It was raining real hard and lighting flashed everywhere, the darkened low hanging clouds hung like vultures over the scene and the three white ladies in black standing around the grave were huddled under only two large umbrellas, trying to look like they belonged but they didn't really belong, not here, not on this day. Mrs. Littlefield who was literally dripping wet was doing what she knew her husband, if still living would have done without hesitation. So far the funeral was uneventful, a young black man standing alone somewhat detached off to the side facing the street. The same street the graves faced which 40 years later would be renamed Martin Luther King Boulevard, but this had yet to happen and was unknown to all at that time. Tears still flowing down his cheeks, he had just buried his Grandfather, they had just lowered him into the ground next to a White man and it didn't sit well with him. His mother came up and asked him, "Ben why you acting this way, we've just buried your Grampa, why you being off by yourself for. Ben wiped large rain drops off his brow and said. "Mama I don't cotton to him being buried next to a white man, hell we shouldn't be here at all. This isn't a blackman's graveyard, we shouldn't be here, let's leave come on let's go." His mother Emma grabbed Ben's arm and said rather forcefully, "Ben you just wait a minute, you don't know the whole story. what's this whole story, I never heard this story, what you talking about, questioned Ben?"
Emma started, "It was many years ago, I believe 58 some or so years ago that Nath and George became acquainted, Misses Littlefield had given to her son George a Male slave to look after him. That slave was your Grandfather Nath. He was a couple of years older than Master Littlefield and they got along well together. In fact Master George after his school lessons would sit next to Nath and make him recite everything that he had learned that day. What a life for a slave in those days to have such an opportunity and that is the reason that your Grandfather always had a, a high regard for education" interjected Ben, that's right a high regard for education." continuing on she said, "Your Grandfather made me finish college and even encouraged me to go on and secure a graduate degree, the first woman in the south to do so.". "Ma get back to the story!" o.k. little Nath. that is your middle name." She suddenly laughed out loud, catching herself she stopped. Ben reprimanded her, "mother remember where your at. I'm sorry Ben but the flowers on the casket reminded me of a story your Grampa told me once. The story goes that Master Littlefield and Nath were fishing one day and ran out of bait so instead of digging for more worms each grabbed a bright Indian Blanket flower and baited their hooks with it. Well Master George hooked what Nath later would described as Noah's whale and the fish pulled Master Littlefield into the creek, dunking him unmerciful, soaking wet. Nath stood on the side of the bank laughing till his sides hurt as his friend and mighty Master George dripping wet, trudged out of that creek, water pouring from all over and all pockets. It must have been a sight to behold. Now the story goes that's with your Grampa telling it of course that Nath caught a whooping catfish that was good eating that night. Lordy bee I laughed as hard when Grampa told me that story as he did when it first happened. But those childhood memories quickly faded into the smoke and cannon fodder of the coming war.
The Civil War began almost as suddenly as a Norther blows into Texas. A war that would divide brother from brother and family from family. Than the day came when Master George and Nath went to war. Master George being an excellent horseman offered his services to a company of volunteers and his offer was accepted on the spot. He was chosen second sergeant and later that month his volunteer group was mustered into the Eighth Texas Calvary - Terry's Texas Rangers.
Everytime I use to ask your Grampa about the war and Master George, and what happened out on the battlefield, he never really replied but would instead make some generalization about helping a friend back to friendly lines. I wonder, I wonder what really happened during that battle?"
The Yankee Cannons were insistently loud and thunderous as Captain George and His Company of Terry's Texas Rangers hiding in a stand of trees were trying to rest and quieten their horses. The battle still raged into the third day and his men were becoming quite exhausted and were suffering severe battle fatigue. They had nothing to eat all day, had been at war for an extended period and were weary of war and the struggle. At the beginning of the war his company had experienced several victories but now with the war in its third year his company was experiencing severe losses and setbacks. Littlefield feared the outcome of this war he feared for the future of the south. Maneuvering his company out of the trees to make an attack Captain Littlefield was knocked from his horse by a fragment from a bursting shell. It tore away the fleshy part of his left hip. He lay wounded, most thought mortally as his men continued the attack. General Harrison upon passing by stopped and promoted him on the spot to Major and promised to send help that wouldn't arrive in time. Night was falling fast and he became isolated and surrounded by enemy troops. He crawled for safety into a heavy undergrowth. Meanwhile Nath back at camp was sitting, waiting anxiously for his so called master (friend) to return from the front, He waited for over three hours and not finding Master George upon his company's return, set out for the front to find his friend. The sky was lit-up with bursting shells everywhere and calvary was all over friend and foe. He worked his way to the location where the men had described the stand of trees, nowhere could he find George. He looked all around the area for over an hour and finally sat down to rest. Out of the darkest of nights came a pause in the fighting and a death like silence gripped the air. Nath remembered that when he and George were boys they had a secret whistle, a mocking bird cry. He cried out with the mocking bird signal, he waited no reply, he walked to another location and repeated the signal, still no reply. Meanwhile Major Littlefield lying in the undergrowth scarcely yards away was coming in and out of consciousness, he thought he heard his friends childhood's call, all he could muster was a grunt not very loud. Nath stood still listening intently and thought he heard a grunt. He walked slowly toward the direction of the grunt. Then he almost stumbled on top of George in the dark, even in the dark he could see the hideous wound.. "Thank God your still alive George." All George could do was take his hand and squeeze it. Thus begin a journey ordained and bequeathed to them by destiny.
