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Mules and Men

Chapter III

  1. The Quickest Trick
  2. How to Write a Letter
  3. A Fast Horse
  4. "Ah'll Beatcher Makin' Money"
  5. "The Workinest Pill You Ever Saw"
  6. How Jack Beat De Devil
  7. "John Henry"

    Youse in de majority, now Shug," B. Moseley said, seeing Bennie asleep. "Le's hear 'bout dat man wid three women." Shug said:

    Naw, it was three mens went to court a girl, Ah told you. Dis was a real pretty girl wid shiny black hair and coal black eyes. And all dese men wanted to marry her, so they all went and ast her pa if they could have her. He looked 'em all over, but he couldn't decide which one of 'em would make de best husband and de girl, she couldn't make up her mind, so one Sunday night when he walked into de parlor where they was all sittin' and said to 'em, "Well, all y'all want to marry my daughter and youse all good men and Ah can't decide which one will make her de best husband. So y'all be here tomorrow mornin' at daybreak and we'll have a contest and de one dat can do de quickest trick kin have de girl."

    Nex' mornin' de first one got up seen it wasn't no water in de bucket to cook breakfas' wid. So he tole de girl's mama to give him de water bucket and he would go to the spring and git her some.

    He took de bucket in his hand and then he found out dat de spring was ten miles off. But he said he didn't mind dat. He went on and dipped up de water and hurried on back wid it. When he got to de five-mile post he looked down into de bucket and seen dat de bottom had done dropped out. Then he recollected dat he heard somethin' fall when he dipped up de water so he turned round and run back to de spring and clapped in dat bottom before de water had time to spill.

    De ole man thought dat was a pretty quick trick, but de second man says, "Wait a minute. Ah want a grubbin' hoe and a axe and a plow and a harrow." So he got everything he ast for. There was ten acres of wood lot right nex' to de house. He went out dere and chopped down all de trees grubbed up de roots, ploughed de field, harrowed it, planted it in cowpeas, and had green peas for dinner.

    De ole man says "Dat's de quickest trick. Can't nobod beat dat. No use in tryin'. He done won de girl."

    De last man said, "You ain't even givin' me a chance to win de girl."

    So he took his high powered rifle and went out into de woods about seben or eight miles until he spied a deer. He took aim and fired. Then he run home, run round behind de house and set his gun down and then run back out in de woods and caught de deer and held 'im till de bullet hit 'im.

    So he won de girl. TOP

    Robert Williams said:

    Ah know another man wid a daughter.

    The man sent his daughter off to school for seben years, den she come home all finished up. So he said to her, "Daughter, git yo' things and write me a letter to my brother!" So she did.

    He says, "Head it up," and she done so.

    "Now tell 'im, 'Dear Brother, our chile is done come home from school and all finished up and we is very proud of her. ' "

    Then he ast de girl "Is you got dat?"

    She tole 'im "yeah."

    "Now tell him some mo'. 'Our mule is dead but Ah got another mule and when Ah say (clucking sound of tongue and teeth) he moved from de word.'

    "Is you got dat?" he ast de girl. Naw suh," she tole 'im.

    He waited a while and he ast her again, "You got dat down yet?"

    "Naw suh, Ah ain't got it yet."

    "How come you ain't got it?"

    "Cause Ah can't spell (clucking sound)."

    "You mean to tell me you been off to school seben year and can't spell (clucking sound)? Why Ah could spell dat myself and Ah ain't been to school a day in mah life. Well jes' say (clucking sound) he'll know what yo' mean and go on wid de letter."  TOP

    Henry "Nigger" Byrd said:

    I know one about a letter too.

    My father owned a fas' horse--I mean a fast horse. We was livin' in Ocala then. Mah mother took sick and mah father come and said, "Skeet," he uster call me Skeet, "You oughter wire yo' sister in St. Petersburg."

    "I jus' wired her," I tole him.

    "Whut did you put in it?"

    I tole 'im.

