FOLK STUFF, FLORIDA
Jules A. Frost
October 20, 1937
"I kaint tell nothin bout slavery times cept what I heared folks talk
about. I was too young to remember much but I recleck seein my granma
milk de cows an do de washin. Granpa was old, an dey let him do light
work, mosly fish an hunt.
"I doan member nothin bout my daddy. He died when I was a baby. My
stepfather was Stephen Anderson, an my mammy's name was Dorcas. He come
fum Vajinny, but my mammy was borned an raised in Wilmington. My name
was Josephine Anderson fore I married Willie Jones. I had two
half-brothers youngern me, John Henry an Ed, an a half-sister, Elsie. De
boys had to mind de calves an sheeps, an Elsie nursed de missus' baby. I
done de cookin, mosly, an helped my mammy spin.
"I was ony five year old when dey brung me to Sanderson, in Baker
County, Florida. My stepfather went to work for a turpentine man, makin
barrels, an he work at dat job till he drop dead in de camp. I reckon he
musta had heart disease.
"I doan recleck ever seein my mammy wear shoes. Even in de winter she go
barefoot, an I reckon cold didn't hurt her feet no moran her hands an
face. We all wore dresses made o' homespun. De thread was spun an de
cloth wove right in our own home. My mamy an granmamy an me done it in
"My weddin dress was blue--blue for true. I thought it was de prettiest
dress I ever see. We was married in de court-house, an dat be a mighty
happy day for me. Mos folks dem days got married by layin a broom on de
floor an jumpin over it. Dat seals de marriage, an at de same time
brings em good luck.
"Ya see brooms keeps hants away. When mean folks dies, de old debbil
sometimes doan want em down dere in da bad place, so he makes witches
out of em, an sends em back. One thing bout witches, dey gotta count
everthing fore dey can git acrosst it. You put a broom acrosst your door
at night an old witches gotta count ever straw in dat broom fore she can
"Some folks can jes nachly see hants bettern others. Teeny, my gal can.
I reckon das cause she been borned wid a veil--you know, a caul, sumpum
what be over some babies' faces when dey is borned. Folks borned wid a
caul can see sperrits, an tell whas gonna happen fore it comes true.
"Use to worry Teeny right smart, seein sperrits day an night. My husban
say he gonna cure her, so he taken a grain o' corn an put it in a bottle
in Teeny's bedroom over night. Den he planted it in de yard, an driv
plenty sticks roun da place. When it was growin good, he put leaf-mold
roun de stalk, an watch it ever day, an tell us don't nobody touch de
stalk. It raise three big ears o' corn, an when dey was good roastin
size he pick em off an cook em an tell Teeny eat ever grain offn all
three cobs. He watch her while she done it, an she ain never been
worried wid hants no more. She sees em jes the same, but dey doan bother
"Fust time I ever knowed a hant to come into our quarters was when I was
jes big nough to go out to parties. De game what we use to play was spin
de plate. Ever time I think on dat game it gives me de shivers. One time
there was a strange young man come to a party where I was. Said he name
Richard Green, an he been takin keer o' horses for a rich man what was
gonna buy a plantation in dat county. He look kinda slick an
dressed-up--diffunt from de rest. All de gals begin to cast sheep's eyes
at him, an hope he gonna choose dem when day start playin games.
"Pretty soon dey begin to play spin de plate an it come my turn fust
thing. I spin it an call out 'Mister Green!' He jumps to de middle o' de
ring to grab de plate an 'Bang'--bout four guns go off all at oncet, an
Mister Green fall to de floor plum dead shot through de head.
"Fore we knowed who done it, de sheriff an some more men jump down from
de loft, where dey bean hidin an tell us quit hollerin an doan be
scairt. Dis man be a bad deeper--you know, one o' them outlaws what
kills folks. He some kinda foreigner, an jes tryin make blieve he a
niggah, so's they don't find him.
"Wall we didn't feel like playin no more games, an f'ever after dat you
coundn't git no niggahs to pass dat house alone atter dark. Dey say da
place was hanted, an if you look through de winder any dark night you
could see a man in dere spinnin de plate.
"I sho didn't never look in, cause I done seen more hants aready dan I
ever wants to see agin. One night I was goin to my granny's house. It
was jes comin dark, an when I got to de crick an start across on de
foot-log, dere on de other end o' dat log was a man wid his haid cut off
an layin plum over on his shoulder. He look at me, kinda pitiful, an
don't say a word--but I closely never waited to see what he gonna talk
about. I pure flew back home. I was so scairt I couldn't tell de folks
what done happened till I set down an get my breath.
