I am not African or even black yet I have been a slave. Sold for $10 and forced to work horrendous hours on back-breaking tasks and being treated worse than the owner’s dogs. I survived without a father, who was killed on the same day I was born, My mother, realizing she just could not cope with a new born son and still care for her 1 year old daughter, tried to give me away but even that was not easy. We were in the middle of a war, food was short, clothing almost impossible to come by and life constantly threatened with guns and bombs. We managed to live through years of this but then come an opportunity my mother thought would be good for me. I was a small built boy in his early teens, and I have to admit I was weak and often sick. My mother had been told that I stood a better chance of surviving if I lived in the country, away from the noises, smells and pollution of the city. An organization was seeking workers for the farms. Farmers were seen as the saviors, growing food that would keep us alive just a bit longer. Farmers were also hard working and underpaid for their efforts, so labor was a problem. Farmers could not afford wages for many. Young boys, like myself, were sought after since farmers had seen the possibility of young boys working for less and still able to do some of the heavy chores. It was not a bad idea but there were, as in my case, people with bad intentions. For $10 I was sent to work on a farm in the middle of nowhere. The nearest neighbor was 25 miles away. I was met at the station by my new foster parents, who were to become my owners, keepers and slave drivers. They seemed like ordinary people on first meeting but arrival at the farm and the farmhouse soon showed me they were far from ordinary. They had a son themselves, just a year or two older than me, who was going to teach me all I needed to know about farming. All I needed to know was very little, I was to dig when and where I was told to, I was to lift what I was told to, I was to obey this family no matter what they said. In return I was provided with a wire frame bed placed against the wall outside the farmhouse. For some protection against the weather and the insects I was given blankets made from old potato sacks. If the weather looked as though it was going to be bad more potato sacks were hung from the roof of the verandah to keep the bed dry, it didn’t matter if I got wet it seemed. I was given food, no choices, and either I ate it or starved. I also had to eat alone on my wire framed bed. I was not allowed in the house. They all knew my name but I was always simply addressed as ‘Boy’. My main tasks were to clean out the animal enclosures and either spread the manure on neighboring fields or gardens or bury it in holes I was forced to dig. The farmer’s son almost always supervised me and almost always found fault with whatever I did. I had one friend on that farm, a black cocker spaniel dog named Sally. She was my friend because I sometimes gave her scraps of food, which I did when I didn’t like something and did not want to be punished for not eating it. She was also my friend because on cold nights we would keep each other warm on my bed. She was indeed my friend because she would bark whenever a strange creature tried to creep under my bed. Mostly it would be rats but now and then a hungry fox would wander near and on occasions a carpet snake would slither into the bushes close by. I was afraid of them all but somehow Sally made me feel a little safer. My first job in the morning was to feed all the animals and only then was I allowed to shower under the hose in the garden. I would then be handed my plate or bowl of food and told to go eat on my bed and bring the empty dish back in 20 minutes when I had finished eating. I am sure, if I was allowed in the house, that I would also have to wash the dishes. Maybe I was just not seen as clean enough for that task. After my breakfast I would be sent to bring in the cows for milking, so you can already imagine that my day started at 5.30 so that I could be free at 6.30 to bring in the cows. While the cows were being milked by the farmer and his wife, I would be cleaning the horse stables, the pig’s sty and the goat enclosure. Once this was all over I would be expected to spread or bury the crap from my cleaning jobs. I had one other job, which I sometimes shared with Sally. I had to walk the fields and empty the rabbit traps. After emptying them I had to reset them for the next day or following night. Most rabbits were caught at night in either traps with jaws or in snares on their rabbit paths. I had an old sack on my back for carrying the rabbits and this sometimes jumped, as I never had the heart to kill those rabbits that were not yet quite dead. I realize on looking back that that was cruel of me not to end their suffering quickly. On one such run to collect rabbits, I saw a snake in the grass and set Sally onto it. Sally would just bark and snakes would glide away never to be seen again. This time it was different. Sally barked and the snake just raised its head and hissed. Sally leapt forward as if to attack, hoping this would scare the snake. Sadly, as Sally leapt forward, she landed on a recently reset rabbit trap. Her cries were pitiful and my cries filled with pain. I carried Sally all the way back to the farm and was greeted with an endless barrage of insults