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ribs lookin' at Nepchune restin' in de long red hammock. 'Pear like Marse Jeems could n' git tired swingin' Nepchune. He swinged an' he swinged.
''Pear like all de niggers on de plantation got business in de house-yard dat day. Mos'ly dey did n' say nuthin'. Sometimes dey step up close ter de gallery an' look devilish an' call out, "Nepchune, is you gittin' a good res'? You ain' nuvar be tired again, I 'spec'."
'Nepchune nuvar said nuthin'. He did n' even grin. Mos'ly Nepchune wuz a mighty grinnin' nigger. He did n' 'pear so grinny de day he wuz restin' in de hammock. He des' 'peared discomfused, mightily discomfused wid all de niggers laffin' at 'im. I seed Nepchune wuz mad. But Marse Jeems — Marse Jeems got mealy-moufed an sweetspoken more an' more, more an' more. He sho did hab a injoicin' time seein' dat induschus nigger restin' in de red hammock. Dat wuz a good fun day on Marse Jeems's plantation. 'Pear like Marse Jeems mighty induschus, pullin' dat twine string an' swingin' Nepchune.
'Mos' all de niggers on de place, tendin' dis an' tendin' dat, traipsed 'long th'ough de house-yard while Nepchune wuz gittin' his res'. 'Pear like dey could n' keep deyse'ves 'way Pom seein' dat sight. Nepchune mos' daid he so mad wid dem niggers. Dey so consarned 'bout poor, tired Nepchune. Ha, ha, hal Ha, ha, ha! 'Pear like de sun could n' set. Pear like hit got hitched in a crotch uv de tree while Marse Jeems wuz swingin' de poor tired nigger. Ha, ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha! Dat nigger would n' nuvar git tired agin. Ha, ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha!
'Atter while de sun did drap. Den I hyeah Marse Jeems say, "Nepchune, nex' time you gits tired, I gwine gib you a long res' agin. I gwine dig a hole six foot deep for you to res' in. Den when you res'n' dar, you won't hear when Gabriel blows his horn."
'All de niggers done flock roun' de gallery den, an' Marse Jeems call out, "Boys, is any of you tired?" Dey all 'spond, "No, Marse Jeems, we doan' need no res'. We ain' tired." Den Marse Jeems say, "Hurrah for you, boys, hurrah!"'
'I doan' know but five Injin words. Dey's Choctaw Injin words. Marse Jeems's plantation wuz close to whar dem Choctaw In jins lived in Mis'sippy. Dem Injins say dey's de frienlies' Injins uv all de Injins. Dey sho did count mighty cuyous. "Onarby, tosharby, tuckaloo, toochany": one, two, three, four, five. Dey helt dey fingers out when dey count dem words. Dem Choctaw Injins sho did meek pretty willer baskets. Dey dug up some sort uv roots, or sumpin,' an' dyed de willer. Red willer, yaller willer, black willer, all sorts of culled willer. Den dey made de baskets: little baskets for de gal chillern at Marse Jeems's house ter put hick'y nuts in; baskets for Marse Jeems's wife ter tote her keys in; great big roun' baskets ter hol' de fold-up work whar gwine ter be sewed on; cuyous baskets, one on each side runnin' down ter a p'int: forks goes down in one side, knifes in t' other. Den dey made a monst'ous big basket to put dey puscooses [pappooses] in. Dem baskets got a long strop ter go roun' de haid. Dem little puscooses looked comfable wid dey heads stickin' out dem baskets.
