“Rose, put that crate in the wagon,” Mother Andrews directed. “Paul, does Father need help with the horses and cows?”
“Yeah, me and Robert are going to be herding them along the road,” seventeen-year old Paul replied.
A couple of hours later, thirteen wagons began the long journey west. The Andrews, along with nine other families, were leaving Columbus, Ohio, to settle in the new state of Nebraska. They had between eight and nine hundred miles ahead of them. “We have about fifty-eight days of travel,” Father calculated. “If we average fifteen miles a day, that is,” he added.
The Andrews family consisted of Father, Mother, seventeen-year old Paul, sixteen-year old Robert, fourteen-year old Cindy, ten-year old Keith, eight-year old Rose, and five-year old Emma. Besides the Andrews, there were two other Baptist families: the Mark Yoders and the Andrew Johnsons. The other wagon-train members dubbed them “The Baptist Braves.”
The first day they managed to get seven miles. They rounded up the cattle and settled down for the night.
“Father,” Cindy spoke as the family ate supper, “is that the sounds of a horse—”
“Hello!” someone called.
Father stood up. “Yes,” he said, “someone is coming.”
“Hello there,” Andrew called.
The horseman rode up to Andrew and dismounted. “Good evening,” he said.
“I’m Andrew Johnson,” Andrew said, extending his hand.
“And I’m Jimmy Sanders,” the horseman replied. “Are ya’ll on your way west?”
“Um-uh,” Andrew answered.
“I’m Martin Andrews,” Father introduced himself.
“Jimmy Sanders,” Jimmy replied.
“This is my wife, Martha,” Father answered.
“And this Amy,” Andrew introduced his wife.
The rest of the people were introduced, and Jimmy was invited to stay with them.
“So where are you headed, young man?” William, one of the other pioneers, asked.
“Nebraska,” Jimmy replied.
“How old are you?” Martin asked.
Jimmy laughed a little. “Twenty years, sir,” he replied.
“Where did you come from?” Andrew asked.
Jimmy smiled. “Georgia,” he relied.
“Oh, he’s a Confederate!” William sneered.
“My dad was killed in the war,” Jimmy continued his story, ignoring William’s sneer. “My mother died two years ago of scarlet fever.”
Some sympathy was gained after that; except from William. “I don’t talk to Confederates,” William said.
“I’m not a Confederate,” Jimmy said. “But I am a Christian.”
“Tell us about yourself,” Father encouraged. “What happened after your parents died?”
“After Mother died,” Jimmy said, “I told all the slaves that they were free. I said, ‘I want you all to listen to me. I know that you haven’t been treated the best here, and I’m sorry for my part. I hope you can forgive me; and that it won’t affect your view of Jesus. We’re all humans; each one of us. You may go free now.’”
Jimmy chuckled. “One even old me, ‘Massa, me tink you must be a Christian.’
“I says, ‘Yes, Billy, I am. I have seen my need for Jesus, just like anybody else. Have you seen that need?’
“‘Me have seen that need, Massa,’ he told me.
“‘You see, Billy,’ I told him, ‘We’re all sinners. It doesn’t matter what color of skin you have. All that matters is if we have accepted Jesus and are on our way to Heaven.
“He told me, ‘Me a Christian, Massa. Me tink you are too.’” Jimmy concluded.
Jimmy’s story calmed William down. Since William was a retired soldier, he hated the South.
A few days later, however, William was walking by the oxen when Jimmy rose past. “Jimmy,” William called after him.
Jimmy turned his horse around and rode back. “Yes?” he asked.
“I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry I was so hard on you the other night,” William said. “I didn’t realize that all people are all on the same trail.”
“We are, William. We are all on the trail of life.”
“And there’s only two places to arrive,” William added. “Heaven, or Hell.”
“That’s right,” Jimmy agreed.