“Isn’t this the best thing ever?” said Annie to her husband, “It’s gotta be the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had..like ever. But Rhett didn’t hear her. He was transfixed with the wintry view outside. He had been so lost in his head with the wedding plans and wedding itself-the last few weeks in themselves had been such a blur. He was just enjoying the peace and the calmness of not having to do anything at that exact moment. The River Bend B&B was just what he needed.
The newlyweds were ready to unpack and get settled. They felt like they’d been through a worldwind, with the wedding and all, and the quiet their room felt so peaceful,
“What do you wanna do first?” said Annie, who was exhausted but eager. However Rhett had already passed out on the bed. Annie snuggled up next to her new husband and decided a nap would be a good idea.
The next day, they were fully rested, and ready to have a blast on their honeymoon. They were making new friends on the slopes from nearby places and were enjoying getting to know each of them. They met the George’s from Vermont who had brought their 2 little children, The Moeller’s, who were an older couple from Germany, The Simmons Family, who looked liked they had never touched a ski in their lives, and a couple younger adults who seemed more interested in picking up members of the opposite sex then skiing. It was definitely a mixed crowd. Which was fun for the new Mr and Mrs Todd, who didn’t normally get out all that much.
Later that night, as they were relaxing in the common area hot tub, 2 members of the Simmons family came to soak. They got talking, not so quietly, about some rumors they’d heard about the area around them-the town and the river. Rhett and Annie began to get a little annoyed, but it was a common area so they couldn’t really do much. But they couldn’t help overhearing their silly rumor talk.
So they tried to ignore them. They started rambling on about how this area had been a “hotspot’ after the Civil War, and how supposedly somewhere on the grounds was a hatch, where the slaves could get to a place to hide and wait, wait for however long it took to catch the next “train” (horse/wagon) and get to the next safe place.
Annie finally chimed in and said, “Please guys, we’re on our honeymoon and just want a little peace and quiet..”
“Oh, I’m sorry ma’am, we are just so excited to check it out tomorrow. That’s the only reason we came here. I know y’all can tell we ain’t no skiers, right?”
The Todd’s tried to stifle a laugh but it was pretty obvious. Annie said sheepishly, “Is there really a hatch around here somewhere?”
“Well if there is, we plannin on finding it tomorrow,” said the older of the 2, “We ain’t trying to bust our backs tryna skiing again! Lord have mercy, I am sore!”
Then the brother finally spoke up and asked how come it seemed like they didn’t believe them.
“Well. I’m not sure I do believe you.” Annie said quietly
“Well that’s all well and good, and I’m sure y’all got your reasons, but boy are you gonna be surprised when we prove y’all wrong.”
“What about you?” He nodded to Rhett.
“Heck, I don’t know. That was a long time ago. And I’m not even sure I believe the underground railroad was real.”
“Hold up,” Now you can not believe in a lot of things, but you cannot deny all the negroes that made it up north and became free. Go ask Ms Sherry at the B&B about the quilts-she knows.”
Annie and Rhett didn’t know what to think at this point. They looked at each other and shrugged. “Who knows?” said Rhett quizzically as he scratched his head.
Annie mentioned talking to Ms Sherry, the owner of the B&B later, but Rhett was already grabbing his towel and watching the football game on the big screen through the big glass panel.
She told the Simmon’s she’d like to hear the story and so they told her to meet up and come with them later that day. They’d be going out ‘adventuring’ and they’d tell them everything.
Around 3:00 they met up in the lounge for drinks and nestled in a corner booth. It was gonna be a long story, Annie could tell.
“Miss Sherry,” they hollered over to the bartender, “Come tell these people about them quilts and all.”
“Yea, yea, I’m coming,” She responded, pouring herself a cup of coffee. She headed over and looked at the Todd’s. “So you don’t believe in the underground railroad, I hear, is that right?” she asked, kind of annoyed.
Annie started to explain that it wasn’t that, they just weren’t sure, but Miss Sherry cut her off.
What I’m about to tell you is 100% true, passed down from many generations, from the ones who experienced it. “Y’all ready for this?” she teased.
“Yes, yes!” said Annie , and even Rhett had become eager by this point.
“Well the truth about the underground railroad is that it was not underground, and it was not a railroad.”
The Todd’s looked at her, confused, while the Simmons just smiled, because they already knew.
“Fact of the matter is, that’s just what they called it, to confuse the white men. What it really was, was houses-all over, where runaway slaves could hide until the next rider came through and could take them north, to freedom. Some houses had hatches, or hidden rooms.”
“That must be the hatch we been hearing about!” said one of the Simmons boys.
Annie stared off…”What were the quilts for, Miss Sherry?”
“Oh that’s the best part!” she said excitedly, “The quilts were the negros’ way of secretly communicating with all the other riders, and runaways.”
“What do you mean?” asked Annie
Sherry responded, “It was like a code, it told the runaways and riders where the next safe house was.”
“Now that doesn’t even make any sense,” said Rhett smirking at Shelly “How’s a quilt gonna tell anyone anything?
Sherry chuckled, “You know this place here, called the River Bend B&B? The legend says the quilt to get here had a winding river sewn into it, and it led them this way. And we had one with mountains quilted into it. So they knew they’d be heading to the mountains straight away after this.”
Annie was fascinated. She knew basically nothing about the underground railroad, and Rhett knew even less. It was the quietest she’d ever seen the Simmons’. And she wondered how it must have felt for them to hear what their ancestors went through.
“Let’s go for a walk,” said Miss Sherry, and up she got and off she went. The others glanced at each other and shrugged, but quickly followed her. They followed her way out, through the snow, to an old raggedy looking shack on the back end of the property.
Once there, they tore down the overgrowth and pulled the weeds out of the way. Miss Sherry struggled with the door, but once the others helped and she got inside, she brushed off something on the ground and finally got it open.
“There’s your hatch.” she said.
All anyone could do was stare. They were staring straight into history, each from their own perspectives. It was so surreal, not a word was spoken. Everyone’s head was racing with thoughts, feelings and prayers, for every body-every soul that had been down–and up that hole.