Oklahoma Writers' Project
[Date stamp: AUG 16 1937]
Age (about) 89 yrs.
"What yo' gwine do when de meat give out?
What yo' gwine do when de meat give out?
Set in de corner wid my lips pooched out!
What yo' gwine do when de meat come in?
What yo' gwine do when de meat come in?
Set in de corner wid a greasy chin!
Dat's about de only little nigger song I know, less'n it be de one
"Great big nigger, laying 'hind de log--
Finger on de trigger and eye on the hawg!
Click go de trigger and bang go de gun!
Here come de owner and de buck nigger run!"
And I think I learn both of dem long after I been grown, 'cause I
belong to a full-blood Creek Indian and I didn't know nothing but
Creek talk long after de Civil War. My mistress was part white and
knowed English talk, but she never did talk it because none of de
people talked it. I heard it sometime, but it sound like whole lot of
wild shoat in de cedar brake scared at something when I do hear it.
Dat was when I was little girl in time of de War.
I don't know where I been born. Nobody never did tell me. But my mammy
and pappy git me after de War and I know den whose child I is. De men
at de Creek Agency help 'em git me, I reckon, maybe.
First thing I remember is when I was a little girl, and I belong to
old Tuskaya-hiniha. He was big man in de Upper Creek, and we have a
purty good size farm, jest a little bit to de north of de wagon depot
houses on de old road at Honey Springs. Dat place was about
twenty-five mile south of Fort Gibson, but I don't know nothing about
whar de fort is when I was a little girl at dat time. I know de Elk
River 'bout two mile north of whar we live, 'cause I been there many
I don't know if old Master have a white name. Lots de Upper Creek
didn't have no white name. Maybe he have another Indian name, too,
because Tuskaya-hiniha mean "head man warrior" in Creek, but dat what
everybody call him and dat what de family call him too.
My Mistress' name was Nancy, and she was a Lott before she marry old
man Tuskaya-hiniha. Her pappy name was Lott and he was purty near
white. Maybe so all white. Dey have two chillun, I think, but only one
stayed on de place. She was name Luwina, and her husband was dead. His
name was Walker, and Luwina bring Mr. Walker's little sister, Nancy,
to live at de place too.
Luwina had a little baby boy and dat de reason old Master buy me, to
look after de little baby boy. He didn't have no name cause he wasn't
big enough when I was with dem, but he git a name later on, I reckon.
We all call him "Istidji." Dat mean "little man."
When I first remember, before de War, old Master had 'bout as many
slave as I got fingers, I reckon. I can think dem off on my fingers
like dis, but I can't recollect de names.
Dey call all de slaves "Istilusti." Dat mean "Black man."
Old man Tuskaya-hiniha was near 'bout blind before de War, and 'bout
time of de War he go plumb blind and have to set on de long seat under
de bresh shelter of de house all de time. Sometime I lead him around
de yard a little, but not very much. Dat about de time all de slave
begin to slip out and run off.
My own pappy was name Stephany. I think he take dat name 'cause when
he little his mammy call him "Istifani." Dat mean a skeleton, and he
was a skinny man. He belong to de Grayson family and I think his
master name George, but I don't know. Dey big people in de Creek, and
with de white folks too. My mammy name was Serena and she belong to
some of de Gouge family. Dey was big people in de Upper Creek, and one
de biggest men of the Gouge was name Hopoethleyoholo for his Creek
name. He was a big man and went to de North in de War and died up in
Kansas, I think. Dey say when he was a little boy he was called
Hopoethli, which mean "good little boy", and when he git grown he make
big speeches and dey stick on de "yoholo." Dat mean "loud whooper."
Dat de way de Creek made de name for young boys when I was a little
girl. When de boy git old enough de big men in de town give him a
name, and sometime later on when he git to going round wid de grown
men dey stick on some more name. If he a good talker dey sometime
stick on "yoholo", and iffen he make lots of jokes dey call him
"Hadjo." If he is a good leader dey call him "Imala" and if he kind of
mean dey sometime call him "fixigo."
My mammy and pappy belong to two masters, but dey live together on a
place. Dat de way de Creek slaves do lots of times. Dey work patches
and give de masters most all dey make, but dey have some for
demselves. Dey didn't have to stay on de master's place and work like
I hear de slaves of de white people and de Cherokee and Choctaw people
say dey had to do.
Maybe my pappy and mammy run off and git free, or maybeso dey buy
demselves out, but anyway dey move away some time and my mammy's
master sell me to old man Tuskaya-hiniha when I was jest a little gal.
All I have to do is stay at de house and mind de baby.
