The following data is extracted from Arkansas Slave Narratives.
Texarkana District FOLKLORE SUBJECTS Name of Interviewer: Cecil Copeland Subject: Ex-Slave
This information given by: Frederick Shelton Place of Residence: Dump Section, Texarkana, Arkansas Occupation: None Age: 81 [TR: Information moved from bottom of first page.]
In an humble cabin on the outskirts of the city lives a venerable old negro ex-slave. Although bent with rheumatism and age, he still retains his mental faculties to a remarkable degree.
An inquiry as to his health elicited the following reply: "I'se a willful mind but a weak body. Just like an old tree-de limbs are withered and almost dead. I'se been here a long tins, ovah 81 years, and am ready to go any time de good Lawd says de word. Dat's de trouble wid de people nowadays-dey ain't prepared. Back when I wuz a young man, dey wuzn 't so much meaness, and such goings on as dey are nowadays. De young-peple know as much as de old folks. Yas, suh, de worl' am goin' to de dogs."
Asked about life in pioneer days, the old negro replied; "We had lots ob good times in dem days. Log rollings wuz lots ob fun to me as I wuz strong den, an' I could "show off" befo' de odder niggers. Dey wuzn't much rollin' to it, mostly carrying. I mind de time when I lifted de end ob a log, an' four men tried at different times to lift de odder, but dey couldn't do it. Three of dese men went to an early grave from trying to lift dis log-all tore up inside. Maybe dat's whut ails me.
"You had to be careful den, when traveling through de woods, or de varmints would git you, especially at night. I mind de time when a negro wuz comin' through de woods one nite, when he seed a panther about to spring on him.
"Dis nigger dropped in his tracks lack he wuz dead. De panther came up to him and smelled ob him, but de nigger held his breath, and de panther thought he wuz dead. De panther covered him wid leaves an' went about one hundred yards into de woods to call his friends to de feast. No sooner had he left when de nigger jumped up and climbed a tree, first rutting an old chunk of wood in de place where he wuz buried. De nigger could hear de panther out in de woods as he called for his friends, and pretty soon, here dey come, about five of 'em. Slowly circling aroun' de place where de nigger had been, all of a sudden dey all jumped. Findin' nothin' but de old chunk of wood, dem panthers got real mad. Wid angry growls, dey jumped on de one whut had called dem, and ate him up."
This old negro reserves all of the heroic roles for others. Asked if he had had any experience with the "varmints", as he termed them he said: "Yas, suh. De worst scared I ever got wuz frum a wolf. Walkin' down a trail one day, I spied a wolf not more than ten feet away. Man, I wuz so scared dat I seemed to freeze in my tracks, and couldn't move. I tried to holler but all I could do wuz croak. Den I tried to whistle but de only sound I could make wuz a hiss. After standing for whut seemed hours, wid his ears sticking straight up, de wolf finally turned around and trotted away."
The conversation drifted to other topics, and finally to ghosts and spirits. The old negro said he had never seen a ghost, and didn't believe in those things. No sooner had he said this when his wife, who had been listening in on the conversation from the inside of the door exclaimed: "I does! Seein' is believin' aint it? Well suh, about two years ago de negro dat lived next door died. A few weeks after he died I wuz settin' out on de porch when I see dis negro come out of de house, and walk slowly to de corner of mah yard where he vanished into de air. A few nights later de same thing happened again. No suh, dat nigger didn't go to Heaven and he didn't go to Hell. He's still around heah. He wuz a wicked negro and wuz scared to go."
Source: Arkansas Slave Narratives