I's born 'fore war started and 'members when it ceased. I guess mammy's folks allus belonged to the Trammells, 'cause I 'member my grandpa, Josh Chiles, and my grandma, call Jeanette. I's a strappin' big girl when they dies. Grandpa used to say he come to Texas with Massa George Trammell's father when Rusk County was jus' a big woods, and the first two years he was hunter for the massa. He stay in the woods all the time, killing deer and wild hawgs and turkeys and coons and the like for the white folks to eat, and the land's full of Indians. He kinda taken up with them and had holes in the nose and ears. They was put there by the Indians for rings what they wore. Grandpa could talk mos' any Indian talk and he say he used to run off from his massa and stay with the Indians for weeks. The massa'd go to the Indian camp looking for grandpa and the Indians hided him out and say, 'No see him.'
How mammy and we'uns come to Texas, Massa George brung his wife and three chillen from Mississippi and he brung we'uns. Pappy belonged to Massa Moore over in Mississippi and Massa George didn't buy him, but after mammy got here, that 'fore I's born, pappy runs off and makes his way to Texas and gits Massa George to buy him.
Massa George and Missy America lived in a fine, big house and they owned more slaves and land than anybody in the county and they's the richest folks 'round there. Us slaves lived down the hill from the big house in a double row of log cabins and us had good beds, like our white folks. My grandpa made all the beds for the white folks and us niggers, too. Massa didn't want anything shoddy 'round him, he say, not even his nigger quarters.
I's sot all day handin' thread to my mammy to put in the loom, 'cause they give us homespun clothes, and you'd better keep 'em if you didn't want to go naked.
Massa had a overseer and nigger driver call Jacob Green. If a nigger was hard to make do the right thing, they ties him to a tree, but Massa George never whip 'em too hard, jus' 'nough to make 'em 'have.
The slaves what worked in the fields was woke up 'fore light with a horn and worked till dark, and then there was the stock to tend to and cloth to weave. The overseer come 'round at nine o'clock to see if all is in the bed and then go back to his own house. When us knowed he's sound asleep we'd slip out and run 'round, sometimes. They locked the young men up in a house at night and on Sunday to keep 'em from runnin' 'round. It was a log house and had cracks in it and once a little nigger boy pokes his hand in tryin' to tease them men and one of 'em chops his fingers off with the ax.
Massa didn' 'low no nigger to read and write, if he knowed it. George Wood was the only one could read and write and how he larn, a little boy on the 'jining place took up with him and they goes off in the woods and he shows George how to read and write. Massa never did find out 'bout that till after freedom.
We slips off and have prayer but daren't 'low the white folks know it and sometime we hums 'ligious songs low like when we's workin'. It was our way of prayin' to be free, but the white folks didn't know it. I 'member mammy used to sing like this:
'Am I born to die, to lay this body down.
Must my tremblin' spirit fly into worlds unknown,
The land of deepes' shade,
Only pierce' by human thought.'
Massa George 'lowed them what wanted to work a little ground for theyselves and grandpa made money sellin' wild turkey and hawgs to the poor white folks. He used to go huntin' at night or jus' when he could.
Them days we made our own med'cine out of horsemint and butterfly weed and Jerusalem oak and bottled them teas up for the winter. Butterfly Weed tea was for the pleurisy and the others for the chills and fever. As reg'lar as I got up I allus drank my asafoetida and tar water.
I 'member Massa George furnishes three of his niggers, Ed Chile and Jacob Green and Job Jester, for mule skinners. I seed the government come and take off a big bunch of mules off our place. Mos' onto four year after the war, three men comes to Massa George and makes him call us up and turn us loose. I heered 'em say its close onto four year we's been free, but that's the first we knowed 'bout it.
Pappy goes to work at odd jobs and mammy and I goes to keep house for a widow woman and I stays there till I marries, and that to Tom Smith. We had five chillen and now Tom's dead and I lives on that pension from the government, what is $16.00 a month, and I's glad to git it, 'cause I's too old to work.