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Chapter 1
ANTE BELLUM, TEXAS

Jeremy and Cathy Dickens lived on a small farm not far from New Braunfels, Texas. Their home, a two room log cabin, was built by the two of them from trees cut down when they cleared the land for farming. Their house may not have looked lavish to other people, but it was like a castle to them. They had been living in their Conestoga wagon until the house was completed. Counting the time they spent living in the wagon during their journey from Kentucky, it had been their home for almost a year.

The Dickens’ were of Scotch Irish descent, while most of their neighbors were descendents of German immigrants. Despite their different backgrounds, they found their neighbors to be friendly and helpful, and when it came time for a housewarming and barn-raising, more people showed up than were needed.

Their next door neighbors, the Vogel’s, quickly became their best friends. After the land was cleared and plowed, they planted corn, pole beans, potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, and beets. The land was a little bit hilly, but perfectly suitable for farming.

Jeremy dug a shallow well which produced limestone water, but perfectly suitable for drinking.

Their livestock consisted of two milk cows, two mules, a riding horse, four pigs, and a flock of chickens.

Their first crop came in about the same time Cathy delivered their first child, a boy, whom they named Billy.

Miss Braun delivered the baby. She bragged about the birth, saying, “This is the twenty-fifth baby I have delivered.”

Miss Braun was a very large woman who probably weighed close to 300 pounds. Jeremy would watch when she got into her buggy as the springs seemed to collapse and the wheels sank into loose earth. He wondered how the one horse managed to pull the buggy.

After the delivery, Jeremy offered to pay her in cash but she refused, telling him, “No money. I have plenty; pay me with food. If you haven’t noticed, I love to eat.”

Jeremy filled d a bushel basket with corn, tomatoes, and potatoes, loaded it into the buggy, and Miss Braun left for her home in town.

The farm did well, making them rich by no means, but supported them easily. Jeremy was not used to the warmer climate allowing two plantings a year, instead of the one they got in Kentucky.

Every Friday, Jeremy would load the wagon with produce and drive into town to sell at the farmer’s market. He would usually buy an Austin American Statesman newspaper to keep up with the news.

Four years later, Miss Braun again visited the farm to deliver another boy they named Jimmy. Billy was more excited than his parents as he dreamed of having a brother to play with. When Jimmy was a few weeks old, Billy would hold him and sit in the rocker holding Billy for as long as his mother would allow.

Cathy made sure she gave the same amount of attention and love to Billy as she did to baby Jimmy so as to not create jealousy between the two boys. The deep bonding and love of the boys for each other would later prove fruitful. As the boys grew older, this bond grew even stronger. Billy had appointed himself “Big brother guardian and protector of Jimmy.” When the neighbor boy Hans came over to play, Billy would make sure Jimmy was not injured by the older boy’s rough play.

Hans was Billy’s age, but shorter than and not nearly as strong as him. When they wrestled, Billy was always able to pin him down easily.

Cathy and Jeremy were amazed at how quickly the time passed. Soon, Billy was a teenager and able to help Jeremy with the farm chores. He especially enjoyed the Friday trips to town for market day. This was the only day of the week he was able to get out of the home- schooling his mother provided.

Jeremy was getting disturbed by the talk at the market and the disagreement between those farmers who owned slaves and those who did not. At first he dismissed it as jealousy because some of them were rich enough to own slaves. He would later learn it was a moral issue. Some people did not believe a person had a right to take away a human’s rights by enslaving them. It was an issue that would be decided later in a bloody war.

During one of his trips to market day, Billy met a young black boy named Rastus. “What’s your last name?” Billy asked.

“Ain’t got none. Slaves ain’t ‘lowed to have last names,” was the reply.

Billy took a liking to Rastus, whose broad smile was contagious. He would tell his dad on the way home, “I wish that boy Rastus lived closer to us so we could play together.”

“Son, he is a slave, and I’m afraid he wouldn’t have time to play. He has to work in the fields just like his ma and pa,” Jeremy answered him.

“But Dad, if he has to work so hard and never gets to play, how can he be so happy and smile all the time?” Billy asked.
 

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