Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children,
Wade in the water
God's a-going to trouble the water.
We sings when we is alone. If anyone sees a whites person we's all looks to the ground and moves along. We is taught a few other things too, to help us find our ways to Heaven. We is told by our man guide, the conductor, to look for candles in a window or a quilt on a fence or clothes line. The quilt has gots to have a boat or star on it. Those houses with candles or quilts are friend of a friend. We is allowed to talk to people who are a friend of a friend, and look them in the eye.
I hear tell we is about to cross the big river. It has taken us a long time to git here and our group has gotten smaller by 5 people. Those 5 is in the ground along the river. I fears my man will be joining them soon. He is having a hard time walking and he aint talked much these last few days.
We is walkin` with the group along the river. There is a bridge up ahead on our ways to Heaven. Our man guide tells us after we cross that bridge we be in Ohio. I looks at my man. He is not looking good. His face is all muddy and he is shaking. He can barely walk. I tells him to hang on... we is almost to a free state. I promise him we will make across the river. Once we is across the bridge I can nurse him back to health. We starts walkin` with the others. We haves to walks on the road to cross the bridge. A white woman is walking our way. We is told to keep our eyes down. Pretend we is just going to work in the field.
The white woman sees us and starts yelling at our man guide. She talks funny. She says she is Irish and that we are taking her husbands jobs away from him. He can't get work cause us black people are coming here and taking jobs away cause we work so cheap. She says they is Catholic Irish and are legally here in the country. She is going to tell the sheriff on us. We will be captured and taken back to the deep south. We don't wants no trouble... only to be free. Our man guide gives her some coin and she says she will wait a few hours before telling the sheriff. We hurrys on our way across the bridge.
On the other side of the bridge we are in a free state. But we are not free. We have a bounty on our heads and we is hunted like wild animals. We haves to be careful who we talks to. We stays for a few days in the woods. A preacher finds us and says he is a friend of a friend and we knows we can trust him. He leads us to a tent in the woods. He sees my man is sick and he brings medicine for him to gets better.
The preacher tells us how to find our way to Heaven by looking at the stars at night. He tells us about the big dipper and calls it the drinking goard and teaches us a new song to help us on our way.
Follow the drinking gourd
Follow the drinking gourd
For the old man's a–waiting for to carry you to freedom
Follow the drinking gourd...
In between learning my lessons, I nurse my man back to health. He is almost better but he is still weak. His color is back in his cheeks and he is talking more often now. It is time for us to move on. Our group has lost 2 more people since we crossed the river. We burys them in the woods as best we can and the preacher says a few prayers. I makes 2 crosses out of tree branches so's people will knows they is buried there. We sing a song and then move along.
Our man guide wishes us well on our journey and leaves the way we came to go help another group cross the river. The preacher introduces us to a lady guide and gives her some papers that says we is going to work on a plantation. He says if anyone asks... Tell them we is on our way to Heaven. They will thinks we has just been saved by the preacher, but we will knows we mean Canada. We hears dogs barking in the distance. We is told to run... fast... We runs.
We runs for days. We wade in the river so's the dogs will loose our scent. I don't know how many days. We don't hears the dogs no more. I think we is safe. I hopes the preacher is ok. too. We stops when we can to drink and eat. We is just trying to survive. The preacher gave us some food and flour but we still hunts rabbit and squirrel when we can. I am good at hunting.
Days later we is met up with a man that has a gun. He says he is the conductor but he doesn't say he's a friend of a friend. He tries to make friends with us but we is not dumb. Our lady guide shows him the papers and says we is on our way to a plantation. He looks at the papers and asks her if she knows what is on the paper and hows to read it. She says "no sir" and he tells us that is good. It is illegal for us to reads. I would like to learn to read someday.
The man starts to yell at us. He says he is a bounty hunter and he thinks we is runaway slaves. He says he will turns us in for the bounty. We is all scared and afraid. He grabs my arm and tells me I will fetch a good sum. My mans tries to help but the bounty hunter hits him and he falls to the ground. I crys for my man. We is not sure what to expect next. None of us can fight a gun.