Mrs. Tony Roberts is the pleading woman. She just loves to ask for things. Her husband
gives her all he can rake and scrape, which is considerably more than most wives get for
their housekeeping, but she goes from door to door begging for things.
She starts at the store. "Mist' Clarke, " she sing-songs in a high keening
voice, "gimme lil'piece uh meat tuh boil a pot uh greens wid. Lawd knows me an' mah
chillen is SO hongry! Hits uh SHAME! Tony don't fee-ee-eee-ed me!"
Mr. Clarke knows that she has money and that her larder is well stocked, for Tony
Roberts is the best provider on his list. But her keening annoys him and he arises
heavily. The pleader at this shows all the joy of a starving man being seated at a feast.
"Thass right Mist' Clarke. De Lawd loveth de cheerful giver. Gimme jes' a lil'
piece 'bout dis big (indicating the width of her hand) an' dc Lawd'll bless yuh."
She follows this angel?on?earth to his meat tub and superintends the cutting, crying
out in pain when he refuses to move the knife over just a teeny bit mo'.
Finally, meat in hand, she departs, remarking on the meanness of some people who give a
piece of salt meat only two?fingers wide when they were plainly asked for a hand?wide
piece. Clarke puts it down to Tony's account and resumes his reading.
With the slab of salt pork as a foundation, she visits various homes until she has
collected all she wants for the day* At the piersons, for instance:
"Sister Pierson, plee-ee-ease gimme uh han' ful uh collard greens fuh me an' mah po' chillen! 'Deed, me an,
mah chillen is SO hongry. Tony doan' fee-ee-eed me!" Mrs. Pierson picks a bunch of
greens for her, but she springs away from them as if they were poison?
"Lawd a mussy,
Mis' Pierson, You ain,t gonna gi mme dat lil' eye?fib uh greens fuh me an, mah chillen, is
You? Don't be so graspin'; Gawd won't bless yuh. Gimme uh han'full MO'? Lawd, some folks
is got everything, an' theys jes' I as gripin' an stingy!
Mrs. Pierson raises the ante, and the pleading woman moves on to the next place, and on
and on. The next day, it commences all over.
Jim Merchant is always in good humor?even with his wife. He says he fell in love with
her at firsts ight. That was some years ago. She has had all her teeth pulled out, but
they still get along splendidly.
He says the first time he called on her he found out that she was subject to fits? This
didn't cool his love, however. she had several in his presence. One Sunday, while he was
there, she had one, and her mother tried to give her a dose of turpentine to stop it.
Accidently, she spilled it in her eye and it cured her. She never had another fit, so they
got married and have kept each other in good humor ever since.
Becky Moore has eleven children of assorted colors and sizes, She has never been m
arried, but that is not her fault. She has never stopped any of the fathers of her
children from proposing, so if she has no father for her children it's not her fault. The
men round about are entirely to blame.
The other mothers of the town are afraid that it is catching.They won't let their
children play with hers.
Sykes Jones' family all shoot craps. The most interesting member Of the family-is also fond of bones, but of another kind? Tippy, the Jones' dog.
He is so thin, that it amazes one that he lives at all. He sneaks into village kitchens
if the housewives are careless about the doors and steals meats, even off the stoves. He
also sucks eggs.
For these offenses he has been sentenced to death dozens of times, and the sentences
executed upon him, only they didn't work. He has been fed bluestone, strychnine, nux
vomica, even an entire Peruna bottle beaten up. It didn't fatten him, but it didn't kill
him. So Eatonville has resigned itself to the plague of Tippy, reflecting that it has
erred in certain matters and is being chastened.
In spite of all the attempts upon his life, Tippy is still willing to be friendly with
anyone who will let bim.
THE WAY OF A MAN WITH A TRAIN
Old Man Anderson lived seven or eight miles out in the country from Eatonville. Over by
Lake Apopka. He raised feed?corn and cassava and went to market with it two or three times
a year. He bought all of his victuals wholesale so he wouldn't have to come to town for
several months more.
