Mules and Men

Chapter 10

  1. Why the Porpoise Has His Tail on Crossways
  2. Why the Dog Hates the Cat
  3. How the Devil Coined a Word
  4. How Jack O'Lanterns Came to Be
  5. Whey the East Coast Has Mosquitos and Storms
  6. How a Loving Couple Was Parted
  7. "All These are Mine"
  8. How the Squinch Owl Came to Be
  9. The Talking Mule
  10. High Walker and Bloody Bones
  11. Fight at Pine Mill

So I left most of my things at Loughman and ran down in the phosphate country around Mulberry. Around Mulberry, Pierce and Lakeland, I collected a mass of children's tales and games. The company operating the mines at Pierce maintains very excellent living conditions in their quarters. The cottages are on clean, tree-lined streets. There is a good hospital and a nine-months school. They will not employ a boy under seventeen so that the parents are not led to put minors to work. There is a cheerful community center with a large green-covered table for crap games under a shady oak.

We held a lying contest out under the trees in the night time, some sitting, some standing, everybody in a jolly mood. Mack C. Ford proved to be a mighty story teller before the Lord.

I found out about creation from him. The tail of the porepoise is on crosswise and he explains the mystery of that.

"Zora, did you ever see a porpoise?"

"Yep. Many times."

"Didja ever notice his tail?"

" Don't b'lieve Ah did. He moves so fast till Ah don't reember much except seeing him turning somersault and shootin' up and down de Indian River like lightnin' thru de trees. "

Well, it's on crossways. Every other fish got his tail on straight but de porpoise. His is on crossways and bent down lak dis. (He bent down the fingers of his left hand sharply from the knuckles.)

De reason for dat is, God made de world and de sky and de birds and animals and de fishes. He finished off de stars and de trees.

Den He made a gold track dear 'round de world and greased it, and called de sun to Him and says, "Now Sun, Ah done made everything but Time and Ah want you to make dat. Ah made dat gold track for you to run on and Ah want you to git on it and go 'round de world jus , as fas' as you kin stave it and de time it take you to go and come Ah in gointer call it 'day' and 'night.' "

De porpoise was standin' 'round and heard God when He spoke to de sun. So he says, "B'lieve Ah'll take dat trip around de world myself."

So de sun lit out and de porpoise took out. Him and him! 'Round de world-lickety split!

So de porpoise beat de sun 'round de world by a hour and three minutes.

When God seen dat He shook His head and says, "Unh, unh! Dis ain't gointer do. Ah never meant for nothin' to be faster than de sun."

So He took out behind dat porpoise and run,him for three days and nights befo' He overtook him. But when he did ketch dat ole porpoise He grabbed him by de tail and snatched it off and set it back on crossways to slow him up. He can't beat de sun no mo' but he's de next fastest thing in de world.TOP

Everybody laughed one of those blow-out laughs, so Mack Ford said,
"Mah lyin' done got good tuh me, so Ah'm goint tell yuh how come de dawg hates de cat."

De dog and de cat used to live next door to one 'nother and both of 'em loved ham. Every time they git a chance they'd buy a slice of ham.

One time both of 'em got holt of a li'l extry change so de dog said to de cat, "Sis Cat, we both got a li'l money, and it would be fine if befo of us could buy a ham apiece. But neither one of us ain't got enough money to buy a whole ham by ourselves. Why don't we put our money together and buy us a ham together?"

"Aw right, Brer Dawg. T'morrer bein' Sat'day, le's we go to town and git ourselves a ham."

So de next day they went to town and bought de ham. They didn't have no convenience so they had to walk and tote it. De dawg toted it first and he said,as he walked up de road wid de ham over his shoulder, "Ours! Ours! Ours! Our ham!"

After while it was de cat's time to tote de meat. She said, "'My ham, my ham, my ham." Dawg heard her but he didn't say nothin'.

When de dawg took it agin he says, "Ours, ours, our ham!" Cat toted it and says, "My ham, my ham."

Dawg says, "Sis Cat, how come you keep on sayin 'My ham' when you totes our meat. Ah always say, 'Our ham.' "

 De Cat didn't turn him no answer, but every time she toted de ham she'd say "My ham" and every time de dawg toted it he'd say "Ours."

When they was almost home, de cat was carryin de ham and all of a sudden she sprung up a tree and set up there eatin' up de ham. De dawg did all he could to stop her, but he couldn't clim' and so he couldn't do nothin' but bark. But he tole de cat, "You up dat tree eatin' all de ham, and Ah can't git to you. But when you come down ahm gointer make you take dis Indian River for uh dusty road." TOP

"Didja ever pass off much time round de railroad camps, Zora?" asked Mr. Ford.

"Ah been round dere some."

 "Ah wuz jus' fixin' tuh tell yuh if you ain't been there you missed some good singin', well ez some good lyin'. Ever hear dat song bout 'Gointer See my Longhaired Babe'?"'

