Servants, Slaves, & Sinners

Servants, Slaves, and Sinners: A Life in Virginia

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(This is a revised version of the previously published New Beginnings series: A New Home, and Heroes and Villains.)

A young furniture apprentice in England follows his master to Virginia where he becomes indentured for years of grinding work in the new tobacco fields near the Chesapeake Bay. One hundred years before the American Revolution, Indian wars and a colonial rebellion thrust him into manhood. The former servant marries and raises a family, and lives a life of many struggles, joy, and paralyzing heartaches to become a great tobacco farmer in the Virginia wilderness. The heroes and villains in John’s life are not always other people.

Excerpt from Chapter Five: Rebellion
“Push those tubs to the back of the wagon.” John and Garvin had just stopped on the north bank of the Piankatank a short distance from the Dragon Bridge. “We’ll fill the tubs and then the other buckets.” Each trip from the river’s edge to the wagon filled the halves of old tobacco barrels with water for the Cromwells, their servants, and the farm animals. Several minutes passed while the men went about their work.

“This water makes me bloody sick,” Garvin finally said. He stepped into the mud as he reached down with his bucket into the water. “That water on the farm treats me system better. This dirty river water gives me the flix. Another hex on it by those savages, I would wager.” Garvin was a young man of sixteen and much shorter than John. Bushy-blonde eyebrows highlighted his pocked face while his thin sandy hair fell haphazardly across his forehead.

John moved farther up the bank to get away from the muddy water stirred about by Garvin. A thin coating of morning ice, easily broken, skirted each side of the river. John reached down, broke a piece and popped it in his mouth. “Nonsense. Indians have no such powers.”

“What?” Garvin and John stopped for a moment at the wagon. “You do not believe in curses or hexes?”

“Of course not! And for the life of me, I cannot understand how good Christian men and women can believe in such things.”

“Well, my dear mother was the finest Christian woman in Virginia. She taught me the rules of the real world.”

“And what rules are you speaking of, might I ask?”

Garvin put down his bucket, moved closer to John and whispered, “There are people born with special powers. We English call them witches, but the natives welcome these kinds in their tribes. The fellow with the greatest unearthly powers becomes especially important to the chief and the whole tribe. He doctors the sick and acts as the go-between with their gods, and curses those that make themselves enemies of the tribe.”

John was silent for a moment, eyeing the young man. “Pick up your bucket, fool. We’re almost finished.”

“Suspicious still, Mr. Cleburne? What do you think caused this drought?”

“I supposed it was lack of rain.”

“I know that. I was just saying that the Indian problems of the past few months related to the dry weather. Their men with the special powers have cursed us all. They are warring against us on the one hand and trying to starve us all with a cursed growing season.”

John lifter their last buckets onto the wagon. “You’re daft. No old native can stop the rain or hex us with some Indian sorcery.”

“Believe what you may, but I know drinking this river water gives my bowels a misery.”

“Climb aboard.” He scowled at Garvin. “This kind of talk gives my bowels a misery. You would probably go hunting for dragons in the swamp if someone told you they were there.”

John snapped the reins several times forcing the horses to pull the heavy load up the bank. As they topped the incline facing Dragon Bridge, several horsemen appeared through the trees approaching from the south. All were carrying guns and looked to be a part of a small militia on a training mission. John halted the wagon for a moment. Garvin watched, mouth open, while the men continued to emerge from the trees and pass across the bridge. “Must be a hundred of them …”

Copyright 2017-2020 by Mark Edward Jones, Edmond, Oklahoma  73034.

All rights reserved.