He was different from us citybred folks. He had never seen a train. Everybody laughed
at him for even the smallest child in Eatonville had either been to Maitland or Orlando
and watched a train go by. On Sunday afternoons all of the young people of the 62 Zora
Neale Hurston village would go over to Maitland, a mile away, to see Number 35, whizz
southward on its way to Tampa and wave at the passengers. So we looked down on him a
little. Even we children felt superior in the presence of a person so lacking in worldly
The grown-ups kept telling him he ought to go see a train. He always said he didn't
have time to wait so long. Only two trains a day passed through Maitland. But patronage
and ridicule finally had its effect and Old Man Anderson drove in one morning early.
Number 78 went north to Jacksonville at 10:20. He drove his light wagon over in the woods
beside the railroad below Maitland, and sat down to wait. He began to fear that his horse
would get frightened and run away with the wagon. So he took him out and led him deeper
into the grove and tied him securely. Then he returned to his wagon and waited some more.
Then he remembered that some of the train?wise villagers had said the engine belched fire
and smoke. He had better move his wagon out of danger. It might catch afire. He climbed
down from the seat and placed himself between the shafts to draw it away. Just then 78
came thundering over the trestle spouting smoke, and suddenly began blowing for Maitland.
Old Man Anderson became so frightened he ran away with the wagon through the woods and
tore it up worse than the horse ever could have done. He doesn't know yet what a train
looks like, and says he doesn't care.
Coon Taylor never did any real stealing. Of course, if he saw a chicken or a watermelon
or muskmelon or anything like that that he wanted he'd take it. The people used to get mad
but they never could catch him. He took so many melons from Joe Clarke that he set up in
the melon patch one night with his shotgun loaded with rock salt. He was going to fix
Coon. But he was tired. it is hard work being a mayor, postmaster, storekeeper and
everything. He dropped asleep sitting on a stump in the middle of the patch. So he didn't
see Coon when he came. Coon didn't see him either, that is, not at first. He knew the
stump was there, however. He had opened many of Clarke's juicy Florida Favorite on it. He
selected his fruit, walked over to the stump and burst the melon on it. That is, he
thought it was the stump until it fell over with a yell. Then he knew it was no stump and
departed hastily from those parts. He had cleared the fence when Clarke came to' as it
were. So the charge of rock-salt was wasted on the desert air.
During the sugar-cane season, he found he couldn't resist Clarke's soft green cane, but
Clarke did not go to sleep this time. So after he had cut six or eight stalks by the
moonlight, Clarke rose up out of the cane strippings with his shotgun and made Coon sit
right down and chew up the last one of them on the spot. And the next day he made Coon
leave his town for three months.
Joe Lindsay is said by Lum Boger to be the largest manufacturer of prevarications in
Eatonvil1e; Brazzle (late owner of the world's leanest and meanest mule) contends that his
business is the largest in the state and his wife holds that he is the biggest liar in the
Exhibit A:He claims that while he was in Orlando one day he saw a doctor cut open a
woman, remove everything-liver, lights and heart included-clean each of them separately;
the doctor then washed out the empty woman, dried her out neatly with a towel and replaced
the organs so expertly that she was up and about her work in a couple of weeks.
Sewell is a man who lives all to himself. He moves a great deal. So often, that 'Lige
Moseley says his chickens are so used to moving that every time he comes out into his
backyard the chickens lie down and cross their legs, ready to be tied up again.
He is baldheaded; but he says he doesn't mind that, because he wants as little as
possible between him and God.
Mrs. Clarke is Joe Clarke's wife. She is a so ?looking, middleaged woman, whose bust
and stomach are ays; holding a get together.
She waits on the store sometimes and cries every time he yells at her which he does
every time she mak s a mistake, which is quite often. She calls her husband " y. '
They say he used to beat her in the store when he was a young man, but he is not so
impatient now. He can wait until he goes home.
She shouts in Church every Sunday and shakes the hand of fellowship with everybody in
the Church with her eyes closed, but somehow always misses her husband.
Mrs. McDuffy goes to Church every Sunday and always shouts and tells her
"determination." Her husband always sits in the back row and beats her as soon
as they get home. He says there's no sense in her shouting, as big a devil as she is. She
just does it to slur him. Elijah Moseley asked her why she didn't stop shouting, seeing
she always got a beating about it. She says she can't "Squinch the sperrit."
