Yep, I’m doing a second Finger Food in a row. Sorta. Part of it is I owe Elliott a solid. The other part is we will be having a guest contributor from The TX Files Podcast later this week.
So until then, I wanted to share a little bit of the behind the scene work when it comes to writing these episodes. Episode 24 started out very differently. Below is the opening story I had trying to introduce you to the Follett family. Ultimately, this story just wasn’t necessary. It was fun to write but I decided shortly before record time to go a different direction.
I decided to take this opportunity to share my story that didn’t make it to air, and how I unceremoniously introduced myself to the Follett Family…
There was a small cemetery near my neighborhood growing up. It was unobtrusive and even hidden under years and decades of overgrown shrubbery. If you didn’t know any better, you would never have known it existed even while living in the area for years. It just sank back into the trees, letting nature reclaim it while the neighborhood grew around it.
None of us gave much thought about it growing up. It was New England. You could drive in the country and come across random family plots that sometimes practically were in the middle of the road. Literally, this small cemetery was in between two houses, hiding behind a small almost ancient wall of stacked stone.
Rumor was these walls were built by slaves. The idea seemed preposterous growing up. These walls were everywhere in the countryside there and the idea that slaves did this was just far too confounding. Not for people who felt they were enlightened, growing up in the center of education, in a state that held the world’s most premiere universities. This state fought to free the slaves! The scars of the civil war were still being felt in far off places like the south, not in Massachusetts.
But it is easy to forget that Rhode Island and Massachusetts were the epicenter of the slave trade during the early colonial days. Slaves were traded from Africa to the Caribbean. Some of those slaves came to New England along with a large shipment of Caribbean sugar cane. And New England would manufacture rum and other goods back to Africa. Wash, rinse, and repeat. It wasn’t a very efficient cycle. It was estimated to have taken a year to complete in full. But it was enough to begin the industrial growth in the north. The building of walls in the country. Of whole universities. Brown University’s very foundation is covered in the hands of slaves.
The point being, that in New England, in comparison to the rest of the US, things are 400-500 years old. Twice the age of the country itself. And there are layers upon layers of lives and history that sit under the modern day neighborhoods and cites that litter the modern day landscape now.
Going back to the cemetery, I had heard of it but the idea of seeking it out never interested me. I respected the history and I didn’t want to accidentally defile the old tombstones that were haphazardly trying to maintain their vigil over the family that lay there. But I knew it was nearby. To be honest, it was no further than 50 feet from the bus stop that I went to every day. That goes to show how strong the undergrowth became.
I met the Follett Family plot by accident. It was a Halloween night. No fooling. I know it sounds really cliché’s but just follow me a moment. At the age of 12 my friends and I were wanton to go about trick or treating by ourselves at that point. We had important candy to grab and we couldn’t be slowed down by our fathers and younger siblings. It’s basically a rite of passage to be able to trick or treat on your own without your parents.
But it also holds inherent risk. For every preteen that was out there, there was also the older, more nefarious teenager whose goal was the sweet succulence of a snickers bar. No, their goal was to create mayhem, strife, and fear. Rumors were there were several groups of high schoolers roaming in trucks tracking down trick or treaters and throwing eggs at them. We weren’t too worried as long as we stayed in our neighborhood. We promised our parents to do so. The bordering road by the bus stop was not well lit and it was a big hazard for us to cross that night anyway.
But of course we went outside the neighborhood. That’s what kids do! It wasn’t like we were out TP’ing the trees or putting shaving cream in someone’s mailbox. No, we were just looking for candy. And the endeavor had gone well. We were able to add a nice bit of inventory to our pillow cases. And just as the evening had started to quiet and the group of 12 or so of us walked along the side of that country road laughing and talking about what 12 and eleven year olds discuss, there was an ominous light that shown before us about a quarter mile down the road on a small hill.
We all stopped aware that we were on the main artery and exposed to traffic. We were quiet as we heard the engine of the now identified truck begin to grow louder and it dawned on us that it was time to go.
There is no chivalry as children. There was no order. We scattered. We went into all sorts of different directions trying to avoid those high schoolers that were yipping and hollering. Most of the group went left. I was the only one that hopped the wall and went right. Crashing through thick brush. I lay there quietly hyperventilating as the truck drove by throwing what I assumed eggs. It sounded like eggs. But I luckily never felt the cold sticky yoke. They didn’t linger thankfully, continuing down the road past where all my friends scattered. I didn’t want to give away my position so I lay there for a good few minutes before I felt it was safe. I took the quiet as a sign the rest of my group had been able to make it back to the neighborhood. Deciding it was best to use the woods as a cover I quietly began to jog behind the tree line along the road to get back home.
And that was when I unceremoniously caught my foot on a heavy rock hidden under the discarded leaves and fell down. Now this story is true. And while it would be dramatic to say that I was face to face with the headstone of one of the Follett family members that would not be accurate. It was too dark in there. I accidentally grabbed one to help myself up while I recovered from my smarting knee.
That was when I realized I was introduced to one of the oldest families in New England. In their cemetery plot. In the middle of the woods. On a dark black night in October.
Yeah, I didn’t stay very long to lend pay my respects.
So there you have it. Should I have kept it in? I'm still not sure. But I'm glad I got to share this little piece of my history. Anyway, stay tuned for a future contribution from The TX Files!