    He says, "Dat ain't right. I'm goin' ketch it." He went out in de pasture. and caught de horseand shod 'im and curried 'im and brushed 'im off good, put de saddle on 'it and got on 'im, and caught dat telegram and read it and took it on to mah sister.

    Soon as he left de house, mama said, "You chillun mak a fire in de stove and fix somethin' for de ole man to eat.

    Befo' she could git de word out her mouf, him and ma sister rode up to de do' and said "Whoa!"

    By dat time a flea ast me for a shoeshine so I left. TOP

    Armetta said: "Nigger, I didn't know you could lie that.

    "I ain't lyin', Armetta. We had dat horse. We had a cow to and she was so swaybacked that she could use de bushy par of her tail for a umbrella over her head."

    "Shet up, Nig"' "Seaboard" Hamilton pretended to be outraged.

    "Ah knowed you could sing barytone butbut ahuldn't a b'lieved de lyin' was in you if Ah didn't hear you myself. Whut makes you bore wid such a great big augur?

     Little Julius Henry, who should have been home in be spoke up. "Mah brother John had a horse 'way back dere in slavery time.

    "Let de dollars hush whilst de nickel speak," ChaCharlienes derided Julius' youth. "Julius, whut make you wanta jump in a hogshead when a kag will hold yuh? You hear dese har ole coons lyin' up a nation and you stick in yo' bill. "If his mouf is cut cross. ways and he's two years ole, he kin lie good as anybody else," John French defended. "Blow it,Julius. "

    Julius spat out into the yard, trying to give the impression,,' that he was skeeting tobacco juice like a man.

    De rooster chew t'backer, de hen dip snuff.

    De biddy can't do it, but he struts his stuff.

    Ole John, he was workin' for Massa and Massa had two hawses and he lakted John, so he give John one of his hawses.

    When John git to workin' 'em he'd haul off and beat Massa's hawse, but he never would hit his'n. So then some white folks tole ole Massa 'bout John beatin' his hawse and never beatin' his own. So Massa tole John if he ever heard tell of him layin' a whip on his hawse agin he was gointer take and kill John's hawse dead as a nit.

    John tole 'im, "Massa, if you kill my hawse, Ah'll beatcher makin' money."

    One day John hit ole Massa's hawse agin. Dey went and tole Massa' bout it. He come down dere where John was haulin' trash, wid a great big ole knife and cut John's hawse's th'oat and he fell dead.

    John jumped down off de wagon and skint his hawse, and tied de hide up on a stick and throwed it cross his shoulder, and went on down town.

    Ole John was a fortune teller hisself but nobody 'round dere didn't know it. He met a man and de man ast John, "Whut's dat you got over yo' shoulder dere, John?"

    "It's a fortune teller, boss."

    "Make it talk some, John, and I'll give you a sack of money and a hawse and saddle, and five head of cattle."

    John put de hide on de ground and pulled out de stick and hit 'cross de hawse hide and hold his head down dere to lissen.

    "Dere's a man in yo' bedroom behind de bed talkin' to yo, wife."

    De man went inside his house to see. When he come back out he said, "Yeah, John, you sho tellin' de truth. Make him talk some mo'."

    John went to puttin' de stick back in de hide. "Naw, Massa, he's, tired now."

    De white man says, "Ah'll give you six head of sheeps and fo' hawses and fo' sacks of money."

    John pulled out de stick and hit down on de hide and hold down his head to lissen.

    "It's a man in yo' kitchen openin' yo' stove." De man went back into his house and come out agin and tole John, "Yo, fortuneteller sho is right. Here's de things Ah promised you. "

    John rode on past Ole Massa's house wid all his sacks of money and drivin' his sheeps and cattle, whoopin' and crackin' his whip. "Yee, whoo-pee, yee!" Crack!

    Massa said, "John, where did you git all dat?"

    John said, "Ah tole you if you kilt mah hawse Ah'd beatcher makin' money."

    Massa said to 'im, "Reckon if Ah kilt mah hawse Ah'd make dat much money?"

    "Yeah, Massa, Ah reckon so."

