The night was still. An ebony thickness denied any peek of twinkling stars. Silence prevailed. Sometimes, the only sound detected would be slight rustling with a response of “Shhh” whispered along the pathway. Another group was carefully embarking on a treacherous journey. Each of the participants pledged to abide by the rules, entrusting their fearless leader with their lives.
Because of the darkness, most could not see her smile, but the few behind her caught it. As they grinned back, her heart became fuller.
The leader was tired but determined to make another trek, knowing she surrendered comfort and safety to assist others. As she moved, the leader could feel the chill of the midnight hour. She shivered, wrapping her shawl tighter around her arms. The leader’s ankle joints ached, and she was sure others experienced the same. Although she could do without, she remembered this intermittent throbbing symbolizes victory. “Yes,” she thought to herself. “I have made it. Nothing anyone going to do to stop me now.” Her self-talk seemed to mobilize her even more. The leader now raised her head, turned around, watching all of the passengers following her lead. Because of the darkness, most could not see her smile, but the few behind her caught it. As they grinned back, her heart became fuller. “This is the right thing for me to be doing. Thank you, God, for inspiring me.”
In the next hour, the leader assessed the lay of the land. From making several of these trips, she was aware of the time they had to their destination. The leader started to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing they were within striking distance. As she walked, one of the young women, Mabelle, approached her. Quietly, Mabelle whispered, “Ma’am, Jasper, told me that the Mrs. taught him in the big house that some man named Aristotle from Greece said a long time ago that courage was the most important thing ever.” The leader smiled at her and responded with, “Did he now? Well, I know nothing about this Aristotle, but that makes sense, don’t you think.” Mabelle beamed. “Yes, Ma’am. I think you are what that man said.” The leader chuckled. In hushed tones, she said, “Well, thank you, my dear.” The two continued to walk in silence. The leader looked back again. The participants looked solemn. They had been on this journey for several hours and were probably exhausted from all they endured preparing for this.
As the leader became lost in thought, she heard some muffling. One of the men came forward. “We have a problem.” She looked to see one young man crying and shaking. The leader approached him. “Ma’am, I am petrified. I don’t know if I can go on. What if they capture us?” The leader stared at him. “What are you talking about?” The young man, Thomas, continued sniffling. “I want to go back.” The leader now glared, “Are you kidding me? Get going.” Thomas now stubbornly refused to listen. He folded his arms. “I am not going anywhere.”
The leader was fuming. She looked at the rest of them. “All of us agreed that we were going to stick together. Other than Thomas, does anyone else have a problem with this?” Every other person shook their heads. The leader then stood up and penetrated Thomas with her eyes. Next, she did the unexpected. She pulled out a pistol and pointed it at Thomas. “You listen here. We made a pact to stick together. Isn’t that right?” Thomas put up his hands and shook with sobs, “Yes, Ma’am.” The leader then boldly reminded him, “I am in charge now. There is no turning back. Pull yourself together. Act like a man, a strong one as you are meant to be, and get going.” Thomas began to move ahead of her, and soon his quivering subsided. The participants returned to their brisk pace.
Within a short time, Harriet could see the first safe house quietly tucked away and inconspicuous to the average eye. She sighed a breath of relief and again to herself, “Thank you, God, for delivering us from evil.”
Author’s Note: Harriet Tubman was an abolitionist and political activist. She was born into slavery and escaped. Harriet did not rest on her laurels. She made 13 missions and rescued approximately 70 enslaved people. I got the idea to write a story about her during Women’s History Month. Several weeks ago, there was a write-up in the Wall Street Journal sharing information from a relative of Harriet’s. Legend has it that during one of Harriet’s rescues, a runaway slave did try to back out. Allegedly, she proceeded to take out her pistol, ordering him to continue north. Harriet made it clear to him that she was in charge.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, here is to Harriet, another plucky woman who dared. Cheers to Harriet! Hopefully, she is smiling from afar.