"Nother time, not so long ago, when I live down in Gary, I be walkin
down de railroad track soon in de mornin an fore I knowed it, dere was a
white man walkin long side o' me. I jes thought it were somebody, but I
wadn't sho, so I turn off at de fust street to git way from dere. De nex
mawnin I be boin[TR: goin?] to work at de same time. It were kinda foggy
an dark, so I never seen nobody till I mighty nigh run into dis same
man, an dere he goes, bout half a step ahead o' me, his two hands restin
on his be-hind.
"I was so close up to him I could see him plain as I see you. He had
fingernails dat long, all cleaned an polished. He was tull, an had on a
derby hat, an stylish black clothes. When I walk slow he slow down, an
when I stop, he stop, never oncet lookin roun. My feets make a noise on
de cinders tween de rails, but he doan make a mite o' noise. Dat was de
fust thing got me scairt, but I figger I better find out for sho ifen he
be a sperrit; so I say, gook an loud: 'Lookee here, Mister, I jez an old
colored woman, an I knows my place, an I wisht you wouldn't walk wid me
counta what folks might say.'
"He never looked roun no moren if I wan't there, an I cut my eyes roun
to see if there is somebody I can holler to for help. When I looked back
he was gone; gone, like dat, without makin a sound. Den I knowed he be a
hant, an de nex day when I tell somebody bout it dey say he be de genman
what got killed at de crossin a spell back, an other folks has seen him
jus like I did. Dey say dey can hear babies cryin at de trestle right
near dere, an ain't nobody yit ever found em.
"Dat ain de ony hant I ever seen. One day I go out to de smokehouse to
git a mess o' taters. It was after sundown, but still purty light. When
I gits dere de door be unlocked an a big man standin half inside. 'What
you doin stealin our taters!' I hollers at him, an pow! He gone, jes
like dat. Did I git back to dat house! We mighty glad to eat grits an
cornbread dat night.
"When we livin at Titusville, I see my old mammy comin up de road jus as
plain as day. I stan on de porch, fixin to run an meet her, when all of
a sudden she be gone. I begin to cry an tell de folks I ain't gonna see
my mammy agin. An sho nuff, I never did. She die at Sanderson, back in
West Florida, fore I got to see her.
"Does I blieve in witches? S-a-a-y, I knows more bout em den to jes
'blieve'--I been rid by em. Right here in dis house. You ain never
been rid by a witch? Well, you mighty lucky. Dey come in de night,
ginnerly soon after you drop off to sleep. Dey put a bridle on your
head, an a bit in your mouth, an a saddle on your back. Den dey take off
their skin an hang it up on de wall. Den dey git on you an some nights
dey like to ride you to death. You try to holler but you kaint, counta
the iron bit in your mouth, an you feel like somebody holdin you down.
Den dey ride you back home an into your bed. When you hit de bed you
jump an grab de kivers, an de witch be gone, like dat. But you know you
been rid mighty hard, cause you all wet wid sweat, an you feel plum
"Some folks say you jus been dreamin, counta de blood stop circulatin in
yaur back. Shucks! Dey ain never been rid by a witch, or dey ain sayin
"Old witch docter, he want ten dollers for a piece of string, what he
say some kinda charm words over. Tells me to make a image o' dat old
witch outa dough, an tie dat string roun its neck; den when I bake it in
de oven, it swell up an de magic string shet off her breath. I didn't
have no ten dollar, so he say ifen I git up five dollar he make me a
hand--you know, what collored folks cals a jack. Dat be a charm what
will keep de witches away. I knows how to make em, but day doan do no
good thout de magic words, an I doan know dem. You take a little pinch
o' dried snake skin an some graveyard dirt, an some red pepper an a
lock o' your hair wrapped roun some black rooster feathers. Den you spit
whiskey on em an wrap em in red flannel an sew if into a ball bout dat
big. Den you hang it under your right armpit, an ever week you give it a
drink o' whiskey, to keep it strong an powful.
"Dat keep de witches fum ridin you; but nary one o' dese charms work wid
dis old witch. I got a purty good idee who she is, an she got a charm
powfuller dan both of dem. But she kaint git acrosst flaxseed, not till
she count ever seed. You doan blieve dat? Huh! I reckon I knows--I done
tried it out. I gits me a lil bag o' pure fresh flaxseed, an I sprinkle
it all roun de bed; den I put some on top of da mattress, an under de
sheet. Den I goes to bed an sleeps like a baby, an dat old witch doan
bother me no more.
"Ony oncet. Soon's I wake up, I light me a lamp an look on de floor an
dere, side o' my bed was my dress, layin right over dat flaxseed, so's
she could walk over on de dress, big as life. I snatch up de dress an
throw it an de bed; den I go to sleep, an I ain never been bothered no
"Some folks reads de Bible backwards to keep witches fum ridin em, but
dat doan do me no good, cause I kaint read. But flaxseed work so good I
doan be studyin night-ridin witches no more."
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