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Thread: Moving West - Chapter 19 Slavery

  1. #1
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    Moving West - Chapter 19 Slavery

    I had expected this chapter to take at least a week to put together. My family on my Mother's side immigrated from Ireland, and eventually farmed in Mississippi for years, before moving again to Arkansas. I have no idea whether or not they were ever slave owners, but just the possibility that they might have been, has been a troubling idea for me.
    I've seen first hand some of the old slave quarters in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi. It's an image that sticks forever in your mind. Thus I expected this to be a difficult story to both write and paint. Amazingly, it came together in only a couple of days.
    ---------------------
    Stunned... Such was the reaction of both Sean and Mariska, to learn as they arrived at Uncle Emmett's place, that he was a slave owner. Sean had heard talk of some people in the south using slaves to work their farms, but it never crossed his mind that his uncle could be one of them.
    Sean's initial reaction was to reject the job immediately, and make preparations for the trip to St. Louis. “Sean, you have demonstrated many times that you are someone that treats people fairly,” offered Mariska. That's one of the reasons I married you. That you are angry and appalled, is nothing less than I would expect. I understand why you feel that way, and honestly, so do I. Still, however bad it looks at the moment, the truth is, we are looking at things from a distance. As long as we are here, we owe it to your Uncle, and to ourselves, to be sure we understand the facts before we make a decision. Why not look the job over, and be sure we have a good picture of everything that is involved, and then decide based on the truth, not just emotion?”
    As usual, her counsel was sound and clear headed.
    Sean quickly agreed that it was the right approach for them to take. For the next week, Sean inspected the farm, which proved to be much larger than he had imagined. He didn't say much to anyone, preferring to try and be forgotten so he could listen to the everyday chatter. He knew that it often provided more truth than a dozen speeches. As a child, both his Mother and Father had often reminded him, “You cannot learn anything new when you are talking - only when you listen". When an opportunity arose to take a trip into the nearest town, he went along, and put his eyes and ears to good use there also.


    At the end of the week, Sean and Mariska met with Uncle Emmet on his front porch.

    “Uncle, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but we have decided that we must decline your job offer. Had we known that this farm was operated by slaves, we never would have come here in the first place. It was being forced to be a servant against my will, that made me become a fugitive.
    How could I possibly be a part of a farm where slaves are denied the freedoms that I insisted on having for myself?”
    Rising quickly to his feet, obviously agitated, Emmett threw his drinking glass at a barking dog, and answered, "Sean, don't misunderstand what you see here. Why, working here is the best thing that ever happened to these people. If they were still in Africa, they would be living in the jungle, and being eaten by wild animals or killed by other savage natives. Here they are fed daily. Should they get sick, I see to it that the doctor comes from town and checks on them.
    If they work hard, then one day, I'll most likely give them their freedom. No lad, they could do much worse than belonging to me."
    “Uncle Emmett, I know nothing about how they lived in Africa. What I do know is what I've seen since coming here.
    I see guards sitting under shade trees, drinking cool water, while these men, women and kids, do back breaking work under a blazing sun. They get one break a day, and what little water they have to drink, sits in the boiling sun all day.
    I see a fine home that would be my living quarters, while I look at the shacks your slaves live in. Overcrowded shacks with little room, holes in the roof, sides, and floors, where wind, rain, snow, insects, and snakes are free to enter.

    I see men whose backs show the marks of whippings. Sad to say, I've heard talk of women being whipped also."

    Emmetts angry response was “ If you saw whip marks, it was done by their previous owners. I don't whip my slaves!”
    Sean wanted to answer that some of those wounds were quite fresh, but realized that it would serve no purpose. “Bottom line Uncle Emmet, is that you would be ill served to employ me. The first time you came home from a trip, you would find that I had set all your slaves free. Even if all your arguments proved true, the truth is, these poor people don't have a choice of where they work, or how they are treated. They are not animals, but that's how they are treated.
    So, if you will arrange for our trip to St. Louis, it would be the best thing for all of us.”
    “WHEN HELL FREEZES OVER!” was Emmett's response. “You and your squaw wife - if she really is your wife, and not just an indian saloon girl that you bought and paid for - apparently consider yourselves too good to be a part of my life. Well, then you are too good to use my money to buy your transportation to St. Louis"..
    Looking at Mariska, Emmett said " Ma'm, forgive me for the squaw remark. My Irish temper sometimes makes me forget my manners. Now, please take himself, formerly of my family, and have the good manners to leave my home at once."
    "Mr. Eaton, Mariska calmly answered with steel in her voice, and a two second pause... " It is well that you apologized for your remark.
    My husband, your nephew, is a peaceful man. However, he is also a man of decisive action when angered, or when those he loves are insulted or threatened. The look in his eyes told me that

    had you not apologized, you would have answered to him before we left. Sir, we appreciate what you have done for us.
    Please say goodbye to your wife and son on our behalf. We shall gather our things and be on our way.
    Good luck to your sir."
    Staring with pride at his beautiful wife, Sean followed her down the porch stairs and left his Uncle standing there, without saying a word, or even looking in his direction.