"Naw, but ah sho wisht ah had. Can you sing it?"

"Sho can and then ahm gointer do it too, and that one 'bout, 'Oh Lulu, oh Gal."'

 "Ah know you want to hear some more stories, don't you? Ah know ah feels lak tellin' some."

"Unh hunh," I agreed.

"Don't you know dat's one word de Devil made up?"

"Nope, Ah had never heard about it. It's a mighty useful word Ah know for lazy folks like me."

"Yes, everybody says 'unh hunh' and Ah'll tell you why. He cleared his throat and continued:

Ole devil looked around hell one day and seen his place was short of help so he thought he'd run up to Heben and kidnap some angels token things runnin' tell he got reinforcements from Miami.

Well, he slipped up on a great crowd of angels on de outskirts of Heben and stuffed a couple of thousand in his mouth, a few hundred under each arm and wrapped his tail 'round another thousand and darted off towards hell.

When he was flyin' low over de earth lookin' for a place to land, a man looked up and seen de Devil and ast 'im, "Ole Devil, Ah see you got a load of angels. Is you goin' back for mo'?"

Devil opened his mouth and tole 'im, "Yeah," and all li'l angels flew out of his mouf and went on back to Heben. While he was tryin' to ketch 'em he lost all de others. So he went back after another load.

He was flyin' low agin and de same man seen him and says, "Ole Devil, Ah see you got another load uh angels."

Devil nodded his head and said "unh hunh," and dat's why we say it today. TOP

"Dat's a fine story. Tell me some more." 

" Ah'm gointer tell you all about Big Sixteen and High Walker and Bloody Bones but first Ah want to ask you a question. "

"All right, go ahead and ask me."

"Zora, why do you think dese li'l slim women was put on earth?"

"Couldn't tell you to save my life."

"Well, dese slim ones was put here to beautify de world."

" De big ones, musta been put here for de same reason."

"Ah, naw, Zora. Ah don't agree wid you there."

"Well then, what was they put here for?"

"To show dese slim girls how far they kin stretch without bustin'."

Everybody out under the trees laughed except Good Bread. She took in a whole lot of breath and added to herself. Then he rolled her eyes and said, "Mack Ford, Ah don't come in conversation at all. You jus' leave me out yo' mouf. And furthermo' Ah don't crack."

"Nobody ain't called yo name, Good Bread, Ah wuz jus' assin' uh joke. "

"Oh yes you wuz hintin' at me."

"Aw, nobody ain't studyin' bout yuh. Jus' cause you done set round and growed ruffles round yo' hips nobody can't mention fat 'thout you makin' out they talkin' bout you. Ah wuzn't personatin'  yuh, but if de cap fit yuh wear it."

"G'wan Mack, you knows dat a very little uh yo' sugar weetens mah tea. Don't git me started."

"G'wan start something if dats de way yuh feel. You kin be topped. Now you tryin' to make somebody believe you so bad till you have tuh tote uh pistol tah bed tuh keep from gettin' in uh fight wid yo'self.? You got mo'poison in yuh than a snake dat wuz so poison tell he bit de railroad track and killed de train."

"Don't y'all break dis lyin' contest up in no fight," Christopher Jenkins said.

Mah Honey laughed scornfully. "Aw, tain't gointer be fight. Good Bread jus' feel lak bull woofin' uh little t'night. Her likker told her tuh pick uh fight but let Mack make break at her now, and there'll hafta be some good runnin done befo' dat fight come off. T'ain't nothin' tuh her. She know she ugly. She look lak de devil ground up in pieces."

Good Bread jumped up with her pocket knife out. "Who y'all tryin tuh double teen? Trying tuh run de hawg over wrong one now. "

"Aw set down Good Bread, and put dat froe back in pocket. Somebody's liable tuh take dat ole piece uh knife got and wear it out round yo' own neck."

"Dats what Ah say," Christopher put in. "She always tryin' tuh loud talk somebody. Ah hates women wid men's overalls on anyhow."

"Let her holler all she wants tuh," Ford added off-hand. "Dis is uh holler day. She kin whoop lak de Seaboard squall lak de A.C.L. Nobody don't keer, long as she don't put her hand on me. Sho as she do dat Ah'm gointer light her shuck for her. "

Good Bread got to her feet importantly as if she was go to do something. For a fraction of a second I held my breath in fear. Nobody else paid it the least bit of mind. Good Br ead flounced on off.

"Ah'm glad she gone," said Mah Honey. "She always pickin' fights and gittin beat. Dat 'oman hates peace and agreement." He looked after her a moment then yelled after "Hey, lady, you got all you' bust in de back!" Everybody laughed and Mah Honey went on. "She so mad now she'll stay away and let Mack tell Zora some lies. Gwan, Mack, you got de business."

"Aw, Ah feel lak singin'," Mack Ford said.