    So ole Massa went out and kilt his hawse and went to town hollerin', "Hawse hide for sale! Hawse hide for sale!"

    One man said, "Hold on dere. Ah'll give you twobits for it to bottom some chears."

    Ole Massa tole 'im, "Youse crazy!" and went on hollerin' "Hawse hide for sale!",

    "Ah'Il gi' you twenty cents for it to cover some chears another man said.

    "You must be stone crazy! Why, dis hide is worth five thousand dollars."

    De people all laughed at 'im so he took his hawse hide and throwed it away and went and bought hisself another hawse.

    Ole John, he already rich, he didn't have to work, but he jus' love to fool 'round hawses so he went to drivin' hawse, and buggy for Massa. And when nobody wasn't wid him, John would let his grandma ride in Massa's buggy. Dey tole ole Massa 'bout it and he said, "John, Ah hear you been had yo'grandma ridin' in mah buggy. De first time Ah ketch her in it, Ah'm gointer kill 'er."

    John tole 'im, "If you kill my grandma, Ah'Il beatcher makin' money.

    Pretty soon some white folks tole Massa dat John was takin' his gran'ma to town in his buggy and was hittin' his hawse and showin' off. So ole Massa come out dere and cut John's gran'ma's th'oat.

    So John buried his gran'ma in secret and went and got his same ole hawse hide and keered it up town agin and went 'round talkin' 'bout, "Fortuneteller, fortuneteller!"

    One man tole 'im, "Why, John, make it talk some for me. Ah'Il give you six head of goats, six sheeps, and a hawse and a saddle to ride 'im wid."

    So John made it talk and de man was pleased so he give John more'n he, promised 'im, and John went on back past Massa's house, wid his stuff so ole Massa could see 'im.

    Ole Massa run out and ast, "Oh, John, where did you git, all dat?"

    John said, "Ah tole you if you kill mah gran'ma Ah'd beatcher makin' money."

    Massa said, "You reckon if Ah kill mine, Ah'll make all dat?"

    "Yeah, Ah reckon so."

    So Massa runned and cut his granma's th'oat and went up town hollerin' "gran'ma for sale! gran'ma for sale!"

    Wouldn't nobody break a breath wid him. Dey thought he was crazy. He went on back home and grabbed John and tole 'im, "You made me kill my gran'ma and my good hawse and Ah'm gointer throw you in de river."

    John tole 'im, "If you throw me in de river, Ah'Il beatcher makin' money."

    "Naw you won't neither," Massa tole 'im. "You done made yo' last money and done yo' las' do."

    He got ole John in de sack and keered 'im down to de river, but he done forgot his weights, so he went back home to git some.

    While he was gone after de weights a toad frog come by dere and John seen 'im. So he hollered and said, "Mr. Hoptoad, if you open dis sack and let me out Ah'Il give you a dollar."

    Toad frog let 'im out, so he got a softshell turtle and put it in de sack wid two big ole bricks. Then ole Massa got his weights and come tied 'em on de sack and throwed it in d river.

    Whilst Massa was down to de water foolin' wid dat sack, John had done got out his hawse hide and went on up town agin hollerin', "Fortuneteller! Fortuneteller!"

    One rich man said "Make it talk for me, John."

    John pulled out de stick and hit on de hide, and put his ear down. "Uh man is in yo' smokehouse stealin' meat an another one is in yo' moneysafe."

    De man went inside to see and when he come back he said, "You sho kin tell de truth."

    So John went by Massa's house on a new hawse, wid a sack of money tied on each side of de saddle. Ole Massa seen 'im and ast, "Oh, John, where'd you git all dat?"

    "Ah tole you if you throw me in de river Ah'd beatcher makin' money?"

    Massa ast, "Reckon if Ah let you throw me in de river, Ah'd make all dat?"

    "Yeah, Massa, Ah know so."

    John got ole Massa in de sack and keered 'im down to de river. John didn't forgit his weights. He put de weights on ole Massa and jus' befo' he throwed 'im out he said, "Goodbye, Massa, Ah hope you find all you lookin' for."