Then Elijah asked Mr. McDuffy to stop beating her, seeing that she was going to shout
anyway. He answered that she just did it for spite and that his fist was just as hard as
her head. He could last just as long as she. So the village let the matter rest.
Back in the good old days before the World War, things were very simple in Eatonville.
People didn't fox-trot. When the town wanted to put on its Sunday clothes and wash behind
the ears, it put on a "breakdown." The daring younger set would two?step and
waltz, but the good church members and the elders stuck to the grand march. By rural
canons dancing is wicked, but one is not held to have danced until the feet have been
crossed. Feet don't get crossed when one grand marches.
At elaborate affairs the organ from the Methodist church was moved up to the hall and
Lizzimore, the blind man, presided. When informal gatherings were held, he merely played
his guitar assisted by any volunteer with mouth organs or accordions.
. Among white people the march is as mild as if it had been passed on by Volstead. But
it stiff has a kick in Eatonville. Everybody happy, shining eyes, gleaming teeth. Feet
dragged 'shhlap, shhlap! to beat out the time. No orchestra needed. Round and round! Back
again, parse?me?lal shlap! shlap! Strut! Strut! Seaboard! Shlap! Shlap! Tiddy bumm! Mr.
Clarke in the lead with Mrs. Moseley.
It's too much for some of the young folks. Double shuffling commences. Buck and wing.
Lizzimore about to break his guitar. Accordion doing contortions. People fall back against
the walls, and let the soloist have it, shouting as they clap the old, old double shuffle
Me an' mah honey got two mo' days,
Two mo' days tuh do de buck.
Sweating bodies, laughing mouths, grotesque faces, feet drumming fiercely. Deacons
clapping as hard as the rest.
Great big nigger, black as tar
Trying tuh git tuh hebben on uh 'lectric car.
Some love cabbage, some love kale
But I love a gal wid a short skirt tail.
Long tall angel??steppin' down,
Long white robe an'starry crown.
Ah would not marry uh black gal (bumm bumm!)
Tell yuh de reason why Every time she comb her hair
She make de goo-goo eye.
Would not marry a yaller gal (bumm bumm!)
Tell yuh de reason why Her neck so long an' stringy Ahm 'fraid she'd never die.
Would not marry uh preacher Tell yuh de reason why
Every time he comes tuh town He makes de chicken fly.
When the buck dance was over, the boys would give the floor to the girls and they would
parse?me?la with a sly eye out of the corner to see if anybody was looking who might
"have them up in church" on conference night. Then there would be more dancing.
Then Mr. Clarke would call for everybody's best attention and announce that 'freshments
was served! Every gent'man would please take his lady by the arm and scorch her right up
to de table fur a treat!
Then the men would stick their arms out with a flourish and ask their ladies: "You
lak chicken? Well, then, take a wing. " And the ladies would take the proffered
"wings" and parade up to the long table and be served. Of course most of them
had brought baskets in which were heaps of jointed and fried chicken, two or three kinds
of pies, cakes, potato pone and chicken purlo. The hall would separate into happy groups
about the baskets until time for more dancing.
But the boys and girls got scattered about during the war, and now they dance the
fox?trot by a brand new piano. They do waltz and two?step still, but no one now considers
it good form to lock his chin over his partner's shoulder and stick out behind. One night
just for fun and to humor the old folks, they danced, that is, they grand marched, but
everyone picked up their feet. Bah I I
Daisy Taylor was the town vamp. Not that she was pretty. But sirens were all but
non?existent in the town. Perhaps she was forced to it by circumstances. She was quite
dark, with little brushy patches of hair squatting over . her head. These were held down
by shingle?nails often. No one knows whether she did this for artistic effect or for lack
of hair?pins, but there they were shining in the little patches of hair when she got all
dressed for the afternoon and came up to Clarke's store to see if there was any mail for
It was seldom that anyone wrote to Daisy, but she knew that the men of the town would
be assembled there by five o'clock, and some one could usually be induced to buy her some
soda?water or peanuts.
Daisy flirted with married men. There were only two single men in town. Lum Boger, who
was engaged to the assistant schoolteacher, and Hiram Lester, who had been off to school
at Tuskegee and wouldn't look at a person like Daisy. In addition to other drawbacks, she
was pigeon-toed and her petticoat was always showing so perhaps he was justified. There
was nothing else to do except flirt with married men.