Master had a good log house and a bresh shelter out in front like all
de houses had. Like a gallery, only it had de dirt for de flo' and
bresh for de roof. Dey cook everything out in de yard in big pots, and
dey eat out in de yard too.
Dat was sho' good stuff to eat, and it make you fat too! Roast de
green corn on de ears in de ashes, and scrape off some and fry it!
Grind de dry corn or pound it up and make ash cake. Den bile de
greens--all kinds of greens from out in de woods--and chop up de pork
and de deer meat, or de wild turkey meat; maybe all of dem, in de big
pot at de same time! Fish too, and de big turtle dat lay out on de
Dey always have a pot full of sofki settin right inside de house, and
anybody eat when dey feel hungry. Anybody come on a visit, always give
'em some of de sofki. Ef dey don't take none de old man git mad, too!
When you make de sofki you pound up de corn real fine, den pour in de
water an dreen it off to git all de little skin from off'n de grain.
Den you let de grits soak and den bile it and let it stand. Sometime
you put in some pounded hickory nut meats. Dat make it real good.
I don't know whar old Master git de cloth for de clothes, less'n he
buy it. Befo' I can remember I think he had some slaves dat weave de
cloth, but when I was dar he git it at de wagon depot at Honey
Springs, I think. He go dar all de time to sell his corn, and he raise
lots of corn, too.
Dat place was on de big road, what we called de road to Texas, but it
go all de way up to de North, too. De traders stop at Honey Springs
and old Master trade corn for what he want. He git some purty checkedy
cloth one time, and everybody git a dress or a shirt made off'n it. I
have dat dress 'till I git too big for it.
Everybody dress up fine when dey is a funeral. Dey take me along to
mind de baby at two-three funerals, but I don't know who it is dat
die. De Creek sho' take on when somebody die!
Long in de night you wake up and hear a gun go off, way off yonder
somewhar. Den it go again, and den again, jest as fast as dey can ram
de load in. Dat mean somebody dead. When somebody die de men go out in
de yard and let de people know dat way. Den dey jest go back in de
house and let de fire go out, and don't even tech de dead person till
somebody git dar what has de right to tech de dead.
When somebody bad sick dey build a fire in de house, even in de
summer, and don't let it die down till dat person git well or die.
When dey die dey let de fire go out.
In de morning everybody dress up fine and go to de house whar de dead
is and stand around in de yard outside de house and don't go in.
Pretty soon along come somebody what got a right to tech and handle de
dead and dey go in. I don't know what give dem de right, but I think
dey has to go through some kind of medicine to git de right, and I
know dey has to drink de red root and purge good before dey tech de
body. When dey git de body ready dey come out and all go to de
graveyard, mostly de family graveyard, right on de place or at some of
When dey git to de grave somebody shoots a gun at de north, den de
west, den de south, and den de east. Iffen dey had four guns dey used
Den dey put de body down in de grave and put some extra clothes in
with it and some food and a cup of coffee, maybe. Den dey takes strips
of elm bark and lays over de body till it all covered up, and den
throw in de dirt.
When de last dirt throwed on, everybody must clap dey hands and smile,
but you sho hadn't better step on any of de new dirt around de grave,
because it bring sickness right along wid you back to your own house.
Dat what dey said, anyways.
Jest soon as de grave filled up dey built a little shelter over it wid
poles like a pig pen and kiver it over wid elm bark to keep de rain
from soaking down in de new dirt.
Den everybody go back to de house and de family go in and scatter
some kind of medicine 'round de place and build a new fire. Sometime
dey feed everybody befo' dey all leave for home.
Every time dey have a funeral dey always a lot of de people say,
"Didn't you hear de stikini squalling in de night?" "I hear dat
stikini all de night!" De "stikini" is de screech owl, and he suppose
to tell when anybody going to die right soon. I hear lots of Creek
people say dey hear de screech owl close to de house, and sho' nuff
somebody in de family die soon.
When de big battle come at our place at Honey Springs dey jest git
through having de green corn "busk." De green corn was just ripened
enough to eat. It must of been along in July.
Dat busk was jest a little busk. Dey wasn't enough men around to have
a good one. But I seen lots of big ones. Ones whar dey had all de
different kinds of "banga." Dey call all de dances some kind of banga.
De chicken dance is de "Tolosabanga", and de "Istifanibanga" is de one
whar dey make lak dey is skeletons and raw heads coming to git you.
De "Hadjobanga" is de crazy dance, and dat is a funny one. Dey all
dance crazy and make up funny songs to go wid de dance. Everybody
think up funny songs to sing and everybody whoop and laugh all de
But de worse one was de drunk dance. Dey jest dance ever whichaway, de
men and de women together, and dey wrassle and hug and carry on awful!