'Eb'ry year, 'bout time chinkapins an' ches'nuts an' muscadines gits ripe, dem Injins sho ter come. De Injin men come ridin' on Injin ponies. Dey sho ter be tottin' some blow-guns. I doan' know whar dey git dem big ole canes. Dey gits 'em somewhar, an' tecks out all de pith. Den dey mecks Injins arrers, sharp at one eend, an' feathers on t'other eend. Jes'blow in one dem blowguns an' dem arrers goes flyin' out. You can kill a jay bird dat way, or a sparrer. 'Cose nobody am' gwine kill a robin dat way. Dey wait for de robin ter fly up in a Chiny tree an' git drunk. Eb'ry chile on de plantation thinks he 'bleeged ter hab a blow-gun when dem Choctaw Injins comes ridin' in. Jay birds better watch out den. Folks say Choctaw Injins ain' smart as Cher'kee Injins. I doan'know'bout dat. Deysho mecks pretty baskets an' blow-guns. But dey doan' know nuthin' 'bout alphabits like Cher'kee Injins does.
'Marse Jeems wuz a mighty smart man. I sot my min' an' cotch heaps uv smartness Tom Marse Jeems on his lower plantation down in Mis'sippy. Dat I did. I 'stonish de Al'bama niggers wid my smartness when I went back to de Black Belt. Dat sho is a Black Belt. Dat ole prairie mud's black as a tar-ball — an' sticky! Gord knows hit's sticky! Des' walk 'long a little way an' de mud sticks so fast to de soles uv yo' foots you cyarn' sca'cely HT em up. I likes sandy town myse'f, like Livi'ston an' Selma.
'Bless Gord! I knows I is got giftygab, like Marse Jeems say. I mos' forgot how skyeard I wuz 'bout bad luck. Mighty bad luck for bird ter come flyin' in yo' house. Bird come flyin' in my house one day. I druv dat bird out. Nex' mornin' dar wuz dat same bird flatted 'ginst my winder-shutter. I so 'stressed I des tn'owed myse'f down on de flo' an' put my apurn up over my haid. I tryin' ter fool dat bird. But I could n' fool 'im. He knowed me, an' dat very day de bad luck struck me. I fell down an' broke my laig, my poor old laig wid de rheumatiz pain mos' killin' me. I could n' skycar de bad luck away. Hit done come, an' 'pear like hit gwine ter stay. Poor me!
'Here I is gifty-gabbin' an' forgittin' all de teachmen's my mammy tol' me 'bout huccome niggers han's, an' down
side uv dey han's, is white, an' de bottoms uv dey foots. Mammy say Gord A'mighty made all de folks white when he fus' started out ter make 'em. Den he got plum tired lookin' at all dem white folks. Den he 'cided he 'd paint 'em diff'unt colors. He made some red folks like Injins, an' some yaller folks, an' some brown folks. Den he studied 'bout what he gwine do nex'. He 'cided he 'd meek some black folks. Den he tol' some de white folks ter git down on all fours, kaze he gwine paint 'em black. He paint dem folks black while dey down on all fours. 'Cose de bottom uv dey han's an' dey foots did n' git painted black. Dat's de trufe, sho's I'ze a born nigger. My mammy had heaps uv knowin's. White folks doan' know how much knowin's niggers got.
'One day I wuz out in de pastur' gittin' poke-weed. I hyeard ole crookhand Sal singin' an' singin'. I cotch de words. Dey wuz hitched on ter a chune. Mighty easy ter ketch de words ef dey's hitched on ter a chune. She kep' on asingin': —
'Yonder go de bell cow.
Ketch her by de tail.
Turn her in de pastur',
Milk hit in de pail.
Milk hit in de pail.
An' strain hit in de gourd.
Set hit in de cornder,
And kiver wid a board.
'I sung dat over in my min' 'tel I cotched hit good.
'Dat wuz de day a nigger man comed ter Marse Jeems's place Tom Merid'an. He think he mighty smart kaze he bin livin'in Merid'an. He seed me, an'wave his ole black paw at me. Den he hollered out, "Howdy, sweetie!" He all dress up mighty fine in white clo'es. Fus' I would n' look at 'im. Den he holler out agin, "Howdy, sweetie. How is you to-day?" I say,"I worse off on 'casion uv seem' you. Sho's I born, you look des' like a black snake in a bowl uv cream." Dat smarty-jack nigger Pom Merid'an 'pear like he discomfused den. He riz up agin' an' hollered out, "You look mighty peart today, sweetie!" Den I'spond, "Keep yo' sweetnin' for yo'se'f, ole black snake." I sho did discomfuse dat nigger. But he kep' on wavin' his black paw at me. He did n' come back fom Merid'an no more ter call me sweetie.