    Within the hour, they had packed their horses, and were off in the direction of Cairo yet again. Once more they were riding in search of their new life in a new land.
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    Last edited by barnburner; 12-16-2010 at 01:25 AM.
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  2. #2
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    Hi Mike,

    I've been following this for some time but I've not left a reply until now.........................if you don't write an illustrated story soon you are guilty of being a wasted talent.............this chapter resonated because I have recently found that..........to my shame...........my family "owned" slaves!
    It could be one of the reasons why I love Blues music so much.............or maybe, because I had one too many whiskies tonight,anyhow your storytelling is superbly done Sir.Keep it coming!


    Da go Te'
    Best to you

    Peter............
    Have a listen to or buy my music : http://www.reverbnation.com/playlist...artist_3522106
    and the Aubrey Small website:http://www.aubreysmall.com/
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  3. #3
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    History has its dark places, huh? Very interesting story Mike, and I love your illustrations!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Pinckney View Post
    Hi Mike,

    I've been following this for some time but I've not left a reply until now.........................if you don't write an illustrated story soon you are guilty of being a wasted talent.............this chapter resonated because I have recently found that..........to my shame...........my family "owned" slaves!
    It could be one of the reasons why I love Blues music so much.............or maybe, because I had one too many whiskies tonight,anyhow your storytelling is superbly done Sir.Keep it coming!


    Certainly what your ancestors did, is no reflection on you, but, because of my own questions in that area, I certainly understand your concern.
    Peter, thank you very much for your kind comments. This has been a very interesting and productive experience. I'm trying not to get ahead of myself, because I could find my characters halfway across the country, and myself left with nothing to say...
    But, if the story works out, I am giving strong consideration to doing as you suggested. We shall see.
    Thank you very much.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alexandra View Post
    History has its dark places, huh? Very interesting story Mike, and I love your illustrations!
    Many thanks Sandra, my dear friend. I was really intimidated about doing these paintings. Painting people is difficult for me, but it ended up better than I expected.
    The slave quarters was a real headache. No matter what I did, I could not get them to look like aged and ramshackle. Finally out of desperation, I used photofiltre to put the serpia effect. That worked, but I wanted to do it totally with AR, so I experimented, and found that by overcoating with the "color" blend mode, I got the same effect!
    I appreciate your kind comments Sandy!
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  6. #6
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    Mike, such a suprising end to their visit to the uncles place. How sad those times and actions were. Your images look great and fit your story line well

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by justjean View Post
    Mike, such a suprising end to their visit to the uncles place. How sad those times and actions were. Your images look great and fit your story line well
    Jean, thank you so much. I really appreciate that!
    I'm glad you liked it.
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  8. #8
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    Beautiful pics. Great stuff. Looks like American folk art. I especially like the first pic with the farm workers. Very colorful.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by gzairborne View Post
    Beautiful pics. Great stuff. Looks like American folk art. I especially like the first pic with the farm workers. Very colorful.
    Thank you very much. I'm glad you enjoyed them.
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  10. #10
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    The story and the paintings go on very well and keep me following with great interest and pleasure.
    This chapter left me quite disappointed though, because Sean's uncle didn't keep his word about the return trip payment, but that's not the worst news to realize, alas. In fact slavery recall (and what followed at least up to few decades ago) provides a sense of sheer disgust to us all nowadays; nonetheless it could not be omitted considering the historical persepctive in this novel. As a matter of fact it was a sad reality that survived longer than most places in many areas and also all over American continent, either North or South, notwithstanding the formally shared christian faith that, in its quite clear message, removed far before any religious or ethnical ground supporting that plague or any other difference of dignity among human beings. In the late Roman Empire, when Christianism became the state religion, there wasn't a legally supported slavery anymore even if, one way way or the other, similar unequalities practically went on anywhere and under any dominant religious belief for many people and over many centuries and it still exist in many concealed forms today.
    The most hateful consideration in this case is however that the one afflicting America was not fed by captured enemies or conquered populations by won wars, but from criminal sailors raids carried out as a mostly profitable business and supported by justifications heavily based on groundless theories and a phenotypic difference mostly based on skin color, all in and after an age when the human reason and important revolutions were thought to have introduced a leapfrog progress towards human equality and freedom.
    But even in some events of these days we can see that, without a globally shared and strong awareness, care and opposition, we cannot have too many expectations that rights can always stand and resist the worst forms of arrogance, even in the most democratic places ...
    Panta rei (everything flows)!

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