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A Story of a Forgotten Hero: Turning Back the Pages of Time

Watkins, Emerson

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ISBN 10: 1587362023 / ISBN 13: 9781587362026
Published by Iceni Books, 2003
Used Condition: Good
From Better World Books (Mishawaka, IN, U.S.A.)

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Title: A Story of a Forgotten Hero: Turning Back ...

Publisher: Iceni Books

Publication Date: 2003

Book Condition: Good

About this title


The heart of this exciting tale revolves around an 118-year-old African American, Tippy Pendarvis, who was born five years after the Civil War, during the height of the post-Reconstruction period.

Very few men can cram so much interest and excitement into118 years as does Tippy Pendarvis. He survives the cruel hardships that life deals him. Now, though, his leaves are fallen, his branches are withered, and his aged trunk will soon be planted. He is an old man now; his long and eventful life is nearing its close. He feels the weight of years, but he can look back into the far, dim past without regrets concerning any overt act done to him. His conscience is clear, and he believes that a just God has pardoned him for whatever sins he may have committed. But before he departs to meet his Maker, he asks for a little more time to finish his story.

What is important in this story is not so much the plot with its expected ending, but the absurd, brutal life Tippy is subjected to. He is a man who has run the full gamut of social hardship and experienced the complete panorama of degradation, a man whose courage and devotion under the most trying circumstances have caused mankind to wonder in silent admiration. Truly the world knows nothing of some of its greatest heroes, for there are noble men and women who die without fanfare. There are heroes without the laurels and conquerors with the triumph. So, you must judge for yourself the sum total of his life, including the nobility of his character and the strength of his accomplishments. You must place yourself as much as possible within the past, and try to imagine the conditions under which he lived and worked.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Saturday, September 17, 1988

It was the year of the Pendarvis reunion—the year in which the great-great-grandfather, Tippy, the youngest of seventeen children, an actor in many bloody Indian campaigns during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, was celebrating an estimated 118 years of life on this earth.

The reunion was down by Sapalupa Creek. It was an Indian summer and a special moon appeared—a swollen oval moon at the horizon, so huge as it mysteriously brushed across the sky with one thin white cloud.

The evening was warm. Dozens of children, laughing and playing from within their fenced-in area, clamored for attention as they ran against the unyielding earth.

Winding along a crooked path from the main house, which wound through some willows, the women came tripping with huge platters of fried chicken, potato salad, yams, mustard greens, corn-on-the-cob, and several baskets full of various kinds of dinner rolls.

Andrew, the eldest grandson, sat with his four younger brothers, harmonizing. They sang doo-wop songs of the past—a half-dozen or so classic oldies from the fifties and early sixties—and clapping came up from the women folk around the picnic tables.

Uncle Sputnick and his cousin Peanut were sent up to the main house to carry the great-great-grandfather down in his rocker. When they appeared in his bedroom, he was sitting up straight, dressed and ready. When the old man saw them, he broke into tears.

"Wonderful boys," he kept saying. "My wonderful, wonderful boys."

The old man smiled when he was lifted, chair, crutch, and all, and carried down from the main house to a shaded clearing under a large willow tree.

Tippy was a soft-spoken, sad-eyed, thoughtful old man, barely five feet tall. He was shy about starting a conversation, but once begun, was talkative in the kind of friendly, discursive, meant-to-put-a-person-at-ease style that is typically "down home." He was self-effacing and downplayed all of his accomplishments past the point of modesty.

His body was a wonderful old machine—a grandfather’s clock with every wheel, bearing, and spring in perfect order and alignment. Work had made it so and work kept it so. And, if it had not been for this wave of loneliness—this parching, binding sorrow that seemed to dry up the oil of his joints, evaporate the simple taste of his thought, put out the vital sparkle in his eye—if it had not been for these things, Tippy might have run the gauntlet into his second century. He was an old man now; his long and eventful life was nearing its close. He felt the weight of years, but he could look back into the far and dim past without regrets over any overt act he had done. His conscience was clear, and he believed that a just God had pardoned him for whatever sins he may have committed.

The old timer took his patriarch’s position at the head of the table while his wife, Mildred, sat directly opposite him. Uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces, were all arranged in order of birth, and they took their assigned seats accordingly.

When everyone was seated, Debra, the eldest granddaughter, stepped forward, her dimples much in evidence.

"Family members, relatives, and friends," she began formally, "As African Americans, we have historically glorified tough characters with ‘grit in their craw.’ Some of these heroes include such peoples as Ramses the Great, Harriet Tubman, Geronimo, and Jackie Robinson. These are men and women who had the courage or, as some might say, the foolhardiness to rush in where angels fear to tread, daring to stand alone. They understood that to have a better life they had to take chances. They had to look in the face of danger and make critical sacrifices. Those who took chances and stared danger in the face became heroes.

"Although these heroes are much more colorful than the rest of us, there is something heroic about the average working man. He suffers through the drab existence of everyday life, yet sometimes achieves extraordinary fame and success by simply doing the best he can with what he has. Sitting here among us is a man who has run the full gamut of social hardship and experienced the complete panorama of degradation. He has lived a life with no economic and political rights and knows all too well the symbols of Jim Crow and segregation, yet he amassed nearly a quarter of a million dollars in money, land, and property. All of this, under the heel of racism and bigotry."

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