Kyle and Kevin Ashby wiggled and fidgeted restlessly in the back seat of the Mercedes ML500. The long trip from Houston was taking its toll on the 9 year old boys. The boys both had finished their assortment of Nintendo DS games and had since become bored.
"Dad, are we close yet?" came the inevitable question from the back seat.
David Ashby checked his car navigation system. "Sorry son, still about 40 more miles to Rosedale," he replied. "But that's only about an hour." He glanced in the rear view and smiled at his sons.
David looked toward Sarah, his wife who was fast asleep in the passenger seat. There were just not enough of these family outings. This was the first major getaway since he had married Sarah -- other than their honeymoon. The twins were not quite to the point of calling her "mom" yet and David hoped this trip would change that.
After arriving in Rosedale Mississippi, the family stopped for dinner and then bought some necessities. They then made the final leg of their journey. Soon David saw his turn off.
"This is the place," he said.
He turned off the highway and onto a dirt road. It was a rough dirt road and was in dire need of grading. In a short distance, they arrived at a locked gate. David stopped the SUV and got out. After fumbling for a moment or two, he found the key, unlocked the gate and the boys rushed out to help him open it.
"Wow awesome place Dad," remarked Kevin. "Cool woods all around. We sure can get lost in here"
"That's exactly why you each have a handheld GPS." David said as he ushered them back in the vehicle. "I'll expect you to carry them with you at all times. I know how much you two are going to love to explore this place, but the woods are thick and they go on ... well for a long ways."
They eased through the iron gate and further into the property. The wood closed in on the road and branches began to scrape up against the Mercedes SUV as they slowly drove along.
"The woods are taking over the road," remarked Sarah. "Tomorrow, I'll call for a landscaper to come take of it".
"The boys can take care of the basic trimming," David said. "They do plenty of yard work around home right boys?" He turned around to look at them. They rolled their eyes as if to say "ah gee Dad do we have to".
Just then the SUV cleared the woods and the narrow dirt road led them out into the open where they could see the house.
"Oh it's even lovelier than the picture," Sarah exclaimed.
The plantation house was a 25 room place with an garden in front that badly needed tending. David pulled the SUV up to the front and stopped. After fumbling with the keys again, David swung the heavy oak doors open and everyone went inside.
"Whoa his place is old" remarked Kyle. "And huge!"
"Come on upstairs everyone," said David. "I'll show you the rooms".
There were a dozen rooms upstairs, but David had arranged to have only a few of them cleaned in preparation for their arrival. David and Sarah were to take the master bedroom at the north end. The twins were given their own separate rooms - two rooms on the south end of the upstairs overlooking the woods on that side.
The rest of the evening was spent getting settled and exploring. Much to Kyle and Kevin's dismay, David found a Caretaker's Cottage which contained a wide assortment of grounds maintenance tools. The twins were given marching orders to begin hacking back the overgrown foliage from the road in the morning.
Everyone was tired after the long drive and no one had any desire to stay up late. The family had all retired by 9:00pm.
The next morning, Sarah prepared a delicious breakfast in the spacious plantation kitchen. After breakfast, the boys were taken out for their assignment. David handed them each a pair of long-handle pruners and walked with them to the edge of the wooded road.
"Start here and work your way back to the gate," he said. "Just focus on clipping the really intrusive branches and limbs. I'll need to hire someone to grade this road anyway, and they can do the heavy duty clearing. Just worry about the worst offenders, clear?"
The boys both nodded affirmative.
"Oh and it's going to be hot today," David went on. "Here's some water" He handed them a couple of bottles of Aqua Fina. "I don't expect you to do it all in one day. Be sure to quit by noon ok?"
"Ok Dad" they answered in unison as the twins often did.
The twins immediately got to work as David made his way back to the house. Meanwhile, back at the house Sarah had found her way into the library.
She was awestruck as she leafed through the old books and document collections - many of them handwritten documents of the pre civil war period. In addition to the books and documents, the library wall had an amazing collection of old photos. There were photos from the mid 1800's and on through the end of that century. There were photos of the plantation mansion at various points and the families that lived here. Most interesting were pictures of the black slaves. There was a very clear photo of a young slave boy who looked to be about 10. Another clear photo showed the same boy with his slave family.
