Lucy Cherry Crisp oral history interview, March 26, 1973






Lucy Cherry Crisp
Narrator
Donald R. Lennon
Interviewer
March 26, 1973
Greenville, North Carolina

Lucy Cherry Crisp - LCC
Donald R. Lennon - DL

LCC: I thought the best way to do would be to just read right along, one after another, you know, from the book and say nothing in between. Then we can put in anything you want to in between. I don't know whether you wanted to try it out first for slowness and quickness?

DL: No, go ahead and just-

LCC: Just go right ahead?

DL: -see how you-. Yes, ma'am.

LCC: All right.

DL: If you'd like I'll play some of it back after you get started and see-.

LCC: I would like that because I don't know how it's coming over.

This is the "Foreword" to a little book called Spring Fever [Copyright 1935]. (0:52, Part 1)

Ever whey I look, seem lak I see
Er little bud er blossom on er tree;
Dey bustes out erlong er bare lim'
Lak dey can't stan' no bark er-kiverin' dem.
I mus' be kin ter trees, fer ever spring
I git so full inside uv everthing
I jes can't keep it all inside uv me-
I near-bout wishes den I wuz er tree.

This is the title piece for the little volume, Spring Fever. This was called "Spring Fever."

I knows dey's suppen wrong wid me
How-come I feels so bad;
I'm skeered dis spell'll be de wust
I near-bout ever had.

Hit seem lak lef' foot foller right foot
Mighty-mighty slow,
An' all I wants is ter set in de sunshine
Yander by dat do'. (1:40, Part 1)

I goes ter sleep when de sun go down
But I don't git near nuff res',
Kase when it's time fer ter git up mawnins
Bed do feel de des'..

Ma'y, she thinks I got spring fever,
Least dat's what she said,
'N I knows fever's mighty dange'ous
Less you stays in de bed.

This one is called "Spring."

De white man say he laks de spring-
Um.humph.I reckon he do;
Ef I cou'd stan' eroun' an' talk erbout de thing
I reckon I'd lak hit, too.

But dat ain't de way things is wid us,
De black man got ter be walkin'
An' pushin' er plow, er doin' suppen wuss
Whilst de white man does de talkin'. (2:21, Part 1)

The title of this one is "Morning Musicale."

I hears de little sparrers gwine
Er-chitty-chitty-chat
An' I don't know whey dey's singin'
Er disputin' dis an' dat;
But I sorter laks ter hear 'em mawnins
Fo' de sun er-rise
When dey's gwine on so 'cited
Lak dey's had er gran' surprise.

Look lak hit tain't no trouble
Ter de mockin' bird er-tall
Jes' ter sing an' laff an' whistle yander
On de gyarden wall;
An er-way off in de pasture
I can hear de dove "er-coo,"
Whilst de rooster, he's er-crowin'
Lake er rooster gwinter do. (2:55, Part 1)

An' all de little chillun goes
Er-skippin' down de street
Jes er-laffin' an' er-talkin' an'
Er-singin' sorter sweet;
'N I jes' ups an' flings my trubbles ter
De man up in de moon
An' erfore I even knows it
I'se er-jinin' in dey chune.

I think these next two were written in the spring too. One is called, "A Song for Mandy," which is the man's side of it, and then the next one is "Concerning Sam," which is the woman's side. This is "A Song for Mandy."

I been goin' wid dis-here Mandy
Goin' on fo' months now;
Anybody know how ter mek er lak me,
Wisht 'e'd tell me how. (3:35, Part 1)

I'se tried foolin', I'se tried fussin',
I'se tried all I knows;
Anytime anybody else come beggin'
Mandy, she jes' goes.

I don't want no other woman,
I done told 'er so;
I jes' wants fer ter be dere wid her
No matter whey she go.

I made er song ter sing fer Mandy,
"Honey, come 'long Home";
Jes' git er chanst ter sing dat 'round 'er,
Maybe Mandy come. (3:59, Part 1)

And this is "Concerning Sam," Mandy speaking.

I don't know what gits inter me
When Sam he comes eroun';
I don't never aim to, but I does
Jes' treat 'im lak er houn'.

I carries on jes lak I don't
So much ez know he's dere,
An' all de time I'se thinkin', "Man,
I'd foller you anywhere."

But Sam don't eben 'spicion dat,
I wish ter de Lawd he would,
Case what'd I do ef ernudder gal
Come carry him off fer good? (4:29, Part 1)

O Lawd, don't let my Sam go leave,
I promus I do better
Goan set myself right down terday
An' send my Sam er letter.

This one is called "Figgering."

I seed a little bitsy bird
Come flyin', flyin' long,
'N all er sudden down he drap
An' start 'im up er song;
'N dere he sot er-singin' an'
Er-swingin' on er lim',
Jes lak he knowed dey couldn't nothin'
Come ter bother him.

I watched 'im swingin' up an' down
Er-way up in de air,
An' sorter figgered how 'twould be
Ef dat wuz me up dere;
Dey say de Lawd He watches sparrers
Lak He watches men,
But I'd be skeered He might fergit me
Ever now an' den. (5:12, Part 1)

I never specks ter ax de Lawd
Ter watch me in er tree,
Kase I knows sich er place ez dat
Wuz meant fer birds, not me.
I figgers things is dis-erway:
Dey's plenty savin' grace
Fer ter kiver bird an' beas' an' men
Whey keeps dey rightsome place.

The next one is called "Explanation."

Look lak Monday come de quickest,
Sunday's shortest day dey is,
Sun, hit's near-bout gwine down
Befo' I know hit's eben riz.

Cuiss, anyhow, ter me
De way de week is po'tioned out,
Six long days ter wuk an' sweat
An' one ter rest an' git erbout.

One short day jes' ain't ernuff
Ter give mer po', tahd feet dey due,
'N dat's how-come I knocks off wukkin
Ever Saddy evenin' too. (6:01, Part 1)

And this is "Dissertation on Jim," as I heard it from his wife, Martha.

I'se gittin' mighty tired uv dis foolin' wid Jim,
Dey aint er bit uv 'pendance ter be put in him,
Always er-promusin' what he gwine do
Ef I will jes' send enudder dollar er two
Fer ter he'p im erlong 'twell he gits out'n debt-
Dat's suppen he ain't never been out'n yet.

Hit's gwine on fo' years since he lef',
'N fo' dat he worried me near-bout ter def
Er-runnin' off nights an' er-leavin' me dere
Wid all dem chillun-he knowed 'twon't fair;
He knowed hit wuz wrong ter steal baccer, too,
When folks git started, no tellin' what dey'll do! (6:45, Part 1)

He ain't got no 'scuse now fer stayin' erway,
We-all's paid 'im out, he kin come any day,
An' dat's what he promus he wus goan do,
'N I'se fool ernuff ter b'lieve 'im-But now I'se thoo;
I'se gwine git er 'vorcement paper soon's I kin,
I knows what I gwine do, I gwine git married ergin.

This one is from a story that my father used to tell. It's called "Do Tell."

Two very pious sistren once
Were on their way to meeting,
And as they walked they stopped and talked
And passed a friendly greeting;
They seemed to find good pleasure
(As good sistren always could)
In passing on the newest news
Of all the neighborhood:

"Dey tells me dat new baby
At de Joneses 'crosst de river
Is sech a little tinsy thing
Can't find 'im in de kiver." (7:39, Part 1)

"Well, dat ain't nothing', Sister Lize,"
Said Sister Sally Ann;
"When I wuz young dey toted me
In er good-sized coffee can."

"Well, fo' de Lawd, Sis Sally Ann,
An' did yer live? Do tell!"
"Why yes, dey said I did, Sis Lize,
Said I lived an' done well."

This one is one that I wrote for Sis. She was a daughter of a man who worked for us in Falkland for a while. Arthur, her father, used to come up to the house and talk about Sis and this is Arthur talking.

I reckon Sis thinks dis is been er bad day,
She all time inter some trubble anyway,
She up ter suppen mean right now, lak ez not-
Dat's de mos' mischeevous youngun I got. (8:29, Part 1)

Dinner-time, when I come fum de fiel'
An start ter de sto' fer ter git some meal,
I seed mer little maple tree layin' on de groun'
Whey she done tuk de axe and chopped hit down.

I come nigh gi'en her er killin' fer dat;
She'd orter had one-she knowed Miss Matt
Had gin me dat tree fer ter set out dere,
But dat-air gal, she jes' doan care.

Den when I went fer ter wash mer han's,
Dere wuz holes in both uv mer good wash pans,
She'd druv' em in dere wid er nail, clar thoo-
De Lawd in Hebb'n knows what dat gal goan do. (9:04, Part 1)

Seem lak I hates fer ter beat 'er so bad,
But I jes' can't he'p it, she meks me so mad,
'N den I gits ter thinkin' how mean I useter be-
Took-er-sho Sis must uv tuk atter me!

[Break in recording]

-"John Henry," another child of one of the people we had with us there at Falkland, and this is John Henry's mother speaking.

John Henry, dat's one wurrisome boy,
Got er-plenty sense in 'is haid,
But fo' he stops I b'lieve he'll 'stroy
De las' thing us is made.
He draps mer dishes down on de flo',
Mer kitchen, hit stays in er fix-
Done broke ever cup I had but fo',
But fo', an' I had six. (9:49, Part 1)

And this is called "Summer Day." [The published title is "Pickaninny Song."] I think it's a fairly accurate picture of things that we have seen many, many times in eastern North Carolina.

Us Mammy an' us Pappy, dey gone off ter wuk terday,
So all us little chillun got er heap er time ter play;
All up an' down de cawn patch, er-singin' as we goes,
Er skippy-hoppy run-jump ermongst de cotton rows.

Sometimes we beats de puppy jes' ter mek 'im howl an' run,
Den we sicks 'im on de kitty so ez he kin have some fun;
We fusses an' we fights, and we gits ez mad ez sin,
An' den we gits ter playin' an we meks it up ergin. (10:32 Part 1)

Us Mammy an' us Pappy, dey's er-comin' home ternight,
An' when dey looks eroun'em, dey's er-goanter see er sight;
We's et up all de cawn bread, an' bust down ever cheer,
But us Mammy an' us Pappy, shucks, dey doan keer!

This one is called "My Jake," and this is Jake's wife speaking.

My Jake, he's right easy ter git erlong wid
So long ez de weather, hit's fair an' ca'm;
De chillun kin mek ez much fuss ez dey please,
Hit doan hinder him shootin' craps wid Br'er Sam.

But Lawd, when de thunder clouds 'gin fer ter roll,
My Jake, he gits pow'ful religious tuk,
An bawls at de chillun, "You shet up dat fuss
An set still whilst de good Lawd's er-doin' His wuk." (11:18, Part 1)

This one was written soon after the dance called the "Charleston" became popular, and this again is Arthur speaking. [The title is "Dis Chalstun."]

Dat-air second gal of mine,
De one whey we calls Aderline,
Look lak she jes' tries ter see
How much uv er trubble kin she be.

De udder chillun, dey all tries
Ter tek some keer uv what I buys,
But dat-air gal ain't got no sense
Er-tall, she ain't, fer savin' 'spense.

She went off yander 'crosst de creek
Ter stay wid An't May Lize er week,
An' now she all-time skip an' prance,
She say she larnt dis-here new dance: (12:03, Part 1)

Dey calls it Chalstun, suppen lak dat,
Hit minds me uv er crazy bat,
Er-floppin' dey arms and feets eroun'
Fust in de air an' den on de groun'.

I jes' can't keep dat gal in shoes;
I buys her some, an' den fust news
I knows she's done an' danced 'em out-
She'd mek er preacher cuss near-bout.

Dey calls dis Chalstun suppen new-
Lawd knows 'tain't nuthin' hard ter do;
Mer right foot, hit ain't ez good ez mer lef',
'Scusin' dat, I kin do dat dance merse'f.

Now, for anyone that's ever been bothered with a mosquito singing around in the summertime, this may bring back memories. It's called "Skeeter, Skeeter." (12:48, Part 1)

Skeeter, Skeeter, lemme lone,
Go 'long wid yer "ying-ying";
You mus' think dis-here's de cirkis
An' you'se hired fer sing.
Better go 'long lak I tole you
Ef you'se lookin' fer yo bes',
I'se been wukkin' hard, I is,
'N Lawd, He made de night fer res'.
Shut up, skeeter, you can't fool me,
I knows you ain't come ter sing,
Minds me uv some folks I knows,
Smilin' whilst dey knocks yer, Bling!
Dat's all right, ole skeeter, durn you,
Now you'll wish you'se bawn dumm-
Blip, blap-I knowed I'd ketch you.
Skeeter gone ter Kingdom Come. (13:24, Part 1)

This next one is "Aunt Queen Views Her Photograph." Aunt Queen was quite a personage in her day. She was born a slave in Pitt County near Falkland and when I knew her she was up in her seventies and one of the most charming people I ever knew. She and Uncle Alvin lived on one of my father's places for a while and I used to go and sit and talk by the hour with Aunt Queen and Uncle Alvin and incidentally pick up their language and wonderful things they were saying. I enjoyed her so much I got the idea that I would like a picture of her, so I brought my Kodak one day and snapped her picture and later took it back to show it to her, and this is just about what she said when I took the picture to her. This is "Aunt Queen Views Her Photograph."

Dat's me, Lawd knows dat show is me,
Anybody cou'd tell dat's me,
But how you fix fer ter git me dere
Dat's suppen I jes' can't see. (14:42, Part 1)

Jes' look at dat ole bonnet now,
I wisht anybody would look;
I'd orter tuk dat ole thing off
When I had mer picter took.

But it looks jes' lak me, dat's de Lawd's truf,
Jes' lak I looks yander home;
Been er-wearin' dat bonnet goan on two year
'Cep I tuk it off when Sunday come.

An dere's my lil old Allie Mae,
Lawd, ain't dat lak dat chile,
Dat youngun's got er-plenty uv sense,
Looks lak she fixin' fer ter smile.

She knowed she goan have her picter tuk
When she crawled up dere'n my lap,
But she h'ist up her haid to'wds de picter-merchine
'S if she doan keer one rap. (15:16, Part 1)

I sho' do want me er picter lak dis,
How much does yer reckon 'twould cost?
We ain't had none uv Allie Mae
An' de one I had uv me got los'.

You mean I kin have dis-here one now?
Lawd bless yer, Thanky-ma'm,
'N ef you ever wants us fer anything,
You call us, me an' Sam!

I goan give dis picter ter de largement-man
Nex' time he come dis erway,
'N he'll mek er big 'un fer ter hang on de wall,
Lawd, won't dat please Allie Mae.

This next one is called "Varmints." I don't think the word "varmints" needs any explanation. Almost everybody's had trouble with varmints of one kind or another. (15:59, Part 1)

Dere's some ole' varmint waitin' roun'
Fer everything dat grows;
Dey eats me out'n house an' home
No matter what I sows:

De sparrers et my strawberry crap,
De tater-bugs, my taters;
De rabbits tuk my radishes
An' wilt, hit kilt my 'maters.

De worms, dey cuts de baccer leaves
Cl'ar off de po' ole stalks;
Boll weavils in de cotton patch
Eatin' cotton whilst dey walks.

I reckon Ole Marse John, he thinks
Dere's varmints 'mongst his chickens-
But ef we couldn't 'pend on dem,
Whey would we git us pickin's? (16:33, Part 1)

This is "Down in the Cotton Patch."
Marse John tole me to pick dis cotton,
He know tain't no use,
He jes aims fer ter keep me wukkin',
Teks dis fer his 'scuse.

Ten cent cotton ain't wuth pickin',
Ever body knows,
Dis won't pay fer de fertilizer,
Let 'lone res' I owes.

I'm jes' tired uv dis-here bizziness
Wukkin' night an' day
Mekkin' cotton, cawn, an' baccer
Jes' fer ter give erway.

Annie say she ain't goan worry,
Lawd, He will pervide-
Looks lak dem whey buys de craps
Could he'p 'im, on de side. (17:10, Part 1)

Co'se dey could ef dey wuz mineter,
Co'se dey won't, I knows;
Rich folks, dey's de mos' perticlar
Whey dey money goes.

Nex' year I goan quit dis farmin',
I goan move ter town;
Annie'll git er job er-cookin',
Lawd, we'll splurge eroun'.

Come back home on preachin' Sundays
Drivin' er great big car,
See po' country folks er-lookin',
Hear 'em say, "I swar"!

Speck I better go talk ter Annie,
See what she goan say-
Wimmen folks all time mek trubble,
Boun' ter have dey way. (17:44, Part 1)

This one came out of an experience with illness. It's called "Lawd, He Couldn't Make Me Lissen."

Lawd, He couldn't make me lissen
When He had some things ter say;
I kep' gwine on 'bout my business,
Gallivantin' night an' day.

Den de Lawd, He knock me down, suh,
Laid me flat right in de bed;
Doctor come an' said, "You lay dere
Less you wants ter git up dead."

Whilst I'se layin' ca'm an' still-like,
Lawd, He come an' talk ter me,
Talk so's I could understan' 'im,
'Twell I say, "Yes, Lawd, I see." (18:25, Part 1)

Now sometimes I gits ter feelin'
Mebbe I'se gone deef ergin,
Den I shets mer eyes an' prays 'im:
"Knock me down, please, suh, Amen."

This is "After a Rain."

Lawd knows I'se glad fer ter see dis rain,
Hit sho do he'p my feelin's;
My crap looked lak 'twuz gone fer good,
Sto' folks had done quit dealins.

But now my baccer's green ergin,
Sto' folks, dey jes' er-smilin',
An' I gits everthing I wants
Fer ter keep de ole pot b'ilin.

Lawd fools us dat erway sometimes-
Dat's jes' His way uv showin'
Dat folks an' craps an' everthing
Got ter 'pend on Him fer growin'. (19:08, Part 1)

Now this one was written somewhat in the nature of one of the spirituals. It's called "A Song in Summertime."

I couldn't git erlong 'dout singin' er song,
Much trubble's I has, I knows,
Lil' chune sorter hep-a mer hoe go 'long
Up-an-down dese baccer rows:

O' de Lawd's gwineter tek-a-me home ter Canaan,
Whey King Jesus stan';
Yes, de Lawd's gwineter tek-a me home ter Canaan
Yander in the Promus' Lan'.

De white man, he got ter study fer ter sing,
De black man sing f'um 'is heart,
Banjer, er gittar, no matter what,
De good Lawd'll show 'im whey ter start:

O' de Lawd's gwineter tek-a-me home ter Canaan,
Whey King Jesus stan';
Yes, de Lawd's gwineter tek-a me home ter Canaan
Yander in the Promus' Lan'. (19:42, Part 1)

This one is called "Circus Time." It was always a very marvelous time when the circus came to Falkland. Of course it would not be recognized as a circus today. I was just one small tent and two or three animals, monkeys, things like that, but, oh; it was just wonderful to us. So, it was out of that kind of experience that this "Circus Time" verse came.

Circus folks, dey got sense-Dey knows
When's de best time ter git erbout showin' dey shows;
You don't see dem comin' 'roun' 'twell de fall
When we jes erbout finished wid us craps an' all-
No, hit tain't de craps dey's thinkin' 'bout, Honey,
Hit ain't de craps-Naw, suh-hit's de money. (20:57, Part 1)

Dey come er big circus here to Falklun yistiddy
An' had us all er-feelin' lak we's livin' in de city;
We won't even 'spectin' mighty much uv er show,
Jes' er monkey and er pony and er baboon er so,
Kase dat's de kind uv show whey mostly goes eroun'
'Mongst de country folks livin' way er-way f'um de town.

But Lawd, now, Honey, dat-air wuz er show
Heap better'n dem I seen yon' ter town befo';
Dey had two elephunts thirty years ole
An' er heap er men an' women whey could dance on er pole;
An' mo' wild beases-I can't even call 'em all,
An' clowns whey pertended dey wuz playin' baseball.(21:33, Part 1)

I didn't aim ter go 'twell I seed de perade
An' sorter ketched de music whey de circus band made;
An' den I told Ma'y dat I spek I better go,
Kase I reckon all de chillun dey had orter see dat show;
An' Ma'y up an' said, "I knowed yer would"-
I near-bout b'lieve dat 'oman, she know me too good.

This one is, again, Arthur speaking out of an experience he had with small pox. This is called "Small-Pox Tactics."

One Chrismus de chillun, dey all had de small-pox,
Chrismus Eve night dey wuz broke out bad,
But I never sont fer no doctor ter come dere
Kase I knowed jes' 'zactly what 'twuz dat dey had.(22:16, Part 1)

An' I didn't aim fer ter stay home dat Chrismus,
'Count uv no quah-an-tine sign, I mean;
Dat wuz one time we had plenty uv money,
All uv us wuz rich back in nineteen-nineteen.

I heard un ole 'oman say she could mek med'cine
Heap better'n dat stuff whey de doctor would give,
'N I tole her fer Lawd's sake mek some fer de chillun,
An' she come an' greased 'em an' said dey'd sho live.

Dey did, too. But Annie, she heared folks wuz talkin'
'Bout havin' me 'dited kase I didn't tell-
I knowed dat dey couldn't go 'dite me fer sickness
When dem whey wuz sick had done gone an' got well! (22:51, Part 1)

Now and then we had a deep snow and it almost always found all of us unprepared, so this is called "Snowy Morning."

Dis snow come ketched me without no wood
(Lawd, lissen how dat wind go "Whoo-oo-oo")
I wuz aimin' fer ter git some soon's I cou'd
(No tellin' what dat wind goan do)

Snow creeps up on folks dat erway
(Stuff er pillow in dat window, Joe)
An' when hit do, dey's trubble ter pay
(Hang er bed-quilt ercrosst dat do') (23:28, Part 1)

Marse John, he promus fer ter fix dis flo'
(Holes big ernuff ter poke yer haid thoo)
I reckon tain't crosst his mind no mo'
(Dat's de way dese-here big folks do)

Ain't got no fire but er lightard knot
(An' de lightard knot's burnt low)
Ain't got no meat fer ter bile de pot
(Lawd, I wonder kin I git ter de sto')

I ain't goan set right here an' freeze
(Wid nothin' fer ter eat but bread)
You-all's kin do jes' lak you please
(I'm ergwine right back ter bed) (23:59, Part 1)

Now this one is a little different character, called "Soliloquy."

I gits ter studden 'bout heap uv things,
Doan do no good, though;
Doan do no good fer ter study 'bout things
Whey doan nobody know.

Here come one man, his skin's black;
'Nother man come, he's white;
'N look lak skin meks jes' much diffunce
Ez dey is 'twixt day an' night.

Cuiss, dat thing is ter me,
No good fer ter study 'bout it, though;
Doan reckon's no good fer ter study 'bout things
Whey doan nobody know. (24:34, Part 1)

This one, "Way Down Deep," I think is no more black than white. It happens to all of us.

Seem lak dey's suppen sorter sad
Mos' all de time, er-way down deep,
Can't tell nobody, jes feels bad
Er-way down, way down deep.
En co'se I goes on wid de res'
An' mixes 'mongst dey foolishness,
But eben when de fun's de bes'
Hit's lonesome, way down deep.

Hit's dere no matter whey you go,
Dat cuiss feelin' way down deep,
Sometimes er little, sometimes mo',
Jes, lonesome, way down deep.
Does other folks feel dat erway, too?
Seem lak I near-bout b'lieves dey do-
O Lawd, kin we-alls eber git thoo
Bein' lonesome way down deep? (25:20, Part 1)

The one that follows is "Ole Man Trubble."

Ole Man Trubble keep hangin' eroun',
Hangin' eround' my do';
Look lak he goan foller me
Ever which erway I go:

He foller me out, foller me in,
Gits so clost I sees 'im grin,
Fix fer ter knock me down, an' den
I says, "Trubble, you kin do you wust
But you got ter ketch me fust."

All my folks been sick in de bed,
Doctor's bill ter pay;
All I does gits wrong somehow
Dat's Ole Trubble's way: (25:57, Part 1)

He foller me out, foller me in,
Gits so clost I sees 'im grin,
Fix fer ter knock me down, an' den
I says, "Trubble, you kin do you wust
But you got ter ketch me fust."

Ole Man Trubble been er-ha'ntin' me
Near-bout since I'se bawn;
Someday I gwine open my eyes,
Find Old Trubble gone:

He foller me out, foller me in,
Gits so clost I sees 'im grin,
Fix fer ter knock me down, an' den
I says, "Trubble, you kin do you wust
But you got ter ketch me fust." (26:29, Part 1)

This one is called "Communion."

I'se low in mer mind, Marster,
Low in mer mind,
An' dey ain't no 'scuse fer it
I kin find;
No 'ticlar trubble hangin' roun' de do',
Things ain't much wusser dan dey been befo',
I jes' got ter feelin' sorter low,
Low in mer mind.

I'se talkin' ter you Marster,
Talkin' ter you,
Kase I allus feels heap better
Atter I do.
Seem lak I knows you'se bendin' down
Fer ter he'p yo' po' folks up off de groun',
'N I knows suppen good sho' be found,
Talkin ter You. (27:07, Part 1)

And this, called "[Summer] Lullaby," is again a familiar picture, has been in eastern North Carolina in the summertime.

Come 'long in de house now, Honey,
Gitten too dark out dere in dat yahd;
Been so busy 'bout yer playin',
Mammy knows her baby's tahd.

Come on set here side yer Mammy,
Wait 'twell yer Pappy come f'um de sto',
Us goan see 'im comin' presn'y,
'N he'll set side us here in de do'.

See dat lil' ole toady-frog, Honey?
Watch 'im come hippy-hop erlong;
Dem's ole July-flies er-singin',
Goan be hot when yer hears dey song.

Dem ain't sparks f'um de chimney, Honey,
Whey you sees dere 'mongst de trees,
Dem's lil bugs whey caiys dey lamps
'N lights 'em up jes' when dey please. (27:58, Part 1)

Po' lil' tahd, sleepy baby,
Can't stay wake twell yer Pappy come;
Bless yo' heart, you makes yo' Mammy
Thank de good Lawd dis-here's yo' home.

In the village at Falkland where I lived, there was one true jester. He may not have been a court jester but he was a Falkland jester. His name was Uncle Hayward, Hayward Williams, and when he talked you could hear him all over the village. He'd go up and down the streets talking to little children that he'd see, asking them if they had been good or bad, and some children were afraid and would run. But up at the general store in Falkland, especially on Saturday nights, Uncle Hayward would hold forth and tell wonderful stories. My father and brothers would come home some nights just bent double with laughter and we would know Uncle Hayward had been holding forth. Sometimes they could tell us the stories that he told and sometimes they couldn't. But this is one of his favorite stories, and he said this was a true one. It's called "The Tale of Miss Liza's L'arnin'." I might say right near Falkland there was the home of a former governor, Gov. Elias Carr, a big house that's still there now. But Uncle Hayward told this story about what they used to do at the Carr place, as he called it, on Saturday nights there. This is "The Tale of Miss Liza's L'arnin." (29:50, Part 1)

When I wuz young an' gwine eroun'
Er-cote'n ever night,
We useter git up er crowd an' dance
F'um sunset slam 'twell light.

We had us er big dance once't er week
Up yon' ter de ole Cyarr place,
'Twuz er house up dere wid er big ernuff room
Fer ter give us plenty uv space.

Dey'd tek down de bed, an' set out de cheers,
An' sprinkle de flo' wid meal,
'N when de music start, jes' cou'dn't set still,
Lawd, I know right now how it feel!

One night I seed er new gal up dere,
"Who dat?" I says ter Jim;
Ole Jim, he sett'n in de winder watchin' 'er,
Wishin' she'd dance wid him. (30:27, Part 1)

"Dat-air's Miss Liza Whitfiel, man,
Took-er-sho you knows who she is";
"Umm-humph-" I says, "'N you watch me, boy,
She soon gwineter know who we is."

I fix fer ter git us inter-re-duce,
'N co'se I axed 'er ter dance;
"O, I'll 'cide an' let yer know," she says,
"Dat is, ef I gits de chance."

Dat's de kind uv a gal Miss Liza wuz,
High yaller, an' Lawd, she showed it;
She cou'd hist up 'er haid an' look at er man,
'N he's her'n fore he even knowed it.

I kep' on axin' 'er fer ter dance,
'N she scawn me time an' ergin,
But she laaf an' she dance an' she promenade
Wid all de res' uv de men. (31:04)

Atter er-while I got so mad
I tole Jim less us go,
I jes' cou'dn't stay dere an' watch 'er dance
Wid all uv de res' no mo'.

De mo' I studied erbout de thing,
De meaner look lak hit twuz
Fer er gal ter ack so imperdent lak
Tow'ds a man ez good ez I wuz.

So I made up my mind fer ter show dat gal
She better mine out what she do,
Ef she gwineter tromple on me lak dat,
She gwineter git trompled too.

Den me an' Jim, we fix up er plan,
Gwine 'long home dat night;
We aimed fer ter mek dat uppity gal
Wish she'd er-treated us right. (31:38, Part 1)

We s'arched thoo de woods fo' de nex' dance night
'Twell we foun' er big hornet nest,
Kase we'd done decided right 'long ter de fust
Dat hornets would be de best.

De night uv de dance, jes' soon's twuz dark,
We tuk ter de woods wid er bag,
An' we laaf an whoop ez we walked erlong
Same ez chillun playin' tag.

We slipt de ole hornet nes' in de bag,
'N tied it up in dere tight;
Hit 'twon't no trubble, twuz dark and cold,
An' hornets, dey sleeps uv er night.

We toted de bag betwixt us den,
'N de hornets de 'gun fer ter sing;
Ole hornets wuz gwine, "Yang-yang-yang,"
De little 'uns, "Ying-ying-ying." (32:17, Part 1)

We sot de bag down outside de do',
An' went on in dere wid de res';
Miss Liza wuz dere, sasshayin' eroun',
An' Lawd, she wuz lookin' her bes'.

I never ain't seen er gal, fo' ner sense,
Cou'd come so near drivin' yer crazy;
She would smile so sweet, an' den when she speak,
She could cut yer up wuss'n er razy.

I near-bout fo'got what I aim fer ter do
'Twell I walk up an' ax 'er ter dance;
I done tole Jim fer ter be right still,
I gwine give de gal one mo' chance.

She laaf in mer face when she 'fuse, an' say,
"Man, who does you think you is?"
'N I cuss ter merse'f an I thinks, "Ole gal,
You soon gwineter know who it 'tis." (32:59, Part 1)

I wunk at Old Jim an' we both crep' out
An' pres'ny come back wid de sack,
We hilt it behine us an' crep' on eroun',
Sorter side-steppin'-lak.

Dey wuz doin' de cake-walk dance by den,
Dance up an' den back ergin;
'N we picked out er place over by de wall
Whey Miss Liza'd dance up wid her Ben.

We eased de ole bag on down ter de flo',
'N I stoop an' untie de string;
'Twuz hot in de house, 'n I heared de hornets
Wake up an' gin fer ter sing.

We wait 'twell we sees 'em start dancin' up,
Den I says, "Boy, git right,"
So Jim, he slip out an' lock de do',
An' I stop ter putt out de light. (33:38 Part 1)

When I clum out de winder I heard 'em begin
Sich er racket in dere in de dark,
Sich er howlin' an' squallin' and fightin' an' all,
Hit mind me uv Noih's Ole Ark:

"Somebody shot me", "Drap dat razor"!
"Don't let 'im hit me no mo'"!
"Lawd hab mussy, de debbil's done got me"!
"Somebody open dat do'"!

"Reckon de ole gal ain't so uppity now,"
I says when I heared her squallin';
But Jim say "Lissen, you hear dat, man?"
An' den I heared somebody callin:

"Dem Falklun niggers, dat's who it wuz,
I seed 'em wid er great big sack";
"Come on, ole boy," I says ter Jim,
"Ole Falklun's er-callin' us back." (34:14 Part 1)

Fo' we got ter de gate dey bust down de do',
An' here dey come right behine us;
We knowed ef we jes' cou'd git ter de woods
We gwine give 'em some trubble ter fine us.

One time it look lak dey wuz boun' fer ter ketch us,
'N I gun ter feel mighty bad,
But den right befo' us, we seed er big fence-
De bes' luck I eber is had.

We hop on de fence an' we jump, ker-splosh!
Lawd, we done struck some water!
'N we heared 'em behine us up dere on de bank
Er-cussin' lak dey hadn't orter.

We lit out er-swimmin' an' come ter de bank,
We knowed dat old Tar river;
An' it twon't so mighty long fo' we's home ergin,
Wropped up warm in de kiver. (34:56, Part 1)

I heared dat Miss Liza wuz laid up fer er while,
I ain't never been back ter see;
She won't de kind uv gal I'd er-coted, nohow,
But she larnt not ter tromple on me.

[Break in recording]

Of course I didn't think anything about it when I was just a child growing up, and then I began to just... As I say, I just became fascinated with the terms that they used. I remember. There's one word in here "took-er-sho," and when this little book was being printed. The Joseph Stone Company in Greensboro printed it for me. It was privately done and incidentally sold about seven hundred copies. I was having it done because so many of my student friends wanted copies. I had read it to them. That was when I was working with students over at the campus of Woman's College in Greensboro, and they used to sit around and ask me to read them, you know, [unclear 36:07]. So they started getting after me about putting it into some form so they could have copies of it, and that's how this came to be printed. (36:17, Part 1)

DL: Well now, most of them are based on eastern North Carolina folklore-

LCC: That's right, they are.

DL: -as much as anything else, are they not?

LCC: Yes, they are. I remember a professor somewhere said to me one time, "You don't realize what you've got there." Well actually I didn't. I was doing it for fun, because I had been ill and been sent home, you know, to stay for two or three years to regain strength enough to go back to work again. I was there with my parents and scouting around for something interesting to do and here it was just lying all around me and I started to realize that and began to jot down some of these expressions. One problem was how to spell like they sound, as they said them, you know.

DL: Spell them phonetically. (37:07, Part 1)

LCC: Yes, and that term, "took-er-sho," of course it means "to be sure" and it's quite familiar to me because that's the way they say it, "Tuck-er-sho you knows that is," you know. But I found that was a difficult one for people to understand. I know somebody at Stone's printers called me up one day when this little volume, Spring Fever, was just about ready to go to press and said, "Miss Crisp, would you look on page so-and-so, line so-and-so, and tell us what that is and what it means?" [Laughs] I told them that it meant "to be sure" and I spelled it to make it sound as much as I could, you know, as they really said it. They didn't say "to be sure," they said "tuck-er-sho." But nobody would understand that who hadn't heard it, you know.

DL: Well now, growing up around Falkland, tell us something of life in Falkland during this period, around this part of Pitt County. (38:24, Part 1)

LCC: Well, actually I was born at Crisp, a little village up in Edgecombe County. [unclear 38:39] one store, a church, and a school. When I was about three years old we moved from Crisp to Falkland and my father went into business with a couple of other men in a firm that was called J.R. Fountain and Company. It now is the Wooten Store, the big one. It's still a big store in the village. But my father was a merchant and a farmer too, had several farms around that he either managed or owned, so we grew up knowing about renters and town business and sharecroppers, although we didn't call them sharecroppers. We called them tenants.

But in Falkland, when we moved there, part of it was very much as it is today, actually. The big square white house in the center of the grove in the middle of the village was originally the home of Dr. [Peyton Hopkins] Mayo, who was a physician in the village. He had a big family, girls and boys, and they lived there for years, and I suppose. I'm sure he died there. When we moved to Falkland we lived, the first year, in that house, rented it. We rented several years until my father built the house that has been the Crisp home ever since then and is now occupied by a nephew of mine and his family, the Lawrences. (40:23, Part 1)

But when we first went to Falkland there were barrooms and I was not allowed to go beyond a certain line-.

DL: You put plural there. More than one?

LCC: Yes. There were at least two and some other stores too. But my mother had a terrible fear of barrooms and all and what people who were drinking would do to the children [unclear 40:59] because that house in that grove, you see, was right in the middle of the village, a road on either side. I don't know whether you know how those streets come. They still come right up on a point in that grove and then the road goes on and turns this way to go to Fountain and that way to up to Pine Tops and so on. (41:17, Part 1)

But there was a deadline in that grove beyond which I was not supposed to put my feet, and I remember quite distinctly one day when I decided that I was going beyond that line. It was strange how you know a thing when you're three years old. [Laughs] I wanted to see what was behind a little house that was up there that was a milliner's shop. That was on the left-hand side of the road as you go in now, right across the street from the big white house that was the Mayo home. But there was a small house [that] housed the millinery shop and hats and hats and hats were made there, which of course was right across the road from our grove but I never had been far up in that grove by myself to see what was behind that house that housed the millinery shop. So one day I kept thinking about it and I thought, "I have got to see what's behind that millinery shop." So I watched [for] a time when my mother wasn't around and nobody else was in sight and I made a dash up that street-the road, really-until I could see what was [beyond] that house. Of course there was nothing there but two or three other houses. There was a blacksmith shop I think and something else. But I've never forgotten the adventure I had. [unclear 43:13] I don't remember whether my mother found out about it, saw me, or not. I just remember the feeling I had when I was going.

But we lived in that place for a year and then we moved three times before we got into our own house, which is, as I think I've told you, on the street-. (43:35, Part 1)

[End tape one, side one]

It came out pretty well, the picture did, and apparently [unclear 00:10] liked the story, putting it in a good space like that, you know. So then I thought well, this is pretty good. It wasn't hard at all, you know, to write just as I talked in folksy sort of fashion. I of course immediately began to think of other things to write about, and right around the village and near there of course were many, at that time, [unclear 00:36] people living, [some of whom had been slaves,] Aunt Queen for instance, from this book, and Jake, and a number of others. Material was just lying around to be used and fortunately I got it then because it wasn't there so many years on.

DL: Right.

LCC: So that's how I got started writing, and after I'd written feature articles for a while I began writing little sketches, just tiny ones, you know, and a little dialect verse. So, being the brash young thing that I was then, [Laughs] I copied some of it and sent it off one day to Frank [unclear 01:29] and told him that I thought I could write a very good column for him. [Laughs] Brash, you know. (1:38, Part 2)

So I never have forgotten the beginning of his letter that came in answer to mine. He said, "Dear Miss Crisp, I think everybody in the state of North Carolina wants to do a column." He said, "But I like the story that you sent. If you think you can supply me that kind of story once a week, [unclear 02:09]." So I started. Of course I had the incentive then, you know, to look for things and from there went on.

DL: [unclear 02:20] write a column each week.

LCC: Yes. Of course I'd get it in late [Laughs] and always put it off to the last minute, you know, and all. [unclear 02:30] along with me for five or six or seven years. [unclear 02:38] After I got so interested in it I didn't intend ever to let it go. I intended going on out from there. But, as has been the case with me all my life, I got sidetracked. I was interested in so many different lines.

One day this letter came in from Greensboro, where I had been in college, and, much to my surprise, it was offering me a job as director of education in the Church of the Covenant in Greensboro, a Presbyterian church, and it was just like a fall out of the clear sky, you know. So then I thought, well; that sounds sort of interesting. It has a salary. [Laughs] (3:36, Part 2)

DL: And Greensboro is a nice town.

LCC: Yes. You know how you go along with things like that. So that's how I got started [unclear 03:46] of course was [unclear 03:49] and then writing, [and then] religious education, really, all the way through. So I took that job in Greensboro and was at that church, the Church of the Covenant, for four years, I guess. Then I worked with Presbyterian students over on the campus at Woman's College a lot, you know, how those church secretaries do, you know, student secretaries [unclear 04:28].

So Dr. J[ulius] I. Foust, who was president of the college then, and whom I had known when I was a student, sent for me one day to come to see him, and he said, "I sent for you because the girls on the YWCA cabinet asked me to, to see if you would come over here as a general secretary of the YWCA." I said, "What?" and he said, "Yes. They came to me and asked me." (5:01, Part 2)

The YWCA secretary they had had for several years the girls did not like at all. They had asked him to find somebody else, so they had asked him then, you know, to ask me if I would come. So of course I thought, well; maybe this is what I should do. I went on over there and was there for, I don't know, several years.

I had kept on writing through my experience at the church because I did the write-ups of the sermons, you know, the Sunday morning and Sunday evening programs and sermons and so on. Mr. R. Murphy Williams-who's quite a character in his own right, a personality-was minister. I enjoyed working with him. You never knew what was going to come up, you know. He would send you out on the strangest errands. In the long run it turned out to be very interesting. So, I didn't have too much time for writing just anything else, you know. I said I never intended to give up the column and things like that but gradually I did because this other work sort of took over. (6:29, Part 2)

So finally I resigned the church work and the campus work and went out to take a job at the University of Illinois. The Congregational church there was looking for somebody. The Pilgrim Foundation was looking for a secretary for their student group, and I thought, well; that might be interesting, to see another part of the country. So from Greensboro I went out there; didn't stay but a year. In fact I didn't stay the whole year through because I [unclear 07:06]. [Laughs] Promptly took flu, you know, and I was in and out of the hospital all spring and finally just gave up and came to Alabama where one of my brothers lived then, the warmest place I could find right then, and I promptly got over the flu of course. But I didn't have any desire to stay in the Midwest. I wanted to come back to North Carolina, so I did.

DL: And from there you went to the state art gallery? (7:45, Part 2)

LCC: No, there's right much in between. Let's see. What did I do next? It's so long ago, it's hard to-.

DL: How did you get involved in the state art gallery?

LCC: Well, there again, it was just purely accidental in a way. Let's see if I can remember how the thing did come about now. I was always coming back home, you know, to Falkland, to write, and I'd get here and somebody would say, "We need you for this right now," you know. One time-I don't know the date now-they had started this art center here in Greenville and [unclear 08:37] on the second floor of Sheppard Memorial Library and I was on the board of directors of the art center. The woman who was director, or who was the first director, she was a very fine person, and the second one was also nice but she decided to go back to teaching. Now she didn't decide it until almost the first of September and they didn't have a chance really to look for somebody for that year. (9:15, Part 2)

There I was; I remember the day right here in Greenville when we were all sitting around biting our nails, you know, trying to think of who could come in there in time to start the art center's work. All of a sudden somebody looked at me and said, "You can do it." I said, "Do what?" They said, "You can take over this art center." I said, "I've never done such a thing." I hadn't been involved with visual arts at all, you know, up to that time. [unclear 09:48] But then they all hopped on me. You know, you throw out a little piece of rope and no matter how frayed it is people grab it and say, "This is it. We don't have to look any farther," and that's how that came about. (10:11, Part 2)

[Break in recording]

[unclear 10:17] feathers, and at that time my mother had a feather mattress, you know, that she kept on her bed over the regular mattress [unclear 10:35] feather beds. So when I'd hear a storm coming I would run and, if nobody was in her room, I would slide in under the feather bed, between that and the regular mattress, and stay there, [Laughs] sweating, you know-I was about to die-but feeling safe from the lightening. One day Mother came in her room and found me there and realized for the first time how scared I was, you know, of lightening. [Laughs] She pulled me out from under the feather bed and took me out on the porch, sat down in the rocking chair, and the storm was going, you know, and talked to me about the storm and what was happening. From that time, for a while, until I really began to get over it, every time she noticed a storm brewing she would look for me and find me and take me out on the porch and sit there and talk to me about it. I got over it.

DL: Wow. (11:42, Part 2)

[End tape one, side two]

DL: Do you want to being with Spring Fever?

LCC: Yes. [Pause]

These pieces of verse are from a little booklet called Spring Fever, published some years ago and dedicated: "To my Mother and Father, Annie Gorham Crisp and Sellers M. Crisp, Who, Being Dead, Yet Live."

"Foreword"

Ever whey I look, seem lak I see
Er little bud er blossom on er tree;
Dey bustes out erlong er bare lim'
Lak dey can't stan' no bark er-kiverin' dem. (1:09, Part 3)

I mus' be kin ter trees, fer ever spring
I git so full inside uv everthing
I jes can't keep it all inside uv me-
I near-bout wishes den I wuz er tree.

"Spring Fever" is the title of this one, and these are all in the dialect of the eastern North Carolina Negroes.

I knows dey's suppen wrong wid me
How-come I feels so bad;
I'm skeered dis spell'll be de wust
I near-bout ever had.

Hit seem lak lef' foot foller right foot
Mighty-mighty slow,
An' all I wants is ter set in de sunshine
Yander by dat do'. (1:54, Part 3)

I goes ter sleep when de sun go down
But I don't git near nuff res',
Kase when it's time fer ter git up mawnins
Bed do feel de bes'..

Ma'y, she thinks I got spring fever,
Least dat's what she said,
'N I knows fever's mighty dange'ous
'Less you stays in de bed.

And this next one is called "Spring."

De white man say he laks de spring-
Um.humph.I reckon he do;
Ef I cou'd stan' eroun' an' talk erbout de thing
I reckon I'd lak hit, too.

But dat ain't de way things is wid us,
De black man got ter be walkin'
An' pushin' er plow, er doin' suppen wuss
Whilst de white man does de talkin'. (2:37, Part 3)

And here is another called "Morning Musicale."
I hears de little sparrers gwine
Er-chitty-chitty-chat
An' I don't know whey dey's singin'
Er disputin' dis an' dat;
But I sorter laks ter hear 'em mawnins
Fo' de sun er-rise
When dey's gwine on so 'cited
Lak dey's had er gran' surprise.

Look lak hit tain't no trouble
'Ter de mockin' bird er-tall
Jes' ter sing an' laff an' whistle yander
On de gyarden wall;

An er-way off in de pasture
I can hear de dove "er-coo,"
Whilst de rooster, he's er-crowin'
Lake er rooster gwinter do. (3:11, Part 3)

An' all de little chillun goes
Er-skippin' down de street
Jes er-laffin' an' er-talkin' an'
Er-singin' sorter sweet;
'N I jes' ups an' flings my trubbles ter
De man up in de moon
An' erfore I even knows it
I'se er-jinin' in dey chune.

I wish that could be true. [Laughs] This one is "Song for Mandy."

I been goin' wid dis-here Mandy
Goin' on fo' months now;
Anybody know how ter mek er lak me,
Wisht 'e'd tell me how.

I'se tried foolin', I'se tried fussin',
I'se tried all I knows;
Anytime anybody else come beggin'
Mandy, she jes' goes. (3:48, Part 1)

I don't want no other woman,
I done told 'er so;
I jes' wants fer ter be dere wid her
No matter whey she go.

I made er song ter sing fer Mandy,
"Honey, come 'long Home";
Jes' git er chanst ter sing dat 'round 'er,
Maybe Mandy come.

This next one is called "Concerning Sam," which is Mandy's side of the question.

I don't know what gits inter me
When Sam he comes eroun';
I don't never aim to, but I does
Jes' treat 'im lak er houn'.

I carries on jes lak I don't
So much ez know he's dere,
An' all de time I'se thinkin', "Man,
I'd foller you anywhere." (4:30, Part 3)

But Sam don't eben 'spicion dat,
I wish ter de Lawd he would,
Case what'd I do ef ernudder gal
Come carry him off fer good?

O Lawd, don't let my Sam go leave,
I promus I do better
Goan set myself right down terday
An' send my Sam er letter.

This next one is called "Figgering."

I seed a little bitsy bird
Come flyin', flyin' long,
'N all er sudden down he drap
An' start 'im up er song;
'N dere he sot er-singin' an'
Er-swingin' on er lim',
Jes lak he knowed dey couldn't nothin'
Come ter bother him. (5:08, Part 3)

I watched 'im swingin' up an' down
Er-way up in de air,
An' sorter figgered how 'twould be
Ef dat wuz me up dere;
Dey say de Lawd He watches sparrers
Lak He watches men,
But I'd be skeered He might fergit me
Ever now an' den.

I never specks ter ax de Lawd
Ter watch me in er tree,
Kase I knows sich er place ez dat
Wuz meant fer birds, not me.
I figgers things is dis-erway:
Dey's plenty savin' grace
Fer ter kiver bird an' beas' an' men
Whey keeps dey rightsome place.

The next one is titled "Explanation."

Look lak Monday come de quickest,
Sunday's shortest day dey is,
Sun, hit's near-bout gwine down
Befo' I know hit's eben riz. (5:53, Part 3)

Cuiss, anyhow, ter me
De way de week is po'tioned out,
Six long days ter wuk an' sweat
An' one ter rest an' git erbout.
One short day jes' ain't ernuff
Ter give mer po', tahd feet dey due,
'N dat's how-come I knocks off wukkin
Ever Saddy evenin' too.

This is "Dissertation on Jim." [unclear 06:35] worked for us in Falkland, and sometimes she would give quite a dissertation on her husband, Jim.

I'se gittin' mighty tired uv dis foolin' wid Jim,
Dey aint er bit uv 'pendance ter be put in him,
Always er-promusin' what he gwine do
Ef I will jes' send enudder dollar er two
Fer ter he'p im erlong 'twell he gits out'n debt-
Dat's suppen he ain't never been out'n yet. (7:03, Part 1)

Hit's gwine on fo' years since he lef',
'N fo' dat he worried me near-bout ter def
Er-runnin' off nights an' er-leavin' me dere
Wid all dem chillun-he knowed 'twon't fair;
He knowed hit wuz wrong ter steal baccer, too,
When folks git started, no tellin' what dey'll do!

He ain't got no 'scuse now fer stayin' erway,
We-all's paid 'im out, he kin come any day,
An' dat's what he promus he wus goan do,
'N I'se fool ernuff ter b'lieve 'im-But now I'se thoo;
I'se gwine git er 'vorcement paper soon's I kin,
I knows what I gwine do, I gwine git married ergin.

This one is "Do Tell." This was one of my father's favorite stories. (7:49, Part 3)

Two very pious sistren once
Were on their way to meeting,
And as they walked they stopped and talked
And passed a friendly greeting;
They seemed to find good pleasure
(As good sistren always could)
In passing on the newest news
Of all the neighborhood:

"Dey tells me dat new baby
At de Joneses 'crosst de river
Is sech a little tinsy thing
Can't find 'im in de kiver."

"Well, dat ain't nothing', Sister Lize,"
Said Sister Sally Ann;
"When I wuz young dey toted me
In er good-sized coffee can." (8:21, Part 3)

"Well, fo' de Lawd, Sis Sally Ann,
An' did yer live? Do tell!"
"Why yes, dey said I did, Sis Lize,
Said I lived an' done well."

I think my father enjoyed that "I lived and done well." [Laughs] He used to tell it and laugh.

This one is called "Sis" and it's about a little girl whose father worked for us at one time, and Sis was a source of great trouble to Arthur. He often spoke about her, so I picked up this from Arthur.

I reckon Sis thinks dis is been er bad day,
She all time inter some trubble anyway,
She up ter suppen mean right now, lak ez not-
Dat's de mos' mischeevous youngun I got. (9:09, Part 3)

Dinner-time, when I come fum de fiel'
An start ter de sto' fer ter git some meal,
I seed mer little maple tree layin' on de groun'
Whey she done tuk de axe and chopped hit down.

I come nigh gi'en her er killin' fer dat;
She'd orter had one-she knowed Miss Matt
Had gin me dat tree fer ter set out dere,
But dat-air gal, she jes' doan care.

Den when I went fer ter wash mer han's,
Dere wuz holes in both uv mer good wash pans,
She'd druv' em in dere wid er nail, clar thoo-
De Lawd in Hebb'n knows what dat gal goan do.

Seem lak I hates fer ter beat 'er so bad,
But I jes' can't he'p it, she meks me so mad,
'N den I gits ter thinkin' how mean I useter be-
Took-er-sho Sis must uv tuk atter me! (9:54, Part 3)

[This poem is entitled "John Henry."] John Henry was the son of another [person] who worked for us for a while and often spoke of her little son, and this is about what she would say.

John Henry, dat's one wurrisome boy,
Got er-plenty sense in 'is haid,
But fo' he stops I b'lieve he'll 'stroy
De las' thing us is made.
He draps mer dishes down on de flo',
Mer kitchen, hit stays in er fix-
Done broke ever cup I had but fo',
But fo', an' I had six.

This is called. Well I guess I wouldn't title it this now but it's called "Pickaninny Song."

Us Mammy an' us Pappy, dey gone off ter wuk terday,
So all us little chillun got er heap er time ter play;
All up an' down de cawn patch, er-singin' as we goes,
Er skippy-hoppy run-jump ermongst de cotton rows. (10:53, Part 3)

Sometimes we beats de puppy jes' ter mek 'im howl an' run,
Den we sicks 'im on de kitty so ez he kin have some fun;
We fusses an' we fights, and we gits ez mad ez sin,
An' den we gits ter playin' an we meks it up ergin.

Us Mammy an' us Pappy, dey's er-comin' home ternight,
An' when dey looks eroun'em, dey's er-goanter see er sight;
We's et up all de cawn bread, an' bust down ever cheer,
But us Mammy an' us Pappy, shucks, dey doan keer!

This one is "My Jake." This is his wife, Sue, speaking.

My Jake, he's right easy ter git erlong wid
So long ez de weather, hit's fair an' ca'm;
De chillun kin mek ez much fuss ez dey please,
Hit doan hinder him shootin' craps wid Br'er Sam. (11:41, Part 3)

But Lawd, when de thunder clouds 'gin fer ter roll,
My Jake, he gits pow'ful religious tuk,
An bawls at de chillun, "You shet up dat fuss
An set still whilst de good Lawd's er-doin' His wuk."

DL: [Noise of machinery in the distance] That noise [unclear 12:04]. This is delightful.

LCC: Thank you, sir.

DL: I told you about after we recorded them the last time I carried them with me and listened to them and I don't know how many people got to hear them then. [Laughs]

LCC: I'm glad they enjoyed them. This one is titled "Dis Chalstun." It was written about the time when the dance, the "Charleston," had just come out and was new and quite popular. This is Arthur speaking. (12:47, Part 3)

Dat-air second gal of mine,
De one whey we calls Aderline,
Look lak she jes' tries ter see
How much uv er trubble kin she be.

De udder chillun, dey all tries
Ter tek some keer uv what I buys,
But dat-air gal ain't got no sense
Er-tall, she ain't, fer savin' 'spense.

She went off yander 'crosst de creek
Ter stay wid An't May Lize er week,
An' now she all-time skip an' prance,
She say she larnt dis-here new dance:

Dey calls it Chalstun, suppen lak dat,
Hit minds me uv er crazy bat,
Er-floppin' dey arms and feets eroun'
Fust in de air an' den on de groun'. (13:23, Part 3)

I jes' can't keep dat gal in shoes;
I buys her some, an' den fust news
I knows she's done an' danced 'em out-
She'd mek er preacher cuss near-bout.

Dey calls dis Chalstun suppen new-
Lawd knows 'tain't nuthin' hard ter do;
Mer right foot, hit ain't ez good ez mer lef',
'Scusin' dat, I kin do dat dance merse'f.

This one is called "Skeeter, Skeeter." Anyone who's been troubled by mosquitoes in the summertime at night will recognize himself in this. (14:00, Part 3)

Skeeter, Skeeter, lemme lone,
Go 'long wid yer "ying-ying";
You mus' think dis-here's de cirkis
An' you'se hired fer sing.
Better go 'long lak I tole you
Ef you'se lookin' fer yo bes',
I'se been wukkin' hard, I is,
'N Lawd, He made de night fer res'.
Shut up, skeeter, you can't fool me,
I knows you ain't come ter sing,
Minds me uv some folks I knows,
Smilin' whilst dey knocks yer, Bling!
Dat's all right, ole skeeter, durn you,
Now you'll wish you'se bawn dumm-
Blip, blap-I knowed I'd ketch you.
Skeeter gone ter Kingdom Come. (14:37, Part 3)

This one is "Concerning Aunt Queen," who's one of my favorite characters. She was born a slave. When I knew her she was up in her seventies. I took a Kodak picture of her and this is just about what she said when she saw the photograph.

Dat's me, Lawd knows dat show is me,
Anybody cou'd tell dat's me,
But how you fix fer ter git me dere
Dat's suppen I jes' can't see.

Jes' look at dat ole bonnet now,
I wisht anybody would look;
I'd orter tuk dat ole thing off
When I had mer picter took. (15:31, Part 3)

But it looks jes' lak me, dat's de Lawd's truf,
Jes' lak I looks yander home;
Been er-wearin' dat bonnet goan on two year
'Cep I tuk it off when Sunday come.

An dere's my lil old Allie Mae,
Lawd, ain't dat lak dat chile,
Dat youngun's got er-plenty uv sense,
Looks lak she fixin' fer ter smile.

She knowed she goan have her picter tuk
When she crawled up dere'n my lap,
But she h'ist up her haid to'wds de picter-merchine
'S if she doan keer one rap.

I sho' do want me er picter lak dis,
How much does yer reckon 'twould cost?
We ain't had none uv Allie Mae
An' de one I had uv me got los'. (16:07, Part 3)

You mean I kin have dis-here one now?
Lawd bless yer, Thanky-ma'm,
'N ef you ever wants us fer anything,
You call us, me an' Sam!

I goan give dis picter ter de largement-man
Nex' time he come dis erway,
'N he'll mek er big 'un fer ter hang on de wall,
Lawd, won't dat please Allie Mae.

This one's entitled "Varmints." Living on a farm, you know what varmints can be.

Dere's some ole' varmint waitin' roun'
Fer everything dat grows;
Dey eats me out'n house an' home
No matter what I sows: (16:48, Part 3)

De sparrers et my strawberry crap,
De tater-bugs, my taters;
De rabbits tuk my radishes
An' wilt, hit kilt my 'maters.

De worms, dey cuts de baccer leaves
Cl'ar off de po' ole stalks;
Boll weavils in de cotton patch
Eatin' cotton whilst dey walks.

I reckon Ole Marse John, he thinks
Dere's varmints 'mongst his chickens-
But ef we couldn't 'pend on dem,
Whey would we git us pickin's?(17:15, Part 3)

This one is called "Down in the Cotton Patch."

Marse John tole me to pick dis cotton,
He know tain't no use,
He jes aims fer ter keep me wukkin',
Teks dis fer his 'scuse.

Ten cent cotton ain't wuth pickin',
Ever body knows,
Dis won't pay fer de fertilizer,
Let 'lone res' I owes.

I'm jes' tired uv dis-here bizziness
Wukkin' night an' day
Mekkin' cotton, cawn, an' baccer
Jes' fer ter give erway.

Annie say she ain't goan worry,
Lawd, He will pervide-
Looks lak dem whey buys de craps
Could he'p 'im, on de side. (17:52, Part 3)

Co'se dey could ef dey wuz mineter,
Co'se dey won't, I knows;
Rich folks, dey's de mos' perticlar
Whey dey money goes.

Nex' year I goan quit dis farmin',
I goan move ter town;
Annie'll git er job er-cookin',
Lawd, we'll splurge eroun'.

Come back home on preachin' Sundays
Drivin' er great big car,
See po' country folks er-lookin',
Hear 'em say, "I swar"!

Speck I better go talk ter Annie,
See what she goan say-
Wimmen folks all time mek trubble,
Boun' ter have dey way. (18:25, Part 3)

This one is called, "Lawd, He Couldn't Make Me Lissen."

Lawd, He couldn't make me lissen
When He had some things ter say;
I kep' gwine on 'bout my business,
Gallivantin' night an' day.

Den de Lawd, He knock me down, suh,
Laid me flat right in de bed;
Doctor come an' said, "You lay dere
Less you wants ter git up dead."

Whilst I'se layin' ca'm an' still-like,
Lawd, He come an' talk ter me,
Talk so's I could understan' 'im,
'Twell I say, "Yes, Lawd, I see."

Now sometimes I gits ter feelin'
Mebbe I'se gone deef ergin,
Den I shets mer eyes an' prays 'im:
"Knock me down, please, suh, Amen." (19:10, Part 3)

Now here's one called "After a Rain."

Lawd knows I'se glad fer ter see dis rain,
Hit sho do he'p my feelin's;
My crap looked lak 'twuz gone fer good,
Sto' folks had done quit dealins.

But now my baccer's green ergin,
Sto' folks, dey jes' er-smilin',
An' I gits everthing I wants
Fer ter keep de ole pot b'ilin.

Lawd fools us dat erway sometimes-
Dat's jes' His way uv showin'
Dat folks an' craps an' everthing
Got ter 'pend on Him fer growin'. (19:48, Part 3)

This one is "A Song in Summertime."

I couldn't git erlong 'dout singin' er song,
Much trubble's I has, I knows,
Lil' chune sorter hep-a mer hoe go 'long
Up-an-down dese baccer rows:

O' de Lawd's gwineter tek-a-me home ter Canaan,
Whey King Jesus stan';
Yes, de Lawd's gwineter tek-a me home ter Canaan
Yander in the Promus' Lan'.

De white man, he got ter study fer ter sing,
De black man sing f'um 'is heart,
Banjer, er gittar, no matter what,
De good Lawd'll show 'im whey ter start:

O' de Lawd's gwineter tek-a-me home ter Canaan,
Whey King Jesus stan';
Yes, de Lawd's gwineter tek-a me home ter Canaan
Yander in the Promus' Lan'. (20:33, Part 3)

[Break in recording]

DL: -the insight they reflect make good sociological study. I was thinking of that one-is it "Down in the Country?"

LCC: "Down in the Cotton Patch."

DL: "Down in the Cotton Patch." How reflective that is of twenty, thirty years ago.

LCC: [Man] talking to himself down in the cotton patch, deciding what he was going to do.

DL: Thnking about going into town and coming back down in that big car.

LCC: Great big car, yes. That's the way a lot of people thought.

DL: Well, a lot of them-.

LCC: A lot of them did.

DL: A lot of them did. They were old worn-out cars but it was the biggest thing they could buy for a dollar down and a few dollars a week. (21:41, Part 3)

LCC: That was the ideal, the great big car.

DL: I've seen many country blacks who've gone either north or in town to work in a mill and come back driving a great big Buick or Cadillac, Oldsmobile, and it would be ten, fifteen years old [Laughs] but it was the biggest thing they could get.

LCC: Yes, and make so much fuss you could hardly hear.

DL: You could hear them coming for miles.

LCC: Here is "Circus Time."

Circus folks, dey got sense-Dey knows
When's de best time ter git erbout showin' dey shows;
You don't see dem comin' 'roun' 'twell de fall
When we jes erbout finished wid us craps an' all-
No, hit tain't de craps dey's thinkin' 'bout, Honey,
Hit ain't de craps-Naw, suh-hit's de money. (22:34, Part 3)

Dey come er big circus here to Falklun yistiddy
An' had us all er-feelin' lak we's livin' in de city;
We won't even 'spectin' mighty much uv er show,
Jes' er monkey and er pony and er baboon er so,
Kase dat's de kind uv show whey mostly goes eroun'
'Mongst de country folks livin' way er-way f'um de town.

But Lawd, now, Honey, dat-air wuz er show
Heap better'n dem I seen yon' ter town befo';
Dey had two elephunts thirty years ole
An' er heap er men an' women whey could dance on er pole;
An' mo' wild beases-I can't even call 'em all,
An' clowns whey pertended dey wuz playin' baseball.

I didn't aim ter go 'twell I seed de perade
An' sorter ketched de music whey de circus band made;
An' den I told Ma'y dat I spek I better go,
Kase I reckon all de chillun dey had orter see dat show;
An' Ma'y up an' said, "I knowed yer would"-
I near-bout b'lieve dat 'oman, she know me too good. (23:30, Part 3)

This one is "Small-Pox Tactics," what to do in case of small pox.

One Chrismus de chillun, dey all had de small-pox,
Chrismus Eve night dey wuz broke out bad,
But I never sont fer no doctor ter come dere
Kase I knowed jes' 'zactly what 'twuz dat dey had.

An' I didn't aim fer ter stay home dat Chrismus,
'Count uv no quah-an-tine sign, I mean;
Dat wuz one time we had plenty uv money,
All uv us wuz rich back in nineteen-nineteen.

I heard un ole 'oman say she could mek med'cine
Heap better'n dat stuff whey de doctor would give,
'N I tole her fer Lawd's sake mek some fer de chillun,
An' she come an' greased 'em an' said dey'd sho live.

Dey did, too. But Annie, she heared folks wuz talkin'
'Bout havin' me 'dited kase I didn't tell-
I knowed dat dey couldn't go 'dite me fer sickness
When dem whey wuz sick had done gone an' got well! (24:24, Part 3)

This one is "A Snowy Morning."

Dis snow come ketched me without no wood
(Lawd, lissen how dat wind go "Whoo-oo-oo")
I wuz aimin' fer ter git some soon's I cou'd
(No tellin' what dat wind goan do)

Snow creeps up on folks dat erway
(Stuff er pillow in dat window, Joe)
An' when hit do, dey's trubble ter pay
(Hang er bed-quilt ercrosst dat do')

Marse John, he promus fer ter fix dis flo'
(Holes big ernuff ter poke yer haid thoo)
I reckon tain't crosst his mind no mo'
(Dat's de way dese-here big folks do) (25:05, Part 3)

Ain't got no fire but er lightard knot
(An' de lightard knot's burnt low)
Ain't got no meat fer ter bile de pot
(Lawd, I wonder kin I git ter de sto')

I ain't goan set right here an' freeze
(Wid nothin' fer ter eat but bread)
You-all's kin do jes' lak you please
(I'm ergwine right back ter bed)

DL: That reminds me of two ladies close to my parents' house. They were white. But they were the last of a line, I suppose you'd say. I don't know if they were retarded or what. Anyway, I can remember as a child their mother still living and after she died they just stayed there in the old house back in the woods and they would never do anything for themselves at all. (26:18, Part 3)

LCC: How'd they get on?

DL: I don't know how they survived. They'd go to the store, or they'd send to the store. Back in those days country stores delivered so the country store would bring them their groceries, and I suppose they were getting some money from welfare or somewhere. But they woudn't do a thing to repair the house-

LCC: Oh, no. They never do.

DL: -and the floor, you know, you could almost. You'd be afraid to walk in the house because you'd fall through. They never tried to keep the house up and wouldn't even go out and cut wood. You'd go down there one time and they wouldn't have a sign of wood at all for heat and in cold weather they'd get in bed and stay in bed twenty-four hours a day.

LCC: My father had tenants who would chop down the doorsteps for firewood. (27:19, Part 3)

DL: And live in the middle of a forest with wood all around.

LCC: Yes, a woodpile, you know; chop down the doorsteps.

This "Soliloquy," I suppose, is common to all of us.

I gits ter studden 'bout heap uv things,
Doan do no good, though;
Doan do no good fer ter study 'bout things
Whey doan nobody know.

Here come one man, his skin's black;
'Nother man come, he's white;
'N look lak skin meks jes' much diffunce
Ez dey is 'twixt day an' night.

Cuiss, dat thing is ter me,
No good fer ter study 'bout it, though;
Doan reckon's no good fer ter study 'bout things
Whey doan nobody know. (28:04, Part 3)

I don't believe that myself, though. This one is "Way Down Deep."

Seem lak dey's suppen sorter sad
Mos' all de time, er-way down deep,
Can't tell nobody, jes feels bad
Er-way down, way down deep.
En co'se I goes on wid de res'
An' mixes 'mongst dey foolishness,
But eben when de fun's de bes'
Hit's lonesome, way down deep.

Hit's dere no matter whey you go,
Dat cuiss feelin' way down deep,
Sometimes er little, sometimes mo',
Jes, lonesome, way down deep.
Does other folks feel dat erway, too?
Seem lak I near-bout b'lieves dey do-
O Lawd, kin we-alls eber git thoo
Bein' lonesome way down deep? (28:49, Part 3)

This one is titled "Ole Man Trubble."

Ole Man Trubble keep hangin' eroun',
Hangin' eround' my do';
Look lak he goan foller me
Ever which erway I go:

He foller me out, foller me in,
Gits so clost I sees 'im grin,
Fix fer ter knock me down, an' den
I says, "Trubble, you kin do you wust
But you got ter ketch me fust."

All my folks been sick in de bed,
Doctor's bill ter pay;
All I does gits wrong somehow
Dat's Ole Trubble's way: (29:36, Part 3)

He foller me out, foller me in,
Gits so clost I sees 'im grin,
Fix fer ter knock me down, an' den
I says, "Trubble, you kin do you wust
But you got ter ketch me fust."

Ole Man Trubble been er-ha'ntin' me
Near-bout since I'se bawn;
Someday I gwine open my eyes,
Find Old Trubble gone:

He foller me out, foller me in,
Gits so clost I sees 'im grin,
Fix fer ter knock me down, an' den
I says, "Trubble, you kin do you wust
But you got ter ketch me fust."

This is called "Communion." (30:14, Part 3)

I'se low in mer mind, Marster,
Low in mer mind,
An' dey ain't no 'scuse fer it
I kin find;
No 'ticlar trubble hangin' roun' de do',
Things ain't much wusser dan dey been befo',
I jes' got ter feelin' sorter low,
Low in mer mind.

I'se talkin' ter you Marster,
Talkin' ter you,
Kase I allus feels heap better
Atter I do.
Seem lak I knows you'se bendin' down
Fer ter he'p yo' po' folks up off de groun',
'N I knows suppen good sho' be found,
Talkin ter You. (30:47, Part 3)

Then "A Summer Lullaby."

Come 'long in de house now, Honey,
Gitten too dark out dere in dat yahd;
Been so busy 'bout yer playin',
Mammy knows her baby's tahd.

Come on set here side yer Mammy,
Wait 'twell yer Pappy come f'um de sto',
Us goan see 'im comin' presn'y,
'N he'll set side us here in de do'.

See dat lil' ole toady-frog, Honey?
Watch 'im come hippy-hop erlong;
Dem's ole July-flies er-singin',
Goan be hot when yer hears dey song.

Dem ain't sparks f'um de chimney, Honey,
Whey you sees dere 'mongst de trees,
Dem's lil bugs whey caiys dey lamps
'N lights 'em up jes' when dey please. (31:30, Part 3)

Po' lil' tahd, sleepy baby,
Can't stay wake twell yer Pappy come;
Bless yo' heart, you makes yo' Mammy
Thank de good Lawd dis-here's yo' home.

This last is a longer one called "The Tale of Miss Liza's L'arnin'." I heard this almost verbatim. Not exactly verbatim, but my father and brothers used to come home from the store sometimes at night just bent double with laughter. (32:10, Part 3)

[Break in recording]

[Shall I start again?]

DL: Let's see if they've finished. This is one of the most priceless ones [unclear 32:46].

LCC: I think so.

DL: [We don't want] clanking right in the middle. [Laughs]

LCC: [Laughs] Think we can start again now?

DL: I reckon it's safe.

LCC: This is called "A Tale of Miss Liza's L'arnin'." It's a story that I heard secondhand from my father and brothers. They had heard it from an old Negro man we called Uncle Hayward. It was one of his favorite yarns and when he'd get a little bit drunk he would tell it at the store to the men around the stove up there. They would come home laughing about it and trying to tell it so we would know what the story was, but I'm sorry it has to come secondhand. I wish I could've heard him say it, but the gist of it is this: (33:53, Part 3)

When I wuz young an' gwine eroun'
Er-cote'n ever night,
We useter git up er crowd an' dance
F'um sunset slam 'twell light.

We had us er big dance once't er week
Up yon' ter de ole Cyarr place,
'Twuz er house up dere wid er big ernuff room
Fer ter give us plenty uv space.

Dey'd tek down de bed, an' set out de cheers,
An' sprinkle de flo' wid meal,
'N when de music start, jes' cou'dn't set still,
Lawd, I know right now how it feel!

One night I seed er new gal up dere,
"Who dat?" I says ter Jim;
Ole Jim, he sett'n in de winder watchin' 'er,
Wishin' she'd dance wid him. (34;30, Part 3)

"Dat-air's Miss Liza Whitfiel, man,
Took-er-sho you knows who she is";
"Umm-humph-" I says, "'N you watch me, boy,
She soon gwineter know who we is."

I fix fer ter git us inter-re-duce,
'N co'se I axed 'er ter dance;
"O, I'll 'cide an' let yer know," she says,
"Dat is, ef I gits de chance."

Dat's de kind uv a gal Miss Liza wuz,
High yaller, an' Lawd, she showed it;
She cou'd hist up 'er haid an' look at er man,
'N he's her'n fore he even knowed it.

I kep' on axin' 'er fer ter dance,
'N she scawn me time an' ergin,
But she laaf an' she dance an' she promenade
Wid all de res' uv de men. (35:10, Part 3)

Atter er-while I got so mad
I told Jim less us go,
I jes' cou'dn't stay dere an' watch 'er dance
Wid all uv de res' no mo'.

De mo' I studied erbout de thing,
De meaner look lak hit twuz
Fer er gal ter ack so imperdent lak
Tow'ds a man ez good ez I wuz.

So I made up my mind fer ter show dat gal
She better mine out what she do,
Ef she gwineter tromple on me lak dat,
She gwineter git trompled too.

Den me an' Jim, we fix up er plan,
Gwine 'long home dat night;
We aimed fer ter mek dat uppity gal
Wish she'd er-treated us right. (35:46, Part 3)

We s'arched thoo de woods fo' de nex' dance night
'Twell we foun' er big hornet nest,
Kase we'd done decided right 'long ter de fust
Dat hornets would be de best.

De night uv de dance, jes' soon's twuz dark,
We tuk ter de woods wid er bag,
An' we laaf an whoop ez we walked erlong
Same ez chillun playin' tag.

We slipt de ole hornet nes' in de bag,
'N tied it up in dere tight;
Hit 'twon't no trubble, twuz dark and cold,
An' hornets, dey sleeps uv er night.

We toted de bag betwixt us den,
'N de hornets de 'gun fer ter sing;
Ole hornets wuz gwine, "Yang-yang-yang,"
De little 'uns, "Ying-ying-ying." (36:26, Part 3)

We sot de bag down outside de do',
An' went on in dere wid de res';
Miss Liza wuz dere, sasshayin' eroun',
An' Lawd, she wuz lookin' her bes'.

I never ain't seen er gal, fo' ner sense,
Cou'd come so near drivin' yer crazy;
She would smile so sweet, an' den when she speak,
She could cut yer up wuss'n er razy.

I near-bout fo'got what I aim fer ter do
'Twell I walk up an' ax 'er ter dance;
I done tole Jim fer ter be right still,
I gwine give de gal one mo' chance.

She laaf in mer face when she 'fuse, an' say,
"Man, who does you think you is?"
'N I cuss ter merse'f an I thinks, "Ole gal,
You soon gwineter know who it 'tis." (37:11, Part 3)

I wunk at Old Jim an' we both crep' out
An' pres'ny come back wid de sack,
We hilt it behine us an' crep' on eroun',
Sorter side-steppin'-lak.

Dey wuz doin' de cake-walk dance by den,
Dance up an' den back ergin;
'N we picked out er place over by de wall
Whey Miss Liza'd dance up wid her Ben.

We eased de ole bag on down ter de flo',
'N I stoop an' untie de string;
'Twuz hot in de house, 'n I heard de hornets
Wake up an' gin fer ter sing.

We wait 'twell we sees 'em start dancin' up,
Den I says, "Boy, git right,"
So Jim, he slip out an' lock de do',
An' I stop ter putt out de light. (37:51, Part 3)

When I clum out de winder I heard 'em begin
Sich er racket in dere in de dark,
Sich er howlin' an' squallin' and fightin' an' all,
Hit mind me uv Noih's Ole Ark:

"Somebody shot me", "Drap dat razor"!
"Don't let 'im hit me no mo'"!
"Lawd hab mussy, de debbil's done got me"!
"Somebody open dat do'"!

"Reckon de ole gal ain't so uppity now,"
I says when I heared her squallin';
But Jim say "Lissen, you hear dat, man?"
An' den I heared somebody callin:

"Dem Falklun niggers, dat's who it wuz,
I seed 'em wid er great big sack";
"Come on, ole boy," I says ter Jim,
"Ole Falklun's er-callin' us back." (38:29, Part 3)

Fo' we got ter de gate dey bust down de do',
An' here dey come right behine us;
We knowed ef we jes' cou'd git ter de woods
We gwine give 'em some trubble ter fine us.

One time it look lak dey wuz boun' fer ter ketch us,
'N I gun ter feel mighty bad,
But den right befo' us, we seed er big fence-
De bes' luck I eber is had.

We hop on de fence an' we jump, ker-splosh!
Lawd, we done struck some water!
'N we heared 'em behine us up dere on de bank
Er-cussin' lak dey hadn't orter.

We lit out er-swimmin' an' come ter de bank,
We knowed dat old Tar river;
An' it twon't so mighty long fo' we's home ergin,
Wropped up warm in de kiver. (39:08, Part 3)

I heared dat Miss Liza wuz laid up fer er while,
I ain't never been back ter see;
She won't de kind uv gal I'd er-coted, nohow,
But she larnt not ter tromple on me.

[Break in recording]

These verses are from a book called Brief Testament, which was published in 1947. This is the title poem, "Brief Testament."

If I could leave but one gift when I go,
But one brief testament of all I know
And confidently hope for, believe in, dream
Of all things that are and all that seem,
I would leave the song my heart has learned
To hear in the days as they have turned
From dawn to darkness and dawn again-
Sunlight, sorrow, laughter, rain. (40:16, Part 3)

Only in a song could one bequeathe
The heritage of those who daily breathe
The deep breath of Wonder, full and sweet,
In the rhythm of the winds or of trudging feet.
Music is a mystery none may know-
But the giver of a song content could go.

I don't think I read that very well.

DL: [Do you want to reread it?]

LCC: I'll try it again. I don't believe I've got enough breath to read much more.

DL: [Do you want] to stop and begin Brief Testament some other time?

LCC: Yes, let's do that. (41:00)

[End tape two, side one]


Title
Lucy Cherry Crisp oral history interview, March 26, 1973
Description
In this interview, Lucy Cherry Crisp reads the dialectal verse which makes up Spring Fever. The poems are written in what Ms. Crisp perceived as Black English and are meant to reflect Black life in the Falkland community of rural Pitt County during the early twentieth century. For related material see Collection #154. Miss Crisp, a Pitt County, N.C., native, has had a varied career as a poet, journalist, religious counselor, and art museum administrator. Among her published works are two volumes of poetry, Brief Testament and Spring Fever. Interviewer: Donald R. Lennon. Length: 3 hours.
Date
March 26, 1973
Original Format
oral histories
Extent
10cm x 6cm
Local Identifier
OH0013
Creator(s)
Contributor(s)
Subject(s)
Spatial
Location of Original
East Carolina Manuscript Collection
Rights
This item has been made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. Researchers are responsible for using these materials in accordance with Title 17 of the United States Code and any other applicable statutes. If you are the creator or copyright holder of this item and would like it removed, please contact us at als_digitalcollections@ecu.edu.
http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/

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