This went on for a long time. First one wife then another complained of her, or drove
her from the preserves by threat.
But the affair with Crooms was the most prolonged and serious. He was even known to
have bought her a pair of shoes.
Mrs. Laura Crooms was a meek little woman who took all of her troubles crying, and
talked a great deal of leaving things in the hands of God.
The affair came to a head one night in orange picking time. Crooms was over at Oneido
picking oranges. Many fruit pickers move from one town to the other during the season.
The town was collected at the store?postoffice as is customary on Saturday
nights. The town has had its bath and with its week's pay in pocket fares forth to be
merry. The men tell stories and treat the ladies to soda?water, peanuts and peppermint
candy. Daisy was trying to get treats, but the porch was cold to her that night.
"Ah don't keer if you don't treat me. What's a dirty M nickel?" She flung
this at Walter Thomas. "The everloving Mister Crooms will gimme anything atall Ah
"You better shet up yo' mouf talking 'bout Albert Crooms. Heah his wife comes
Daisy went akimbo. "Who? Me! Ah don't keer whut Laura Crooms think. If she ain't a
heavy hip?ted Marna enough to keep him, she don't need to come crying to me."
She stood making goo-goo eyes as Mrs. Crooms walked upon the porch. Daisy laughed loud,
made several references to Albert Crooms, and when she saw the mail?bag come in from
Maitland she said, "Ah better go in an' see if Ah ain't got a letter from
The more Daisy played the game of getting Mrs. Crooms' goat, the better she liked it.
She ran in and out of the store laughing until she could scarcely stand. Some of the
people present began to talk to Mrs. Crooms?to egg her on to halt Daisy's boasting, but
she was for leaving it all in the hands of God. Walter Thomas kept on after Mrs. Crooms
until she stiffened and resolved to fight. Daisy was inside when she came to this resolve
and never dreamed anything of the kind could happen. She had gotten hold of an envelope
and came laughing and shouting, "Oh, Ah can't stand to see Oneido lose!"
There was a box of ax?handles on display on the porch, propped up against the door
jamb. As Daisy stepped upon the porch, Mrs. Crooms leaned the heavy end of one of those
handles heavily upon her head. She staggered from the porch to the ground and the tin?Ad
Laura, fearful of a counter?attack, struck again and Daisy toppled into the town ditch.
There was not enough water in there to do more than muss her up. Every time she tried to
rise, down would come that ax?handle again. Laura was fighting a scared fight. With Daisy
thoroughly licked, she retired to the store porch and left her fallen enemy in the ditch.
None of the men helped
Daisy?even to get out of the ditch. But Elijah Moseley, who was some distance down the
street when the trouble began, arrived as the victor was withdrawing. He rushed up and
picked Daisy out of the mud and began feeling her head.
"Is she hurt much?" Joe Clarke asked from the doorway.
"I don't know," Elijah answered, "I was just looking to see if Laura had
been lucky enough to hit one of those nails on the head and drive it in.
Before a week was up, Daisy moved to Orlando. There in a wider sphere, perhaps, her
talents as a vamp were appreciated.
Sister Cal'line Potts was a silent woman. Did all of her laughing down inside, but did
the thing that kept the town in an uproar of laughter. It was the general opinion of the
village that Cal'line would do anything she had a mind to. And she had a mind to do
Mitchell Potts, her husband, had a weakness for women. No one ever believed that she
was jealous. She did things to the women, surely. But most any townsman would have said
that she did them because she liked the novel situation and the queer things she could
bring out of it.
Once he took up with Delphine?called Mis' Pheeny by the town. She lived on the
outskirts on the edge of the piney woods. The town winked and talked. People don't make
secrets of such things in villages. Cal'line went about her business with her thin black
lips pursed tight as ever, and her shiny black eyes unchanged.
"Dat devil of a Cal'line's got somethin' up her sleeve!" The town smiled in
" Delphine is too big a cigar for her to smoke. She ain't crazy," said some
as the weeks went on and nothing happened. Even Pheeny herself would give an extra flirt
to her over?starched petticoats as she rustled into church past her of Sundays.