"I see you've found the library," David said as he walked in.
"This isn't a library," Sarah said. "It's a museum!"
David smiled. "I suspected the Vice President of the Greater Houston Historical Society would get a kick out of this room".
"It's completely amazing, David!" Sarah said. "These photos of slaves are extremely rare" she pointed to the photo of the young boy. "Especially to find them this well-preserved. And these journals! Well I know where I'll be spending the rest of this visit!"
David laughed. "Well do come out for dinner and some family time" he said as he kissed her cheek.
The twins had a fair amount of work completed as noon approached. They sat down on a log to rest.
"Whew it's hot" remarked Kevin as he wiped his face with his T shirt.
Just then, seemingly out of nowhere, another boy came walking up the road toward them. He was a black boy who looked to be around the twins age but he was dressed rather strangely. He wore very old style looking shorts - the kind that Kyle and Kevin had only seen in movies. The shorts were made of some heavy patchwork material.
"Hi ho" the boy said as he waved and smiled. "Sho is warm today ain't it?"
"Aye yea," said Kyle. "I'm Kyle, this is my brother Kevin".
"Please to make ya acquaintances. I be Jimbo".
Kevin noticed that Jimbo's pants were dripping wet. "You been swimming Jimbo?" he asked.
"Yep. I gots me a nice swimmin hole. Wanna see? Youz guys look all hot," he said.
Kyle and Kevin looked at each other and grinned. "Lead on Jimbo!" Kyle said.
The boys followed Jimbo into the woods by way of a trail they had not previously noticed. Soon they arrived at a nice clear pond fed by a small creek. Jimbo jumped in and splashed the two twins. "Last one in!" he laughed.
Kevin and Kyle took off their shoes, socks and shirts and joined him. Soon the three boys were frolicking in the water like 3 old friends.
After a while Jimbo said, "Hey ya how long can you hold your breath?"
The twins thought about it for a minutes and Kevin said "Well we have dived before but never too deep, why?"
"Cuz they be an underwater cave that goes to a really neat place. You jez to have to see it to buleeve it" Jimbo said. "But you have to hold your breath for about 60 seconds".
"Oh we can do that," Kyle said. With that the boys took a huge deep breath and dove down with Jimbo leading the way.
Sarah was in the living area completely lost in the old manuscripts she had brought out from the library. David came down stairs rubbing his eyes after taking a nap.
"Are the boys back yet?" he asked.
"Goodness, look what time it is" Sarah said as she snapped her manuscript shut. "No I haven't seen them".
"I'd better go out and have a look" he said as he looked at his watch. "Oh look at that, they forgot to take their GPS handhelds" he pointed to the 2 units sitting on a table by the door.
"Oh my, I hope they're not lost," Sarah said, concerned.
"Never fear," David fired up his notebook. "Unknown to them, they're wearing GPS trackers on their shoes. I'll just see where they are".
Sarah laughed, "Now that's what I call keeping an eye on the boys" she said.
"Well they have always been boys who love to explore and they've always had the tendency to wander off. I'm just a doting father," He smiled as he opened his map software. "Hmm, looks they've abandoned the work assignment and went off into the woods. I'm going to go surprise them." He closed his notebook and tucked it under his arm.
"Ok I'll get lunch started," Sarah said. "I'm sure they'll be hungry boys when they get back"
David went out the front door and followed the road while looking at his map on notebook. He kept an eye on the signal coming from the boy's shoes. He eventually found the trail they took and kept following their signal until he reached the pool.
But there he only found 2 pairs of shoes, socks and T shirts.
Sarah headed back to library to put the manuscripts away. She glanced at the photos again and then did a double take. The photo that showed the little black boy now showed two white boys standing alongside him. "I could have sworn he was in that photo alone" she said aloud.
Then she looked closer and gasped. Even though the photo was old and grainy, the white boys looked very much like Kyle and Kevin.
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