"Well nobody don't feel lak hearin' yuh, so g'wan tel dat lie on Big Sixteen. Ah never gits tired uh dat one."

"You ruther hear uh story, Zora?"

"Yeah, g'wan tell it. Dats jus' what Ah'm here for."

 "Well alright then:

It was slavery time, Zora, when Big Sixteen was a man. They called 'im Sixteen  cause dat was de number of de shoe he wore. He was big and strong and Ole Massa looked to him to do everything.

One day Ole Massa said, "Big Sixteen, Ah b'lieve Ah want you to move dem sills Ah had hewed out down in de swamp.

"I yassuh, Massa."

Big Sixteen went down in de swamp and picked up dem 12 X 12's and brought 'em on up to de house and stack ,em. No one man ain't never toted a 12 X 12 befo' nor since.

So Ole Massa said one day, "Go fetch in de mules. Ah want to look 'em over."

Big Sixteen went on down to, de pasture and caught dem mules by de bridle but they was contrary and balky and he tore de bridles to pieces pullin' on 'em, so he picked one of 'em up under each arm and brought 'em up to Old Massa.

He says, "Big Sixteen, if you kin tote a pair of balky mules, you kin do anything. You kin ketch de Devil."

 "Yassuh, Ah kin, if you git me a nine-pound hammer and a pick and shovel!"

Ole Massa got Sixteen de things he ast for and tole 'im to go ahead and bring him de Devil.

Big Sixteen went out in front of de house and went to diggin'. He was diggin' nearly a month befo' he got where he wanted. Then he took his hammer and went and knocked on de Devil's door. Devil answered de door hisself.

"Who dat out dere?"

"It's Big Sixteen."

"What you want?"

"Wanta have a word wid you for a minute."

Soon as de Devil poked his head out de door, Sixteen him over de head wid dat hammer and picked 'im  up and carried 'im back to Old Massa.

Ole Massa looked at de dead Devil and hollered, "Take dat ugly thing 'way from here, quick! Ah didn't think you'd, ketch de Devil sho 'nuff."

So Sixteen picked up de Devil and throwed 'im back down de hole.

Way after while, Big Sixteen died and went up to Heben. But Peter looked at him and tole 'im to g'wan 'way from dere. He was too powerful. He might git outa order and there wouldn't be nobody to handle 'im. But he had to, go somewhere so he went on to hell.

Soon as he got to de gate de Devil's children was playin' in de yard and they seen 'im and run to de house, says, "Mama, mama! Dat man's out dere dat kilt papa!"

So she called 'im in de house and shet de door. When Sixteen got dere she handed 'im a li'l piece of fire and said, "You ain't comin' in here. Here, take dis hot coal and g'wan off and start you a hell uh yo' own."

So when you see a Jack O'Lantern in de woods at night you know it's Big Sixteen wid his piece of fire lookin' for a  place to go. TOP

"Give us somethin' to wet our goozles wid, and you kin git some lies, Zora," Jenkins prompted. I stood treats.

"Now g'wan, Mack, and lie some more," I said, and he remarked: " De mosquitoes mighty bad right now, but down there de East Coast they used to 'em. Know why we got so in skeeters heah and why we have so many storms?"

"Naw, but Ah'd love to know," I answered eagerly.


Well one Christmas time, God was goin' to Platka.  De devil was in de neighbnorhood too and seen God goin' long de big road, so he jumped behind a stump and hid. Not dat he was skeered uh God, but he wanted to git a Christmas present outa God but didn't want to give God nothin'.

So he squatted down behind dis stump till God came along and then he jumped up and said, "Christmas Gift!" 

God just looked back over his shoulder and said, "Take de East Coast," and kept on walkin'. And dat's why we got  storms and skeeters--it's de Devil's property.TOP

I should mention it is a custom in the deep South for the children to go out Christmas morning "catching" people by saying "Christmas gift." The one who says it first gets a presant from the other. The adults usually prepare for this by providing plenty of hard candy, nuts, coconuts, fruits and the like. They never try to catch the neighbors' children but let themselves be caught.

"Ah know one mo' story on de devil. Reckon Ah'll tell it."

"One day de Devil was walkin' along when he met Raw Head."

"Who is Raw Head?" I interrupted to ask. "Ah been hearin' his name called all my life, but never did find out who he was.

"Why, Zora! Ah thought everybody knowed who Raw Head was. Why he was a man dat was more'n a man. He was and strong like Big Sixteen and he was two-headed. He wed all de words dat Moses used to make. God give 'im power to bring de ten plagues and part de Red Sea. He had done seen de Smokey Mountain and de Burnin'Bush. And his head didn't have no hair on it, and it sweated blood all de time. Dat's why he was named Raw Head.  Then Mr. Ford old the following story:

As Ah started to say, de Devil met Raw Head and they passed de time of day. Neither one wasn't keered of de other so they talked about de work they been doin' .

