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Northward Bound

I swear I could have made it.

I was leaving Simeon Marsh's cotton plantation. I'd been working there for 17 years- since the day I was born. The worst part is, I'm nearly white. I'm nearly a free man. And yet I'm still stuck harvesting cotton and struggling to adapt to the colder tempuratures in nothing but a shirt and baggy pants.

Oct 22, 1841

Maybe It really was all a bad idea. But on October 22, it seemed like a really good one. Running away. Making it to Ohio. It was only two states over. In Tennessee, I was practically in the North. Well, not really. I guess I'm exagerating. But after 17 years of enslavement, I was ready to leave. I left on a brown mule in the middle of the night w th two suits of clothing. It was raining, and I was hoping that it would cover my escape. Oh, the name's Nicholas by the way. I almost forgot.

Getting out was easy. Me and several other slaves had found a secret way out through the farm-house about a month ago that we could go through if we got desperate. Actually, several of them ran away right then. Not me, though. I'd been too scared then. But harvesting season turned out to be very convincing.

Oct 22, 1841

I have one weakness though: alchohol. It's always tempted me, even though I've never tried any. And it was raining and cold, a really misreble expirience. Luckily, there are taverns opened late- really late. So I changed into one of my extra suits of clothing that looked more like a free man's outfit and entered one. Most of the people there had clearly been there a while. Nobody questioned if I was a free man. It was easy. Too easy. And that wasn't a good thing.

Oct 23, 1841

I woke up with a hangover. A bad one. And I didn't remember anything about the tavern. I still don't. I think I might have hit my head pretty hard in there at some point. I was in the back of a wagon, just thrown on the floor. I could tell from the cracks in the wood that it was morning. Which wasn't good. Where was I? What was I...Where was the mule?Where were my extra clothes? Where was I going?Well, the answers I found weren't great.

The sheriff looked extremely annoyed at me.

Oct 23, 1841

It didn't take me long to figure out what happen. Mr. Marsh probably posted a reward for me and whoever was driving the wagon was going to take me back to the plantation. I couldn't do that. I couldn't go back. So at first I tried to open the doors to the wagon. Locked. So I started pounding on the walls, the floor, the door, and I screamed. Oh, how I screamed. The wagon stopped. And a sheriff unlocked the doors.

My cell mate was terrible. He snored SO much. While I was roughly five foot nine, he was six foot five and built of pure muscle. He didn't talk though. That was probably a good thing. But he would take my food so I barely ever got to eat, and of course there was only one bed, meaning that I got the joy of sleeping on the floor.

Oct 25, 1841

Apparently I had got into a nasty barfight at the tavern- none of which I remember. I tried telling them I didn't do anything- but all the officers said that I was the one who started it. At least they all thought I was a free man. I told them my name was Tom Rives (my nickname from back at the plantation) and that I was traveling to Ohio. They said that I had to stay in jail for five days- which made absolutely no sense. (How am I only on day three?) Apparently I'd barely injured anybody because I was so drunk. Five days was unreasonable. Mr. Marsh was probably already looking for me. It was only a matter of time before I was back at the plantation.

First, I applied for a job at a barber's shop using the name Tom Rives (after cleaning myself up so I looked presentable). They accepted me. I had helped cut the hair of other slaves back at the plantation. So hopefully this wouldn't be too difficult.

Oct 28, 1841

They finally decided to let me leave on October 28th. Mr. Marsh apparently had not posted advertizements yet, which was wierd, but I wasn't complaining. I started walking north as soon as I left the jail- and didn't stop at any taverns. I didn't look for my mule or extra clothes, either. I knew they were long gone. At first, I was making good progress- or so I thought. I'd stop at the occasional town or farmhouse but mostly I stayed walking on trails. I'd heard of the underground railroad- but I could pass well enough as a freeman so I didn't need to use it. A few kind people even gave me rides in their wagons. But after roughly two weeks of traveling, I was DONE. I wasn't even out of tennessee. But I was so sick of traveling on foot. So I decided I was just going to try an pass as a free man and settle down somewhere.

The man didn't waste any time knocking me out with the butt of his pistol and before I knew it, I was being delivered back at the plantation, on January tenth.

Oct 29th, 1841-January 10th, 1842

After working for about a week at the Barber Shop with no home, I had enough money to get a room at the local hotel. I was still using the name Tom Rives, and nobody questioned it. As the weeks flew by, I did lots of things. I bought my own food, I made some friends, I went to taverns. It was fun to be free. But it all ended on January 5th.Apparently Mr. Marsh had finally got around to posting my wanted ads, and somebody had tracked me down. Because when I walked back to my room on January 5th, there was somebody waiting for me.

January 11th, 1842

I was severely punished upon my return. One lash for every day I was gone which added up to... a lot. But it was worth it- that one breath of freedom was worth every one of those lashes, even though I can barely move with all the bandages. I don't know if Mr. Marsh will put me back to work, or if he'll sell me. I guess it doesn't really matter. I'm just property, after all.

If only I got a second chance...