Mitch Potts said furthermore, that he was tired of Cal'line's foolishness. She had to
stay where he put her. His African soupbone (arm) was too strong to let a woman run over
him.,'Nough was 'nough. And he did some fancy cussing, and he was the fanciest cusser in
So the town waited and the longer it waited, the odds changed slowly from the wife to
One Saturday, Mitch knocked off work at two o'clock and went over to Maitland. He came
back with a rectangular box under his arm and kept straight on out to the bam and put it
away. He ducked around the comer of the house quickly, but even so, his wife glimpsed the
package. Very much like a shoe?box. So!
He put on the kettle and took a bath. She stood in her bare feet at the ironing board
and kept on ironing. He dressed. It was about five o'clock but still very light. He
fiddled around outside. She kept on with her ironing. As soon as the sun got red, he
sauntered out to the bam, got the parcel and walked away down the road, past the store and
out into the piney woods. As soon as he left the house, Cal'hne slipped on her shoes
without taking time to don stockings, put on one of her husband's old Stetsons, worn and
floppy, slung the axe over her shoulder and followed in his wake. He was hailed cheerily
as he passed the sitters on the store porch and answered smiling sheepishly and passed on.
Two minutes later passed his wife, silently, unsmilingly, and set the porch to giggling
An hour passed perhaps. It was dark. Clarke had long ago lighted the swinging kerosene
Once 'way back yonder before the stars fell all the animals used to talk just like
people. In them days dogs and rabbits was the best of ftiends?even tho' both of them was
stuck on the same galwhich was Miss Nancy Coon. She had the sweetest smile and the
prettiest striped and bushy tail to be found anywhere.
They both run their legs nigh off trying to win her for themselves?fetching nice ripe
persimmons and such. But she never give one or the other no satisfaction.
Finally one night Mr. Dog popped the question right out. "Miss Coon," he
says, "Ma'am, also Ma'am which would you ruther be?a lark flyin' or a dove a
Course Miss Nancy she blushed and laughed a little and hid her face behind her bushy
tail for a spell. Then she said sorter shy like, "I does love yo' sweet voice,
brother dawg?but?but I ain't jes' exactly set in my mind yit. "
Her and Mr. Dog set on a spell, when up comes hopping Mr. Rabbit wid his tail fresh
washed and his whiskers shining. He got right down to business and asked Miss Coon to
marry him, too.
"Oh, Miss Nancy," he says, "Ma'am, also Ma'am, if you'd see me settin'
straddle of a mud?cat leadin' a minnow, what would you think? Ma'am also Ma'am?"
Which is a out and out proposal as everybody knows.
"Youse awful nice, Brother Rabbit and a beautiful dancer, but you cannot sing like
Brother Dog. Both you uns come back next week to gimme time for to decide."
They both left arm?in?arm. Finally Mr. Rabbit says to Mr. Dog. "Taint no use in me
going back?she ain't gwinter have me. So I mought as well give up. She loves singing, and
I ain't got nothing but a squeak."
" Oh, don't talk that a' way, " says Mr. Dog, tho' he is glad Mr. Rabbit
can't sing none.
"Thass all right, Brer Dog. But if I had a sweet voice like you got, I'd have it
worked on and make it sweeter."
"How! How! How!" Mr. Dog cried, jumping up and down.
"Lemme fix it for you, like I do for Sister Lark and Sister Mocking?bird. "
"When? Where?" asked Mr. Dog, all excited. He was figuring that if he could
sing just a little better Miss Coon would be bound to have him.
"Just you meet me t'morrer in de huckleberry patch," says the rabbit and off
they both goes to bed.
The dog is there on time next day and after a while the rabbit comes loping up.
"Mawnin', Brer Dawg," he says kinder chippy like. "Ready to git yo'
"Sholy, sholy, Brer Rabbit. Let's we all hurry about it. I wants tuh serenade Miss
Nancy from de piney woods tuh night."
"Well, den, open yo' mouf and poke out yo' tongue, " says the rabbit.
No sooner did Mr. Dog poke out his tongue than Mr. Rabbit split it with a knife and ran
for all he was worth to a hollow stump and hid himself.
The dog has been mad at the rabbit ever since.
Anybody who don't believe it happened, just look at the dog's tongue and he can see for
himself where the rabbit slit it right up the middle.
Stepped on a tin, mah story ends.