The daily slop would turn a burnt orange ting as each child stuck their dirty little red clay covered hands into the feeding trough. Master Hollingsworth thought it was fitting for the children to eat like hogs. He did not value one over the other, neither slave child nor pig was worth much to him. However, it broke the heart of Tempy, a young slave girl who had birthed one of those children. “Massa Hollingsworth”, as she pronounced his title, wouldn’t let the young women name their children.
“Whenever he gets old enough to do something useful, like pick cotton, I’ll name him something. Now quit that God forsaken crying and get back to work, woman.”
Hollingsworth’s words still echoed through Tempy’s memory of that day, when she gave birth to that little dark skinned boy on a half-filled burlap sack in the middle of an endless field of cotton.
“Massa Hollingsworth goin’ to names you sumthin’ different, but I is goin’ to names you Noah,” she whispered as she sat alone that first night, nursing the one and only thing in this world that half way belonged to her.
She felt, deep down in her soul, that she had to name him Noah. The name Noah was from a bible story that her mama had taught her when she was a little girl. Her mama had told her how God judged the world and directed Noah to build a boat. Noah built that boat and then the rains came. Noah was in that boat for over one hundred and fifty days and nights. Noah began to think God had forgotten all about him. Then the bible says, “But God remembered Noah…” God saved Noah and blessed him and his family. When Tempy’s mother died, she gave Tempy a scrap piece of paper. On it was four little words, “But God remembered Noah.” Tempy didn’t know where it had come from, her mother could not read nor write. However, Tempy cherished that note about Noah. That small note gave her so much hope. She could never name her first born anything but Noah. Although she could never speak his name aloud, Tempy would know it and her God would know it as well.
Hollingsworth named the young man George, but that was just for the record books that he kept. Very seldom did you hear Hollingsworth call his slaves anything respectable as George. The only time Tempy ever remembered hearing him call her son by his official name was the day he decided George was old enough to work the fields.
“Here’s your sack boy,” Master Hollingsworth hollered as he threw it on the ground in front of the boy. “You might as well get used to stooping. By the way, I reckon I’ll call you George.”
Tempy, like all the other slaves, called him George from that day forward. But every night when Tempy bowed before God, she prayed that He would deliver Noah.
“Father God, jess like mama said, you’s never forgot Noah. No matta how bad thangs got on dat ol’ boat, you’s remembered. Please remember my Noah. Please remember my little Noah.”
Life was bad. Just like Tempy and the other slaves, George worked sixteen hours a day. The days were always brutally hot, except for the days that were brutally cold. They lived on cornmeal and the occasional fatback they got when a pig mysteriously died and the master was nervous about eating it. They lost loved ones to sickness, beatings, or the auction block. But through it all, Tempy clung to her hope.
“Come over son, set by yo mama,” Tempy said in a tired voice as she pulled a scrap piece of paper out from under her head wrap. “I wants to give you sumthin.”
George had grown to be a strong young man, but Tempy could see that tired look in his eyes. That look someone gets when they have lost all hope.
“What you gots mama?” George reached out his hand and took the yellowed piece of scrap paper.
“I’s got hope and I’s wants you’s to have it too,” said Tempy .
Tempy told George about that night many years before. She told him that in her heart, she had named him Noah. She told him that same story of hope that her mama had told her years before.
“Never lose hope, child,” said Tempy as Noah read the note. “God remembered Noah and He’s goin’ remembers you too.”
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