Raw Head said he had done turnt a man into a ground puppy. Devil said he been havin' a good time breakin' up couples. All over de world de Devil had husbands and wives fightin' and partin'.

Tol 'im says, "Devil, youse my cousin and Ah know you got mo' power than me, but Ah know one couple you can't part. They lives cross de big creek in my district, and Ah done everything Ah could but nothin' can't come between 'em."

Devil says, "Dat's because de right one ain't tried yet. Ah kin part any two people. Jus' like Ah kin throw 'em together. You show 'em to me and Ah betcha half of hell Ah'll have 'em fightin' and partin' befo' Sunday."

So de Devil went to where dis couple lived and took up round de house.

He done everything he could but they wouldn't fight and they wouldn't part. Devil was real outdone. He had never had such a tussle since they throwed him outer Heben, and it was Friday. He seen he was 'bout to lose half of his kingdom and have to go back on his brag.

He was 'bout to give up and go somewhere else dat night when he met a woman as barefooted as a yard-dog. They spoke and she says, "You don't look so good. You been down sick?"

Devil told her, "Naw, but Ah been tryin' to break up dat lovin' couple up de road a piece there, but Ah can't do it."

De woman says, "Aw shucks, is dat all? Tell you whut: Ah ain't never had a pair of shoes in my life and if you promise to give me a pair of shoes tonight Ah'll part 'em for you."

"If you part 'em you get de shoes, and good ones at dat. But you got to do it first."

"Don't you worry 'bout dat, you jus' meet me at dat sweet-gum tree on de edge of de swamp tomorrer evenin' and bring de shoes. "

Next mornin she got up soon and went past de place to see where de man was workin' at. He was plowin' way off from de house. So she spoke to 'im nice and polite and went on up to de house where de wife was.

De wife asted her in and give her a chair. She took her seat and begin to praise everything on de place. It was de prettiest house she ever seen. It was de bes' lookin' yard in dat part of the state. Dat was de finest dawg, she ever laid eyes on. Nobody never had no cat as good as dat one was.

De wife thanked her for all her compliments and give her a pound of butter.

De woman told her, "Everything you got is pretty, but youse de prettiest of all."

De wife is crazy 'bout her husband and she can't stand to see him left out so she say, "My husband is prettier than Ah ever dared to be."

"Oh, yeah, he's pretty too. Almost as pretty as you. De only thing dat spoil his looks is dat long flesh-mole on his neck. Now if dat was off he'd be de prettiest man in de world."

De wife says, "Ah thinks he's already de prettiest man in de world, but if anything will make 'im mo' prettier still, Ah will too gladly do it."

"Well, then, you better cut dat big ole mole offa his neck.

"How kin Ah do dat? He skeered to cut it off. Say he might bleed to death."

"Aw naw, he won't neither. He won't lose more'n a drop of blood if you cut it off right quick wid a sharp razor and then wipe cob-web on de place. It's a pity he won't let you do it 'cause it sho do spoil his looks."

"If Ah knowed jus' how to do it, Ah sho would, 'cause Ah love him so and he is too pretty a man to be spoilt by a mole."

"Why don't you take de razor to bed wid you tonight. Then when he gets to sleep, you chop it off right quick and fix it lak Ah told you. He'll thank you for it next day."

De wife thanked de woman and give her a settin' of eggs and de woman told her good-bye and went on down to de field where de husband was plowin', and sidled up to him. "Good mornin' suh, you sho is a hard-workin' man."

"Yes ma'am, Ah works hard but Ah loves to work so Ah kin do for my wife. She's all Ah got."

"Yeah, and she sho got a man when she got you. 'Tain't many mens dat will hit from sun to sun for a woman."

The man said , "Sho ain't. But ain't no man got no wife as good as mine.

De woman spit on de ground and said, "It's good for a person's mind to be satisfied..But lovin' a person don't make them love you. And youse a pitiful case."

"Why you say dat? Ain't I got de prettiest wife in de world. And what make it so cool, she's de sweetest wife God ever made."

"All Ah got to say is 'Watch out.'

"Watch out for what? My wife don't need no watchin'. She's pretty, it's true, but Ah don't have to watch her."

"Somebody else done found out she pretty too and she's gointer gid rid of you. You better keep a close watch on her and when you go to bed tonight, make out you sleep and see if she don't try to cut yo' throat wid a razor! "

"Git off dis place lyin' on my wife?"

De woman hid in de bushes outside de fence row and watched. Sho nuff, pretty soon he knocked off and went on towards de house. When he got dere he searched all over de place to see if anybody was there besides his wife. He 't find nothin' but he watched everybody dat pass de gate, and he didn't say nothin' to his wife.

Dat night he got'in bed right after supper and laid there wid his eyes shut. De wife went and got his razor and slipped it to bed wid her. When she thought he was good and sleep she got de cob-web in one hand and de razor in de other and leaned over him to cut his mole off. He had de cover up 'round his neck and soon as she started to ease it back he opened his eyes and grabbed her and took de razor.

