Monday, February 06, 2006

EXCERPT - With Pride of the Buffalo

With Pride of the Buffalo
By Deborah DeShields
With Pride of the Buffalo - a historical-fiction novel about an African-American Buffalo Soldier.

Born in slavery, Amos Jedidiah Hankins has never known freedom. As a young man, his enlistment in the U.S. Army 10th Cavalry leads him to a new love and into battle with an enemy he must learn to respect. As the Indian Wars progress, the Indians name the black troopers Buffalo Soldiers. It is with pride that the name is accepted. Amos becomes a leader among his men and is awarded for his bravery in the line of duty. But it is only at the moment he receives the Congressional Medal of Honor that he begins to understand the enemy and the true meaning of the freedom for which his own father fought and died."

Chapter One

"There be silence in the face of death, silence that brings even the strongest man to fall to his knees. The Lord alone knows the grievance of the man who sleeps and He alone can bring peace to his troubled soul." Papa's words echoed in my head as I stood at his open grave wondering how it would be to lie in the ground with your eyes forever closed to the morning sun. With heavy heart I listened to the words delivered by the white preacher as he spoke of the dreadful war that had taken Papa from us just days ago. In my mind I pictured how it would be in war, fearing for your life while at the same instance being compelled to take that of another. Papa took a bullet to the head and I could only pray death had come quickly.

Tears of sorrow filled my eyes. With a trembling hand I wiped them with the sleeve of my Sunday shirt. Had Mama seen that I had soiled the white cloth she had spent hours stitching together, she would have scolded me with a click of her tongue against her teeth. I looked over at her briefly. She was standing at the edge of the open grave, a red rose in one hand, a fistful of black dirt in the other. A look of grief was etched on her face.
Mama was a handsome woman though age was upon her. Her coarse black hair had threads of silver strewn here and there, and she kept its length braided and tied to the top of her head with a strip of white cloth. Her build was small yet she had a slight belly protruding under a heavy black skirt, evidence of having birthed eight babies over the years.
"Oh, Lawdy!" she moaned as the dirt fell from her hand, landing with a dull thud atop the pine box holding Papa's remains. The preacher said Papa wasn't in the box--that he had gone on to a land where he was fit and free and would know nothing but happiness for eternity. Papa used to talk about being free. Free to live wherever he wanted to live. Free to be whatever he wanted to be. He talked of holding title to a piece of land and how much better our lives would be if we were allowed to earn as much pay as a day's labor was worth. I suppose some saw him as a dreamer.
I saw him as a man filled with hope and spirit and the sincerest love for God Almighty. There was never a doubt in my mind that from the moment he first closed his eyes to life, he stood at the right hand of the greatest Master of all time. And he was free. Still...I mourned his passing....

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