The Use and Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE NEGROES AS SLAVES.--THEIR SUPERSTITIONS.-- A BEAUTIFUL FAIRY TALE.
The colored race, as I knew them, were generally kind to the white children of their masters. Their sympathy was great in childish troubles. They were our nurses around our sick beds. Their lullabyes soothed us to sleep. Very frequently my nurse would hold me in her arms until both of us would fall asleep, but she would still hold me secure. When any of my misdoings came to the ears of my parents, and I was punished their testimony would, as far as possible, shield me, and not until I would try their patience out of all bounds would they tell my mother on me. I never heard an infidel negro express his views, even if very wicked. They had firm belief in God and a devil. I always liked their meetings, their songs and shoutings. They always told me that no one could help shouting. The first time I ever heard a white woman shout was in Northern Texas, during the war. I did not wish the spirit to cause me to jump up and clap my hands that way, for these impulses were not in my carnal heart, so, for fear I should be compelled to do so, I held my dress down tight to the seat on each side, to prevent such action. The negroes are great readers of character; despise stingy people or those who were afraid of them. These colored friends taught me the fear of God. The first time I ever attended church, I rode behind on horseback, and sat with them in the gallery. I imbibed some of their superstitions. They consider it bad to allow a sharp tool, as a spade, hoe or ax, to be taken through the house; to throw salt in the fire, for you would have to pick it out after death. They would kill a hen if she crowed; looked for a death, if a dog howled; or, if one broke a looking-glass, it meant trouble of some kind for seven years. They believed that persons had power to put a "spell" on others, would, if taken sick, frequently speak of having "stepped on something" put in their way or buried in their dooryard.
There is no dialect in the world that has the original characteristics so pleasing to the ear as the negro. There is a softness and music in the voice of a negro not to be found in any other race on earth. No one can sing a child to sleep so soothingly as a negro nurse. After I left Texas and went to Medicine Lodge, Kansas, when I had a headache or was otherwise sick, I would wish for the attendance around my bed of one of the old-fashioned colored women, who would rub me with their rough plump hands and call me "Honey Chile," would bathe my feet and tuck the cover around me and sit by me, holding my hand, waiting until I fell asleep. I owe much to the colored people and never want to live where there are none of the negro race. I would feel lonesome without them. After I came to Medicine Lodge, I did not see any for some time. One day, while looking out, I saw one walking up the street toward the house. I ran to the kitchen, cut an apple pie, and ran out and said: "Here, Uncle, is a piece of pie." He was gray-headed, one of the old slaves. He seemed so glad to see my friendly face and took the pie with a happy courtesy. I watched for his return, as he came in on the train, and was going out. At last he came. I asked him in the kitchen, fixed a meal for him, and waited on him myself. Before eating, he folded his hands, closed his eyes, with his face toward heaven, thanked God for the meal, as I had often seen them do in slave time. As a race, the negroes have not the characteristics of treachery. They are faithful and grateful.
In my hotel experience, I would often ask Fannie, my cook: "What kind of a man is that?" Fannie would say: "Don't trust him too far Mrs. Nation, he steps too light." When a child my playmates were a lot of colored children. Betsy came to the table with the children and ate with us. But the sweetest food was that left in the skillets, both black and white children would go around the house, sit down and "sop" the gravy with the biscuits the cooks would give us. I was fond of hearing ghost stories and would, without the knowledge of my mother, stay in the cabin late at night listening to the men and women telling their "experiences." The men would be making ax handles and beating the husk off of the corn in a large wooden hopper with a maul. The women would be spinning with the little wheel, sewing, knitting and combing their children's heads. I would listen until my teeth would chatter with fright, and would shiver more and more, as they would tell of the sights in grave-yards, and the spirits of tyrannical masters, walking at night, with their chains clanking and the, sights of hell, where some would be on gridirons, some hung up to baste and the devil with his pitchfork would toss the poor creatures hither and thither. They would say: "Carry, you must go to the house," and I would not go with one, but have two, one on each side of me. I remember seeing the negro men laugh at me, but the women would shake their heads and say: "You better quit skeering that chile." But there was one pleasure above all the rest, it was to hear any one tell "tales." When my mother would have a visitor, very frequently the lady would bring a nurse to care for one child or children, she might bring with her. Oh, how pleased the black and white children would be to see such visitors. We would gather around and in every way made our pleasure known. Would give them doll-rags, nuts, or apples, and in many ways express our delight at having them come. As soon as they were made comfortable, the next thing was: "Tell us a tale." And seating ourselves around on the floor, or in a close group, we would be all attention. Of course there would be some raw heads and bloody bones, but not so much as the stories told at night in the cabins.
One of the prettiest stories I ever heard, and never tired of hearing, that taught me a great moral, was about two girls the children of a couple who were hard working people. One of the girls was named Sarah, the other Mary. Sarah was a very pretty girl with curls. Mary was rather ugly and had straight hair. Curls in my childhood days were something very much sought for. Although Sarah was pretty in the face she had very rude ways; she would not speak kindly and politely; would not help her hard working mother; but was idle and quarrelsome, always wanted some one to wait on her; while Mary was the reverse; would pick up chips to make a fire, would sweep the yard and bring water, and was kind to all, especially to her mother. One day the well went dry and there was no water to make the tea for supper. Mary saw her mother crying and said: "Don't cry, mother; I will go and get some at the Haunted Spring."
Her mother said: "Oh, no, dear sweet child, those goblins will kill you."
"No, mother," replied Mary. "I will beg them to let me have some water for dear father, and I am not afraid."
So her mother got a light bucket for her, and went to the top of the hill with her, and said: "God bless you, my dear child, and bring you back to me."
Then Mary went on until she came to the high iron gate. She said: "Please gate open and let me through. I mind my father and mother and love everybody."
And the gate opened and she passed into the "haunted" grounds-- She saw a funny, little, short man come running with a stick and said: "Please, nice man, don't hit me. I have come down to get some good water to make tea for my father's supper. He has been working all day, and our well has gone dry. May I please have some of your spring water?"
"Well, little girl, as you talk so nice, you can have some. Tell the little folks to open the briars for you."
So she went on and came to a briar patch and saw down at the roots little people, not much longer than your finger. Mary spoke so kindly to them; said she would be so glad if they would open a path for her to walk in, she would thank them so much; so they began to pull the briars back until there was a good path. Mary thanked them and went on until she came to the spring and there was a rabbit jumping up and down in it. Mary said: "Please Mr. Rabbit, don't muddy the water for I would like to get a bucket of nice clean water to take home to make tea for supper." The rabbit ran off and she dipped her bucket full of pure water.
Then she looked down the branch, and there was a little lamb that had fallen in and was lying down, and could not get up. The lamb said: "Little girl, please pick me up and lay me on the grass to dry." Mary stepped on some rocks till she got to the lamb and lifted him up and laid him on the bank to dry. The lamb said: "When you go home, spit in your mother's hand." Mary thought that would not be right, but she said nothing. She went back through the briar patch and the little folks held them from scratching her, and the little old man spoke nicely to her and the gate opened for her. Her mother was watching for her and helped her home with the water, kissed her, and prepared them a good supper.
While they were sitting at the table Mary said: "Mother, the little lamb told me to do something I do not like to do."
"What was it?"
"He told me spit in your hand."
"Well, you can my child; come on;" and the mother held out her hand and Mary spat in it, a diamond and a pearl. This made the family happy and rich; they had men come the next day and dig a new well.
Now Sarah wished to try her fortune, her mother did not want her to go, because she knew what a bad girl she was, to talk saucy; but Sarah said she would do as well as Mary. Her sister told her how she must do; she got angry at her, and said: "You mind your own business; I reckon I know what I am about."
So she took her bucket and went on until she came to the gate; she gave that a kick and said: "Open gate!" and the gate opened and slammed on her. The little old man came running with his stick. Sarah said: "Don't you hit me, old man; I'll tell my father." And the old man beat her and the little folks pushed up the briar bushes so she tore her clothes and scratched herself badly. The little rabbit was in the spring and he jumped up and down and she threw at him, telling him she would knock his head off; but the rabbit jumped up and down 'till the spring was a lob-lolly of mud, so she had to take muddy water in her bucket. The little lamb had gotten back into the branch and said: "Please, little girl, pick me up and put me on the bank to dry."
But Sarah said: "I won't do it."
The lamb replied: "Spit in your mother's hand when you go home."
So Sarah had to go through the briars, that scratched her, and the old man beat her, and the gate slammed on her, and when her mother met her she was a "sight." Her face was dirty, her dress torn, her legs and arms were scratched and bleeding, and her curly hair was in a mass of tangles. Her mother washed the dirt off and scolded her for being so naughty. Mary helped to wash and dress her for supper. Then they all sat down to eat, and every one was happy but Sarah.
Sarah said: "Mother, the lamb told me to spit in your hand."
"Very well, come on," answered the mother. So Sarah spat in her mother's hand and out jumped a lizard and a frog.
A child ever so small will see the moral, and that, I never forgot. Of course the pearls and the diamonds are the politeness and kindness, which is so beautiful in children; and the lizard and the frog are rudeness and impudence. Very often the nurse would say: "Look here, you Sarah, you."
I remember how shocked I would be to think I would ever be like that naughty Sarah.
A positive indication of a corrupt age is the lack of respect children have for parents. This is largely owing to the neglect of teachers. I am heartily thankful I was taught to say 'Yes Ma'am, and 'No, ma'am,' 'Yes, Sir, and No, Sir.' Now it is--'Yah! Yes, No, What, etc. Nothing is a greater letter of credit than politeness and it costs nothing. T'is not the child's fault but the parents and teachers.
I was, when a child, always doing something; was very fond of climbing; seemed to have a mania for it. I never saw a tall tree that I did not try to climb, or wish I could. I used to run bareheaded over the fields and woods with the other children, lifting up rocks and logs to look at the bugs and worms. When we found a dead chicken, bird, rat or mouse, we would have a funeral. I would usually be the preacher and we would kneel down and while one prayed, the rest would look through their fingers, to see what the others were doing. We would sing and clap our hands and shake hands, then we would play: "Come and see."
I never had but one doll, bought out of a store, it was given to me by Dr. Jackson for taking my medicine, when I was sick. We made rag dolls out of dresses. My delight was to have one of the colored women's babies. We would go visiting and take our dolls, and would tell of the dreadful times we had and of how mean our husbands were to the children; sometimes one would tell of how good instead. And then we would catch bees in the althea blooms. One of the delightful pastimes was to make mud cakes and put them on boards to dry. We had some clay that we could mould anything out of--all kind of animals, and, indeed, there were shapes worked out by little fingers never seen before.
The race question is a serious one. The kindly feeling between black and white is giving place to bitterness with the rising generations. One reason of this seems to be a jealousy of the whites for fear the negroes will presume to be socially equal with them. The negro race should avoid this, should not desire it, it would be of no real value to them. They are a distinct race with characteristics which they need not wish to exchange. When a negro tries to imitate white folks, he is a mongrel. I will say to my colored brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus; Never depart from your race lines and bearings, keep true to your nature, your simplicity, and happy disposition--and above all come back to the 'Oldtime' religion, you will never strand on that rock.