"Unh, hunh! Ah was told you was goin' to cut my throat, but Ah didn't b'lieve it. From now on, we ain't no mo' husband and wife."

He dressed and left her cryin' in de bed.

De woman run on down to de sweet-gum tree to git her shoes. De Devil come brought 'em but he took and cut a long sapling and tied de shoe to de end of it and held 'em out to de woman and told her, "You parted 'em all right. Here's de shoes I promised you. But anybody dat kin create mo' disturbance than me is too dangerous. Ah don't want 'em round me. Here, take yo'.shoes." And soon as she took 'em he vanished.TOP

Horace Sharp said, "You lemme tell one now, Mack; you n talkin' all night. Tell yuh bout de farmer courtin' a girl".

Well, the startin of it is a farmer was courtin' a girl and after he decided to marry her, they married and started home. So when he passed a nice farm he said to the girl: "You see dat nice farm over yonder?" S e said, "Yes." He said: "Well, all of these are mine." (Strokes his whiskers.)

Well, they traveled on further and they saw a herd of cattle and he said, "See dat nice herd of cattle?" She said. "Yes." "Well, all of these are mine." He smoothed his whiskers again.

So he traveled on a piece further and come to a big plantation with a big nice house on it, and he said: "All of these are mine."

So he traveled on further. He said, "See dat nice bunch of sheep?" She said, "Yes." "Well, all of these are mine."

Traveled on further. Come across a nice bunch of hogs and he said: "See dat nice bunch of hogs?" "Yes." "Well, all of these are mine."

So the last go 'round he got home and drove up to a dirty li'l shack and told her to get out and come in.

She says, "You got all those nice houses and want me to come in there? I couldn't afford to come in here. Why you told me a story. I'm going back home."

He says, "Why no, I didn't tell you a story. Everytime I showed you those things I said 'all of these were mine' and Ah wuz talkin' bout my whiskers." So the girl jumped out of the wagon and out for home she went.

Goat fell down and skint his chin

Great God A'mighty how de goat did grin.TOP

"You do pretty good, Horace," Mah Honey drawled, "but how come you want to stick in yo' bill when Mack is'talkin'? Dat story you told ain't doodly squat."

"Less see you tell one better'n dat one, then," Horace back.

"'Oh Ah can't tell none worth listenin' tuh and you can't only difference in us is Ah know Ah can't and you don't. Dat lie you told is po' ez owl harkey. Gwan tell some mo Mack. Maybe somebody'll come long and help yuh after while."

"Ah thought Horace's story wuz jus'  alright," Lessie Hudson said. "Can't eve'ybody talk de same."

"Course it wuz!" Horace yelled, "it wuz alright wid everybody 'ceptin Mah Honey. He's a nigger wid white folks head-- let bim tell it. He make out he know every chink in China."

"What you gointer do?" Mah Honey asked. "Ah kin tell yuh fo' yuh part yo' lips. You ain't gointer do nothin' but mildew.

Somebody came along singing, "You Won't Do," and everybody looked round at one time like cows in a pasture.

 "Here come A.D. He kin lie good too. Hurry up, A.D. help Mack out!"

"What Mack doin'?"

"Lyin' up a breeze." "Awright, lemme git in dis shag-lag. Who lied last?"

"Mack. Youse next."

"Who all know what uh squinch owl is?" Frazier lit out.

"Man, who you reckon it is, don't know what dat bad  thing is?" Christopher Jenkins asked. "Sign uh death ev time you hear one hollerin round yo' house. Ah shoots every one Ah kin find."

"You kin stop 'em without shootin' 'em. Jus' tie uh looose' knot in uh string and every time he holler you pull de knot uh lil bit tighter. Dat chokes 'im. Keep on you choke 'im tuh death. Go out doors nex' mawnin and look ahround you'll find uh dead owl round dere somewhere," Said Mah Honey.

"All you need tuh do is turn somethin' wrong side outuds, pull off yo' coat and turn it or else you kin turn uh pockaets."Carrie Jones added. "Me, Ah always pull off uh stockin' and turn it. Dat always drives es 'im off." 

 "Throw some salt on de lamp or stick uh rusty fork in de floor will do de same thing. In fact its de best of all; Ah mean salt in de lamp. Nothin' evil can't stand salt, let alone burnin' salt."

 "Lemme tell y'all how come we got squinch owls and then "all kin talk all yuh please bout how tuh kill 'em and drivese 'em de house top in de night time," said A.D.

Yuh know Ole Marster had uh ole maid sister that never been married. You know how stringy white folks necks gits when dey gits ole. Well hers had done got that-a-way and more special cause she never been married.

Her name wuz Miss Pheenie and Ole Marster had uh daughter so there wuz young mens round de parlor and de porch. All in de sittin' chairs and in de hammock under de trees. So Miss Pheenie useter stand round and peer at 'em and grin lak uh possum-wishin' she could git courted and married.

