Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #32

Leave a comment

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #32

…Remember Sara and Abram of the Bible, rumor has it that she came late John – she is only fifteen…

The Tallahassee Junior Women’s Club Summer Cotillion is this very night.

“Abigail Smythwick is going to be there.” Agnes knows the reason for her brother’s sudden cooperation. She is the daughter of Jefferson Smythwick, born in his sixth decade to the silence of her mother’s still heart.

“I almost forgot that we sent invitations to Midway and Quincy. They are not as refined as we are, you know, though Abigail’s daddy owns much land thereabouts,” Martha offers what she knows. “Is she pretty, how old is she, does she have any manners?”

“Yes in her own quaint way, fifteen I believe and I hope so, though she did not have a mother to help her.” Daughter fills in the blanks.

John Ferrell adjusts his new bow tie, as he walks by.

Fort Sumter3-001“John, sugar, do you know a Mister Smythwick from Midway?”

“Why do you ask?” he asks – a wondering.

“It seems that your son James has a fancy for the Smythwick girl. She will be at the cotillion this night and I do not want to appear ignorant of our neighbors to the west,” like it was a world away instead of 15 miles.

“Fort Sumter South, wealthy, quite old, I thought… his daughter would be forty. Has James taken a fancy for women the age of his mother?”

“Remember Sara and Abram of the Bible? Rumor has it that she came late John, she is only fifteen!”

He prefers to keep what he really knows about the man to himself. Why upset Martha by raising the still broiling subject of slavery. Her lectures, planned or spontaneous, about the difference between slaves and servants are legendary. They can wear a person out.

“Oh, I see. You mean like Mother Nature’s joke on a woman who has assumed her child Continuedbearing years are decades behind her?”

“That is a cruel way to put it,” she admonishes, “especially since her mother died giving birth.”

“That is too bad, I’m afraid,” John says, snatching his watch fob from out his vest pocket. “Say, we best be going, that’s if you want to set the tables before everyone arrives.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #32


page 30

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #28

Leave a comment

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #28

… members  of GCASS come from all walks of life, ages, backgrounds and beliefs; eager, everyone, to join a band of principled folk heroes…

Anti-slavery organizations have been in existence since before the War Between the States. This one in Gadsden County Florida is sneaky, if not low-down & dirty. They are so smart and clever, that nary a person in the Panhandle knows who’s in and who isn’t. Without fanfare, credit, glory, honors they provide dignity, sometimes one person at a time; faithfully for more than two generations.

And it certainly does not hurt to have your members come from all walks of life, ages, backgrounds and beliefs. Eager, everyone, to join a band of principled folk heroes; understated champions of humanity, who happen to risk their lives in the process.

Jacob Haley is the present president of this 19th century band of merry men. He has the lead role as Robin Hood, but doubles as the superintendent of the Quincy Consolidated Schools. It is the kitchen of the Stonewall Jackson Middle School that, not only hosts this month’s meeting of the Gadsden County Anti-slavery Society, but feeds them as well. These men will be absent from their respective dinner tables.         

“School food has improved since most of us were kids, right guys?” Haley both asks and states his case.

“What are these brown things?” quizzes Jacques Francois, with his apothecary’s curiosity for ingredients.

“You mean next to the noodles? Well, I’d guess meat, but I’ll check the menu about what they are calling it–here it is, Barn Yard Surprise. No, I’m kidding. We do have a dietary aid on staff, so whatever it is, it’s nutritious.”

“Nutritious and delicious!” offers another member.

“Eat more peach cobbler, if you have to. And remember, next month’s is at Smithy’s Livery… I believe hay is on the menu.”

“Now, if we can get down to work, we’ll all be home in time to kiss our kids good night,” a gavel-less call to order.

There are plans to be made and a job to be done.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #28


page 27

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #27

Leave a comment

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #27

…Ol pigface can smell trouble a mile ‘way–and we can smell him too…

“To be honest, that is precisely why I am here. I want to give you the opportunity to get off Sumter–get away from that Smythwick for good!” Herbert Love means business.

Campbell instinctively looks around, to see who might be listening in. He hears stories of the Underground Railroad, but that was long ago and there were dozens of stories circulating about horrible endings to miserable ordeals. At least he can now claim food, clothing and a waterproof roof for his family; the three keys to happiness in his mind.

“I hope you are seriously considering what I am saying.” He senses the all too familiar, deep-rooted fear of a downtrodden human being. There is a group of men in Gadsden County who are determined to take the legs out from under what’s left of slavery. The loss of you and your family should expose Jefferson Smythwick’s underbelly and show him for the enemy of decency that he is.”

