Station to Station
Hello, my name is Sara Browning and I’m sixteen years old. Ever since I was ten years old, my house has been a station in the Underground Railroad. I remember waking up in the middle of a night to the back door slowly creaking open to some "cargo". That was five years ago. Now, I help my mother with the escapees. She had no choice but close the station when my father died. When I found out, I convinced her to let me help.
Just the other week, we got a note from John, our conductor. He had broken his leg while tripping over a hole in the ground, and I was to be the conductor until we could arrange for someone else to come. It was a shock to both my mother and me. Mother almost said no, but after I pleaded the case, she relented.
At 7:00pm on Friday evening the house was chaos, although anyone who looked at the small, modest house from the outside wouldn’t have known. I was just about to walk out of the door.
Mother chided, "Don’t forget your jacket. You most likely will need it."
I briefly thanked her and stepped into the cool September night. I walked briskly on the purposely overgrown path down to the river bank. I was to do something to show the runaways I was a good person.
"There will be a little clearing with a rock at the edge,” John had said, “Kneel down there and sing Amazing Grace. That is their sign to come out of hiding."
When I did everything he had said, a black woman and her two children stepped out from behind a few trees to my right. I guided them carefully back to the safe house and concealed them in the hiding place.
I led them to the secret cupboard entrance and just as I was about to leave to get some food for them, the woman said, "My name is Mary an’ dese are my chillen, Sam and Harry. We jus’ want to dank you for what yer doing fer us."
I knew right then I was doing the right thing.
That evening while Mother and I were sitting by the fireplace sewing blankets, we heard a knock at the door. We glanced at each other as Mother hesitantly opened the door. A heavy built, dark-skinned man stood at the doorway. He looked as if he was about to push Mother aside so I got up and stood behind her.
He said "My name is James Austin and I have a pass to search your house for runaway slaves. Will you kindly let me in?"
We had no choice but to open the door for him.
While he was rummaging through our bookshelf, another man walked in and said, "James, times up."
Mr. Austin turned and said to Mother, "I’ll be back tomorrow."
We had to think quickly and decide how we were going to get them to the next station.
"They need to go tonight," stated Mother.
I suggested that we take them in the old wagon. After all the little details were arranged, we started preparing.
Around midnight we hurried Mary and her two children in the back of the old wagon. We spread some blankets over them and started down the bumpy road. At one point we thought the rickety wagon would fall apart, but it stayed together. When it was about three o’ clock and we were two miles from the next safe house, we heard a horse coming our way. When it came close enough to where we could see the rider, we could tell it was the slave hunter we saw previously. Inside my mind was going crazy. I had to keep telling myself over and over to stay calm. Mother did all of the talking so I didn’t have to speak. Mr. Austin inquired where we were going and why this time of night.
Mother replied, "We had a last minute blanket order and our customer needs it before his store opens up in the morning." Mr. Austin scrutinized my mother’s face and rode on.
Even though Mary and her children made it to the next station, my job did not end there. They were only one of many groups we have to smuggle under the noses of people like James Austin. I know this kind of work is very dangerous. If we get caught, we get imprisoned or fined. It is still worth it to help other oppressed people find freedom. I know I will do this as long as I have to.
Tell me what you think below! -Leigha