'One nice white lady comed fom Merid'an one time ter see Marse Jeems's wife. She comed fom de Norf an' she mighty ign'an' lady. She seed me settin' on de tip-top uv de high ten-rail fence, staked an' ridered, an' she say she so 'feared I gwine fall down. I say I doan' see no use in tumblin' down. I mighty com'fable up hyeah. Den I 'menced callin' out, "Cur rench! Cur renchlCur rench!" She ax me what for I keep sayin' "Cur rench" so much. I tell her she ain' got un'erstannin' ter know what I talkin' 'bout. De cows an' de bulls got un'erstannin'. Look at 'em. Marse Jeems say cows got jography an' 'rithmetic in dey haids. Ef dey long way f om de cuppen [cow-pen] dey starts home soon. Ef dey short way off, dar dey lays 'tel dey see me puttin' down de bars. Dey got heap uv sense.
'One time, I wuz a little gal den, I layin' down on de flo' kickin' up my heels an' cryin'. Mammy say, "Wha' de matter wid you, chile?" I tol' her my haid wuz splittin' open wid headache. She 'spond, "Chile, I spec' you got de hollow horn like de ole red bull got." Den I got ter laffin' an' laffin'. Den de headache des upped an' went off somewhat.
'When I comed back from Marse Jeems's place, I met ole black Jubiter. I bin gone seb'ral years. When I went dar, de wool on my haid wuz black. Wool on my mammy's haid bin white 'long time. Ole black Jubiter hollered out to me, "Hi! hi! hi! Is you come back ter Al'bama? I mos' did n' know
you. You heap more like yo' mammy dan yo'se'f. Dat's a sho fac'."
'I stannin' by de car track den. I axed Jubiter ef de trains wuz regilar in runnin'. He 'spond, "Dey's mighty regilar in bein' onregilar." He sho did tell de trufe dat time — dat one time. Mos'ly Jubiter wuz a big lie-teller. He 'joyed tellin' lies. He had 'joymen' fom sunup ter sundown dat way.
'I bin havin' 'joymen' all dis day des studyin' 'bout buckwheat cakes. 'Fore Christmus come, on Marse Jeems's plantation, 'peared like ebrybody was busy makin' bags. Bags 'pon top uv bags wuz piled up on de shelves in de house. I knowed what dem bags was for. Ebry Christmus dem bags wuz' piled up dar. 'Bleeged ter hab a highup pile uv bags for de 'casion. Den de Mistiss had a pile uv dimes an' picayunes in her trunk. She knowed what she gwine do wid all dat silver money. I knowed, too, kaze I bin on Marse Jeems's place 'fore dat time. I knowed dem wuz Chris'mus bags for buckwheat Niggers nuvar seed buckwheat but one time eb'ry year. Dat wuz Christmus mornin'. All de niggers got up 'fore sunrise dat day. Eb'rybody had big fire in dey big fireplace by time de sun riz. Den all uv 'em went flockin' up ter de house, ter jump out sudden, an' holler out, "Christmus gif! Christmus giP! Christmus gif, marster! Christmus gif, mistiss." Dem niggers got Christmus gif's, eb'rybody down ter de suckin' babies. Eb'rybody wuz laffin' an' whoopin' an' hurrahin'. Eb'rybody got Christmus in dey bones.
'Den eb'ry nigger gits a bag, an' back dey troops ter dey cabin. Dey snatches up dey sifters an' 'mence siftin', siftin', siftin'. Dey knowed dimes an' picayunes wuz in dem buckwheat bags. Dey 'termined ter sif out de money. All de chillern des' scrouges one anurr, an' gits up close ter de sifter ter see if dey kin git a dime or a picayune wid a hole in it. Dey likes ter hang picayunes an' dimes roun' dey neck, an' strut roun' proud as a ole peacock. Dat what dey wants ter do on Christmus mornin' on Marse Jeems's plantation.
