Running South

It was the morning of July 8, 1865 and the cotton fields were buzzing with activity.   There were hundreds of hard-working slave families working in the fields but one slave family seemed to be working at a faster rate.  They are the Dutton Family.


The Dutton Family consists of Duke (the father), Elizabeth (the mother), and the three kids:  Felicia, Samuel and Omar, the youngest.   The heat of the day begins to take its toll on everybody including Duke.  He stands up to wipe the sweat from his brow.  As he does so, he spots Master Tomstin, the plantation owner, staring into the field.   At first Duke thinks nothing of it and continues working.  He then looks again and to his surprise, Master Tomstin has not moved. Duke follows his eyes into the field.  To Duke’s horror, the owner’s eyes are fixated directly on Felicia, Duke’s little girl, who has just turned twelve.


Duke’s longtime friend, Blue, informs him that Master Tomstin is planning on taking Felicia to be his personal slave and there is nothing he can do about it.   Duke and Elizabeth make the decision to try to free their children.  But how?   Duke remembers hearing about a train that is rumored to pass near the plantation heading up North.


In the middle of the night and without warning, the children are awoken and rushed out of the house by their mother and father.   Moonlight guides them through the thick forest and rushing streams. The peaceful sound of the night is interrupted by the faint sound of a train whistle.  They suddenly stop and kneel down into the tall grass to say their heart wrenching and tearful goodbyes, for they all know this is the last time they will ever be together.


Time is short.  The train approaches.  With tears running down their faces, they run alongside the train and jump aboard.   Duke and Elizabeth watch as the train disappears into the darkness.


Morning comes and the children notice that they are not alone in the boxcar.   They are introduced to a hobo named Seth.  The kids tell him their plan is to take the train up North to freedom.   To their surprise, Seth informs them that the train route has changed and the train they are on will only take them deeper into the South.


Seth walks over to the boxcar doorway and looks out on to a masterpiece of rolling hills, golden valleys, and snowcapped mountains.  He then points at one of the mountains off into the distance and informs the kids that the train they need is in a small town on the other side of that mountain.


With each passing second, the train is pulling further away from where they need to be.   Seth tells the kids that they cannot afford to wait and that the journey will be a dangerous one, for the land is crawling with slave hunters:  men paid to catch and return the runaway slaves--dead or alive!   One by one, the frightened kids walk to the edge of the doorway and jump from the train.  Little do they know that their journey has just begun.


Over the next three days, the kids encounter slave hunters, other slaves on the run, and some other surprises that Mother Nature has cooked up for them--all this and very little food.


Day Four holds another little surprise.  An aroma fills the air that is unmistakable:  freshly baked pie.  The kids waste no time and run into the direction of the sweet smell, only to find themselves atop a hill looking down at what used to be a lonely house but is now swarming with Confederate soldiers.


All realize the danger but the hunger is too great.   Felicia spots an apron hanging on a clothes line.  Her plan is to steal the apron and try to blend in with the other slaves who are cooking and cleaning for the soldiers.


Felicia makes her way into the house and down a long hallway but suddenly stops when she overhears three men talking in the next room.   One of the men is General Lee himself.  They are discussing a secret attack that is so massive, it will end this war once and for all.


After congratulating one another on their imminent victory, they retreat outside for some fresh air, leaving a document describing their secret battle plans on the desk.   On the way out, they run into the little slave girl but think nothing of it.   When they return, the paper containing the plans for the secret attack is missing and so is the little slave girl.


Felicia runs up the hill with an apron full of blueberry muffins as well as the document.   She tells her brothers the importance of the document as they gobble down the muffins.   Once again, the kids are back on the run and now the slave hunters are the least of their problems.   Now they are being pursued by the entire Confederate Army.   Felicia hopes she can get the document to the Union Army before it is too late.


What price are these three kids willing to pay for not only their freedom but for the freedom of an entire race?