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Person Interviewed: Prince Bee
Location: Red Bird, Oklahoma
I don’t know how old I was when I found myself standing on the toppes part of a high stump with a lot of white folks walking around looking at the little scared boy that was me. Pretty soon the old master, (that’s my first master) Saul Sudville, he say to me that I’m now belonging to Major Bee and for me to get down off the auction block.
I do that. Major Bee he comes over and right away I know I’m going to like his. Then when I get to the Major’s plantation and see his oldest daughter Mary and all her brothers and sisters, and see how kind she is to all than and to all the colored children, why, I just keeps right on liking ’em were all the time.
They was about nine white children on the place and Mary had to watch out for them ’cause the mother was dead.
That Mary gal seen to it that we children got the best food on the place, the fattest possum and the hottest fish. When the possum was all browned, and the sweet ‘taters swimming in the good mellow gravy, then she call us for to eat. Un-um-h! That was tasty eating!
And from the garden come the vegetables like okra and corn and melons that Mary would mix all up in the soup pot with lean meats. That would rest kinder easy on the stomach too, ‘specially if they was a bit of red squirrel seats in with the stew!
Major Bee say it wasn’t good for me to learn reading and writing. Baseboard it would ruin me. But they sent me to Sunday School. Sometimes. Wasn’t many of the slaves knew how to read the Bible either, but they all got the religies anyhow. I believed in it then and I still do.
That religion I got in them way back days is still with me. And it ain’t this pie crust religion such as the folks are getting these days. The old time religion had some filling between the crusts, wasn’t so many empty words like they is today.
They was haunts in them way back days, too. How’s I know? ‘Cause I stayed right with the haunts one whole night when I get caught in a norther when the Major sends me to another plantation for to bring back some cows he’s bargained for. That was a cold night and a frightful one.
The blizzard overtook me and it was dark on the way. I come to an old gin house that everybody said was the hauntinest place in all the county. But I went in account of the cold and then when the noises started I was just too scared to move, so there I stood in the corner, all the time ’til morning come.
There was nobody I could see, but I could hear peoples feet a tromping and stomping around the room and they go up and down the stairway like they was running a race.
Sometimes the noises would be right by my side and I would feel like a hot wind passing around me, and lights would flash all over the room. Nobody could I see. When daylight come I went through that door without looking back and headed for the plantation, forgetting all about the cows that Major Bee sent me for to get.
When I tells them about the thing, Mary she won’t let the old Major scold, and she fixes me up with some warm foods and I is all right again. But I stays me away from that gin place, even in the daylight, account of the haunts.
When the war come along the Major got kinder mean with some of the slaves, but not with me. I never did try to run off, but some of ’em did. One of my brothers tried and got caught.
The old Master whipped him ’til the blood spurted all over his body, the bull whip cutting in deeper all the time. He finish up the whipping with a wet coarse towel and the end got my brother in the eye. He was blinded in the one eye but the other eye is good enough he can see they ain’t no use trying to run away no more.
After the war they was more whippings. This time it was the night riders them Klan folks didn’t fool with mean Negroes. The mean Negroes was whipped and some of them shot when they do something the Klan folks didn’t like, and when they come a riding up in the night, all covered with white spreads, they was something bound to happen.
Them way back days is gone and I is mighty glad. The Negroes of today needs another leader like Booker Washington. Get the young folks to working, that’s what they need, and get some filling in their pie crust religion so’s when they meet the Lord their soul won’t be empty like is their pocketbooks today!