and curses. Sally’s accident was seen as being completely my fault. I was sent to bed immediately, even after begging to stay with Sally. Soon after I got to my bed, the son came and literally dragged me to the garden. “This is all your fault, Boy, so see the results of your silliness,” he shouted at me. There in the garden was Sally laying as if in a faint on the ground and the farmer standing over her with a gun in his hand. I could see straight away what was going to happen and I screamed long and loud begging them not to do this. I tried to run to Sally but the son held me back and twisted my head so that I was forced to watch as the farmer shot Sally in the head. I was then thrown to the ground weeping and begging the farmer to shoot me too. They left me long enough to stop crying so loudly and then the farmer’s son handed me a shovel and told me to dig Sally’s grave. I cried and begged and tried everything to get out of this one horrible job but no amount of pleading would help. I was lifted by my arms, by the farmer and his son, and taken to a spot behind the goat pen. I was shown where to dig and told not to even come back to the farmhouse until Sally was buried. I hated the job but I also wanted in my heart to bury my friend with as much dignity as a crying teenager can muster. I knew a few prayers and said them all. I was going to steal some flowers from the nearby fields to place on the grave but, thinking I had been too long, the farmer came and ordered me back to my bed. I thought of waiting till they were all asleep and then running away. As if he had read my thoughts, the farmer tied me to the bed and on one of my ankles placed a leather belt which he fastened with a padlock. I cried myself to sleep and hoped a snake would come by and kill me now that Sally was no longer there to protect me. The next day, having eaten nothing for a long time, I was taken to a field of corn where I was expected to lift bales of hay onto a truck. I was given a pitchfork and shown what I had to do. It was not easy for me. I dropped several bales before finally getting one on to the truck. The problem was that as the truck became loaded the bales had to be lifted higher and higher. I was straining and I felt a pain in my stomach. A few more bales and the pain came more often. After one heavy bale seemed too much for me, I collapsed and the pain was now continuous. The farmer thought I was just being lazy or weaker than usual and dragged me to my feet. As he did so the pain shot through my whole body and I screamed aloud. Another worker, the one who had been driving the truck, asked to check on me. I was almost thrown at his feet. He bent down and after asking me a few questions he lowered my shorts and pressed my groin. I winced and drew a sharp breath. “I think he may have a rupture,” the worker told the farmer, “he needs to get to a doctor or better still the hospital.” “There is no doctor near here and the hospital is over 60 miles away,” the farmer said. “ we have no small car and this truck has to stay here to be loaded today. So how do we get him to hospital?” “I have a motor bike on the back of the truck, which I use for emergencies. I could take him on that,“ the worker said. “How will he ride on a motor bike if he has a rupture? He will probably fall off and kill himself, “ said the farmer. “Save us all a lot of trouble if he did,” the farmer added cruelly. “ I will get on my bike and you strap him to my back , with my bike I can get him to the hospital in less than an hour. Can you hold on that long young fellow?” the kind worker asked me. I nodded a weak agreement to something I had no faith in and frankly, dreaded. But anything was worth suffering if it got me away from my foster family, even for a while. How I survived that ride, strapped to the back of the very strong bike rider, I do not know. I remember shooting pains throughout the whole ride and sometimes I seemed to be falling asleep but then a bump in the road would jolt me back into pain and consciousness again. I was awake enough to know that we had reached the hospital and to see a trolley being pushed towards me. Then I passed out completely. When I awoke, I was in a hospital bed and a nurse standing over me said something, I could only see her lips moving, and in a short time a doctor appeared. “You are a very lucky young boy,” he said, “ you had a very inflamed appendix. I am surprised it did not burst on that bike ride you endured.” I was dizzy, sore and totally confused. What was to happen now? I was not able to think straight immediately. The next day I felt much better, no more pains in the tummy, no more appendix and, best of all, no more foster family, at least for a while. It was five days later when I was allowed to get up and walk around with help. I asked if my foster parents had been to check on me and was told that no one had been or even called the hospital. I was grateful in one way that my foster parents had left me alone but at the same time wondered about my future. I dreaded the thought of going back to my little hell hole. Here I was in a strange place, in a strange hospital, with no clothes apart from those I arrived at the hospital in, no money and no idea of how to contact anyone. I was never given the phone number of my foster home but then, of course, I was never allowed to use the phone. I wondered if the agency that