Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wordsmith's Challenge #3: Strange Fruit

I'm not quite as behind as I was in October but truly... this prompt was a toughie for me. (Tiff, where do you get these pictures?) Anyway... for the second time in three entries, I had to cut down to 500 words... exactly. Apparently I'm just anal that way. Must be all those 55 Flash Fictions. So this is what I got for the November Speed Challenge. Ya'll come back now, ya heah?

The picture:

Photo by Lance McVay
The Rulez:
1) All entries must be 500 words or less. NO KIDDING!
2) All entries must be relevant to the challenge provided. Be creative, but stay on topic. Try not to repeat themes or styles within your writing.
3) Spelling and punctuation are important, except where rule departures are used for effect.
4) Entries must be submitted by the deadline given. You may submit your piece by providing a link in the comments section of the monthly challenge.
5) You should be willing to read the other entries and comment in a constructive fashion, pointing out high and low points of the piece in workshop fashion. Feedback from other writers is half the point of Wordsmiths Unlimited, and as a participating writer you're expected to critique the other submitted works.

My Offering:
Historic sites are usually well marked, well preserved by those to whom the history is important. Such sites are normally treated with a degree of respect, of reverence even. They serve as a reminder to those who come after of the words and deeds of great men and women who brought us to the point in history where we now stand. And the places they lived - and died - become shrines to the famous. And even to the infamous.

In a moment of fortune or misfortune, an ordinary man becomes a legend. In an eyeblink, the farmer's son becomes the hero who saved a town, even a nation. Those tales are the stuff of folklore, of myth, and occasionally even of fact. Because history is often less about the story, than it is about those who write it.

History, it is said, is written by the winners. And the winners wanted no part of the story of Nathaniel Jackson Davis.

"Nate", as he was known to those who knew him at all, was an enigma. Born to relative prosperity in the year 1825, he grew to manhood on his family's plantation in rural North Carolina. Like many young white men of that time, his family used slave labor to keep the corn and tobacco coming in. Unlike most young white men of that time, the idea of "owning" another human being never quite settled with him.

His first encounter with established authority came shortly after his 13th birthday, literally, at the hands of his father slapping him to the ground and threatening worse "if he ever cozied up to that nigger girl again".

His father passed in the spring of 1855, leaving the estate to Nate in his will. His mother, rest her soul, had been taken by pneumonia the winter after Nate turned 4, and he was the family's sole heir. And as his first official act as head of the Davis plantation he granted emancipation to all those who'd labored under the Carolina sun and his father's whip for most of his young life. He offered each one sharecropper's rights if they chose to stay along with the documents guaranteeing their freedom if they chose to leave. The majority stayed.

As a result, he was forced to make longer and longer journeys to find someone willing to sell or trade for seed corn or molasses or even to buy the crop of a "nigger lover". And it was during one of these supply runs that Nate first heard the term "abolition". On his return from another trip he found the plantation a smoking ruin, the ground littered with the corpses of those he'd freed, who'd staked their lives to defend their home. His home. A stop on the Underground Railroad that never had a chance to take on a passenger. Whether the noose wound up around his neck by his own hand or another's was never told.

Because history wants no part of the story of Nathaniel Jackson Davis.

You wanna play too?
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Wordsmith's Challenge is a monthly writing challenge hosted by Tiff and Kingfisher.
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Mimi Lenox said...

Intriguing story and totally appropriate for the prompt given. I started to do this one myself. Out of steam tonight......

Daryl said...

Well done .. tho I didnt count, I trust you


Kay said...


Very well done!

I love how you managed to turn the regular "there was a man, he was born, he liveed he died" idea into something interesting and profound.

Doctor Err said...

and you're right about the part of history no one wants to talk about.
between you, jc and the beach it makes me not so freaked out to go south....
and you can ask jc.... i was skeered. :)

Country Girl said...

Hi, came over via Daryl's site and read this post. It's great. I love a bit of history, so this was right up my alley.
Here's to a man who was ahead of his time, and who died because of it.

Dave to You said...


Thanks man. Loved it!