BY FRANCES SCHOONMAKER
Rumor has it that a slave stealer is working the Southern Illinois border states. He is so skillful at guiding freedom seekers that slave holders call him a phantom. Sid Johnson’s parents claim they don’t know anything about such a person. But when Sid discovers that their Illinois farm is a stop on the underground railroad, he isn’t so sure they’re telling him the truth. Proud of Ma and Pa, Sid is afraid of what will happen if they’re caught. Bounty hunters threaten Pa, and Sid overhears them talking about the slave stealer. He decides that to protect the family, he must find out more. But before his plans are in place, the bounty hunters burn the Johnson’s barn, compromising the farm as a stop on the railroad. Ma and Pa decide to go west. Disappointed that he failed to learn any more about the slave stealer, Sid is relieved to leave the slave question behind. He is about to find out that the ugly shadow of slavery reaches to the Santa Fe Trail and that his involvement with the Phantom Slave Stealer has just begun.
Published September 15, 2022