So one devilish young buck, he seen de feelin' in her so he 'gin tuh make manners wid her and last thing he done, he told her says, "If you 'go set up on de roof uh de house all night Ah'Il marry yuh in de mawnin'."

It wuz uh bitter cold night. De wind searchin' lak de police. So she clambed up dere and set straddle of de highest part cause she couldn't stick nowhere's else. And she couldn't help but shake and shiver. And everytime de clock would strike de hour she'd say, C-o-o-o-l-d on de housetop, but uh young man in de mawnin." She kept dat up till de clock struck four, when she tumbled down, froze tuh death. But de very next night after they buried her, she took de shape of uh owl and wuz back dere shivverin' and 'cryin'. And dats how come us got squinch owls.TOP

"Dat sho waz uh true lie, A.D" Carrie said. "Ah sho is many de time dat Miss Pheenie had uh stayed off de uh dat house."

"Ah knows one 'bout uh witch woman," A.D. went on. "Ah'll tell dat one too, whilst Ah got mah wind."

"Naw, Ah don't wanta hear bout no witches ridin' nobody," Baby-face Turl objected. "Ah been near rode to death in mah time. Can't bear tuh hear tell of it."

"Well then Ah kin tell yuh bout dat talkin' mule. "

Ole feller one time had uh mule. His name wuz Bill. Every mornin' de man go tuh ketch 'im he say, "Come 'round, Bill!"

So one mornin' he slept late, so he decided while he wuz drinkin' some coffee he'd send his son tuh ketch Ole Bill.

Told 'im say, "Go down dere, boy, and bring me dat mule up here."

Boy, he sich a fast Aleck, he grabbed de bridle and wen on down tuh de lot tuh ketch ole Bill.

He say, "Come round, Bill!"

De mule looked round at 'im. He told de mule,"'Tain't no use you rollin' yo' eyes at me. Pa want yuh dis mawnin'. Come on round and stick yo' head in dis bridle."

Mule kept on lookin' at 'im and said, "Every mornin' it's 'Come round, Bill! Come round, Bill!' Don't hardly git no night rest befo' it's 'Come round, Bill!' "

De boy throwed down dat bridle and flew back tuh de house and told his Pa, "Dat mule is talkin'."

"Ah g'wan, boy, tellin' yo' lies! G'wan ketch dat mule.",

"Naw suh, Pa, dat mule's done gone tuh talkin'. You hatta ketch dat mule yo' ownself. Ah ain't gwine."

Ole man looked at ole lady and say, "See whut uh lie dat boy is tellin'?"

So he gits out and goes on down after de mule hisself When he got down dere he hollered, "Come round, Bill!"

Ole mule looked round and says, "Every mornin' it's come round Bill!"

De old man had uh little fice dog useter foller 'im everywhere he go, so he lit out wid de lil fice right behind 'im. So he told de ole lady, "De boy ain't told much of uh lie. Dat mule is talkin'. Ah never heered uh mule talk befo'. "

Lil fice say, "Me neither."

De ole man got skeered agin. Right through de woods he went wid de fice right behind 'im. He nearly run hisself tuh death. He stopped and commenced blowin' and says, "Ah'm so tired Ah don't know whut tuh do."

Lil dog run and set down in front of 'im and went to hasslin' and says, "Me too."

Dat man is runnin' yet.TOP

Everybody agreed that the old man did right by running, some thought they could have bettered his record both for speed and distance.

"What make you love tuh tell dem skeery lies, A.D.?" Clarence Beale asked.

Lessie Lee snuggled up to Clarence with the eyes of Eve and said, "He skeers me too, Clarence. Less me and you hug together." Clarence grabbed her and wrapped her up tight.

"Youse jus' all right, A.D. If you know another one skeerier than dat one, Ah'll give yuh five dollars tuh tell it and then Ah'm gointer git de job uh keepin' de boogers off Lessie Lee tuhnight. G'wan tell it."

"Yeah man! " Christopher Jenkins chimed in. "All dese frail eels gittin' skittish. Tell some mo' A.D. Skeer Carrie right up on me! "

So A.D. told another one.

This wuz uh man. His name was High Walker. He walked into a boneyard with skull-heads and other bones. So he would call them, "Rise up bloody bones and shake Yo'self." And de bones would rise up and come together, and shake theirselves and part and lay back down. Then he would say to hisself, "High Walker," and de bones would say"Be walkin'."

When he'd git off a little way he'd look back over his shoulder and shake hisself and say, "High Walker and bloody bones," and de bones would shake theirselves. Therefore he knowed he had power.

So uh man sold hisself to de high chief devil. He give 'im his whole soul and body tuh do ez he pleased wid it. He went out in uh drift uh woods and laid down flat on his back beyond all dese skull heads and bloody bones and said, "Go 'way Lawd, and come here Devil and do as you please wid me. Cause Ah want tuh do everything in de world dats wrong and never do nothing right."