    And dat wuz de las' of ole Massa. TOP

    "Dat wuz a long tale for a li'l boy lak you," George Thomas praised Julius.

    "Ah knows a heap uh tales," Julius retorted.

    Whut is de workinest pill you ever seen? Lemme tell you whut kind of a pill it was and how much it worked.

    It wuz a ole man one time and he had de rheumatism so bad he didn't know what to do. Ah tole 'im to go to town and git some of dem conthartic pills.

    He went and got de pills lak Ah tole 'im, but on his way back he opened de box and went to lookin' at de pills. He wuz comin' cross some new ground where dey hadn't even started to dear up de land. He drop one of de pills but he didn't bother to pick it up skeered he might hurt his back stoopin' over.

    He got to de house and say, "Ole lady, look down yonder whut a big smoke! Whut is dat, nohow?"

    She say, "Ah don't know."

    "Well," he say. "Guess Ah better walk down dere and see whut dat big smoke is down dere."

    He come back. "Guess whut it is, ole lady? One of dem conthartic pills done worked all dem roots out de groun and got 'em burning!" TOP

    "Julius, you little but you loud. Dat's a over averag lie you  tole," Shug laughed. "Lak de wind Ah seen on de East Coast.' It blowed a crooked road straight and blowed a well up out ground and blowed and blowed until it scattered de days of de week so bad till Sunday didn't come till late Tuesday evenin'. "Shug, Whuss yuh gonna do?" Bennie Lee tried to rise to the surface but failed and slumped back into slumber. "A good boy, but a po' boy," somebody commented as,

    John French made his mind up. "Zora, Ah'm gointer tell one, but you be sho and tell de folks Ah tole it. Don't say Seymore said it because he took you on de all day fishin' trip to Titusville. Don't say Seaboard Hamilton tole it 'cause he always give you a big hunk of arbecue when you go for a sandwich. Give ole John French whut's comin' to 'im." "You gointer tell it or you gointer spend de night tellin' us you gointer tell it?" I asked.

    Ah got to say a piece of litery (literary) fust to git mah wind on.

    Well Ah went up on dat meatskin

    And Ah come down on dat bone

    And Ah grabbed dat piece of cornbread

    And Ah made dat biscuit moan.

    Once a man had two sons. One was name Jim and de, other one dey call him Jack for short. Dey papa was a most rich man, so he called de boys to 'im one night and tole 'em, "Ah don't want y'all settin' 'round waitin' for me tuh die tuh git whut Ah'm gointer give yuh. Here's five hundred dollars apiece. Dat's yo' sheer of de proppity. Go put yo'selves on de ladder. Take and make men out of yourselves."

    Jim took his and bought a big farm and a pair of mules and settled down.

    Jack took his money and went on down de road skinnin' and winnin'. He won from so many mens till he had threbbled his money. Den he met a man says, "Come on, le's skin some." De man says "Money on de wood" and he laid down a hundred dollars.

    Jack looked at de hurid'ud dollars and put down five hund'ud and says, "Man, Ah ain't for no spuddin'. You playin' wid yo' stuff out de winder. You fat 'round de heart. Bet some money.

    De other man covered Jack's money and dey went to skinnin'. Jack was dealin' and he thought he seen de other man on de turn so he said, Five hund'ud mo' my ten spot is de bes'."

    De man covered Jack's money and dey went skinnin'. Jack was dealin' and he though he seen de other man on de turn so he said, "Five hund'ud mo' my ten spot is de bes'."

    De man covered 'im and Jack slapped down another five hund'ud and said,  "Five hund'ud mo' you fall dis  time."

    De other man never said a word. He put down five hund'ud mo'.

    Jack got to singin':

    "When yo' card git-uh lucky, oh pardner you oughter be in a rollin I game."

    He flipped de card and bless God it wuz de ten spot' Jack had done fell hisself instead of de other man. He was all put out.

    Says, "Well, Ah done los' all mah money so de game is through."

    De other man say, "We kin still play on. Ah'll bet you all de money on de table against yo' life."

