Liddie Aiken Wheatley Arkansas Interviewed By Irene Robertson
Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Liddie Aiken, Wheatley, Arkansas
"My mother was born in southwest Georgia close to the Alabama line. Her
mother come from Virginia. She was sold with her mother and two little
brothers. Her mother had been sold and come in a wagon to southwest
Georgia. They was all field hands. They cleaned out new ground. They was
afraid of hoop-snakes. She said they look like a hoop rolling and
whatever they stuck a horn or their tail in it died. They killed trees.
"Mama said she druther plough than chop. She was a big woman and they
let her plough right along by her two little brothers, Henry and Will
Keller. Will et so many sweet potatoes they called him 'Tater Keller.'
After he got grown we come out here. Folks called him 'Tate Keller.'
Henry died. I recollect Uncle Tate.
"I was born close to Mobile, Alabama. Mama was named Sarah Keller.
Grandma was called Mariah. Banks Tillman sold her the first time. Bill
Keller bought them all the last time. His wife was named Ada Keller.
They had a great big family but I forgot what they said about them. Mack
clem up in a persimmon tree one day and the old man hollered at him,
'Get out of that tree 'fore you fall.' 'Bout then the boy turned 'loose
and fell. It knocked the breath out him. It didn't kill him. Three or
four of Miss Ada's children died with congestive chills. Mama said the
reason they had them chills they played down at the gin pond all the
time. It was shady and a pretty place and they was allowed to play in
the pond. Three or four of them died nearly in a heap.
"One of the boys had a pet billy-goat. It got up on top mama's house one
time. It would bleat and look down at them. They was afraid it would
jump down on them if they went out. It chewed up things Aunt Beanie
washed. She had them put out on bushes and might had a line too. They
fattened it and killed it. Mama said Mr. Bill Keller never had nothing
too good to divide with his niggers. I reckon by that they got some of
"They lived like we live now. Every family done his own cooking. I don't
know how many families lived on the place.
"I know about the Yankees. They come by and every one of the men and
boys went with them but Uncle Cal. He was cripple and they advised him
not to start. Didn't none of the women go. Mama said she never seen but
one ever come back. She thought they got killed or went on some place
"Mr. Keller died and Miss Ada went back to her folks. They left
everything in our care that they didn't move. She took all her house
things. They sold or took all their stock. They left us a few cows and
pigs. I don't know how long they stayed after the old man died. His
children was young; he might not been so old.
"I recollect grandma. She smoked a pipe nearly all the time. My papa was
a livery stable man. He was a fine man with stock. He was a little black
man. Mama was too big. Grandma was taller but she was slick black. He
lived at Mobile, Alabama. I was the onliest child mama had. Uncle 'Tate
Keller' took grandma and mama to Mobile. He never went to the War. He
was a good carpenter and he worked out when he didn't have a lot to do
in the field. He was off at work when all the black men and boys left
Mr. Bill. He never went back after they left till freedom.
"They didn't know when freedom took place. They was all scattering for
two years about to get work and something to eat. Tate come and got
them. They went off in a wagon that Tate made for his master, Bill
Keller. We come to Tupelo, Mississippi from Mobile when I was a little
bit of a girl. Then we made one crop and come to Helena. Uncle Tate died
there and mama died at Crocketts Bluff. My papa died back in Mobile,
Alabama. He was breaking a young horse and got throwed up side a tree.
He didn't live long then.
"I got three boys now and I had seben--all boys. They farms and do
public work. Tom is in Memphis. Pete is in Helena and I live wid Macon
between here (Wheatley) and Cotton Plant. We farm. I done everything
could be thought of on a farm. I ploughed some less than five year ago.
I liked to plough. My boy ploughs all he can now and we do the chopping.
We all pick cotton and get in the corn. We work day laborers now.
"If I was young the times wouldn't stand in my way. I could make it. I
don't know what is the trouble lessen some wants too much. They can't
get it. We has a living and thankful for it. I never 'plied for no help
"I still knits my winter stockings. I got knitting needles and cards my
own mother had and used. I got use for them. I wears clothes on my body
in cold weather. One reason you young folks ain't no 'count you don't
wear enough clothes when it is cold. I wear flannel clothes if I can get
holt of them.
"Education done ruint the world. I learnt to read a little. I never went
to school. I learnt to work. I learnt my boys to go with me to the field
and not to be ashamed to sweat. It's healthy. They all works."
Lewis Mann Liddie Boechus