Covering my tracks with pepper to throw off the dogs like Pa taught me, I headed for the rail yard. Knowing I’d pass our farm on the way, I was careful to stay in the woods and out of sight. The night’s darkness barely provided cover, due to the full moon and all the stars the sky wore. The smell of smoke filled the night. I climbed a hill so I could look down on the farm and not be seen by anyone.
Larry Boyd and his boys were there holding torches with their hoods off. A huge flaming cross burned in the yard near the front porch. Pat Crane’s hounds were sniffing around and howling, but were unable to pick up my scent.
I heard Larry say, “We gotta find that boy, y’all need to look high and low for him. We’re going to kill him real slow and easy. None of ’em can survive if we’re taking this land. I’m gonna personally skin him alive and let his body swing from this oak all night. The three of them will serve as an example of what happens when you dare to cross a white man. We’re going to put them back in their place. This is the deep south, and down here white is always right. I swear before it’s all over, they’ll pay dearly for this. Go squeeze that preacher and see if he knows where the boy is. Load Tully and Buddy’s bodies in the wagon, then take them to the undertaker before you break the news to Jane. I’ll stay here and look around for the boy. Time’s wasting, now get going.”
I watched them leave with the dogs. When they were out of sight, I ran to the barn, grabbed an axe and crept up right behind ‘ol Larry. He’d set the house on fire, and was standing back admiring his work while Ma and Pa’s bodies burned inside. When he turned around, I swung the axe as hard as I could at him. It stuck in his chest and he fell backwards to the ground. Blood spewed as he gasped for air. I pulled the axe from him and swung hard again, catching him on his legs. And with the last blow, I stuck the axe in his head ad left it there. Blood covered my clothes and face. Looking around, I drug his body to the porch and rolled it into the house. Flames crackled and burned and smoke was everywhere. Since he burned my folks’ bodies, I burned his. I’ll never forget that surprised look on his face. I’m sure he had no idea he’d burned his last cross, and my face would be the last one he ever saw. Teary-eyed and winded, I grabbed my bag and ran towards the rail yard as fast as I could.
Before long, I made it to the rail yard. I watched the cars hook and unhook with the locomotives. When I spotted a train headed southbound, I made a run for it and hopped into one of the cars. Through the slight crack I left in the door, I watched Attapulgus get smaller and smaller until it was finally out of view.
I imagine a hour or so must had passed before I felt the train slowing down. Fortunately during the ride, I managed to eat something wile trying to gather my thoughts. My heart was beating so fast and my adrenaline was flowing like crazy. In a span of a few hours, I’d lost everything I’d known: my folks, our farm and our way of life. Besides the belongings in the sack slung across my shoulder, the only thing I carried in my heart was my folks’ memories and the last thing Pa said to me. I was no longer a boy, I had to be a man now. Before the train could slow to a halt, I hopped out and followed the lights, sights and sounds into Tallahassee.