And he dried up and died away on doin' wrong. His meat all left his bones and de bones all wuz separated.

And at dat time High Walker walked upon his skull head and kicked and kicked it on ahead of him a many and a many times and said tuh it, "Rise up and shake yo'self. High Walker is here,."

Ole skull head wouldn't say nothin'. He looked back over his shoulder cause he heard some noises behind him and said, "Bloody bones you won't say nothin' yet. Rise tuh de power in de flesh."

Den de skull head said, "My mouf brought me here and if you don't mind, you'n will bring you here."

High Walker went on back to his white folks and told de white man dat a dry skull head wuz talkin' in de drift today. White man say he didn't believe it.

"Well, if you don't believe it, come go wid me and Ah'll prove it. And if it don't speak, you kin chop mah head off right where it at."

So de white man and High Walker went back in de drift tuh find dis ole skull head. So when he walked up tuh it, he begin tuh kick and kick de ole skull head, but it wouldn't say nothin'. High Walker looked at de white man and seen 'im whettin' his knife. Whettin' it hard and de sound of it said rick-de-rick, rick-de-rick, rick-de-rick! So High Walker kicked and kicked dat ole skull head and called it many and many uh time, but it never said nothin'. So de white man cut off High Walker's head.

And de ole dry skull head said, "See dat now! Ah told you dat mouf brought me here and if you didn't mind out it'd bring you here."

So de bloody bones riz up and shook they selves seben times and de white man got skeered and said, "What you mean by dis?"

De bloody bones say, "We got High Walker and we all bloody bones now in de drift together." TOP

The next day was Thursday and I got a letter from Big Sweet saying I must be back at Loughman by Saturday because that was pay night and Thelma and Cliffert were getting mar ried and big doings would be going on.

Friday I arrived in Loughman. Thelma and Cliffert got married on Saturday and everybody that wasn't mad put out to give them a big time.

The biggest crowd was over at the Pine Mill where Jim Presley was playing so I wanted to go there. Big Sweet didn't want to go there much. At least that is what she told everybody, but she told me to go on. She might be over later. She gave me some advice about looking out for myself.

"Don't let nobody bring yuh nothin' tuh eat and drink, and don't let' m send it neither. They liable tuh put uh spider in yo' dumplin'. Don't let nobody git yuh intuh no fuss, cause you can't do dis kind uh fightin'. You don't know no better'n tuh go face tuh face tuh fight. Lucy and dem ain't gointer fight nobody lak dat. They think it make 'em look big tuh cut yuh. Ah done went tuh her and put mah foot up on her door step and told her dat if she tetch yuh Ah'll gently chain-gang fuh her, but she don't aim tuh lemme ketch her. She mean tuh slip up on yuh sometime and hit yuh uh back hand lick wid het knife and turn her hand over right quick and hit yuh forward wid it and pull it down. Then she aims tuh run cross back yard and jump fences so fast till me and de law neither can't find her."

"Well, Big Sweet, if it's like dat, Ah speck Ah better not gut unless you be wid me," I told her.

" Oh yeah, you go on. You come here tuh see and lissen and Ah means fuh yuh tuh do it. Jus' watch out. Ah could give y uh knife tuh tote but dat wouldn't do you no good. You don' know how tuh handle it. Ah got two round here. One  good one Ah got down in Tampa, and one ole froe. But y jus' gwan over dere and mind what Ah tell yuh. Ah'm liable tuh be dere tuhreckly mahself. And don't git biggity nobody and let yuh head start more than yo' rump kin stan'."

I promised sincerely and took Cliffert and Thelma in the with me to the Pine Mill.

A new man had come from Groveland, where another sawmill was located, and he was standing behind Jim Presly, and Slim, singing new songs, and I was so glad that I'd come. It didn't take me long to learn some new ones and I forgot all about Lucy.

Way after midnight Big Sweet came in. The place was hot by then. Everything was done got loud. The music, the dancing, the laughing, and nobody could say a thing even over the card games unless they made it sound something like singing. Heard one woman playing Coon Can sing out:

Give mah man mah money, tuh play Coon Can

 He lost all mah money but he played his hand.

In a little while I heard her again:

Befo' Ah'll lose mah rider's change

Ah'll spread short deuces and tab de game.

Big Sweet nodded me over in a corner and said, "Ah done strowed it over on de other side dat Ah'm gone home tuh b ed. Jus' wanta see whubedmight come off."

"Lucy ain't been here atall," I told her. "Believe skeered you might kill her sho 'nuff."

"She know Ah will lessen she kill me first. Ah hates uh two-faced heifer lak her. And Ah ain't skeered tuh see Mah Jesus neither cause de Bible say God loves uh plain sinner and he's married tuh de backslider. Ah got jus' as good uh chance Heben as anybody else. So have yo' correct amount uh fun. Ah'm settin' right over dere in dat skin game. "

Heard somebody at the Florida Flip game say, "Ah'm gone--jus' lak uh turkey through de corn. Deal!"