arranged my enslavement had been informed of my fate or if my own mother even knew what was happening to me. One thing I was certain of, I would rather be dead than go back to my foster home. A young man in the next bed to me, a guy in his twenties, had also had his appendix removed and we got to chatting. He was from a farming family also. When he heard my story, he was amazed and suggested I speak to the police. I was afraid of policemen, I had been witness to some strange things in my past and just thought that the police only dealt with bad people and in bad ways. I wanted to run away but even that simple step needed money, fares for a bus or train at least to get me away from here. The guy in the next bed was named, Geoff, he had one suggestion. I could go back with him to his farm and maybe when I was completely fit something else could be arranged. It seemed to me as though I had no choice. Geoff seemed to be a nice guy and at that time I had no reason to be concerned about his interest in my welfare. I was to learn a valuable lesson later. Geoff was ready to go home and on the day I just dressed and went with him. His family had come to collect him. They were surprised but agreed to take me with them. No one at the hospital seemed to notice or even care that I was also leaving. We arrived at Geoff’s home. It was a big farm with mainly cattle and horses. I loved horses and always wanted to ride one but on the farm I had left, once they learned I loved horses, they limited my contact to horse manure. I was never allowed to touch the horses, though I often did when no one was around. Geoff introduced me to Blue, his own special horse and I was allowed to sit on the horse but not ride it, yet. That night both Geoff and I were eager to sleep early, we were still recovering from our surgery. There was no other choice so I had to share Geoff’s bed. Once in bed, I realized what had prompted Geoff’s interest in me. I was too afraid to object strongly to his suggestions, after all I was now in a completely new and strange place. Where, if I ran, would I run to? I gave in to Geoff’s advances and without much effect on me hopefully satisfied his strange desire. I was in another trap and slave I might be but sex slave I had no intention of being. The next morning, I hinted at blackmail. I wanted money for a train ticket to the city or I would have to let it slip that Geoff had wanted me to stay for reasons of his own, which I am sure his family was not aware of. I got my wish, a ticket to the city, some pocket money and a lift to the station. I was free once again but free to do what, to go where? They were questions without answers. On arrival in the city I wandered around looking for some clue as to where I would live and what I would do. I suddenly became aware of what being totally alone meant. I knew no one and had no way of contacting anyone. Once again, the thought of going to the police entered my head but was immediately dismissed, fear again. I was to learn much later in life that the police were not just there to catch bad people but to help good ones. As I wandered the city I saw a poster for a circus that was in town. I had no plans but just wanted to see the animals. My previous experience with animals had been merely to clean up their shit but in spite of this I always loved the creatures, especially the horses. I arrived at the circus grounds in the middle the afternoon. They were preparing for the evening show. As I strolled around a clown, with costume on but no makeup yet, approached me and asked what I was doing. We chatted for a while and he asked if I had thought of joining the circus. I had not but now the idea was in my head I thought it was a wonderful idea. The clown’s real name was Geoff, yes, the same name and the same spelling. It took me only a short while to realize that this Geoff had similar ideas to the other one about me. I was desperate and realized that if played along it might help. I did not flirt but I did not discourage Geoff from flirting with me. Eventually my trickery paid off. Geoff took me to the circus manager and after some wrangling got me a job as a tent hand. I would help strike and fold tents, help raise them at new venues and also get to take the horses for watering when needed. It was the last thing that had me sold. I had a place to sleep, in a tent with other circus workers, not the performers, who all had their own caravans. I would be fed three times a day and at night I would either be too tired or pretend to be in order to stay away from Geoff the clown. I was free but still a slave yet in a nice way because the tent workers in a circus were commonly referred to as the tent slaves. Slave I still was but a happy one. The future would take care of itself but I knew my future would be with horses. I had to wait a while before that dream really did come true. I never saw my mother or my foster parents ever again. In a circus you are all family and my family was a good one now. At 16 years of age I was finally free, I belonged, I was happy and they called me George, my real name, I was no longer just Boy. One of the circus performers, Tony Shahun and the clown, Geoff, were to play different roles in my future. At that time I was not aware of what Fate had in store for me but these two men were the servants of Fate and would lead my life down very different paths.