like my own restless free soul
I feel their spirits
As I stepped out of the car and my feet hit the dirt, my heart began to race.
The questions came pouring in. "Who walked these paths?" I needed to know their names and what they looked like. Did any of them share my exact face?
While doing some family research I found that some of my blood relatives had been registered "laborers" on the St. Louis Plantation in Plaquemine, Louisiana. My mother and father were born and raised in Plaquemine so I spent much of my time in that small town, growing up. No one had ever mentioned anything about St. Louis Plantation. I had never seen it prior to this day. Why? Did my grandparents and parents not know much about it themselves? Or did they prefer not to share what they knew about it or the stories they'd heard? All I knew is, I saw my own family's names listed as having "worked" there. How many family members were never registered? How many of our own flesh and blood had been moved elsewhere without record of it?
I walked up to the first row of sugarcane and immediately stepped back. I'm 5'11'' and the cane had to at least be four feet over my head. Now, I love being outdoors and I love to explore, but I also refuse to set myself up to encounter snakes and other wild creatures. I decided I wasn't stepping into the unknown. My husband tried to coax me into walking a row and see how it felt. It wasn't happening. More questions raised: "Did a little girl (who may have looked like me) HAVE to walk these rows?" "Did my pregnant great great great great grandmother have to be out here in the heat planting seed?" I knew the answer.
My then, 2-month-old began to cry. I knew he was hungry and looking to nurse. We made our way around to the front of the "big house." I made a resting place of the stairs leading to the front door. Somewhere shaded, so my baby could eat comfortably. More questions flooded in. "How many of my female ancestors had to nurse someone else's infant while hearing their own crying for milk?" "How many of the babies, who shared my blood, had to nurse in the heat of the sun washed cane field swarmed with mosquitoes." My blood boiled. Then came the tears....
.... then came 'Sugarcane Stills.'
....for those who didn't have the freedom to do what they loved.