Issue 164, Winter 2002-2003
My mother wants to see me again. That means she'd like me
to shave off my beard.
She points her thumb at the dark portrait of a bearded man,
whose name is Caleb,
and calls him "Spinach Face." Gazing over the fluted
he's a mystery, though we've visited his grave: an obelisk with
wreaths at the base.
A shield on his marker bears the inscription "A Man Strong
for the Right."
But what, I wonder, could that mean in a county where
slavery was legal for most of his lifetime?
What did he do for a living? I learn from property records and
that Caleb Shepherd owned windmills, a half share in a
schooner, and worked as a miller.
Now I can see him: standing by sacks of meal that someone he
employed, most likely black,
heaved onto a wagon that clattered through unpaved
streets toward docks on the river
where stevedores, also black, stacked them on barges for
transport up the Chesapeake.
I don't know what this bearded ancestor might have
construed as "right,"
with the blades of his windmill spinning from gusts off