Will Dil

Project 1885-1


Spartanburg Dist. 4

June 3, 1937

Edited by:

Elmer Turnage


Upon learning where an ex-slave lived, the writer walked up to a house

on Pickenpack street where two old colored men were sitting on the front

porch. Asked if one of them was named 'Will Dill', the blacker of the

two motioned to himself and said,

"Come here, come in and have a seat," at the same time touching the

porch swing beside him.

He acknowledged that he lived in slavery days, "but was a small boy,

walking and playing around at that time". His master was Zeek Long, who

lived in Anderson County not far from "Three and Twenty Mile Creek' and

used to ask him:--what the rooster said, what the cow said, what the pig

said; and used to get a great deal of amusement out of his kiddish

replies and imitation of each animal and fowl. From his own calculation,

he figured he was born in 1862 in the home of his mother who was owned

by Zeek Long. His father, also, was owned by the same master, but lived

in another house. He remembers when the Yankees came by and asked for

something to eat. When they had gotten this, they went to the corn crib,

which was chock full of corn, and took the corn out, shucked it, and

gave it to their horses. All the good horses had been hidden in the

woods and only two or three old poor ones were left in the stables, but

the Yankees did not take these for they only wanted good horses. He

remembers seeing the patrollers coming around and checking up on the

'niggers'. He had an uncle who used to slip off every night and go to

see some colored girl. He had a path that he followed in going to her


"One night Uncle Bob, he started to go see his gal, and it was pretty

late, but he followed his path. There were some paterollers out looking

for him, and t'rectly they saw him. Uncle Bob lit out running and the

paterollers started running, too. Here they had it up and down the path.

Uncle Bob, he knew there was a big ditch crossing the path, but the

paterollers didn't know it; so when Uncle Bob got to the gully, he

jumped right over it and run on, but one of the patrollers fell into the

gully and broke his neck. After dat, Uncle Bob, he stayed in and kept

quiet, for he knew the paterollers had it in for him."

He asked the writer if he had ever heard a chicken talk. He said that he

had, and described a scene at the house one day when a preacher was

there. The chickens and guineas came around the house as usual to get

their feed, but didn't get it. He "quoted" the rooster as saying; "Has

the preacher gone yet?" A guinea hen answered, "not yet--not yet".

He said that he often heard turkeys talk. They would ask each other

questions, and another fowl would answer. He once heard a mule that was

in the barn, say: "Lord! Lord! All I want is corn and fodder."

Being told by the negro who was sitting beside him, that he did not

believe animals and fowls could talk, he at once said:

"Sure--roosters and gobblers can talk, one day there was a turkey hen

and a lots of little turkeys scratching around a certain place on a

hill, the little turkeys were heard to say, 'Please mam, please mam'. An

old gobbler standing and strutting near, cried out, 'Get the hell out of

here'. The turkey hen then moved to another place to feed."

He said that he gets out in his porch early in the mornings and whistles

to the birds, and that soon a large flock of birds are all around him.

Offering to demonstrate his ability, he began to whistle in a peculiar

way. Soon thereafter, two or three English sparrows flew into the yard

from nearby trees.

"See thar! See thar!" he said, pointing to them.

"When the war was over," he continued, "we stayed on at Marster's

plantation for some time. I grew up, and was always a fellow who liked

hard work. I have railroaded, was a tree doctor, helped dig wells and

did a lot of hard work. The white people was always pleased with my work

and told me so. I went down a well once to help clean it out. It looked

like to me that well was caving in above me; so I hollered for them to

pull me out. When I got out, I told them I wasn't going down no wells

any more unless somebody threw me in."

He said that he had seen lots of wild turkeys when he was a boy. One day

when he was going to get some "bacco" for his aunt, he saw a hen and a

lot of little turkeys--

"I run after the little wild turkeys but I never kotched a one. That old

mother hen would fly from one limb in a tree to another limb in another

tree and call them. They was the runningest things I ever saw. I nearly

run myself to death but I never did get one."

Every now and them, he said, one of the men on the plantation would

shoot a wild hog and we would have plenty of meat to eat. The hogs ran

wild in those days, he said.

"I never saw a ghost," he said, "unless it was one night when we boys

was out with our dogs 'possum hunting. The dogs treed a possum in a

little scrubby tree. I was always a good climber; so I went up the tree

to shake the 'possum out. I shook and shook but the 'possum would not

fall out of the tree. I shook so hard that my hat fell off and I told

the niggers not to let the dogs tear my hat. That was no skunk in the

tree, 'cause we couldn't smell anything, but when I looked again at the

'possum, or whatever it was, it got bigger and bigger. I scrambled down

the tree right away, nearly falling out of it, but I wanted to get away.

The dogs acted kinda scared; yet they would run up to the tree and bark.

One old dog I had did not bark, he just hollered. We left the thing in

the tree. I don't know what it was, but it warn't no 'possum, for I'd

shook it out of the tree if it had been."

In further discussing the subject of fowls in talking among themselves,

he said that he had often noticed a rooster and some hens standing

around in the shade talking.

"The rooster will say something and the hens will listen; then answer

him back, 'yes'. One day I heard a turkey hen say, 'we are poor, we are

poor'. The old turkey gobbler said, 'well, who in the hell can help it.'

Yes sir, they talk just like we do, but 'taint everybody can understand


He said that he had fifteen children by his first wife. He remained

single for thirteen years after his wife's death, and never had any

children by his second wife.

"Do you reckon we'll ever get a pension in our old age?" he asked. "It

seems to me they would give us old fellows something to live on, for we

can't work. How can we live now-a-days? When a man has done good work

when he was able, the country ought to take care of him in his old age.

"I was a hand for hard work all my life. I was raised that way; but now,

that I can't do nothing, it looks like the state ought to take care of


"My father told me when I was sitting up to a gal and I told him I was

gwinter marry her, 'Son don't you never cut that woman across the back,

for as sure as you do, that cut will be against you on Judgement Day."

"When I was laid up with the misery in my side, my feet swelled up and

busted, and I had a awful hurting in my side and back. People wanted me

to believe I had been conjured, but I did not believe it, and I told

them I would eat all the stuff that a conjure man could bring. Anybody

that believes in conjuring is just a liar. God is the only a person who

can bring suffering on people. He don't want to do it, but it's because

we do something He don't want us to when He makes people suffer. It is

the bugger man that does it."

"Uncle" Will said that his father and mother were married by a

"jack-leg" preacher who, when told that they wanted to get married, had

them both to jump backwards and forwards over a broom. He then told them

that they were man and wife.

Source: Will Dill, 555 Pickenpack St., Spartanburg, S. C.

Interviewer: F. S. DuPre, Spartanburg, Dist. 4 5/19/37

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