Torli Cashup was captured when she was only 11 years old.
|The Road To Freedom
Chapter 1: Captured
All was still. Nothing moved, nothing gawked and nothing talked. But why did it feel so weird to the poor, Tali Cashup? Well, she was about to find out. People silently crept by the tents, and grabbed those in and put shackles around them, pushed to the ground as they stepped on and kept there till all were brought together. I woke up quickly, scared. I woke up my family quietly then we all hid under the big trees in the back and covered up with roots. The hunters quickly un-digged us and put shackles on us and then threw us on the ground with all the others. I cried, not knowing what was going on. I stared as I saw Coli Matu standing behind my family laughing. My sister, Ren screamed at him but then the hunters put their foot farther in her face then she stopped shouting. We were all boarded on a small, smelly, brown ship. Then we saw about 1,000 others captured in the tiny room with us. They quickly took us and then lined us up with the others and shackled our legs and arms together. I watched as my mama cried and begged and then went in the line to jump off the boat which would mean certain death. I did not think any of this was happening, it must have been a dream, right? Every day seemed to go on forever on the ship. I was looking forward to having the food passed out this Saturday. It was cornmeal and some molasses. I was new to this oddly tasting food. It was fairly bitter but also sweet. The food was good but I wanted to have the berries and roots from my home. I will have to forget the past and start my new life. I was so happy because my family was either across or next to me on the ship. I loved how my papa sat right next to me the entire trip. I would hug him and then when we were allowed to talk all my family would sing a song. We dearly missed mama. I loved her so much. At night every day, I would sing in my head for mama. Her favorite song was Dearly We Sing. “Oh as we see the Gods rise above. We sing dearly before you, Oh beautiful gods.” As the long days slowly went by, we finally docked the ship. We docked at a place called South Carolina. All were taken to a room and were given strange, tight, dresses. They were very thin dresses. Since it was winter they gave all a thin blanket-type to put over our arms. It was cold outside. We were all taken to a tiny barn and we slept on hay until the next morning. We woke up very early at 5:00, we stacked up the hay and cooked for the owners of the barn. Then we all got in a line, and put our hands behind our back to be tied. But, Papa refused. The owner took a belt and hit him with it. Papa quickly put his hands behind him and then got tied extra tight. We all walked alongside each other, wondering what the new chapter of our life would be. Then we were each put on a small stage, and white people of all ages came over to us and examined us. When someone came over to me, then opened up my mouth and checked there then felt my arms and measured my waist. Then, I was sold for 50 cents. The owner tied my arms together and I and about 12 other slaves lined up and walked behind him. Once we got to his plantation, he told us the rules. Then we had to line up to get a number branded on our back. When it was my turn I cried. As the hot coal burnt my skin, I screamed. Then the Master got a belt and hit me with it. I cried badly, Then he led us all into a tiny room, then we had to change into uncomfortable, tight clothes. We had to change in front of everyone, men, women, children, elderly. I was embarrassed, I quickly changed. I went to the ground and slept.
Chapter 3: Day of Dawn, Night of work. No end to this…
I woke up so early that morning maybe 3. I’m so tired. I knelt on the ground and prayed for mama to come back. I knew she wouldn’t, miracles seemed impossible now. Everyone was gone except my little sister Ren, she’s 4 years. She’s such a brave little girl. Tonight I and sis gathered when we were allowed. I grabbed an ink pen and a small scroll of paper, I found that day. I and Ren got on the ground on our knees. I dipped the pen in the water from the river nearby. I slowly wrote a note to mama while Ren came up with some ideas to write.
Dear Mama, we miss you dearly. I’m not sure where all my brothers and sisters are, or papa. But, I and Ren are together. We are okay mama, all we have to do is work a lot. I hope you are okay. Ren really misses you, she says hi and says she loves you very much. We were sold to a mistress and master. I saw papa a week ago. I think Torlalini jumped off after you did. Are you with him? I hope you guys are okay! Love you so much!!! -Tuli
It was true, we missed her very dearly. I wish I knew where she was. She’s probably gone by now. How wouldn’t she?? How would she still be alive? It would be impossible, right?? I’m so tired. I just worked through 5 through 11. Tonight I and Ren were gonna make a big move, our first step to freedom. We would sneak out and write another letter but this time to our old town.