De good people don't dance dat one. Everybody sing about going to
somebody elses house and sleeping wid dem, and shout, "We is all drunk
and we don't know what we doing and we ain't doing wrong 'cause we is
all drunk" and things like dat. Sometime de bad ones leave and go to
de woods, too!
Dat kind of doing make de good people mad, and sometime dey have
killings about it. When a man catch one his women--maybeso his wife or
one of his daughters--been to de woods he catch her and beat her and
cut off de rim of her ears!
People think maybeso dat ain't so, but I know it is!
I was combing somebody's hair one time--I ain't going tell who--and
when I lift it up off'n her ears I nearly drap dead! Dar de rims cut
right off'n 'em! But she was a married woman, and I think maybeso it
happen when she was a young gal and got into it at one of dem drunk
Dem Upper Creek took de marrying kind of light anyways. Iffen de
younguns wanted to be man and wife and de old ones didn't care dey
jest went ahead and dat was about all, 'cepting some presents maybe.
But de Baptists changed dat a lot amongst de young ones.
I never forgit de day dat battle of de Civil War happen at Honey
Springs! Old Master jest had de green corn all in, and us had been
having a time gitting it in, too. Jest de women was all dat was left,
'cause de men slaves had all slipped off and left out. My uncle Abe
done got up a bunch and gone to de North wid dem to fight, but I
didn't know den whar he went. He was in dat same battle, and after de
War dey called him Abe Colonel. Most all de slaves 'round dat place
done gone off a long time before dat wid dey masters when dey go wid
old man Gouge and a man named McDaniel.
We had a big tree in de yard, and a grape vine swing in it for de
little baby "Istidji", and I was swinging him real early in de morning
befo' de sun up. De house set in a little patch of woods wid de field
in de back, but all out on de north side was a little open space, like
a kind of prairie. I was swinging de baby, and all at once I seen
somebody riding dis way 'cross dat prairie--jest coming a-kiting and
a-laying flat out on his hoss. When he see de house he begin to give
de war whoop, "Eya-a-a-a-he-ah!" When he git close to de house he
holler to git out de way 'cause dey gwine be a big fight, and old
Master start rapping wid his cane and yelling to git some grub and
blankets in de wagon right now!
We jest leave everything setting right whar it is, 'cepting putting
out de fire and grabbing all de pots and kettles. Some de nigger women
run to git de mules and de wagon and some start gitting meat and corn
out of de place whar we done hid it to keep de scouters from finding
it befo' now. All de time we gitting ready to travel we hear dat boy
on dat horse going on down de big Texas road hollering.
Den jest as we starting to leave here come something across dat little
prairie sho' nuff! We know dey is Indians de way dey is riding, and de
way dey is all strung out. Dey had a flag, and it was all red and had
a big criss-cross on it dat look lak a saw horse. De man carry it and
rear back on it when de wind whip it, but it flap all 'round de
horse's head and de horse pitch and rear lak he know something going
'Bout dat time it turn kind of dark and begin to rain a little, and we
git out to de big road and de rain come down hard. It rain so hard for
a little while dat we jest have to stop de wagon and set dar, and den
long come more soldiers dan I ever see befo'. Dey all white men, I
think, and dey have on dat brown clothes dyed wid walnut and
butternut, and old Master say dey de Confederate soldiers. Dey
dragging some big guns on wheels and most de men slopping 'long in de
rain on foot.
Den we hear de fighting up to de north 'long about what de river is,
and de guns sound lak hosses loping 'cross a plank bridge way off
somewhar. De head men start hollering and some de hosses start rearing
and de soldiers start trotting faster up de road. We can't git out on
de road so we jest strike off through de prairie and make for a creek
dat got high banks and a place on it we call Rocky Cliff.
We git in a big cave in dat cliff, and spend de whole day and dat
night in dar, and listen to de battle going on.
Dat place was about half-a-mile from de wagon depot at Honey Springs,
and a little east of it. We can hear de guns going all day, and along
in de evening here come de South side making for a getaway. Dey come
riding and running by whar we is, and it don't make no difference how
much de head men hollers at 'em dey can't make dat bunch slow up and
After while here come de Yankees, right after 'em, and dey goes on
into Honey Springs and pretty soon we see de blaze whar dey is burning
de wagon depot and de houses.
De next morning we goes back to de house and find de soldiers ain't
hurt nothing much. De hogs is whar dey is in de pen and de chickens
come cackling 'round too. Dem soldiers going so fast dey didn't have
no time to stop and take nothing, I reckon.
