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Judy Parker




From: Arkansas

Interviewer: Mary D. Hudgins
Person Interviewed: Judy Parker
Home: 618 Wade Street, Hot Springs, Ark.
Aged: 77


For location of Wade Street, see interview with Emma Sanderson.

As the interviewer walked down Silver Street a saddle colored girl came
out on a porch for a load of wood.

"I beg your pardon," she began, pausing, "can you tell me where I will
find Emma Sanderson?"

"I sure can." The girl left the porch and came out to the street. "I'll
walk down with you and show you. That way it'll be easier. Kind of cold,
ain't it?"

"It surely is," this from the interviewer. "Isn't it too cold for you,
can't you just tell me? I think I can find it." The girl had expected to
be only on the porch and didn't have a coat.

"No, ma'am. It's all right. Now we're far enough for you to see. You see
those two houses jam up against one and 'tother? Well Miz Parker lives
in the one this way. I goes down to look after her most every day.
That's where you'll find her.--No ma'am--'twaren't no bother."

The gate sagged slightly at the house "this way" of the "two jam up
against one and 'tother." A large slab from an oak log in the front yard
near a woodpile bore mute evidence of many an ax blow. (Stove wood is
generally split in the rural South--one end of the "stick" resting
against the ground, the other atop a small log.)

Up a couple of rickety steps the interviewer climbed. She knocked three
times. When she was bade to enter she opened the door to find an old
woman sitting near a wood stove combing her long, white hair.

Mrs. Parker was expecting the visit. A few days before the interviewer
had had a visit from a couple of colored women who had "heard tell how
you is investigating the old people.--been trying to get on old age
pension for a long time--glad you come to get us on.----No? Oh, I see
you is the Townsend woman." (An explanation of her true capacity was
almost impossible for the interviewer.)

Mrs. Parker, however, seemed to comprehend the idea perfectly. She
expected nothing save the chance to tell her story. Her joy at the gift
of a quarter (the amount the interviewer set aside from her salary for
each interviewee) was pitiful. Evidently it had been a long time since
she had possessed a similar sum to spend exactly as she pleased.

"I don't rightly know how old I is. My mother used to tell me that I was
a little baby, six months old when our master, Joe Potts was his name,
got ready to clear out of Florida. You see he had heard tell of the war
scare. So he started drifting out of the way. Bet it didn't take him
long after he made up his mind. He was a right decided man. Mister Joe
was.

"How did we like him? Well, he was always good to us. He was well
thought of. Seemed to be a pretty clever man, Mr. Joe did." ("Clever" in
plantation language like "smart" refers more to muscular than mental
activity. They might almost be used as synonyms for "hard working" on
the labor level.)

"So Mr. Joe got ready to go to Texas. Law, Miss, I don't rightly know
whether he had a family or not. Never heard my Mother say. Anyhow he
come through Arkansas intending to drift on out into Texas. But when he
got near the border 'twix't and between Arkansas and Texas he stopped.
The talk about war had about settled down. So he stopped. He stopped
near where the big bridge is. You know where Little River County is
don't you? He stopped and he started to work. Started to make a crop.
'Course I can't remember none about that. Just what my Mother told me.
But I remembers him from later.

"He went at it the good way. Settled down and tried to open up a home.
They put in a crop and got along pretty good. Time passed and the war
talk started floating again. That time he didn't pay much attention and
it got him. It was on a Sunday morning when he went away. I never knew
whether they made him go or not. But I kind of think they must of. Cause
he wouldn't have moved off from Florida if he had wanted to go to war.

"He took my daddy with him! Ma'am--did he take him to fight or to wait
on him--Don't know ma'am, but I sort of think he took him to wait on
him. But he didn't bring him back. My daddy got killed in the war. No
ma'am. I don't rightly know how he got killed. Never heard nobody say. I
was just a little girl--nobody bothered to tell me much.

"Yes, that we did. We stayed on on the farm and we made a crop--the old
folks did. Mr. Joe, when he went off, said "Now you stay on here, you
make a crop and you use all you need. Then you put up the rest and save
for me." He was a right good man, Mr. Joe was.

"No, we didn't never see no fighting. There wasn't nothing to be scared
of. Didn't see no Yankees until the war was through. Then they started
passing. Lawsey, I couldn't tell how many of them there was. More than
you could count.

"We had all stayed on. I was the oldest of my mother's children. But she
had two more after me. There was our family and my two uncles and my
grandmother. Then there was some other colored folks. But we wasn't
scared of the Yankees. Mr. Joe was there by that time. They camped all
around in the woods near us. They got us to do their washing. Lawsey
they was as filthy as hogs. I never see such folks. They asked Mr. Joe
if we could do their washing. Everything on the place that come near
those clothes got lousey. Those men was covered with them. I never see
nothing like it. We got covered with them. No, ma'am, we got rid of 'em
pretty easy. They ain't so hard to get rid of, if you keep clean.

"After it was all over Master Joe got ready to go back to Florida. He
took Warley and Jenny with him. They was children he had had by a black
woman--you know folks did such things in them days. He asked the rest of
us if they wanted to go back too. But my folks made up their minds they
didn't. You see, they didn't know how they'd get along and how long it
would take them to pay for the trip back, so they stayed right where
they was.

"Lots of 'em went to Rondo and some of us worked for Herb Jeans--he
lived farther up Red River. After my mother died I was with my
grandmother. She washed and cooked for Herb Jeans's family. I stayed on
with her, helped out until I got married. I was about fifteen when that
time come.

"My man owned his place. Sure he did. Owned it when I married him. He
owned it himself and farmed it good. Yes ma'am we stayed with the land.
He made good crops--corn and cotton, mostly. Course we raised potatoes
and the truck we needed--all stuff like that. Yes, ma'am we had thirteen
children. Just three of them's living. All of them is boys.

"Yes ma'am we got along good. My husband made good crops and we got
along just good. But 'bout eight years ago my husband he got sick. So he
sold out the farm--sold out everything. Then he come here.

"Before he died he spent every last cent--every last cent--left me to
get along the very best way I kin. I stays with my son. He takes care of
me. He don't make much, but he does the best he kin.

"No ma'am, I likes living down in the country. Down there near Red River
it's soft and sandy. Up here in Hot Springs the rocks tear up your feet.
If you's country raised--you like the country. Yes ma'am, you like the
country."

As she left the interviewer handed her a quarter. At first the old
woman's face was expressionless. But she moved the coin nearer to her
eyes and a smile broke and widened until her whole face was a wrinkle of
joy. When she turned in the doorway, the interviewer noticed that the
hand jammed into an apron pocket was clutched into a possessive fist,
cradling the precious twenty five cents.





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