'Some uv de marsters in Mis'sippy does dat away like Marse Jeems. Some doan' do dat away. Dey fix up some sorter way for Christmus fun. Marse Jeems got a big ole barrel uv whiskey in his smoke-house. He sho gits a barrel uv dat once eb'ry year f om Mobile. He got a 'mission merchan' in Mobile ter sell his cotton. Dat 'mission merchan' buys de sugar an' de flour an' de whiskey an' de rice an' all sort o' groceries down in Mobile. He puts 'em on de steamboat an dey's fotch up ter de landin' at Moscow. Den de wagons goes down dar an' hauls 'em up. Dat's de time we sees oranges an' lemons. Dat's de onlies' time. We's mos' crazy when de wagons comes back. Eb'rybody on de place 'pears ter be plum crazy den. All de chillern in special, white chillern an' nigger chillern. All dey moufs is waterin' an' drippin'. Eb'rybody is hollerin' out, "Yonder comes de wagons!"
'When dey does come, Gord A'mighty! eb'rybody sho is crazy den. De men lif s out a great big hogshead of rice. Dey knocks out de head an' 'mences divin' down in de rice an' pullin' out tin buckets an' tin pans an' sifters, an' I dunno what, all packed in de rice. Sometimes out comes a tin plate wid letters all roun' de edge, big a, little a, big b, little b. We knows de house-'oman — one uv de house-'omans — gwinegit dat tin plate. Certain sho, she gwine git dat. Dey keeps a-divin' down an' divin' down in dat rice, an' pres'n'ly out comes some doll-heads. All de chillern 'gins ter dance an' laf an' holler. Dey knows Mistiss gwine cut out doll-bodies an' stuff 'em wid cotton. Den up in de seamster's room de seamsters gwine ter sew de doll-heads on de doll-bodies. Vol. its — No. a
'All de chillern stannin' roun' eb'rywhar dances roun' an' hurrahs an' hollers, 'tel Marse Jeems step out an' say, "Too much noise! Too much noise! Ef you cyarn' be quiet, you mus' go back ter yo' cabins." Hit gits so quiet den 'pears like somebody's dyin'. But in a minute dey gins ter 'spond, "Yes, suh, Marse Jeems, yes, suh! We gwine be still as a church mouse. Yes, suh, Marse Jeems, yes, suh!"
'I gits ter studyin' 'bout dem days sometimes 'tel hit 'pears like dem days is right here agin. 'T wuz a injoicin' time eb'ry year when de wagons come back fom Moscow. Sometimes Marse Jeems would han' out some drams ter de niggers. De house-servants done had egg-nog when dey runned up Christmus gif ing. Marse Jeems had a bung-hole in de whiskey barrel, an' he'd teck a mighty cuyous vial, solid heavy at de bottom, an' let it down th'ough de bung-hole an' draw up de whiskey. Dat vial too little ter draw much whiskey. Nobody did n' get none but special house-niggers. Dey did n' git much.
'All de whiskey Marse Jeems ever drunk was one mint julep once a day. I hyeard him say one day, "Mint is de grass dat grows on de graves uv all good Virginians." Dat's what I hyeard Marse Jeems say. Dat what he to]' his comp'ny scttin' up dar on de gallery. Once eb'ry day Marse Jeems tuck one mint julep. All his chillern runned to him den, an' he gin each one a teaspoonful of dat good julep.
'Somehow I keeps on studyin' an' studyin' 'bout dem ole days. Tears like I kin set down in Jerushy's cabin an' see de fiddler fiddlin'. He sot up on a high stool on top uv a table. He de one dat called out de figgirs uv de dance. 'Fore dat, one o' de niggers would step out an' cut de pigeon wing, an' one would give a double shuffle. All de niggers would clap an' rap den, an' somebody would holler out, "Play 'Chicken in de bread tray,' play 'Ole Firginny nuvar tire,' play 'Susanna gal.'"
