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John Earl’s Quest

By Liberty Dendron

Mamba Books & Publishing

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Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2017 by Lafayette A. Johnson Jr.

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John Earl’s Quest


Over Two-hundred years ago, in the days when slaves, slave masters, and monsters roamed Virginia, there lived a slave named John Earl. He lived with his family on the Scott Plantation on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. John Earl’s days were consumed by hard work. Every day, he labored from dawn to sundown, plowing the field, turning the soil, and picking cotton. At any given moment you could spot him in the field, bent at the waist, back as curved as the blade he swung all day. His hands were always sore and rough, and they bled and every night he fell to sleep as soon as his head touched the pillow.

Life in Cape Charles was hard for all its African inhabitants. There were other, more fortunate places for slaves to live in the north, in Philadelphia there were sections with fruit trees and flowers and clean air with streams that ran with cold clear water. Cape Charles was a forsaken place. It’s in a flat, sandy area by the Atlantic Ocean. The wind was hot, and blew dust and sand in the eyes of slaves. Finding fresh water was a daily struggle because the slave’s wells, even the deep ones often ran low. There was a river, but the slaves had to endure a half-day walk to reach it, and even then its waters flowed muddy all year round. Now, after years of drought, the river ran shallow. Slaves in Cape Charles worked twice as hard to eke out half the living.

Still, John Earl counted himself among the fortunate because he had a family that he cherished above all things. He loved his wife and never raised his voice to her, nor his hands. He valued her counsel and found pleasure in her companionship. As for children, he was blessed with many, sons and daughters, each of whom he loved dearly. His daughters were obedient and kind and of good character. He taught his sons the value of honesty, courage, friendship, and hard work without complaint. They obeyed him, as good sons do, and helped their father.

He loved all of his children, John Earl privately had a unique fondness for his youngest, Westley, who was five years old. Westley was a little boy with dark eyes. He charmed anyone who met him with his devilish laughter. He was also one of those boys so bursting with energy that he drained others of theirs. When he learned to walk, he took such delight in it that he did it all day while he was awake, and then, troublingly, even at night in his sleep. He would walk out of the family’s shack and wander off into the darkness. Naturally, his parents worried. What if he fell into a well, or got lost, or, worst of all, was attacked by one of the creatures lurking the plantation at night? They took stabs at many remedies, none of which worked. In the end, the solution John Earl found was a simple one, as the best solutions often are: He made a bamboo neck-less and hung it around Westley’s neck. This way, the clinging of bamboo would wake someone if Westley were to rise in the middle of the night.


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