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Interviewer: Travis Jordan
Person Interviewed: Ida Adkins
Location: Durham, North Carolina
Ex-slave 79 years.
[TR note: Numerous hand written notations and additions in the following interview (i.e. wuz to was; er to a; adding t to the contractions.) Made changes where obvious without comment. Additions and comments were left as notation, in order to preserve the flow of the dialect.]
I wuz bawn befo’ de war. I wuz about eight years ole when de Yankee mens come through.
My mammy an’ pappy, Hattie an’ Jim Jeffries belonged to Marse Frank Jeffries. Marse Frank come from Mississippi, but when I wuz bawn he an’ Mis’ Mary Jane wuz livin’ down herr near Louisburg in North Carolina whare dey had er big plantation an’ [HW addition: I] don’ know how many niggers. Marse Frank wuz good to his niggers, ‘cept [HW addition: that] he never give dem ernough to eat. He worked dem hard on half rations, but he didn’ believe in all de time beatin’ an’ sellin’ dem.
My pappy worked at de stables, he wuz er good horseman, but my mammy worked at de big house helpin’ Mis’ Mary Jane. Mammy worked in de weavin’ room. I can see her now settin’ at de weavin’ machine an’ hear de pedals goin’ plop, plop, as she treaded dem wid her feets. She wuz a good weaver. I stayed ‘roun’ de big house too, pickin’ up chips, sweepin’ de yard an’ such as dat. Mis’ Mary Jane wuz quick as er whippo’-will. She had black eyes dat snapped, an’ dey seed everythin’. She could turn her head so quick dat she’d ketch you every time you tried to steal a lump of sugar. I liked Marse Frank better den I did Mis’ Mary Jane. All us little chillun called him Big Pappy. Every time he went [HW correction: come back] to Raleigh he brung us niggers back some candy. He went to Raleigh erbout twice er year. Raleigh wuz er far ways from de plantations–near ’bout sixty miles. [HW notation: check–appears to be about 40 miles only.] It always took Marse Frank three days to make de trip. A day to go, er’ day to stay in town, an’ a day to come back. Den he always got home in de night. Ceptn’ [HW addition: when] he rode ho’se back ‘stead of de carriage, [HW addition: an’] den sometimes he got home by sun down.
Marse Frank didn’ go to de war. He wuz too ole. So when de Yankees come through dey foun’ him at home. When Marse Frank seed de blue coats comin’ down de road he run an’ got his gun. De Yankees was on horses. I ain’t never seed so many men. Dey was thick as hornets comin’ down de road in a cloud of dus’ [HW: correction “dust”]. Dey come up to de house an’ tied de horses to de palin’s; [HW correction: dey was so many dey was stan] ‘roun’ de yard [HW addition: fence]. When dey seed Marse Frank standin’ on de po’ch [HW correction: porch] wid de gun leveled on dem, dey got mad. Time Marse Frank done shot one time [HW correction: “once a”] a bully Yankee snatched de gun away an’ tole Marse Frank to hold up his hand. Den dey tied his hands an’ pushed him down on de floor ‘side de house an’ tole him dat if he moved [HW addition: a inch] dey would shoot him. Den dey went in de house.
I wuz skeered near ’bout to death, but I run in de kitchen an’ got a butcher knife, an’ when de Yankees wasn’ lookin’, I tried to cut de rope an’ set Marse Frank free. But one of dem blue debils seed me an’ come runnin’. He say:
‘Whut you doin’, you black brat! you stinkin’ little alligator bait!’ He snatched de knife from my hand an’ told me to stick out my tongue, dat he wuz gwine to cut it off. I let out a yell an’ run behin’ de house.
Some of de Yankees was in de smoke house gettin’ de meat, some of dem wuz at de stables gettin’ de ho’ses, an’ some of dem wuz in de house gettin’ de silver an’ things. I seed dem put de big silver pitcher an’ tea pot in a bag. Den dey took de knives an’ fo’ks an’ all de candle sticks an’ platters off de side board. Dey went in de parlor an’ got de gol’ clock dat wuz Mis’ Mary Jane’s gran’mammy’s. Den dey got all de jewelry out of Mis’ Mary Jane’s box.
Dey went up to Mis’ Mary Jane, an’ while she looked at dem wid her black eyes snappin’, dey took de rings off her fingers; den dey took her gol’ bracelet; dey even took de ruby ear rings out of her ears an’ de gol’ comb out of her hair.
I done quit peepin’ in de window an’ wuz standin’ ‘side de house when de Yankees come out in de yard wid all de stuff dey wuz totin’ off. Marse Frank wuz still settin’ on de po’ch [HW correction: porch] floor wid his han’s tied an’ couldn’ do nothin’. ‘Bout dat time I seed de bee gums in de side yard. Dey wuz a whole line of gums. Little as I wuz I had a notion. I run an’ got me a long stick an’ tu’ned over every one of dem gums. Den I stirred dem bees up wid dat stick ‘twell [HW correction: ’till] dey wuz so mad I could smell de pizen. An’ bees! you ain’t never seed de like of bees. Dey wuz swarmin’ all over de place. Dey sailed into dem Yankees like bullets, each one madder den de other. Dey lit on dem ho’ses ‘twell [HW correction: till] dey looked like dey wuz live [HW correction: alive] wid varmints. De ho’ses broke dey bridles an’ tore down de palin’s an’ lit out down de road. But dey [HW correction: dar] runnin’ wuzn’ nothin’ to what dem Yankees done. Dey bust out cussin’, but what did a bee keer about cuss words! Dey lit on dem blue coats an’ every time dey lit dey stuck in a pizen sting. De Yankee’s forgot all about de meat an’ things dey done stole; dey took off down de road on er [HW correction: a] run, passin’ de horses. De bees was right after dem in a long line. Dey’d zoom an’ zip, an’ zoom an’ zip, an’ every time dey’d zip a Yankee would yell.
When dey’d gone Mis’ Mary Jane untied Marse Frank. Den dey took all de silver, meat an’ things de Yankees lef’ behin’ an’ buried it so if dey come back dey couldn’ fin’ it.
Den day called ma an’ said:
‘Ida Lee, if you hadn’t tu’ned [HW correction: turned] over dem bee gums dem Yankees would have toted off near ’bout everythin’ fine we got. We want to give you somethin’ you can keep so’ you’ll always remember dis day, an’ how you run de Yankees away.’
Den Mis’ Mary Jane took a plain gold ring off her finger an’ put it on mine. An’ I been wearin’ it ever since.