Carrying him back through the battle lines was grueling and dangerous. Nath could hardly see on this moonless night, no shadows just darkness surrounded them. Major Littlefield was weak and having loss a great deal of blood was close to death. He would come in and out of consciousness. Their conversation was limited. "Save yourself Nath," grunted George, That was The Major speaking, "That's an order!" the yankees were everywhere and twice Nath was spotted by Yankee stragglers but neither Nath nor The Major were armed, so they were ignored. They had nothing left but their lifes and the stragglers were getting fed-up with killing. A severely wounded solider being packed by a Negro Slave was no threat to anyone and besides there were more threatening dangers than that. "Put me down, save yourself" gasped George, "Nath muttered "No George, we gonna make it," than quite unexpectedly Nath started crying and George heard him whimpering and barely audibly almost afraid to know, asked? "Nath what's wrong?" "George you care more about my life than your own, I never knowed that until now." They both thought thoughts that only silence could decipher. Suddenly Nath broke the silence with a terse question as if the previous moments had embarrassed him. "Why did you always make me call you Master George at the big house, Nath, I did that to protect you, for if they had found out what good friends we had become, they would have separated us," gasping for breath the Major continued "Nath my heart is not in slavery but this war is being fought over bigger ideas than just slavery. Besides a man can't go against his kin." Barely able to speak, his strength quickly fading he uttered. "I fear for our state and all our people no matter who they are." He lapsed off into unconsciousness. Without warning Nath dropped The Major onto the ground, shakened from his state of unconsciousness he came to. Nath whispered "Major, play dead," Nath like lighting jumped into a nearby thicket, just seconds later a yankee patrol rode up took a cursory look at the Major and one soldier yell out, "look at that wound he's a dead man, the sergeant thought he heard something in the thicket, he dismounted drawing his sword he spoke to the Captain, "Captain it was reported that a slave was seen carrying a rebel maybe he's hiding in this here thicket," he thrashed around in the thicket barely missing Nath by inches all the while Nath was so close he could smell the stench of the sergeant breath, with a hint of whiskey on it, it made Nath almost sick for he vehemently disliked whiskey much less the danger of himself being discovered. The sergeant quickly lost interest and motioned to the others, "nothing here", they rode off leaving they thought a dead man to rot, along side of the road. Seconds later Nath reappeared out of the thicket. Nath continued to carry the Major, he seem with each step, each mile to be heavier than a sack of corn. They were less than a mile from their battle line when out of the shadows stepped a Yankee soldier a Darkie, a big strapping youth blocking their path, The Darkie had his musket cocked and aimed at the Major, he asked "what's this a nigger carrying a white man.......... nigger you shouldn't be carrying no white man, I'm going to shoot that white bastard right here and now! He raised his musket aimed, and as quickly as he had raised his musket he lowered it, he turned away and said "hell that bastard going to die anyhow, besides he ain't worth wasting good shot and powder on." The Yank disappeared and was gone. Finally Nath carrying him all night they made it back to friendly lines, where the surgeons worked on him during the early morning hours. And as dawn approached, the sun rose, it brought forth a sky of blue. Nath thought to himself The Major too, would be born again into a new world, to gaze once again through his Blue-Gray eyes, The Major would live!
Recuperating safely behind friendly lines, they had many conversations about the war, slavery, economics, politics. Later back home they sat together on the porch of the big house on the plantation in Gonzales. They mused about all that had happened to them. Life and death they no longer feared. "Your Grampa always thought through-out the war that the south would lose and they did."
Your Grampa always related those beautiful conversations that he and the Major had about the war and life in general. Reminiscing about the way they would sit sometimes for hours on our front porch debating, philosophizing and thinking. Long after the War they maintained a friendship that endured even though the Major was criticized by his white friends but only behind his back for the Major was rich and powerful and not many men ever crossed the Major. sitting on our front porch the two men enjoyed a long and interesting friendship. At times they argued furiously but Major Littlefield always returned a friend with some kind of peace offering. They sometimes sat for hours debating the way the war should have been but wasn't.
After the War the men led two separate lifes The Major drove cattle north blazing the Chisholm Trail, establishing a bank and bequeathing his favorite university millions of dollars. Your Grampa raised his family, worked hard and led a Christian life. When The Major died he cited your Granpa third in his will leaving him a cottage, providing him a home and two dollars a week for life. that money put me through college.
The cemetery scene was still crying. So, back at the cemetery.
"I'm not going to be any man's slave," declared Ben. You don't have to ever be, but your Grampa came up in a different time and place, he made sacrifices for us to be free. He survived, he loved us, and always took care of us. "I know replied Ben, now I understand, now I understand......
Ben stood now with his head bowed slightly, Placing her arm around Ben, her son, her only child. She went on "they loved and cared for each other most of their lives, its right that they be buried together." Choking back tears Ben hesitantly blurred out, "they loved each other like brothers," his mother answered "Yes, they grew up together, fought together, shared secrets, taught each other things about the world," Emma crying like a baby went on.
"So why shouldn't they be buried side by side," barely understandable through her tears.
"they were FRIENDS!"
Ó Copyright 1993 George Butler