Heard somebody else in the game say, "Beggin' " and the dealer told him, "Eat acorns."

Heard Blue Baby ask Box-Car, "Who is dat new nigger ver dere by de refreshments? God Amighty, ugly got de mug him wid four wheel brakes."

"He's de new skitter man (A panther had killed the other one a week earlier). He sho' ain't nobody's pretty 'aby. Bet he have tuh slip up on de dipper tuh git uh drinkh water. B'lieve Ah'll holler at 'im. 'Hey Ugly, who made you? Don't start tuh lyin' on God now."

A general laugh followed this. Box-Car, a little proud of his crack, grabbed Blue Baby. "Come, on less go over dere and marry Cliff and Thelma all over agin. Hey Cliff, you and Thelma git up on de floor and raise yo' right hand. Y'all ain't en hitched right till Box-Car git thew widja. " The couple bashfully stood up.

"Join hands. Alright Cliff, Ah'm de pr eacher Here's yo' woman, here's de ring, Here's de banana, here's de skin Now you married, go--

A huge burst of laughter drowned out Box Car's voice andw hen the laugh dieand when t, I could hear Nunkie, "reading the deck" where the flip game used to be. Calling the names of the cards and laying them down rhythmically and dramatically he read: 

 Ace means the first time that met you,

Deuce means there was nobody there but us two,

Trey means the third party, Charlie was his name,

Four spot means the fourth time you tried dat same ole game,

 Five spot is five years you played me for a clown,

Six spot, six feet, of earth when de deal goes down,

Now, Ah'm holdin' de seben spot for each day in de week,

Eight spot, eight hours you sheba-ed wid yo' sheik,

 Nine spot means nine hours Ah work hard every day,

Ten spot de tenth of every month Ah brought you home mah pay,

De Jack is Three Card Charlie who I played me for a goat,

De Queen, dat s you, pretty mama, also tryin' tuh cut mah throat,

De King, dat hot papa Nunkie, and he's gointer wear de crown

 So be keerful y'all ain't broke when de deal goes down.

Nunkie looked around belligerently on the last sentence and pulled at Big Sweet and Joe Willard pumped up the music,

"Play some music,Jim, y'all over dere, and less dance some mo'. Nunkie wants tuh pick uh fight with Who Flung. Play us uh slow drag. Come on Big Sweet, less me and you have uh schronchuns dance."

"Dance wid Zora, honey, Ah don't choose tuh move from where Ah'm at. Ah ain't mad wid nobody, baby, jus' wanta' set and look on uh while yet."

Heard the new singing man climbing up on

Tell me, tell me where de blood red river ru-u-un

 Oh tell me where de blood red river run

From mah back door, straight to de risin' sun.

Heard Slim's bass strings under the singing throbbing like all Africa and Jim Presley's melody crying like repentance as four or five couples took the floor. Doing the slow drag, the schronch. Joe Willard doing a traveling buck and towards where I stood against the wall facing the open door.

Just about that time Lucy hopped up in the doorway an open knife in her hands. She saw me first thing. Maybe she had been outside peeping a long time and there I was leaning against the wall right close to Slim. One door in the place and Lucy standing in it.

"Stop dat music," she yelled without moving. "Don't vip another vop till Ah say so! Ah means tuh turn dis place out now. Ah got de law in mah mouf."

So she started walking hippily straight at me. She knew I couldn't get out easily because she had me barred and she knew not many people will risk running into a knife blade to stop a fight. So she didn't have to run. I didn't move but I was running in my skin. I could hear the blade already crying in flesh. I was sick and weak. But a flash from the corner out ten feet off and Lucy had something else to think about besides me. Big Sweet was flying at her with an open blade and it was Lucy's time to try to make it to the door. Big Swee kicked her somewhere about the knees and she fell. A doubled  razor flew thru the air very close to Big Sweet's head. Crip, the new skitter man, had hurled it. It whizzed past Big Sweet and stuck in the wall; then Joe Willard went for Crip. Presley punched me violently and said, "Run you chile! In and ride! Dis is gointer be uh nasty ditch. Lucy been feedin' Crip under rations tuh git him tuh help her. Run clean dis job! Some uh dese folks goin' tuh judgment and some n' tuh jail. Come on, less run!"

 Slim stuck out the guitar to keep two struggling men from blocking my way. Lucy was screaming. Crip had hold of Big Sweet's clothes in the back and Joe was slugging him loose. Curses, oaths, cries and the whole place was in motion. Blood on the floor. I fell out of the door over a man lying on steps, who either fell himself trying to run or got knocked down. I don't know. I was in the car in a second and in high too quick. Jim and Slim helped me throw my bags into the the car and I saw the sun rising as I approached Crescent City.TOP


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