    Jack agreed to play 'Cause he figgered he could outshoot and outcut any man on de road and if de man tried to kill bim he'd git kilt hisself. So dey shuffled agin and Jack pulled a card and it fell third in hand.

    Den de man got up and he was twelve foot tall and Jack was so skeered he didn't know whut to do. De man looked down on 'im and tole 'im says, "De Devil is mah'name and Ah live across de deep blue sea. Ah could kill you right now, but Ah'll give Yuh another chance. If you git to my house befo' de sun sets and rise agin Ah won't kill yuh, but if you don't Ah'll be compelled to take yo' life."

    Den he vanished.

    Jack went on down de road jus' a cryin' till he met uh ole man.

    Says,"Whuss de matter, Jack?"


    "Ah played skin wid de Devil for mah life and he winned and tole me if Ah ain't to his house by de time de  sun sets and rise agin he's gointer take mah life, and he live  way across de ocean."

    De ole man says,"You sho is in a bad fix, Jack. Dere ain't but one thing dat kin cross de ocean in dat time."

    ,'Whut is dat?

    "It's uh  bald eagle. She come down to de edge of de ocean every mornin' and dip herself in de sea and pick off all de dead feathers. When she dip herself de third time and pick herself she rocks herself and spread her wings and mount de sky and go straight across de deep blue sea. And every time she holler, you give her piece uh dat yearlin' or she'll eat you.

    "Now if you could be dere wid a yearlin' bull and when she git thru dippin' and pick herself and rock to mount de sky and jump straddle of her back wid dat bull yearlin' you could make it."

    Jack wuz dere wid de yearlin' waitin' for dat eagle to come. He wuz watchin' her from behind, de bushes and seen her when she come out de water and picked off de dead feather and rocked to go on high.

    He jumped on de eagle's back wid his yearlin and de eagle was out flyin' de sun. After while she turned her head from side to side and her blazin' eyes lit up first de north den de south and she hollered, "Ah?h?h, Ah, ah! One quarter cross de ocean! Don't see nothin' but blue water, uh!"

    Jack was so skeered dat instead of him givin' de eagle uh quarter of de meat, he give her de whole bull. After while she say, "Ah?h?h, ah, ah! One half way cross de ocean! Don't see nothin' but blue water!"

    Jack didn't have no mo' meat so he tore off one leg and give it to her. She swallowed dat and flew on. She hollered agin, "Ah,ha. Ah, ha! Mighty nigh cross de ocean' Don't see nothin' but blue water' uh"'

    Jack tore off one arm and give it to her and she et dat and pretty soon she lit on land and Jack jumped off and de eagle flew on off to her nest.

    Jack didn't know which way de Devil lived so he ast. "Dat first big white house 'round de bendin de road," dey tole 'im.

    Jack walked to de Devil's house and knocked on de do'.

    "Who's dat?"

    "One of de Devil's friends. One widout uh arm and widout uh leg."

    Devil tole his wife, says: "Look behind de do' and hand dat man uh arm and leg." She give Jack de arm and leg and Jack put 'em on.

    Devil says, "See you got here in time for breakfas'. But Ah got uh job for yuh befo' you eat. Ah got uh hund'ud acres uh new ground ain't never had uh brush cut on it. Ah want you to go out dere and cut down, all de trees and brushes, grub up all de roots and pile 'em and bum 'em befo' dinner time. If you don't, Ah'Il hafta take yo' life."

    Jus' 'bout dat time de Devil's chillen come out to look at Jack and he seen he had one real pretty daughter, but Jack wuz too worried to think 'bout no girls. So he took de tools and went on out to de wood lot and went to work.

    By de time he chopped down one tree he wuz tired and he knowed it would take 'im ten years to dear dat ground right, so Jack set down and went to cryin'. 'Bout dat time de Devil's pretty daughter come wid his breakfas'. "Whuss de matter, Jack?"

    "Yo papa done gimme uh job he know Ah can't git through wid, and he's gonna take mah life and Ah don't wanna die."