Chapter 4: Why don’t you just stay a bit longer?
Oh old village, I miss you dearly. The wonderful fruits you provided, and vegetables. I never realized how important you were to me till now. I learned how Americans write, it’s fairly odd. This is how they write. Do you agree it’s odd, I do. Remember Ren?? I’m with her! We work from dawn till dusk. I miss you so much. Did Koli Matu learn his lesson or has he taken over all of Ethiopia?? I have so many questions. I hope to see you at some point in my life again. Hopefully soon, if not sooner than later. Love, Tuli, and Ren.
I and Ren took the paper, found a small old bottle, and put the paper in the bottle. We sent the bottle down the stream near us. It slowly washed away. I grabbed Ren’s hand, someone was coming! I picked her up and threw her to the top of the tree, then I covered up with dirt and put grass over me. I put a tiny little hole in the dirt for breathing and looking through. It was Master!! I closed my eyes and forced myself not to make any noise. The horse stepped right on me. You’ll never believe what happened after that!!!! The horse pooped right on me! Right on top of the dirt. I held my nose for the next 30 minutes. Till I was sure they were gone. I slowly lifted my head up, looked both ways and slowly got up completely, and then got Ren down. We hugged each other in fear. Since it was dark, We needed a plan to get back. We decided we were not going to go back, we would escape. It was raining hard so it would be good. I and Ren worked quickly, I got some wool and some deerskin for warmth Then I got some more skin and put berries, roots, and fish in it. I and Ren looked around and started to run in the woods. The rain pounded hard on our shoulders. My hair was soaked. I whisper-shouted to Ren “Hey, get out a small bucket or cup or anything to hold this water for drinking and bathing!” I got out a small bucket and started getting some of the water, I stuck my tongue out so I would get something to drink. It felt so good, the cold water going on my tongue and slowly dripping down to my parched throat. My throat has hurt for days and days, it felt like a dessert lived in it. It is almost dawn, we better start looking for a hiding place. We had gotten at least a mile and a half away from Master and Mistress’s cabin. We stopped and looked at this small candle in the window, which meant they could help fugitives hide. We slowly went up to the steps and knocked on the doors. We were dripping wet. An elderly woman came out of the cabin. She welcomed us inside and gave us blankets and food and coffee. She sat and talked with us for a while and then took us to our hiding place. It was this normal looking bookcase, if you pulled out a book in the very corner that was hidden, a trap door would open. We pulled it open and climbed up and the elderly woman. It was this big loft, it had a small bed and blanket, a rug, and some food and water. The elderly woman told us her name was Betty Labrang. She gave Ren a small little stuffed dog and welcomed her. She told us she would take us on a carriage soon. In about a week, she would take us to Georgia, and drop us off at another elderly woman's house who will take us to Ohio, which is a free state. We would stay there with an elderly couple who would call us family. Anywho, Betty says we will be staying at her cabin for about a week. I think somebody is knocking on Betty’s door, we must stay very quiet. I made sure the trap door was closed and you could not tell somebody was up here. I whispered to Ren, “Ren come, quick, sit next to me. Be as quiet as possible, don't make a sound no matter what. Somebody else is downstairs.” She sat next to me and held my hand in fear. It was Master and some bounty hunters! I put my hand over Ren’s mouth. “One is about this high and the other is half the size. They are sisters, they have long black hair, and one has a deformed arm, it’s really ugly looking, the smaller ones.”, said the bounty hunter. I held my hand over Ren’s mouth because she was about to scream after he said that. “Sorry, I have not seen them around, if I do see them I will take them right to the owners if you give me an address.”, said Betty. “It’s 556 Crock Road, you won’t mind if I look around, would you?” “No, of course not!”, said Betty. The bounty hunter looked around, he looked in every closet, the attic, the cellar. In one of the closets, he saw a candle laying down. “What’s this for, and why is it not being put in use?” “It’s a gift from a friend of mine last year, I’m not using it because I’m using it for a spare.” “Reasonable. Well, if you see those girls please come bring them to us, and don’t be afraid to slap me three or four times. Haha ha!” “Haha will do.”, said Betty. “Have a nice day!” Betty opened up the door and stood on the porch as he went away to the next cabin. She sighed and went outside, looked in the window until she saw that the bounty hunter was at least a mile away. “Ren, Tuli, it’s okay! He’s gone!”
