Henderson Perkins

"I'se tells you de truth 'bout my age, I'se too ol' for any good, but from what de white folks says, I'se bo'n 'bout 1839 in Ten'see, near Nashville. In dem days, 'twarn't so partic'lar 'bout gettin' married, and my mammy warn't before I'se bo'n, so I'se don' know my father. Dat's one on dis nigger.

"After I'se ol' enough to tote water, pick up kindlin' and sich, Marster Pruitt moves to Texas, near Centerville and sol' me and my mammy to Marster Garner. My mammy gits married seven times after we comes to Texas.

"Marster Garner runs a tavern, dey calls 'em hotels now. My mammy was cook for de tavern. De other nigger's named Gib, and I'se to do de work 'roun de place and take grist to de water mill for to grin'. Marster have de farm, too, and have seven niggers on dat place and sometimes I goes dere for to he'p.

"Well, 'bout treatment, you can say Marster Garner am de bestest man ever lived. I'se jus' says he am O. K. I'se never hears him say one cross word to my mammy. Back in Tennessee, Marster Pruitt was good, too. Hims have him's own still and gives de toddy to we'uns lots of times. I'se gits a few whuppin's, but 'twas my fault. I'se cause de devilment. I tells you 'bout some. I drives de oxen and de two-wheel cart for to go to de water mill and sich. In dem days, it was great insult to say, 'You'uns has bread and rotten egg for supper.' I'se gwine to de mill one day, past de school and I say's dat to de chillens. I thinks de teacher won't let 'em come out, but I makes a mistake, for it am like yellow jackets pourin' outta de hive. Dey throws sticks and stones at we'uns and dat 'sprise de ox and he runs. De road am rough and dat cart have no springs and de co'n made scatterment on de road. Marster whups us for dat. Not hard, just a couple licks.

"Did you's ever drive de ox? Dey's de devil sometimes and de angel sometimes. When dey's gwine home, you can go to sleep and dey takes you dere. If dey's dry and you comes near water, de devil can't stop 'em, dey goes in de water wid de cart and all dat's in it.

"When de war starts Marster's girl gits married to Charles Taylor, and dey have big weddin'. Befo' de war am over, we'uns have hard time. De soldiers comes and takes all de co'n, all de meat, every chicken and all de t'baccy. You couldn' buy t'baccy for a dollar a pound. But we makes it. We takes de leaves and cures dem, den place dem on de board and put honey 'tween 'em. We place a log on top and leave it 'bout a month. White man, dat am t'baccy!

"After de army took de food, it am scarce for awhile. Short time after de army come, de pigeons goes north. If you's never see dat, it am hard to believe. Dey am so thick and so many dey cuts off de sun like de cloud. We'uns gits lots of 'em and dat helps with de food. I'se sho' glad de army don' come any more, once was 'nuff. I'se seen squirrels travelin' on de groun' so thick it look like de carpet. Dey was all runnin' 'way from de army.

"When freedom comes, some mans--dey says Grant's mans--lines we'uns up side de house and says, 'Yous am now free,' and we'uns is free. I wouldn' leave de Marster, him am sich a gran' man, so I stays with him till he quits runnin' de tavern.

"It am a long time after dat I gits married. We'uns have weddin' supper and sho' am happy den. Den we moves to Waco and has 14 chillen.

"We'uns had good times in slavery, but I likes my freedom. De Marster allus give us a pass on Sunday and some nights when we has dance and sich. But iffen you went out without a pass, den de patterollers--'fore de War--or de Klux--after de War--would come lookin' for you. Dem niggers without de pass sho' makes de scatterment, out de window or up de chimney. But when we'uns is free, we'uns goes anywhere we wants to."