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A Great Leap from the Path
I was born in the town of Wellspring, and here I have lived my whole entire life. Never have I dreamt of going anywhere else. This town was all I had wanted or ever had seemingly needed, and outsiders were always shunned upon by our folk. Our town is located on a small hill making it so some houses are uphill from us, and some are downhill from us. There is, however, one flat area near the center where the Post Road is located. People in this town have a certain way of life and stick to it, not differing from its normal path. Nothing, however, could have prepared me to face the drastic change that was about to come upon my town, and never could I have imagined that I, Eli Jenkins, a thirteen year old boy, could possible have accomplished something so unusual and so very different from my normal, everyday life.
My story starts on the morning of September sixteenth. I wake up to the sound of our neighbor Daniel Thomas splintering wood for the hearth. This marks the time I usually arouse from my slumber. I now start my methodical process of washing my face in the washbasin, getting dressed for the day, drawing water from our well, and so on, until both my parents awaken. I come back inside from drawing our morning water to find my mother cooking up some cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast. After pouring myself milk, I go to sit down. My mother, Abigail Jenkins, works hard to keep everything stable around the house, and I feel she cares a lot about our family. “How’d you sleep?” she asks, “Well?”
“Yea, I guess,” I murmur. “Same as I usually do.”
“Well, after breakfast today, I need you to go to the tavern and purchase a newspaper. I am quite sure that a shipment just came in, and you know how your father always likes to know about what is happening between the Colonies and England.”
My father, Jonas Jenkins, is part of the town council where occasional meetings are held to discuss relatively important matters in the town. I’ve always admired him and I think that he’s a very large part of what keeps are family afloat during these hard times. My mother hands me my porridge and I start to eat it. “Okay,” I respond, “and will it be fine if I stop at the Thomas’s house on the way back?”
“Very well,” replies my mother, “but be sure to get a paper before they run out and we have to wait three more months for one.”
“Fine,’ I say, ‘they’re not that popular among the townspeople anyway.”
The sun shines brightly and I find that the earth has cooled since yesterday. Autumn is now fully in the air, and the crisp air is fresh on my face. The post office is located in the tavern down near the river. Upon arriving at the tavern, I swing open the door to find Jay Hawkins, the tavern caretaker, at the counter. “Good day,” I say, “one newspaper, please.”
“Hey Eli, how’s it going? Is all well?”
“Everything’s fine,” I respond. He hands me a paper and wishes me a good day. On the hike back up to my house I see a most unusual sight, a redcoat soldier. In this town, we have only ever heard of these men, but certainly have never seen them. I arrive on the road to find a whole group of soldiers. I hear them shouting at a bunch of people that includes my father. I run up to them. “Stand Down,” one redcoat shouts. “We request a week’s worth of food and water along with five pounds from each family. These are orders from his majesty King George the Third.” I sneak around the back of the line of soldiers to stand with my father. “Go back to the house with your mother,” says my father. I’ll be back soon.” I obey his orders and arrive home. Five minutes later my father comes back saying, “All they wanted was food and money. After they got what they wanted, they left. It is very strange for redcoats to want anything to do with our town, but thank heavens they left without injuring anyone. When they departed, though, David Thomas, the head of the town council, requested a meeting in the tavern at six o’clock sharp.”
The meeting lasts about an hour and a half, and my father comes back looking tired.
“The council has requested that a militia be formed in this town on the account of the safety of its inhabitants. We don’t know if redcoats are going to come again and what their intentions will be. Safety is foremost important. All men aged thirteen and above must take part.” This strikes me at first as terrifying, but then I realize that there is a great chance that I won’t even have to look at another redcoat, let alone kill one. “Does this include me?’ I ask. “Of course it does,” responds my father. “You are as much of a man as any other boy your age, and you are my son.” I don’t respond. I just look out the window and think. I’m not sure what I am getting into, and the biggest reason for my unwillingness to take part is not my fear of killing, but my fear of stepping out of the comfortable normality of everyday life.
The next morning at breakfast my father comes back inside after having a long talk with John Baker, the designated militia leader. Upon entering, he tells us of an impending redcoat army headed for our area of New York. “John Baker says that reports of the army say that it is heading northward towards our region,” my father exclaims. As members of our militia, we must aid other militias to help destroy this army before it reaches the town. We leave as soon as possible.
My father and I are hurriedly mounted upon a horse and are leaving the town in what seems like a minute. We ride for hours until I hear the first gunshot. I have brought with me an old blunderbuss that was given to me by John Baker. We can now, after getting closer to the army, see a stream of red through the trees and are ordered to stand by our positions a few hundred yards in front of them. Some of our men are hiding behind rocks and some are standing out in the open, looking like sitting ducks. All this time, though, I can’t help but think, “What am I doing here?”
Next comes the blood. We fire at the army and complete havoc takes over. Terror rushes through me. Never have I experienced something so intimidating than the sound of war. The earsplitting sound of gunfire by itself is enough to make anyone want to run away. The whole time I hide behind my rock without even touching the trigger on my gun. I look up to see Daniel Thomas reloading his rifle behind a tree. However, before he can look up, a bullet comes screaming out of nowhere and hits him straight on. He falls down hard on the ground, unconscious. “No,” I scream in my head, “this can’t be happening!” It takes all of my strength and courage to crawl over to him.” I can tell he’s not dead when I hear a steady heartbeat through his shirt.
The next few hours involve by far the most dreadful experiences of my life. I muster every bit of strength in my body to drag Daniel Thomas out of the battle and to my horse, all the while, ducking behind rocks and trees to stay out of range of guns. I don’t know where my father is or what is happening to him, but I prop us both on the horse and ride back to Wellspring. Sometime during this, I too fall unconscious, gratefully letting the world slip to black.
Somehow, the horse carries me all the way back to Wellspring. Jack, one of Daniel Thomas’s sons, finds me lying on the ground next to his father. I am shaken again and again, but never regain full consciousness until I find myself in my bed. I feel that this is where I want to spend the rest of eternity. My mother comes in and stares at me. She says something like, “I need to know what happened to you.” I tell her what I can remember, and she just sits there, staring at me the whole time. “Lord, you are something,” she tells me. “The doctor tells me that Daniel Thomas got hit in the thigh. It is not fatal, and that, with time, it will be fine. Your father is downstairs. We sent someone on horseback to tell him about your arrival and he came rushing back the minute he heard. I will go tell him your story. For now, you need rest.”
I cannot argue with that. I think I have been through more that day than in a lifetime, and I feel like I could sleep forever and still be tired from all that have happened. I feel terrible for the Thomas family. Almost losing my father scares me more than half to death. What I did was out of a sense of right and wrong, and that was what propelled me to make a split second decision that very well could have saved his and my life. I may now have a story to tell, but those who don’t act in the time of need can never tell stories. More importantly for me, I have the great feeling of overcoming obstacles in my path that I could never have imagined I could overcome. I, Eli Jenkins, have not deferred from the path of everyday life, but I have taken a great leap from it; that in which has benefited me for the rest of my life.