    "Eat yo' breakfas'Jack, and put yo' head in mah lap and go to sleep."

    Jack done lak she tole 'im and went to sleep and when he woke up every tree was down, every bush and de roots grubbed up and burnt. Look lak never had been a blade uh grass dere.

    De Devil come out to see how Jack wuz makin' out and seen dat hundred acres deaned off so nice and said, "Uh, huh, Ah see youse uh wise man, 'most wise as me. Now Ah got another job for yuh. Ah got uh well, uh hundred feet deep and Ah want yuh to dip it dry. Ah mean dry, Ah want it so dry till Ah kin see dust from it and den Ah want you to bring me whut you find at de bottom."

    Jack took de bucket and went to de well and went to work but he seen dat de water wuz comin' in faster dan he could draw it out. So he sat down and begin to cry.

    De Devil's daughter come traipsin long wid Jack's dinner and seen Jack settin' down cryin'. "Whuss de matter, Jack? Don't cry lak dat lessen you wanta make me cry too."

    Yo' pa done put me to doin' somethin' he know Ah can't never finish and if Ah don't git thru he is gonna take mah life.

    "Eat yo' dinner, Jack and put yo' head in mah lap and go to sleep.

    Jack done lak she tole 'im and when he woke up de well wuz so dry till red dust wuz boilin' out of it lak smoke. De girl handed 'im a ring and tole 'im "Give papa dis ring. Dat's whut he wanted. It's mama's ring and she lost it in de well de.other day."

    When de Devil come to see whut Jack wuz doin', Jack give 'im de ring and de Devil looked and seen all dat dust pourin' out de well. He say, "Ah see youse uh very smart man. Almos' as wise as me. All right, Ah got just one mo' job for you and if you do dat Ah'Il spare yo' life and let you marry mah daughter to boot. You take dese two geeses and go up dat cocoanut palm tree and pick 'em, and bring me de geeses when you git 'em picked and bring me every feather dat come off 'em. If you lose one Ah'll have to take yo life."

    Jack took de two geeses and clammed up de cocoanut palm tree and tried to pick dem geeses. But he was more'n uh hundred feet off de ground and every time he'd pull uh feather often one of dem birds, de wind would blow it away. So Jack began to cry agin. By dat time Beatrice Devil come up wid his supper. "Whuss de matter, Jack?"

    "Yo' papa is bound tuh kill me. He know Ah can't pick no geeses up no palm tree, and save de ' feathers.

    "Eat yo' supper Jack and lay down in mah lap."

    When Jack woke up all both de geeses wuz picked and de girl had all de feathers even; she had done caught dem out de air dat got away from Jack. De Devil said, "Well, now you done everything Ah tole you, you kin have mah daughter. Y'all take dat ole house down de road apiece. Dat's where me and her ma got our start."

    So Jack and de Devil's daughter got married and went to keepin' house.

    Way in de night, Beatrice woke up and shook Jack.

    "Jack! Jack! Wake up! Papa's comin' here to kill you. Git up and go to de barn. He got two horses dat kin jump a thousand miles at every jump. One is named Hallowedbethyname and de other, Thykingdomcome. Go hitch 'em to dat buck board and head  em dis way and le's go."

    Jack run to de barn and harnessed de hawses and headed towards de house where his wife wuz at. When he got to de do' she jumped in and hollered, "Le's go, Jack. Papa comin' after us!"

    When de Devil got to de house to kill Jack and found out Jack wuz gone, he run to de barn to hitch up his fas' hawses. When he seen dat dey wuz gone, he hitched up is jumpin' bull dat could jump five hundred miles at every jump, and down de road, baby!

    De Devil wuz drivin' dat bull! Wid every jump he'd holler, "Oh! Hallowedbethyname! Thykingdomcome!" And every time de hawses would hear 'im call 'em they'd fall to they knees and de bull would gain on 'em.

    De girl say, "Jack, he's 'bout to ketch us! Git out and drag yo' feet backwards nine steps, throw some sand over yo' shoulders and le's go!"

