A Ten Pound Bag
Chapter 38: Instant Family
Copyright© 2020 by Emmeran
That damn rooster kept to schedule.
I almost stayed in bed until I remembered I had two new wards to look after and a new harsh reality to face. I stumbled out of the tent into the cold morning air with Brin in tow. It was time to start breaking my new ward in to the realities of staying with us.
I quietly pulled open the stall door and saw the two of them sleeping in the hay, I reached out and nudged Amos’ foot and he sleepily looked up at the third nudge. I beckoned him to follow, he slipped out of the bed and came out of the stall. I quietly closed the door.
“Amos Moses – us men have work to do, let me show you how it’s done here.”
“Yessir.” he sleepily answered.
I showed him to the outdoor utility sink and bade him was his face. That seemed to wake him somewhat, and then I led him through waking and stoking the fires. That was something he was familiar with. Coffee making came next; he followed along with determined attention, and then it was off to do the morning chores.
Amos didn’t say much, just trailed slightly behind me and joined in whenever I asked. When we returned to the camp we could smell breakfast and coffee in the air; we washed up from the chores and then we sat to enjoy our morning fare. The kid was still dazed and simply doing whatever I told him. Matilda fed us, and she fed him especially well.
While we ate, Michelle woke up Esther and brought her out into the world; that kid was even more dazed than her brother. She took Esther into the camper and showed her how to use the toilet; they joined us immediately after for their breakfast. Those kids could really eat.
Michelle and I left them a moment’s peace at the table together and walked away to have a conversation. Those kids were half-dead when they found us, and there was no way that I was going to let them leave until they were in better health. Sonya refused to talk about it; I think the entire slavery reality had her off kilter yet again. These last few weeks had been tough for Sonya.
I was having none of her naieve idealism today though; I needed to get my message across and get it across quickly.
“We very much are in the 1820’s,” I said, “and we are very close to the state of Missouri where slavery is still very much legal. The Civil War is now forty years in our future.”
That pretty much silenced any arguments that were brewing, so I continued, “These two are runaway slaves; the laws we now live under require us to turn them in under penalty of fines, imprisonment, or even death in some states.”
Now I really had their attention, so I pushed my plan.
“I’m not going to turn them in, but we need a cover story and everyone, even the chickens, has to know it backwards and forwards. We ourselves need a cover story also and we have to consider what we look like, dress like, and talk like.
“So, to the outside world they are our slaves, and their names are now Amos and Esther, we brought them with us from Cuba or some other island. We landed in Texas or Mexico and made our way here.
“We have to make the story work or there will be blood on the ground.” I finished. Well that actually got them thinking and they were some smart people, so I left the two of them to their plotting until they had sorted it out.
I went over and joined the kids instead.
They looked at me with trepidation when I sat down at the table with them; they were on the run and frightened and didn’t know who they could trust. Telling someone they can trust you is almost the worst idea ever, you just have to start laying out the facts and let them decide. So that’s what I did.
“I gave you new names last night, you must lock away the ones your mother and father gave you forever. You can never use them again. I am very sorry about that.
“You may stay here or you can leave. If you stay you must work like the rest of us.” That got me a smile and nod from both of them. I continued, “If anyone else comes you must say that you are our slaves and always have been. You must say that we brought you here. Do you understand?”
They looked frightened again so I tried to reassure them, “If they believe you came with us then you aren’t the runaways they are looking for and they might go away.”
That didn’t work so I put it simple, “Sonya will give you the story to tell them if they ask, you can not make a mistake. If one of them knows you or if you know them, then I will have to kill them.
“Do you understand that?” I asked.
Bless their hearts they nodded to the affirmative.
“Good, now we need to get you some clothing. Amos, please come with me.” Conversation done on my part.
The best I could manage that would fit Amos was a pair of my bib-overalls and my smallest T-shirt; he still looked like a scarecrow. I led him over to the outdoor shower, set the water to warm and made him strip; I then gently pushed him into the shower and handed him a bar of soap.
Thank the heavens he knew how to wash himself.
He was a different looking lad when he came out: he didn’t reek any longer, and he dressed and walked out for everyone to see. He was a sight in my much too-large overalls, billowing t-shirt and old broken-down sneakers; any clown in the world would have struggled to beat that get up. Matilda immediately took over and started fussing with his clothing. She then went into storage and returned with the roll of heavy canvas and a bolt of white cotton cloth. She got down to work with the scissors.
Sonya and Michelle had taken Esther into the camper to work on her appearance, so I took Amos and headed out to the livestock pen. I introduced him to the horses and llamas, the latter fascinated him to no end. He was still shy and quiet, but who could blame him considering his past and more importantly his current situation.
“Have you worked with livestock son?”
“Yessir, only it was chicken, geese and pigs.”
“Well Amos, we’re going to teach you how to take care of all these animals. That’s going to be one of the first things you learn.”, I told him.
“Thankya sir, I promise I learn real quick.”
“I know you will Amos.”
We headed back to the campsite and I told him more about the llamas, he was amazed that one creature could be so useful. I told him I had a lot of information he could read about them and he simply replied “Read? Can’t read sir, its not lawful for a negro to read.”
I’d known that fact but was curious to see what he’d say.
“We’ll teach you Amos; all of my friends can read and you will too if you’re going to stay here.” Was my reply.
We had gotten back to camp by that time and Matilda had Sonya and Esther sitting around the fire hand stitching what I assumed to be new clothing. Michelle was tidying up around the camp. I was searching my way through the problems of these new joins to our party and needed to do some research, so I asked Michelle to take Amos down to the stream and teach him how to fish with our equipment. If he had gone fishing in the past he wouldn’t have been exposed to anything like the modern rod or reels. Which once again reminded me I needed to figure out a way to keep all of this technology under wraps.
Michelle showed Amos the gear to tote, grabbed up the double barrel and the two of them went off down to the stream. We’d have to be careful now as undoubtably the two kids were being hunted. Slaves, particularly young, healthy ones were a valuable commodity and people didn’t allow them to just walk away without giving chase. At the same time, we were from the 21st century and we weren’t going to just let them be taken back; I’d fight, and fighting was something I knew how to do.