'De fiddler did n' pay no 'tention ter all dem callin's-out. He de one gwine call out. Den he'd stan' up a minute an' holler, "Time's a-flyin'. Choose yo' pardners! Bow perlitely! Dat de way! S'lute yo' pardners! Swing corners! Cyarn' yo' hear de fiddle talkin'? Hail, Columbia! Halleloo! Hol' yo' han's up highfilutin'! Look permiskus! Dat's de way! Dat's de way! Keep on dancin'!" An' dey sho did dance an' promenade, tel de bref mos' gin out.
'Den de fiddler sho ter put his fiddle down an' call out, "I knows what you wants. You wants some banjo music." When de banjo started up, de niggers 'peared plum 'stracted. Dat's de music for niggers. Dey kin fling a souple toe when de banjo talkin' ter 'em. But I got rheumatiz in my laig, an' I doan' dance dese days. I'd be skyeard ter dance too, kaze I mought cross my foots, an' den de debble'd cotch me. I 'members de song: "He! Hi! Mr. Debble! I knows you'ze at de doah. I knows you'ze grabblin' grabble wid yo' ole sharp toe."
'Here I is studyin' so much Tx>ut de debble I mos' los' 'membrance uv all de good Christmus vittles. Up at de house de table sho' did look scrumshus; a whole roas' pig at one eend uf de 'hogany table, wid a lemon in his mouf an' red ribbon on his tail. Dey had turkeys too 'pon top uv turkeys, tame turkeys an' wil' turkeys, an' roas' ducks, an' fried chickens, an' baked hams, an' mutton saddles, an' venison, an' — O Gord 'a' massey! dey had so much good vittles dat I ain' got de 'membrance uv one half uv all dat. Eb'rybody sho did git a fill-up wid good vittles. Den come de de'sert: drop-cakes, an' hole-in-demiddle cakes, an' snowball cakes, an' jelly, an' ice-cream, an' apples, an' blackberry cordial, an' pork wine. All de house-niggers got so much leavin's
on de white folks' plates dat dey was stuffed full as a egg.
'Eb'rybody down on Marse Jeems's plantation say dey'd like ter have Christmus all de year, 'stid uv des' one week. All dat Christmus day you could n' sca'cely hear yo'se'f talk. Eb'rybody wuz tryin' to see how much noise dey could meek. De white folks, up an' down de plantation, wuz firin' off Christmus guns fom sunup ter sundown. Dey'd teck a big hick'nut tree wid a nachul hollow in hit, or dey'd meek a hollow. Den dey'd fill dat hollow plum-full uv gunpowder an' plug hit up. When de match wuz tetched ter de powder, you sho did hear noise. Sometimes dey'd fill up bottles an' canisters wid gunpowder an' put 'em onder barrels an' hogsheads an' set a match to 'em. Eb'rybody'd holler, an' hurrah, an' whoop eb'ry time de 'sploshun come. Dat de way 't wuz all day long.
'I nuvar did go down ter de cow-house Christmus night, but I hear tell 'bout what gwine-ons dey wuz down dar. Out in de fiel's, an' down in de cowhouse, an' out in de stables, all de cattle knowed when midnight come. Des' like roosters knows when ter crow. When midnight come, all de cattle fell down on dey knees wid dey faces turned ter de eas'. Dar dey 'mained, clean till daylight. I sorry I did n' go down dar ter de cow-house an' see de cattle prayin', an' prayin', an' prayin'. Beastes got a heap uv sense. Dat dey is. I b'leeve all de beastes is gwine ter heab'n. I sho do. Hit sho 'd be mighty lonely up dar bedout any beastes.
'Folks doan' know how ter hab good Christmus times now like dey knowed on Marse Jeems's plantation down in Mis'sippy. Dem sho wuz good ole Christmus times, mun! Dey doan' know 'bout good Christmus times up hyeah in Livi'ston. Dey ain' nuvar live down in Mis'sippy on Marse Jeems's plantation.'