bred with our mother so often and he and his son used our sisters and our three women so often,” he explained.

Edy was looking at me hopefully, as was Tara. I was still surprised that Tara shared me so easily with two other girls, and was now willingly allowing me to share three more girls.

“If I’m going to be the Master, and you really want me to have sex with your wives, I insist that you tell me immediately if any of the five of you EVER decide that you are upset with me using Edy, Cisley, and Lucey,” I said firmly.

“You, too,” I said as I looked from Tara to Mahala to Sallie.

“We agree, Massa,” Isum said after getting a slight nod of approval from his brother and their three wives. “We also want you to breed with our daughters when they’re old enough,” he added.

“I’ve agreed to be your Master, but any children born to the girls in our group will NOT be slaves, ever,” I said adamantly. “Every child will be born free and will remain so.”

“Miss Tara said that you’d feel that way,” Isum said as he grinned knowingly at Tara.

Despite the open discussion we just had, I was still surprised when Edy joined us in our tent.

When I checked, the girls still seemed happy. “Our turn,” Tara said with a grin once Edy was satisfied.

Sunday Feb 26, 1843

There was a light dusting of frost on the ground this morning, but nothing like yesterday morning. I was glad because I intended to hunt this morning.

Yesterday afternoon, I spent an hour exploring the area around us to see if there were any roads or farms nearby, finding neither. The closest things to roads were game trails and what looked to be a popular game trail or possibly an old Indian trail along the river. I did find a meadow that surprisingly still had quite a bit of dead grass left, as well as signs that a small herd of deer grazed and browsed there.

Sallie got up with me and we both dressed quickly. Sallie started the campfire from the banked coals while I saddled two horses and put packsaddles on Warren and Nellie. I’d used them extensively when I hunted and trapped and didn’t know the other mules well enough yet to take them hunting with me.

Sallie and I returned an hour later with a good-sized buck, although not the biggest one we saw. We had venison steaks for breakfast, a big change from our usual fare of dried meat or mush if we chanced a small fire while we were in Kentucky.

While breakfast was cooking, most of us saddled horses and mules and then gathered our belongings to make it easier to load them after breakfast. I was glad we didn’t have to load the damn lumber onto the mules anymore. It was still well before mid-morning when we headed west along the Indian trail. Our ropes were coiled again, and I’d shown each of the slaves yesterday how to load the .38 caliber longrifles they had brought, even giving them an hour’s training firing the rifles. After an hour, Isum and Jimmey could hit a man-sized target at fifty feet. Sallie and Cisley could, too, but the other three girls had to be within twenty-five feet.

Tara and I took the time to try the new rifles we inherited from the Tyler brothers and were pleased with how accurate the rifles were, as well as how quickly we were able to fire them.

In the early afternoon, we found ourselves approaching a city. My initial worry that the city was Jeffersonville, right across the river from Louisville, and that Mr. Tyler would have someone there looking for us proved unfounded since there was no city on the opposite bank of the Ohio River. It felt strange riding into a large town after spending the last few days avoiding contact with other people as much as possible.

We quickly verified that slavery was illegal in Indiana, but learned that Negroes still weren’t very welcome. When we tried to shop in a mercantile, we were rudely informed that Negroes weren’t allowed in the store. At least in Kentucky, slaves were allowed in the stores with their Master, or without if they had been sent to buy something. Free Negroes were likewise allowed in the stores in Kentucky. After a similar welcome at two more shops, the slaves decided to wait outside while Tara bought what we needed.

When Tara finished, we found a livery stable eager to buy the Tyler boys’ two horses as well as the mediocre one I bought in Kentucky to ride into towns on. As good as the two stallions I got from the Tyler boys were, we had two of Mr. Greene’s stallions that were as good or better, and four stallions would eventually lead to trouble. Even with two, we had to keep them separated. Since I liked the names of the Tyler boys’ horses, I named Mr. Greene’s two stallions Blaze and Dusty.

The source of this story is Finestories

To read the complete story you need to be logged in:
Log In or
Register for a Free account (Why register?)

Get No-Registration Temporary Access*

* Allows you 3 stories to read in 24 hours.