The Long Long Days.
We constantly were in hiding, just waiting and waiting for something to happen. I hugged Ren in comfort, and Betty brought up some cornmeal. We enjoyed it very much, then she gave us some sweet homemade rolls and asked us what she thought of her new recipe. “It was the best thing I have tasted in a long time!” Betty smiled in delight. “Today I will teach you girls how to read and write!”, said Betty “Let me write out the alphabet for you, then you can study letters. So the first letter is A, then B, C, D,E, F,G. Let’s focus on those letters for today. A is for Apple. This is an apple. B is for a banana, this is a banana, C is for the cat, cats are those animals on the streets. D is for Donkey, they are an animal, E is for Elephant, they were where you used to live, F is for Fun, which is happiness. And finally, G is for Gorilla, they live in a rainforest.”, said Betty. “Wow, there are so many letters!”, said Ren “Guess how you can spell the word cage!” “Uhh, the cat, the apple, the gorilla?”, said Tuli. “Really really close, after the gorilla is the elephant. So, it’s C-a-g-e. Cage”, said Betty. “C-a-g-e. Cage!”, Said Ren. “Good!” “Now, off to bed girls. Tomorrow is gonna be a big day!”, Said Betty. I climbed into the cold bed, shivering with coldness. I was scared for tomorrow. If we got caught we would be automatically brought back and hurt badly. “Tuli, I'm scared.”, said Ren. l hugged Ren. “Everything will be okay, don’t worry. I’m here with you” To be honest I was scared myself, but I hadn’t known what I was in for it could be good or bad. Maybe a bit of both. We both know it would be too perfect if it was all good. I best get off to bed.
The Big Move.
“Tuli! Tuli! Tuli wake up! It’s morning! We have to leave early!” “Ren, shh. We have to be quiet, somebody could wake up”, I shouted-whispered to Ren. “Okay Tuli, wait up. Wait, it’s really cold outside.” I got the old clothes we had and tore off a big piece. I put the piece of fabric over Ren’s head and tied it under her neck. I made another for myself. “Okay, let's find something to eat. Okay let’s see what we have up here, some berries, oats, and a bag of river water, oh and it’s warm. Oh! Look, there is a recipe for something called grits. Interesting, let’s see if we can make it.” I poured in the oats and the warm water then stirred it. “Okay last but not least put the berries on top. All done!” I and Ren shared a bowl of grits. It was okay but was very bland. We used some of the leftover river water and drank from it. I was still hungry, so was Ren. There was a spoonful left of grits. We both wanted it badly. We started arguing quietly. Then well, Ren started to hit me. I screamed loudly then we yelled at each other. We were so loud we did not hear more bounty hunters come in the door. We stopped for a second screaming and started again. “What is that noise?”, said the bounty hunter. “Oh, that's my neighbor's next door. Their kids are very loud!”, said Betty. “Oh, understanding. Well if you see those slaves bring me in. The address is on the card. Also, if you do see him, slap the girl with the ugly arm real hard. It’s extra sensitive.” Betty watched until he was far far away. “Girls he’s gone!” Ren cried hard. I tried to comfort her. “Girls come down, I locked the door and pulled down all the curtains. Okay, it’s time. Here is the plan, I have white powder, you are going to put it in your hair. Then you are gonna cover yourselves with these blankets and go in the back of the cart. There is a little tab with holes underneath the carriage. You will go into space. I will cover the tab up with crates full of clothes. Torli, come here please.” She powdered her hair until it was a whitish- blonde color, she did the same with me. We grabbed blankets and wrapped them over ourselves. We climbed in the back part and lifted up the tab and went under, it was hot and dark. We heard bangs above us when she put the crates above us. Ren and I fell asleep afterward. We woke up 5 hours later. Space was lit up from the small holes under us. We stopped about 2 hours later. Betty let us out and we were in a closed gate and were in a grass area. We went inside the house of another person. She gave us food, water, and put on some tea. We slept there for the night, ate a good breakfast, and were off again. We were in a busy, loud city today. So, I and Ren played games with our hands and her little puppy stuffed animal. About 6 hours later we felt the carriage stop. We arrived! We got out of the carriage at about 3 am. We hugged Betty bye, told her to thank you and went inside the new house. We sat down on a fancy couch and were given tea and biscuits. Her name was Amelia. 