Time and again people have asked how I learned how to write and when it all began. In cleaning out my mother’s house I found a hand-written essay of mine from elementary school days at Northwood Elementary in the early 1960s, perhaps when I was eleven or twelve, though there is no date on the paper. In other words, this is a story I wrote at least fifty years ago.
I do not claim this is a great story or great literature, but it provides some clues about the gift of writing God gave me from an early age, especially when it comes to writing narrative.
The wind was chilly and the leaves were falling off the trees in reds and yellows. The field was a carpet of brown grass. The boy sat under the giant elm in the middle of the field day-dreaming, and looking at the beautiful robin’s egg blue sky with puffs of cotton dotted across the horizon. The time— October 17th, 1777; the place the middle of upper New York state. Suddenly, the earth was shaken, with a tremendous noise. The boy knew it was cannon in the distance.
“It’s finally happened. The British have run into our army. Sounds like the noise is coming from up Sartoga way.” His thoughts wandered…
Suddenly he jumped up and ran to the stables. Ezekiel Frye, the stable boy was brushing and combing down John Winters.
“Let me have my horse,” said the boy energetically.
“Yes sir, I’ve just finished him up.”
The boy leaped into the saddle and raced off down the road in a cloud of dust.
“That boy sure is in an awful hurry to get somewhere, “said Ezekiel.
He was riding very fast, he knew that. He was going to see a real battle. He knew there was going to be one soon. John was moving as fast as his four hooves would let him go, and the boy’s pigtail was flying in the breeze along with his green vest.
“Let’s move it boy,” he urged his horse onward. Everything around him was a blur. All he could see was the ran colored road being gobbled up by a pair of black and white legs. Suddenly as he rounded the bend after the Halpern’s farm, there was an ear-splitting sound. The horse abruptly halted and whinnied. There right before his eyes was a battle, a real one too.
He got off John and tied him to a tree at the edge of the forest. He ran toward the blue Continental uniforms, moving down into the valley from the crest of the hill. He ran with all of his might in the blazing hot sun. As he reached the crest of the hill, he saw bullets fly and a score of red coats fall. The Americans were winning, he could tell that. He jumped up and down with joy every time he saw a red coat fall.
It was now late in the afternoon. All at once the shooting stopped and a gigantic cheer went up. He saw a true flag held up by a British officer. It was tied to his sword which was flashing in the sunlight. He walked down into the valley with a long gold and silver sword in a scabbard. He handed it to a man in a blue and white uniform who was next to a beautiful white horse. The boy gradually walked down the grassy slope. Suddenly, a soldier in the American army saw the boy and said, “Hey captain, let this lad take the message to General Washington.”
“What message?” asked the boy.
“Why that the Americans have beaten Burgoyne’s Army and have captured them too!” the captain said.
The boy was off in a flash before anyone could say another word. He knew Washington was encamped at White Plains, some twenty miles southwest of there. He and John Winters went flying down the road. Soon enough it got dark but the boy kept riding. He saw black forests on either side of him, and sometimes an occasional light from a farmhouse. He passed the Red Door Tavern and knew he had twelve miles to go. For him it was a race against time. After seventeen miles of hard riding he thought he and his horse would drop dead on that spot. But the noble steed kept plodding away the miles. The moon rose over the tree tops and made eerie shadows on the pale white road ahead of him. Suddenly, he took a sharp turn to the right and there in front of him was a flat treeless plain next to a big forest. He rode into the camp and saw the men around the campfires next to their tents because it was chilly that night. He asked where Washington’s tent was. Suddenly, there in front of him was Washington himself!
“General Washington sir, I have a message of importance for you.”
“And what is it lad,” the commander in chief’s eyes of deep brown and his wrinkled face looked down on the boy with a smile.
“That the Americans have defeated and captured Burgoyne’s Army at Sara…” suddenly a shot range out from the near by woods and the boy’s body slumped to the ground……
The next thing he knew, the boy was in bed in Washington’s tent with a pain like fire in his left arm. He looked up and saw the commander in chief leaning over him with a smile.
“You’ll be alright lad, just a flesh wound from a dirty Tory who was trying to shoot me. You saved my life son, son, son…”
The word’s rang in the boy’s head. Suddenly the boy woke up, next to the giant elm tree, and stared puzzled at the setting sun.