The Trial

The judge motioned her to take her seat in the witness stand. She was only thirteen and did not wish to remember what she saw, but if her father were to be a free man, it was up to her. Her mother made sure she knew this. It wasn’t very far to reach the wooden chair. As she walked she felt the eyes on her, the judging, scornful, glares from people who thought her pa was nothing but a no-good whisky runner who polluted their town with alcohol, who kept finding ways around the laws they passed – first by moving his establishment outside city limits, then by selling whole bottles and not allowing them to be opened on premises. He was not running a drinking establishment, so there was nothing they could do to stop him, and they didn’t like it one bit. And so she turned and sat in the chair, which was too big for her. If she sat all the way back, her feet dangled off the front and if she sat forward with her feet on the ground, she felt like the chair might tip forward. She imagined this happening, sending her head-first out of the witness stand and onto the floor in front of all those pompous prohibitionists sitting in the gallery. Then the lawyer walked up and her mind came back to her and her heart began to beat a bit faster as her stomach griped and her hands gripped the arms of the too-big chair in the small box where she sat, facing everyone in the room.

“Yes, I saw him.”

“Who did you see?”

“George Ewers”

“And how did you know it was him?”

“I’d seen him before. He buys whisky from my pa, I mean, he used to.”

“And what was George doing when you saw him?”

“He was outside, yelling for my pa to open the door and let him in. I could see him out the window.”

“And did your father let him in?”

“No, he told him he was drunk already and to go home.”

“And what did George do then?”

“He came up on the porch. It sounded like he was trying to break the door down.”

“And what did your father do then?”

“He told him, he told George, that if he didn’t leave he would shoot him.”

“No further questions. Young Lady, you can get down and take a seat now.”

She left the stand and sat down beside her mother in the spectator’s gallery.

“You done good, Amanda Jane.”

And that was the first time, but not the last, that Amanda Jane would need such courage. All her life she had waited for a chance to show she was brave, at least as brave as her brothers, whose stories she loved to listed to whenever they came home from the farms where they worked in the summers. Her older brother Henry had even gone with her pa back to Missouri when he went to buy cases of whisky. This was not what she imagined her opportunity would look like. A few short months ago everything changed. Nothing had been right since her pa shot George Ewers and he died, and he turned himself in to the sheriff, who put him in jail. That was a few months ago even if it seemed like years. And now, if the jury said so, her pa would come home.

NOTE: This is a story based on events in the life of my great-grandmother, Amanda Jane Pierce. Amanda Jane was born in 1887 near Nevada, Missouri and grew up in Labette County, Kansas. in 1901, she was placed in an orphanage with her younger brothers and sister. She eventually left Kansas for California with her first husband. Later, she would leave behind that husband and two children to marry Braulio Enriquez. She and Braulio raised their children between Calexico, on border of the US and Mexico; Sonora, Mexico; and Arizona.