    Jack done dat and de hawses got up and off they went, but every time they hear they master's voice they'd stop till de girl told Jack to drag his foot three times nine times and he did it and they gained so fast on de Devil dat de hawses couldn't hear 'im no mo', and dey got away.

    De Devil passed uh man and he say, "Is you seen uh man in uh buck board wid uh pretty girl wid coal black hair and red eyes behind two fas' hawses?"

    De man said, "No, Ah speck dey done made it to de mountain and if dey gone to de mountain take 'em.

    "Jack and his wife wuz right dere den listenin' to de Devil. When de daughter saw her pa comin' she turned herself and de hawses into goats and they wuz croppin' grass. Jack wuz so tough she couldn't turn him into nothin' so she saw a holler log and she tole 'im to go hide in it, which he did. De Devil looked all around and he seen dat log and his mind jus' tole 'im to go look in it and he went and picked de log up and said "Ah, ha! Ah gotcher!"

    Jack wuz so skeered inside dat log he begin to call on de Lawd and he said, "0 Lawd, have mercy."

    You know de Devil don't lak tuh hear de name uh de Lawd so he throwed down dat log and said, "Damn it! If Ah had of knowed dat God wuz in dat log I Ah a picked it up."

    So he got back in and picked up de reins and hollered to de bull, "Turn, bull, turn! Turn dean round. Turn bull turn, turn dean round!"

    De jumpin' bull turnt so fast till he fell and broke his own neck and throwed de Devil out on his head and kilt 'im. So dat's why dey say Jack beat de Devil. TOP

    "Boy, how kin you hold all dat in yo' head?" Jack Jones asked John. "Bet if dat lie was somethin' to do yuh some good yuh couldn't remember it."

    Johnnie Mae yawned wide open and Ernest seeing her called out, "Hey, there Johnnie Mae, throw mah trunk out ,befo' you shet up dat place!"

    This reflection upon the size of her mouth peeved Johnnie Mae no end and she and Ernest left in a red hot family argument. Then everybody else found out that they were sleepy. So in the local term everybody went to the "pad. "

    Lee Robinson over in the church was leading an ole spiritual, "When I come to Die," to which I listened with one ear, while I heard the parting quips of the storytellers with the other.

    Though it was after ten the street lights were still on. B. Moseley had not put out the lights because the service in the church was not over yet, so I sat on the porch for a while ,looking towards the heavenrasping oaks on the back street, towards the glassy silver of Lake Sabelia. Over in the church I could hear Mrs. Laura Henderson finishing her testimony .. . . " to make Heben mah home when Ah come to die. Oh, Ah'll never forget dat day when de mornin' star bust in mah heart! Ah'll never turn back! 0 evenin' sun, when you git on de other side, tell mah Lawd Ah'm here prayin'."

    The next afternoon I sat on the porch again. The young'uns had the grassy lane that ran past the left side of the house playing the same games that I had played in the same lane years before. With the camphor tree as a base, they played ''Going 'Round de Mountain." Little Hubert Alexander was in the ring. The others danced rhythmically 'round him and sang:


    Mules and Men
    Going around de mountain two by two

    Going around de mountain two by two

    Tell me who love sugar and candy.

    Now, show me your motion, two by two

    Show me your motion two by two

    Tell me who love sugar and candy.

    I tried to write a letter but the games were too exciting.

    "Little Sally Walker," " Draw a bucket of water" "Sissy in de barn," and at last that most raucous, Popular and most African of games, "Chirck, mah Chick, mah Craney crow." Little Harriet Staggers, the smallest girl in the game, was contending for the place of the mama hen. She fought hard, but the larger girls Promptly overruled her'and she had to take her place in line behind the other little biddies, twoyearold Donnie Brown, being a year younger than Harriet, was the hindmost chick.

    During the hilarious uproar of the game, Charlie Jones and Bubber Mimms came up and sat on the porch with me.

