Daniel William Lucas

Oklahoma Writers' Project



Age 94 yrs.

Red Bird, Okla.

I remember them slave days well as it was yesterday, and when I get to

remembering the very first thing comes back to me is the little log

cabin where at I lived when I was a slave boy back 'fore the War.

Just like yesterday--I see that little old cabin standing on a bit of

hill about a quarter-mile from the Master's brick mansion, and I see

into the cabin and there's the old home-made bed with rope cords

a-holding up the corn shuck bedding where on I use to sleep after

putting in the day at hoeing cotton or following a slow time mule team

down the corn rows 'till it got so dark the old overseer just

naturally had to call it a day.

And then I see the old baker swinging in the fireplace. That cooked up

the corn pone to go with the fat side meats the Master Doctor (didn't

I tell you the Master was a doctor?) give us for the meals of the week

day. But on a Sunday morning we always had flour bread, excepting

after the War is over and then we is lucky do we get anything.

Just like yesterday--I hear the old overseer making round of the

cabins every day at four, and I means in the morning, too, when the

night sleep is the best, and the folkses tumbling out of the door

getting ready for the fields.

All the mens dressed about the same. Just like me. Wearing the grey

jeans with the blue shirt stuck in loose around the belt, brogan shoes

that feels like brakes on the feet about the hot time of day when the

old sun's a-grinning down like he was saying: "work, niggers, work!"

And the overseer is saying the same thing, only we pays more attention

to him 'cause of the whip he shakes around when the going gets kinder

slow down the row.

Now I sees them getting ready for the slave auction. Many of 'em there

was. The Master Doctor done owned about two hundred slaves and

sometimes he sell some for to beat the bad crops.

There they'd stand on the wooden blocks, their faces greased and

shiny, their arms and bodies pretty well greased too; seemed like they

looked better and stronger that way, maybe some other reason, I dunno.

And when the auction was over lots of the slaves would try to figger

out when would the next one be and worry some afraid they'd be

standing up there waiting for the buyers to punch and slap to see is

they sound of limb and able to do the days work without loafing down

the rows.

There's the old white preacher who tried to tell the slaves about the

Lord. He had a mighty hard job sometimes, 'cause of the teaching was

hard to understand. And then--then he'd just seem to be riled with

anger and lay down the law of the Lord between cuss-words that all the

slaves could understand. So finally I guess everybody was religionized

even it was cussed into 'em right from the pulpit!

That old preacher always makes me think of haunts, 'cause every

evening when I drive up the cows for milking, there's a old, old log

cabin right on the way that I pass every night--and it's so haunted

won't nobody pass it after the darkness covers in the daylight.

I didn't always get by 'fore then, and the sounds I hear! Like they

was people inside jumping and knocking on the floor, maybe they was

dancing, I dunno. But they was a light in the big room. Wasn't the

moon a-shining through the windows either, 'cause sometimes I would

stop at the gate and say HELLO, then out go the light and the noises

would stop quick, like them haunts was a-scairt as me--and then, then

I run like the old preacher's Devil is after me with all his forks.

Then along come the War. The slaves would go around from cabin to

cabin telling each other about how mean and cruel was the master or

the overseer, and maybe some of them would make for the North. They

was the unlucky ones, 'cause lots of times they was caught.

And when the patrollers get 'em caught, they was due for a heavy

licking that would last for a long time.

The slaves didn't know how to travel. The way would be marked when

they'd start North, but somehow they'd get lost, 'cause they didn't

know one direction from another, they was so scairt.

Just like yesterday--I remember the close of the War. Nothing exciting

about it down on the plantation. Just the old overseer come around and


"The Yankees has whipped the Rebels and the War is over. But the Old

Master don't want you to leave. He just wants you to stay right on

here where at is your home. That's what the Master say is best for you

to do."

That's what I do, but some of them other slaves is kinder filled up

with the idea of freedom and wants to find out is it good or bad, so

they leave and scatter round.

But I stays, and the Master Doctor he pays me ten dollars every month,

gives me board and my sleeping place just like always, and when I gets

sick there he is with the herb medicine for my ailment and I is well


It's long after the War before I leaves the old place. And that's when

I gets married in 1885. That was my first licensed wife and we is

married in Holly Springs. Her name was Josephine and we has maybe

eight-ten children, I dunno.

And I is thankful they ain't none of my children born slaves and have

to remember all them terrible days when we was ruled by the whip--like

I remember it, just like it was yesterday.

Daniel Waring Daphney Wright facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail