Approaching the crossing Jolan hears the rush of the water. Looking over his shoulder, he’s first. He’s notices Pete try to talk to Beneda. But Beneda, she moves over to Kaleb and take his hand. The Old Lady walks ahead, not even noticing. She got some strong legs that one. Across the water, Jolan spies the boatman, dropping passengers on the far shore. No one wait'n on this side.
“Won’t be long now.” Beneda waves Kaleb and Jolan on. “He be back to take us soon.”
“I’m scared o’ boats.” Kaleb shakes like a wet dog.
“Oh, honey. Ain’t nothing to fear.” Old Lady grabs at this squashing the boy to her apron then swats his backside. “We all come here by boat.”
Pete shakes his head. “Don’t tell about Igbo Landing, grandma!”
Lady scowls at her grandson. “Why not? All folks need t’ hear that one.” She glower at him, then peer at Beneda. “Girl, you know de story?”
“Yes, Lady.” Beneda nods and gives the old one her smile. “I heard.”
Lady casts her eyes on the boys. “You young’ns hear the story?” Both Jolan and Kaleb shake their heads. “Well, now’s soon enough.”
She spies some shade under a big cypress. Shuffles over, waving everyone to join her. “Sit you down, get comfortable. I’ma tell you the story of Igbo Landing.”
Jolan settles in the shade, aside Kaleb. Pete stands close to Beneda and Old Lady leans back against the tree.
Lady takes a deep breath, adjusting her shawl. “In the last century of slavery in this land. Long ago, now back so many generations you need more’n two hands to count.
“Black people from Igbo in Africa were seized and put on a ship to America, in chains.” She wipes her brow. Bringin’ out a water flask, she drinks deep.
“About three score folks, they say. All ages, down to lil’ ones.” Jolan has heard similar stories. The old days, when black folks labored on the farms. Slaves.
“Then the whole lot of these Igbo was sold to a master on St. Simon Island. They delivered by small boat, from Savannah.” She stops, glancing to each of them. Then she stares across the rushing water. She lookin' at returning boat?
“Then they git unloaded from the boat ont' the swampy land, in chains. The Igbo leader looks at his people. He looks at his new master. He sees the deep water of the swamp. He gives a command. The people begin to sing a hymn of they land. And, they march together into the water. The master and he men try to stop it. Many Igbo get they freedom that day.”
“Bu-But, did they die?” Kaleb wants to know. “The Igbo?”
Old Lady Harris frown, then smiles at Kaleb. “Yes, many died, but they not slaves.”
Pete waves everyone up. “The boat is here. Ya’ll hurry, let’s cross.”
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