Den long come lots of de Yankee soldiers going back to de North, and
dey looks purty wore out, but dey is laughing and joshing and going
Old Master pack up de wagon wid everything he can carry den, and we
strike out down de big road to git out de way of any more war, is dey
going be any.
Dat old Texas road jest crowded wid wagons! Everybody doing de same
thing we is, and de rains done made de road so muddy and de soldiers
done tromp up de mud so bad dat de wagons git stuck all de time.
De people all moving along in bunches, and every little while one
bunch of wagons come up wid another bunch all stuck in de mud, and dey
put all de hosses and mules on together and pull em out, and den dey
go on together awhile.
At night dey camp, and de women and what few niggers dey is have to
git de supper in de big pots, and de men so tired dey eat everything
up from de women and de niggers, purty nigh.
After while we come to de Canadian town. Dat whar old man Gouge been
and took a whole lot de folks up north wid him, and de South soldiers
got in dar ahead of us and took up all de houses to sleep in.
Dey was some of de white soldiers camped dar, and dey was singing at
de camp. I couldn't understand what dey sing, and I asked a Creek man
what dey say and he tell me dey sing, "I wish I was in Dixie, look
I ask him whar dat is, and he laugh and talk to de soldiers and dey
all laugh, and make me mad.
De next morning we leave dat town and git to de big river. De rain
make de river rise, and I never see so much water! Jest look out dar
and dar all dat water!
Dey got some boats we put de stuff on, and float de wagons and swim de
mules and finally git across, but it look lak we gwine all drown.
Most de folks say dey going to Boggy Depot and around Fort Washita,
but old Master strike off by hisself and go way down in de bottom
somewhar to live.
I don't know whar it was, but dey been some kind of fighting all
around dar, 'cause we camp in houses and cabins all de time and nobody
live in any of 'em.
Look like de people all git away quick, 'cause all de stuff was in de
houses, but you better scout up around de house before you go up to
it. Liable to be some scouters already in it!
Dem Indian soldiers jest quit de army and lots went scouting in little
bunches and took everything dey find. Iffen somebody try to stop dem
dey git killed.
Sometime we find graves in de yard whar somebody jest been buried
fresh, and one house had some dead people in it when old Mistress poke
her head in it. We git away from dar, and no mistake!
By and by we find a little cabin and stop and stay all de time. I was
de only slave by dat time. All de others done slip out and run off. We
stay dar two year I reckon, 'cause we make two little crop of corn.
For meat a man name Mr. Walker wid us jest went out in de woods and
shoot de wild hogs. De woods was full of dem wild hogs, and lots of
fish in de holes whar he could sicken 'em wid buck root and catch 'em
wid his hands, all we wanted.
I don't know when de War quit off, and when I git free, but I stayed
wid old man Tuskaya-hiniha long time after I was free, I reckon. I was
jest a little girl, and he didn't know whar to send me to, anyways.
One day three men rid up and talk to de old man awhile in English
talk. Den he called me and tell me to go wid dem to find my own
family. He jest laugh and slap my behind and set me up on de hoss in
front of one de men and dey take me off and leave my good checkedy
dress at de house!
Before long we git to dat Canadian river again, and de men tie me on
de hoss so I can't fall off. Dar was all dat water, and dey ain't no
boat, and dey ain't no bridge, and we jest swim de hosses. I knowed
sho' I was going to be gone dat time, but we git across.
When we come to de Creek Agency dar is my pappy and my mammy to claim
me, and I live wid dem in de Verdigris bottom above Fort Gibson till I
was grown and dey is both dead. Den I marries Anderson Davis at Gibson
Station, and we git our allotments on de Verdigris east of Tulsa--kind
of south too, close to de Broken Arrow town.
I knowed old man Jim McHenry at dat Broken Arrow town. He done some
preaching and was a good old man, I think.
I knowed when dey started dat Wealaka school across de river from de
Broken Arrow town. Dey name it for de Wilaki town, but dat town was
way down in de Upper Creek country close to whar I lived when I was a
I had lots of children, but only two is alive now. My boy Anderson got
in a mess and went to dat McAlester prison, but he got to be a trusty
and dey let him marry a good woman dat got lots of property dar, and
dey living all right now.
When my old man die I come to live here wid Josephine, but I'se blind
and can't see nothing and all de noises pesters me a lot in de town.
And de children is all so ill mannered, too. Dey jest holler at you
all de time! Dey don't mind you neither!
When I could see and had my own younguns I could jest set in de corner
and tell 'em what to do, and iffen dey didn't do it right I could
whack 'em on de head, 'cause dey was raised de old Creek way, and dey
know de old folks know de best!
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