"Massa Kilpatrick wasn't no piddlin'
man. He was a man of plenty. He had a big house with no more style to it than a
crib, but it could room plenty people. He was a medicine doctor and they was rooms in the second story for sick folks what
come to lay in. It would take two days to go all over the land he owned. He had
cattle and stock and sheep and more'n a hundred slaves and more besides. He
bought the bes' of niggers near every time the spec'lators (slave traders) come
that way. He'd make a swap of the old
ones and give money for young ones what could work.
"He raised corn and cotton and cane
and taters and goobers(black eyed peas), sides the peas and other feedin' for
the niggers. I member I helt a hoe handle mighty onsteady when they put a old
women to larn me and some other chillun to scrape the fields. That old woman
would be in a frantic. She'd show me and then turn bout to show some other li'l
nigger, and I'd have the young corn cut clean as the grass. She say, For the
love of Gawd, you better larn it right, or Solomon
will beat the breath out you body.' Old man Solomon was the nigger driver.
"Slavery was the worst days was ever
seed in the world. They was things past tellin', but I got the scars on my old
body to show to this day. I seed worse than what happened to me. I seed them
put the men and women in the stock with they hands screwed down through holes
in the board and they feets tied together and they naked behinds to the world.
Solomon the overseer beat them with a big whip and massa look on. The niggers
better not stop in the fields when they hear them yellin'. They cut the flesh most (almost)
to the bones and some they was when they taken them out of stock and put
them on the beds, they never got up again.
"When a nigger died they let his folks
come out the fields to see him afore he died. They buried him the same day,
take a big plank and bust it with a ax in the middle nough to bend it back, and
put the dead nigger in betwixt it. They'd cart them down to the graveyard on
the place and not bury them deep nough that buzzards wouldn't come circlin'
round. Niggers mourns now, but in them days they wasn't no time for mournin'.
"The conch shell blowed afore daylight and all hands better git
out for roll call or Solomon bust the door down and get them out. It was work
hard, git beatin's and half fed. They brung the victuals and water to the
fields on a slide pulled by a old mule. Plenty times they was only a half
barrel water and it stale and hot, for all us niggers on the hottes' days.
Mostly we ate pickled pork and corn
bread and peas and beans and taters. They never was as much as we needed.
"The times I hated most was pickin' cotton when the frost was on the
bolls. My hands git sore and crack open and bleed. We'd have a li'l fire in
the fields and iffen the ones with tender hands couldn't stand it no longer,
we'd run and warm our hands a li'l bit. When I could steal a tater, I used to
slip it in the ashes and when I'd run to the fire I'd take it out and eat it on
"In the cabins it was nice and warm.
They was built of pine boardin' and they was one long room of them up the hill
back of the big house. Near one side of the cabins was a fireplace. They'd
bring in two, three big logs and put on the fire and they'd last near a week.
The beds was made out of puncheons fitted on holes bored in the wall, and
planks laid cross them poles. We had tickin' mattresses filled with corn shucks. Sometimes the men build
chairs at night. We didn't know much bout havin' nothin', though.
"Sometimes massa let niggers have a
li'l patch. They'd raise taters or
goobers. They liked to have them to help fill out on the victuals. Taters
roasted in the ashes was the best tastin' eatin' I ever had. I could die better
satisfied to have jus' one more tater roasted in hot ashes. The niggers had to work the patches at night and dig the
taters and goobers at night. Then if they wanted to sell any in town they'd
have to git a pass to go. They had to go at night, cause they couldn't ever
spare a hand from the fields.
"Once in a while they's give us a li'l
piece of Sat'day evenin' to wash out clothes in the branch(creek). We hanged
them on the ground in the woods to dry. They was a place to wash clothes from the
well, but they was so many niggers all couldn't get round to it on Sundays.
When they'd git through with the clothes on Sat'day evenin's the niggers which
sold they goobers and taters brung fiddles
and guitars and come out and play. The others clap they hands and stomp
they feet and we young'uns cut a step round. I was plenty biggity and like to
cut a step(dance).
"We was scart of Solomon and his whip,
though, and he didn't like frolickin'. He didn't like for us niggers to pray,
either. We never heared of no church, but us have prayin' in the cabins. We'd
set on the floor and pray with our heads down low and sing low, but if Solomon
heared he'd come and beat on the wall with the stock of his whip. He'd say, ‘I'll come in there and tear the hide off you
backs.' But some the old niggers tell us we got to pray to Gawd that he
don't think different of the blacks and the whites. I know that Solomon is burnin' in hell today, and it pleasures
me to know it.
"Once my maw and paw taken me and
Katherine after night to slip to nother place to a prayin' and singin'. A
nigger man with white beard told us a day am comin' when niggers only be slaves
prays for the end of Trib'lation and the end of beatin's and for shoes that fit
our feet. We prayed that us niggers could have all we wanted to eat and special
for fresh meat. Some the old ones say we have to bear all, cause that all
we can do. Some say they was glad to the time they's dead, cause they'd rather
rot in the ground than have the beatin's. What I hated most was when they'd
beat me and I didn't know what they beat me for, and I hated they strippin' me
naked as the day I was born.
"When we's comin' back from that
prayin', I thunk I heared the nigger dogs and somebody on horseback. I say,
Maw, its them nigger hounds and they'll eat us up.' You could hear them old
hounds and sluts abayin'. Maw listens and say, Sho nough, them dogs am running'
and Gawd help us!' Then she and paw talk and they take us to a fence corner and
stands us up gainst the rails and say don't move and if anyone comes near,
don't breathe loud. They went to the woods, so the hounds chase them and not git us. Me and Katherine stand
there, holdin' hands, shakin' so we can hardly stand. We hears the hounds come
nearer, but we don't move. They goes after paw and maw, but they circles round
to the cabins and gits in. Maw say its the power of Gawd.
"Aunt Cheyney was jus' out of bed with
a sucklin' baby one time, and she run away. Some say that was nother baby of massa's breedin'. She dont' come to the
house to nurse her baby, so they misses her and old Solomon gits the nigger
hounds and takes her trail. They gits near her and she grabs a limb and tries
to hist herself in a tree, but them dogs grab her and pull her down. The men
hollers them onto her, and the dogs tore her naked and et the breasts plumb off
her body. She got well and lived to be a old woman, but nother woman has to
suck her baby and she ain't got no sign of breasts no more.
"Seems like after I got bigger, I
member' more'n more niggers run away. They's most allus cotched (always
caught). Massa used to hire out his niggers for wage hands. One time he hired
me and a nigger boy, Turner, to work for some ornery white trash name of Kidd.
One day Turner goes off and don't come back. Old man Kidd say I knowed bout it,
and he tied my wrists together and
stripped me. He hanged me by the wrists from a limb on a tree and spraddled my
legs around the trunk and tied my feet together. Then he beat me. He beat
me worser than I ever been beat before and I faints dead away. When I come to
I'm in bed. I didn't care so much iffen I died.
"I didn't know bout the passin of
time, but Miss Sara come to me. Some
white folks done git word to her. Mr. Kidd tries to talk hisself out of it,
but Miss Sara fotches me home when I'm well enough to move. She took me in a
cart and my maw takes care of me. Massa looks me over good and says I'll git
well, but I'm ruint for breedin' chillun.
"After while I taken a notion to marry
and massa and missy marries us same as all the niggers. They stands inside the
house with a broom held crosswise of the door and we stands outside. Missy puts
a li'l wreath on my head they kept there and we steps over the broom into the house. Now, that's all they was to
the marryin'. After freedom I gits married and has it put in the book by a