The Legend of Quito Road by Dwight Fryer
The Future seems to hold limited possibilities for Son Erby. The African-American child of a farm laborer in 1930’s Tennessee, his fate seems as certain as the sunset at day’s end. But when his father takes him to work at the Coleman farm and hands down the secret to making corn liquor, everything changes.
Moving from shadowed parlors of the wealthy Sawyer clan to the illegal activities in the woods along the Mississippi River, this perspective novel explores the roots of racism, and the dangerous power of secrets that will shatter every taboo in a sleepy town caught between the past and future. The Legend of Quito Road is a look at a bygone time, the sobering echoes of which can still be heard today.
Chapter 7—A SECRET SCIENCE
In the scene below from The Legend of Quito Road, Papa Gill Erby, a religious man, teaches his only boy how to make illegal whiskey and keep secrets. Are there really many spiritual or physical differences in making crack cocaine or crystal meth today and white lightning yesterday?
“Now, Son, this is serious business, awful serious for a boy. Remember when we talked about the Ghost of Quito Road yesterday?”
“Yessuh, he was a runaway slave.”
“Son, I said that and plenty folks ‘round here know it. But they don’t talk it in public. I waited five years after we married befo’ I spoke with Sarah on this. Now, I’m telling you that the Ghost wasn’t just any man. He was my daddy, Gillam Hale.”
“Gillam Hale…” The boy paused while he processed it. “Papa, why’s your daddy’s name different than ours?”
“Well, I’ll tell you that long story after we get things set up. But, for now, I need to get a few things straight. Understand?”
“Yessuh, I do.”
“Son, remember, you promised. You know Sarah gone ask, but don’t you tell yo’ momma one thing. You hear me?”
“This week, we doing the same thing that made Gillam Hale a valuable slave to the white folks.” Papa Gill looked around as if someone else was there. One of the mules snorted. He whispered, “Me and you gone make whiskey this week on the Coleman place.”
“Whiskey?” the youth said, twisting his face.
“Yeah, that’s what we gonna do. We’ll fill every five-gallon jug in the back of this wagon with white-lightning whiskey.”
“Papa, we got twenty-five jugs! What’s Mr. Rafe and Mr. Conrad gone do with all that whiskey?”
“Sell it!” Papa Gill spat out. “They’ll probably get as much as six dollars a gallon off the whiskey we fixin’ to make.”
Papa Gill placed his left hand inside his overalls and a strained silence surrounded them from the naked roadside underbrush. Only the noises of the mule team’s hooves and the slicing sound from the steel-lined wagon wheels echoed along sandy Quito Road.
Son’s breath trails thickened in the winter air as he did the math in his head and pondered the economic possibilities.
On that farm, Mr. Conrad and Mr. Rafe Coleman raised cotton, sorghum and corn—corn so sweet that Son liked to eat it straight off the cob in the field during the summer months. You could use corn for feed or you could grind it into meal. But during this third week of December in 1932, thirteen-year-old Son Erby learned you could use corn for something else.
That week, Papa Gill taught his son to make white lightning like Gillam Hale had showed him. Making illegal corn liquor changed everything for that colored boy. Son was never the same. He learned a secret science and he learned it well.
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Meet author Dwight Fryer
Dwight Fryer has inspired audiences at universities, corporations, schools, faith communities and nonprofit organizations. His passion is to help people do all they can to succeed and use his experiences to inspire others. Fryer was diagnosed with cancer two days after a 1998 layoff. In 2001, the disease meningococcal meningitis took his youngest daughter’s life. He works as an advocate for immunization against bacterial meningitis with the National Meningitis Association. He survived a wreck caused by a driver under the influence. Contact him today for more details via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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