“I’za know what ya sayin’, but terrible harm may come on us.” Willy rubs his temples that are throbbing with doubt. “And there’s ‘Manda’s mamma. Shoot, ol’ woman’s better days be behind ‘er… she’s been sickly, ya know, coughin’ and weezin’.”

“I think we have come up with a plan that will ensure the safety for all of your family. The men are all meeting tonight to put the finishing touches on the plan. But I have to tell you that we have an alternate scheme, involving another family, should you decide to stay put.

“So please talk this over with your wife and mother-in-law, think it all through. I will be here at the station this same time, every day for seven days. If you do not come back, that will be our answer.”

Just then, the boy and the bird enter. “Daddy, look at what I did fo’ the sparrow,” Alfery interrupts proudly. “I bandaged both wings together so he can’t hurt hisself any mo’.”

“Looks like doctor material to me, Willy, how about you?”

“When is yo’ plan fo’, Master Love?”

“We are looking at early October… the start of fall harvest.”

“I’ll bea seein’ you in a couple a days, maybe three. I don’t wants to makes them ‘spicious ‘bout anythin’.Ol pigface can smell trouble a mile ‘way–and we can smell him too!”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #27


page 26

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #26

Leave a comment

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #26

…Po’ Alfrey will be lucky if makes it to 20. Runts don’t last long in the field …

It is here at the train station, that Herbert Love,  the Quincy businessman and newly elected mayor, meets and gets to know Willy and Alfrey, on their only common ground. SlaveryHe has told his wife, who has bore him no children, as well as many of his friends, that he would like to deliver Willy and his house to true freedom.

Today is step one to that end.

“Say Willy,” he signals in the direction of a flatbed car being unloaded of its tobacco leaves, “would you please come her a second?”

Willy Campbell obliges, thankful for a break from the oppressive August heat. He has a gregarious way about him, reminiscent of someone whose ignorance is bliss; not realizing how green the grass is on the other side of the fence.

Henslow’s Sparrow

Young Alfrey has found a Henslow’s Sparrow clinging to the next husks of sugar cane to be loaded on an adjacent car, one wing hanging limp, with the other flapping in futility. He stays behind to tend to the wounded sparrow.

“Your son sure is good with animals, Willy,” Love notes.

“Yessir, he sure does. Takes in ev’ry critter that don’t run away.” Then comes a caveat. “He ain’t worth a tinkers’ damn in the fields, fo’ sure. He’sa runt with his mamma’s heart.”

“There is nothing wrong with that, Willy. The world is expanding, population doubling every 10 years and people are doing things you would never have guessed.” This educated, late middle aged man of some worldliness, tries to transfer his optimism to a black man, aged well beyond his 30 years, who is learned at the school of hard knocks and significant if only to God.

“Po’ Alfrey will be lucky if makes it to 20. Runts don’t last long in the field.” That hopeless resignation is the norm for most blacks anywhere, even some poor unskilled whites here in the South. The native Indians in the panhandle do not even show up on this grim map, shunted into socially isolating reservations; the lucky of those with less than full blood, sprinkled with a little white, a little black, a little Spanish, a little indefinable and more easily absorbed into the general population.

“Well, to be honest, that is precisely why I am here. I want to give you the opportunity to get off Sumter–get away from that Smythwick for good!”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #26


page 25

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #25

Leave a comment

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #25

…The Campbell family are victims of a cruel anomaly; for all intents and purposes, they are still slaves…

The opposite is true for Northern blacks, as well as some in the South, where their freedom is more of a paper reality. True equality with the white majority may be more than a century away.

One interested outside observer of this world that seems heartlessly frozen in time, is Herbert Love, a dairy owner among other things, who has never kept slaves, even when it was legal. Anyone will tell you that he is the antithesis of Jefferson Smythwick. He is as sympathetic and benevolent, as the old slaver is callous and maniacal.

But because of his non-confrontational nature, Love has left his philosophical rival alone…

…Until now.

   Unbeknownst to Smythwick, the lord of Fort Sumter South, the overseer in chargeLove Dairies2-001 of the Campbell’s has been allowing Willy to pick up some rare wrapping leaves from Cuba at nearby Midway’s rail docks. On some of those days, young Alfrey comes with his father. Seven year olds have limited functional use on a plantation, so he is not missed. These missions do not go unnoticed by others… specifically Herbert Love.

His milk and milk byproducts are emerging as a marketable commodity, with the aid of the ice produced in his ice plant. Milk must be kept at 38 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure freshness, a feat heretofore not seriously attempted in this arid climate. It is his habit to make sure his 20 gallon cans of white nectar are properly transferred to his very own, specially designed railroad cars. When it is a humid 90 degrees outside, his methods of refrigeration are critical.