35 years of age. She had a French accent. “Girls, this is our plan. I will take you to Ohio in about 3 days. You will be hiding until then in my luxury barn. She took us by the hand to a secret door under the hay in her barn. She told us she would stop by tomorrow. When we went down there were two beds. Tons of water and food. Recipes, and toys. Ren ran to the toys. We were both starving. I found a recipe for cornmeal, orange juice, and biscottis. I started with the cornmeal. I grabbed corn starch, poured it into the bowl, mixed it with milk and flour. I filled the oven up with coal and made a fire with it. I put the cornmeal in it and started making the juice. I peeled oranges and squeezed it into the water, and then put sugar and shook it well. I served it in two glasses. The biscottis were already made so I just needed to heat them. I took the cornmeal out and put it on the plate and then put the biscottis on. I and Ren loved the food and juice. It was delicious. After we washed the plates, we tightened our beds and slept.
We made grits the next morning and then repeated our process again and again. Then it was the day. We did the same as we did last time. This time it was such a long ride. 38 hours! We could not stop this ride because bounty hunters were all over the path. Me and Renate food twice a day and took sips of water 15 times. It was hot, smelly, and hard to breathe under the carriage. I and Ren played games with our stuffed animals most of the time. Sometimes there were so many bounty hunters around we could not even whisper. We had to tuck the tab inside because there were going to be 5 inspections along the way. During one of the inspections, they moved all the crates and made Amelia answer questions. After about 36 hours, I and Ren threw up. We got so dizzy from not eating or drinking enough we got really sick. We were sick for the rest of the two-hour ride. We finally got there at 2 am. Ren was better. I was really bad and it was only getting worse. Amelia had to carry me inside. The last thing I remember was throwing up in the carriage like 50 times.
I woke up with everyone huddled around me. I had a nurse beside me. “She’s very badly sick, her breathing is not the best. Give her this honey for about a week to help clear her airways and make sure she rests.”, said the nurse. The nurse left the house and then this old lady came up to me. “Hi sugar plums, my name Claire Moostooch (Moo-sta-sh), I’m gonna give you guys home for the rest of your life. Welcome to Cleveland, Ohio my little Butterscotch pies! Before I show you your guy’s room I want to meet these other 2 people that you will be living with.”
Family Is The Best Gift Ever.
“Hi, my name is Colorton Mecherman! (Mec-chair-man) I’m this many old!” He showed 4 fingers. “Hi Colortone, I’m Tori Cashup. I'm 16 years old. Can I call you Colo?” “Yah!” The small boy said. “Hi, I’m Ren. I’m 9 years.” We went to the next person she looked familiar with. “Hi, I’m Mama. I go by Mama because that's what my kids used to call me. I’m 56 years.”, said the lady. “Would you mind me asking, what happened to your kids?”, I said. “Well, I lived in Ethiopia with my little darlings. We were taken away and put on this ship. I got really sick one day and became really weak. The hunters said no one would buy me so they made me go in the line to jump off the ship. What they did not know was there was an island behind the ship, I and some of the others swam there. A day later, we found somebody there that helped get me to where I am now. Miss my children dearly.”, the lady said. “Well my name is Torli and this is Ren. I’m 16 years and Ren is 9.”, I said. “OH, MY LORD! IT’S MY BABIES! It’s me, Mama!’, the lady said. She wrapped her arms around me and Ren tightly and buried her face in our heads and cried tears of joy.
I love you! Was said over a million times that day. We decided to add Colo to our family. We had a lot of fun together. 10 years later, Tortolani came back. We never saw Ethiopia again but at least we saw family. And then mama always said, “Mama said, don’t give up it’s a little complicated.”
Dedicated to: My mom and 2 cats.
Author: Katie *******************