    "Good Lawd, Zora! How kin you stand all dat racket? Why don't you run dem chaps 'way from here?" Seeing his nieces, Laura and Melinda and his nephew, Judson, he started to chase them off home but I made him see that it was a happy accident that they had chosen the lane as a playground. That I was enjoying it more than the chaps.

    That settled, Charlie asked, "Well, Zora, did we lie enough for you las' night?"

    "You lied good but not enough," I answered.

    "Course, Zora, you ain't at de right place to git de bes' lies. Why don't you go down 'round Bartow and Lakeland and ,round in dere?Polk County? Dat's where they really lies up a mess and dats where dey makes up all de songs and things lak dat. Ain't you never hea'd dat in Polk County de water drink lak cherry wine?"

    "Seems like when Ah was a child 'round here Ah heard de folks pickin' de guitar and singin' songs to dat effect."

    "Dat's right. If Ah was you, Ah'd drop down dere and see. It's liable to do you a lot uh good."

    "If Ah wuz in power. Ah'd go 'long wid you, Zora," Bubber added wistfully. "Ah learnt all Ah know 'bout pickin' de box in Polk County. But Ah ain't even got money essence. 'Tain't no mo' hawgs 'round here. Ah cain't buy no chickens. Guess Ah have tuh eat gopher." "Where you gointer git yo' gophers, Bubber?" Charlie asked, "Doc Biddy and his pa done 'bout deaned out dis part of de State. "

    "Oh, Ah got a new improvement dat's gointer be a lot of help to me and Doc Biddy and all of us po' folks."

    "What is it, Bubber?"

    "Ah'm gointer prune a gang of softshells (turtles) and grow me some gophers."

    The sun slid lower and lower and at last lost its grip on the western slant of the sky and dipped three times into the bloody sea sending up crimson spray with each plunge. At last it sunk and night roosted on the tree tops and houses.

    Bubber picked the box and Charlie sang me songs of the railroad camps. Among others, he taught me verses of John Henry, the king of railroad tracklaying songs which runs as follows:

    John Henry driving on the right hand side,

    Steam drill driving on the left,

    Says, 'fore I'll let your steam drill beat me down I'll hammer my fool self to death,

    Hammer my fool self to death.

    John Henry told his Captain, When you go to town Please bring me back a nine pound hammer And I'll drive your steel on down, And I'll drive your steel on down.

    John Henry told his Captain,

    Man ain't nothing but a man,

    And 'fore I'll let that steam drill beat me down

    I'll die with this hammer in my hand,

    Die with this hammer in my hand.

    Captain ast John Henry,

    What is that storm I hear?

    He says Cap'n that ain't no storm, '

    Tain't nothing but my hammer in the air,

    Nothing but my hammer in the air.

    John Henry told his Captain,

    Bury me under the sills of the floor,

     So when they get to playing good old Georgy skin,

    Bet 'em fifty to a dollar more, F

    ifty to a dollar more.

    John Henry had a little woman, T

    he dress she wore was red,

    Says I'm going down the track,

    And she never looked back.

    I'm going where John Henry fell dead,

    Going wherejohn Henry fell dead.

    Who's going to shoe your pretty fil feet?

    And who's going to glove your hand?

    Who's going to kiss your dimpled cheek?

    And who's going to be your man?

    Who's going to be your man?

    My father's going to shoe my pretty lil feet;

    My brother's going to glove my hand;

     My sister's going to kiss my dimpled cheek;

    John Henry's going to be my man,

    John Henry's going to be my man.

    Where did you get your pretty lil dress?

    The shoes you wear so fine?

    I got my shoes from a railroad man,

     My dress from a man in the mine,

    My dress from a man in the mine. TOP

    They talked and told strong stories of Ella Wall, East Coast Mary, Planchita and lesser jook lights around whom the glory of Polk County surged. Sawmill and turpentine bosses and  prison camp "cap'ns" set to music passed over the guitar strings and Charlie's mouth and I knew I had to visit Polk County right now.

    A hasty goodbye to Eatonville's oaks and oleanders and wheels of the Chevvie split Orlando wide open--headed southwest for corn (likker) and song.