It is here at the train station, that the Quincy businessman and newly elected mayor, meets and gets to know Willy and Alfrey (Campbell), on their only common ground. He has told his wife, who has bore him no children, as well as many of his friends, that he would like to deliver Willy and his house to true freedom.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Opposites (the worm should not be smiling)

Episode #25


page 24

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #24

Leave a comment

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #24

…The Emancipation Proclamation is loosely applied, conveniently ignored, even mocked by owners of plantations…

Fort Sumter-001

Leon County lays claim to Tallahassee. Gadsen County has its Midway and Quincy. This is like comparing a metropolis to a berg or an employer to a slaver: John Ferrell to, let’s say, Jefferson Smythwick.

 Where Good meets Evil & Right meets Wrong

Blacks take a back seat; their rightful place in the previous equation, according to some and likely to be kept in this place by shrinking number of die-hard racists. Jefferson Smythwick is such a man; Confederate to the bone, longtime slave owner, who refuses to let go of the past. ‘I’m too old to change.’ ‘Every one of my niggers is treated better than they deserve.’

Regarding the first quote, that may be true. As for the second, it is true only if you include third rate food and tar paper shacks as forms of reasonable compensation. The use of the “N” word indicates his level of respect for his “Employees”.

1896 Florida

The Emancipation Proclamation is loosely applied, conveniently ignored, even mocked by owners of plantations the size of Smythwicks’ Fort Sumter South. Five thousand acres of cotton, rice, tobacco and sugar cane require many to tend its fields. Because of the sprawling acreage involved, land is divided into numerous farms, each with its own unique management position: the overseer.

There are very few plantations systems operating in 1896, definitely not sanctioned by any form of government, local or national. But, and a big but it is, the South is still healing itself, a mere 33 years after the Civil War. A tiger cannot change its stripes, so a rebel will always be a rebel.  There is no doubt an 80 year old rebel in the town of Midway.

It is here in Midway, on one of the farms of Fort Sumter South, that we find the Campbell family, living and working as a unit. Willy Campbell is one of the best workers in these parts, a cigar maker by trade, as was his father before him. His combination of strength and aromatic skill make him a valuable human commodity. Wife Amanda, compliments him well, caring for the family in their private shack; a tainted privilege, considering that most families are split up. Some others have headed to the relative freedom north. The Campbells fall somewhere in between.

Amanda also provides the collective with five healthy children, but that counts young Emily, the fourth oldest having been run over by a runaway cargo wagon at the age of 2. Females have less worth than do males, of which Hosea and Alfrey make an oldest and youngest sandwich around Agnes and Francis; four children to grow up in a world of hard work and suppression.

This fine Negro family is viewed from the outside, as the victim of a cruel anomaly. They are, for all intents and purposes, still slaves. Yet they are being treated just well enough that they think they have it pretty good. Slaves are not paid, do not own anything of real value and, most importantly, are not free to “quit”.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #24


page 23

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #20

Leave a comment

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #20

…When two human beings hit it off, female/male in this case, the chemistry can be notable and not easily mistaken…

“You are burning daylight. Lake Killarney ain’t around the corner, Martha, closer to Georgia

Panhandle Dawn

than Tallahassee.” There is genuine concern in John Ferrell’s voice. He loves his family, though the time he spends working helps makes up for a general shortfall of attention given to him.

Perhaps the stabilizing factor in their relational equation is the former Martha Gaskell, eight years his senior. She had already graduated from Vassar College, the all-girl school in Poughkeepsie, when she met an 18 year old Scottish freshman from Columbia University. She is in the big city researching topics at its arts library. Young John has a part-time job as a research assistant. Martha thinks John does a wonderful job. She visits with him frequently, not coincidentally, whenever their paths cross in a library that covers a New York City block.

When two human beings hit it off, female/male in this case, the chemistry can be notable and not easily mistaken. It must be the random nature of the phenomenon, circumstances apart from the machinations of mankind. Sometimes we are much better off leaving it in the hands of the Master. It is heavenly great, and what’s more, a part of a real plan; as plotted by God, who knew us even before we were born.

The attraction is deeply mutual, to the point that Martha is taken home to Florida for a visit. During Christmas break of 1879, she meets his family, who own a small general store in Tallahassee, saving every penny to give their son a chance at a better life, the American dream.

We now find Martha and John embracing, at Christmas in July, 1896, unaccustomed to being apart. They rarely spend a day apart; their four post brass bed with two permanent impressions in its feather mattress.

John Ferrell waves heartily at the cloud of dust speeding away at the machine-driven pace of twelve miles per hour.

Paul Cezanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire (1897)


 Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #20


page 19