Curlett, Betty (story)
The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Little Rock District FOLKLORE SUBJECTS Name of Interviewer: Irene Robertson [HW: Yankees Stole Food] Subject: History-Slavery Days Subject: Musical Instrument Story:-Information [TR: hand dated 11-14-36]
This information given by: Betty Curlett Place of Residence: Hazen, Arkansas Occupation: Washwoman Age: 67 [TR: Additional topic moved from subsequent page.] [TR: Personal information moved from bottom of first page.]
"My mother said during the war and in slavery times they ate out of wooden spoons and bowls they made." They cooked a washpot full of peas for a meal or two and roasted potatoes around the pot in the ashes. They always cooked hams and greens of all kinds in the big iron pots for there were so many of them to eat and in slavery times the cook, cooked for her family in with what she cooked for the Master. They made banks of dirt, sand, leaves and plank and never washed the sweet potatoes till they went to cook them. They had rows of banks in the garden or out behind some of the houses, and had potatoes like that all winter and in the spring to bed.
They saved the ashes and put them in a barrel and poured water over them and saved the drip-lye-and made soap or corn hominy-made big pots of soap and cooked pots full of lye hominy. They carried corn to the mill and had it ground into meal and flour made like that too. The women spun, wove, and knitted. The men would hunt between crop times. If the slaves were caught stealing, the Patty Row would catch him and his master whip him.
My Grandpas and Grandmas and Mamma's Master was John Moore. Mr. John said before his daughter and wife should go to the washtub he would wade blood saddle-skirt deep. He set out to war. Went to Vicksburg and was killed.
His wifes name was Mrs. Elisabeth and his daughters name was Miss Inez. They say thats where the saying "He won't last longer than John Moore did when he went to war" sprang up but I don't know about that part of it for sure.
Grandma Becky said when the Yankees came to Mrs. Moores house and to Judge Rieds place they demanded money but they told them they didn't have none. They stole and wasted all the food clothes, beds. Just tore up what they didn't carry with them and burned it in a pile. They took two legs of the chickens and tore them apart and threw them down on the ground, leaving piles of them to waste.
Song her Mother and Grandmother sang:
Old Cow died in the fork of the branch Baby, Ba, Ba. Dock held the light, Kimbo skinned it. Ba, Ba, Ba. Old cow lived no more on the ranch and frank no more from branch, Kinba a pair of shoes, he sewed from the old cows hide he had tanned. Baby, Ba, Ba.
"The only musical instrument we had was a banjo. Some made their banjos. Take a bucket or pan a long strip of wood. 3 horse hairs twisted made the base string. 2 horsehairs twisted made the second string. 1 horse hair twisted made the fourth and the fifth string was the fine one, it was not twisted at all but drawn tight. They were all bees waxed."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives