Twice Born A Vagabond
A Novel [Copr. 2008]
By D. DeWitt Thomas
VULTURES ON MY TRAIL
A little ways down the creek bed I could make out the figure of a man and as I drew closer it seemed to be the image of a large dark skinned negro. The man look as if he descended from a multi-cultural heritage of Afro-American and Native American like the legendary buffalo soldier. "Whatcha doin'?" he shouted, "out there in the middle of the creek, I mean." I looked up at him on the creek bank. He shouted again, "Hey bud, whatcha doin out there?" He was waving a big hand for me to come toward him. When I reached for him, he grabbed hold of my hand and helped me up the steep embankment. My hand was locked securely in his grip and I was swiftly lifted to the edge. "What's your name?" he asked. "I'm Rawley Ferron." I answered. "Where am I?", I asked. "You're in the Guadalupe River." he replied. I avoided telling him the real reason for my perdicament so as not to arouse his suspicion but I'm sure he was thinking that I had a problem. "You are about 30 miles outside of Austin." he continues with a steel cold stare. "If you walk about 3 miles west, you will find a paved road." he says still with no hint of a smile proudly raising his head and tilting it a little to one side indicating that he was still suspicious about how I had found my way down the Guadalupe River. Reaching the top of the steep river bank, I ask him his name. "My name is Angel." he said. The sun shone directly into his face now and I could see clearly that it was badly scarred. "It happened along time ago when I was a child." he said realizing that the look of curiosity in my expression prompted an explanation. "The scar, I mean", he continues, "when I was in grade school the negroes weren't allowed to drink out of the water fountain. One day after the playground recess, I sneaked over to the water fountain and took a sip. I thought that I had gone unnoticed but a group of white boys caught me and started pushing me to the ground saying, 'This water fountain is for white people only. Niggers aren't allowed to drink out of it." They grabbed me and stood me up by the fountain and dared me to take another drink.
So as I did, one of them shoved my forehead down onto the spigot nozzel again and again until I was unconscious. I woke up on the ground next to the fountain with blood all over my shirt and pants. Several adults walked by on the sidewalk without stopping just shaking their heads with disgusted expressions on their faces. I am sure they were thinking that I was the cause of it." he said as he looked down.
There was no reason to react to the revelation because it was obviously an outrageous example of how mean spirited a group of people can be when they are moved by peer pressure to take violent action against their fellow man, so I just changed the subject.
Is there anywhere around here where there might be a phone that I could use?" I ask. "There is the Braun place, a farmhouse just over that next ridge." he answered as he nodded in the direction of the ranch house over his left shoulder. "I will show you the way." he says. We began walking together in the direction of the Braun homestead and as we ascended the next ridge, I was speechless most of the way because I know, as a white man, I could never explain the hatered which my race has bestowed upon him and his brothers. The actions that stem from racism are beyond conversing with someone like Angel who know it first hand and has experienced more of it than I could or would ever be able to imagine, yet he still befriended me and without hesitation gave me help when I was in desperate need.
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