William and Amanda were living in South Carolina raising hogs when one hog turned up missing. In those days, a man's worth was measured by his livestock, his land and his trade. When William made the twenty mile trek to the country store, he never expected to see his prize hog tied outside. Inside the store, was the man who stole him.
Pigs form a bond with their handlers. They're sensitive to change and react negatively to stress and mishandling by a careless owner. William knew right away that his hog had been mistreated. He squared his shoulders and approached the man who stood near the grocer's counter.
Not known for small talk, he launched into a confrontation with the newcomer to the small community. Within moments, fists were flying. Although smaller in stature, William managed to land a blow to the man that sent him flying backwards. As the man fell, his head struck firmly against the wall, sending an ax crashing down from its place on the shelf. The blade found its home in the skull of the downed man.
Red streaks of light etched the horizon as Amanda took one long look over the fields she'd worked for the last few years. The memory would have to hold her for a long time. With the wagon loaded, she made one last trip through the small cabin in which her first child had entered this world. Her Willie, always a sweet and quiet boy, now waited, holding the reins of the mule as she climbed aboard. She looked to be no more than a child herself as she cracked a whip just above Nellie's ear. Always reluctant to beat the animal who had served her so faithfully in the toil of farming, the whip served to arouse the dozing animal. As always, Nellie required stronger inspiration.
Amanda reached into the fruit barrel for an overripe apple. Locating a bruised piece of fruit which had been packed for this task, she climbed down to tempt Nellie with breakfast. By pulling and teasing the mule, she managed to get the wagon rolling before offering the fruit as a reward. Quick-stepping alongside, she pulled herself aboard and settled into place alongside Willie. Her infant son, Charlie, quietly slept behind them as the wagon gained speed in time with Nellie's chomping. She made quick work of the apple and continued her plodding forward. Amanda watched the small farm diminish in size as the distance increased.
The last hog sold and the money collected only yesterday at the Country Store, supplies for the trip were purchased - flour, corn meal and some dried beans. The bill settled, her goodbyes said, they rolled forward toward a new land. Word finally arrived from William, who now went by the name of John, telling her where to find him. The few greenback bills he sent would have to sustain them on the long journey south.
Story ©Peg Cole - 1986 Adapted from a story told to me by my father.