Big Tobias, as his friends called him, was a slave. He did stand large, well over six feet tall, and he man looked strong as an ox. Unfortunately over the years, his master had taken notice of his unusual muscle and abused him; sometimes expecting twice as much out of him as any others. Never did Tobias disappoint him. And never again would he have the opportunity to do so, for slavery was now against the law of the states and at daylight he would be pronounced a free man. The north having won the abominable war, the black man was no more the slave to the white.
Bowing reverently, the God-fearing man bowed to the floor. Looking around at the dozens of men in the bunk-filled room, only one or two did not join in on the ritual of prayer that took place every morning. As usual, the thanks and requests to the Creator were many and were given in obvious sincerity. Thirty minutes later, the lot of them left the building and headed for the river. It was there that all the slaves of the McFarley ranch were to be released. As James McFarley spoke, the feelings that swelled through Tobias’ soul were unexplainable. The man that previously had many times whipped and beaten him, now stood there before everyone, telling each one that they were free to go. Of course, if not for the lawman next to McFarley, none of the men would be able to leave, as the master was not one to care for laws and ordinances. Hard to believe that in only minutes, Tobias, his wife Ruth, and their boy Malachi, would be off to a new life. Where exactly they had no idea, but they all trusted in their God as to the Future.
The speech was short, then all began to disperse. Freedom. Tobias’ emotions surged. Tears began to roll from the big man’s eyes. The burden was gone to serve another man for another man’s profit. The Lord had gotten him through these horrendous years. Tobias felt no anger, no sense of vengeance; for he knew that all men would stand before God one day and receive their just reward. But Tobias felt grateful. His heart was full of joy as he thought of the deliverance that his Lord had given him and all of the others that had been in the same situation. Looking up at the sun that was now rising, the emotional man slowly began to sing. “Amazing grace...” His voice lifting higher now, Tobias wiped the tears from his eyes and started again. As he did, a few others turned to listen. “Amazing grace...” There was a few seconds delay as those that looked, stopped to watch. “How sweet the sound...” Tobias’ voice being quite loud caught the attention of many; for nearly all had ceased their labors and movements to hear the powerful words. In fact, the women and children were coming out of the various buildings. The sun shining brightly in his eyes, Tobias sang as if no one else was present. The words were drawn out and each syllable was emphasized. “That saved a wretch like me.” Freedom! Even McFarley and his hands quieted and stood in awe. “I once was lost, but now I am found.” The former slave took a step towards the river and on his face was a smile, a large smile that evidenced pure joy. “Was blind, but now I see.” Slowly now, nearly all of the others that were preparing to leave joined in the singing and simultaneously they walked to Tobias as well. Surely over a hundred black men and their families stood there, facing the beautiful sunrise. “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.”
In unison, the voices rang out triumphantly! “Thru many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” Tobias’ wife and child ran to him, the boy clutching at his father’s torn pant leg. Now all were silent and every eye was on the big man as he finished the last verse. More tears appeared from each eye. “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, then when we’ve first begun.” For long seconds they all stood, then slowly and with no words they left the beautiful river and the glorious sunrise.