CATO CARTER was born in 1836 or 1837, near Pineapple, Wilcox County, Alabama, a slave of the Carter family. He and his wife live at 3429 Booth St., Dallas, Texas.
"I'm home today 'cause my li'l. old dog is lost and I has to stay 'round to hunt for him. I been goin' every day on the truck to the cotton patches. I don't pick no more, 'count my hands git too tired and begin to cramp on me. But I go and set in the field and watch the lunches for the other hands.
"I am a hunnerd one years old, 'cause I's twenty-eight, goin' on twenty-nine, a man growned, when the breakin' up come. I'm purty old, but my folks live that way. My old, black mammy. Zenie Carter, lived to be a hunerd twenty-five, and Ole Carter, my white massa - which was the brother of my daddy - lived to be a hunerd four. He ain't been so long died. Al Carter, my own daddy, lived to be very ageable, but I don't know when he died.
"Back in Alabama, Missie Adeline Carter took me when I was past my creepin' days to live in the big house with the white folks. I had a room built on the big house, where I stayed, and they was allus good to me, 'cause I's one of their blood. They never hit me a lick or slapped me once, and told me they'd never sell me away from them. They was the bes' quality white folks and lived in a big, two-story house with a big hall what run all the way through the house. They wasn't rough as some white folks on their niggers.
"My mammy lived in a hewn-oak log cabin in the quarters. There was a long row of cabins, some bigger than t'others, 'count of fam'ly size. My massa had over eighty head of slaves. Them li'l, old cabins was cozy. 'cause we chinked 'em with mud and they had stick chimneys daubed with mud, mixed with hawg-hair.
"The fixin's was jus' plain things. The beds was draw-beds - wooden bedsteads helt together with ropes drawed tight, to hold them. We scalded moss and buried it awhile and stuffed it into tickin' to make mattresses. Them beds slep' good, better'n the ones nowadays.
"There was a good fireplace for cookin' and Sundays the Missie give us niggers a pint of flour and a chicken, for to cook a mess of victuals. Then there was plenty game to find. Many a time I've kilt seventy-five or eighty squirrels out of one big beech. There was lots of deer and bears and quails and every other kind of game, but when they run the Indians out of the country, the game jus' followed the Indians. I've seed the bigges' herds of deer followin' the way the Indians drifted. Whenever the Indians lef', the game all lef' with them, for some reason I dunno.
"Talkin' 'bout victuals, our eatin' was good. Can't say the same for all places. Some of the plantations half starved their niggers and 'lowanced out their eatin' till they wasn't fittin' for work. They had to slip about to niggers on other places to piece out their meals. They had field calls and other kinds of whoops and hollers, what had a meanin' to 'em.
"Our place was fifteen hunerd acres in one block, and 'sides the crops of cotton and corn and rice and ribbon cane we raised in the bottoms, we had veg'tables and sheep and beef. We dried the beef on scaffolds we built and I used to tend it. But bes' of anythin' to eat, I liked a big, fat coon, and I allus liked honey. Some the niggers bad li'l garden patches they tended for themselves.
"Everythin" I tell you am the truth, but they's plenty I can't tell you. I heard plenty things from my mammy and grandpappy. He was a fine diver and used to dive in the Alabama river for things what was wrecked out of boats, and the white folks would git him to go down for things they wanted. They'd let him down by a rope to find things on the bottom of the riverbed. He used to git a piece of money for doin' it.
"My grandmammy was a juksie, 'cause her mammy was a nigger and her daddy a Choctaw India. That's what makes me so mixed up with Indian and African and white blood. Sometimes it mattered to me, sometimes it didn't. It don't no more, 'cause I'm not too far from the end of my days.
"I had one brother and one sister I helped raise. They was mostly nigger. The Carters told me never to worry 'bout them, though, 'cause my mammy was of their blood and all of us in our fam'ly would never be sold, and sometime they'd make free man and women of us. My brother and sister lived with the niggers, though.
"I was trained for a houseboy and to tend the cows. The bears was so bad then, a 'sponsible pusson who could carry a gun bad to look after them.
"My massa used to give me a li'l money 'long, to buy what I wanted. I allus bought fine clothes. In the summer when I was a li'l one. I wore lowerin's, like the rest of the niggers. That was things made from cotton sackin'. Most the boys wore shirttails till they was big yearlin's. When they bought me red russets from the town, I cried and cried. I didn't want to wear no rawhide shoes. So they took 'em back. They had a weakness for my cryin'. I did have plenty fine clothes, good woolen suits they spinned on the place, and doeskins and fine linens. I druv in the car'age with the white folks and was 'bout the mos' dudish nigger in them parts.
"I used to tend the nurslin' thread. The reason they called it that was when the mammies was confined with babies havin' to suck, they had to spin. I'd take them the thread and bring it back to the house when it was spinned. If they didn't spin seven or eight cuts a day, they'd git a whuppin'. It was consid'ble hard on a woman when she had a frettin' baby. But every mornin' them babies had to be took to the big house, so the white folks could see if they's dressed right. They was money tied up in li'l nigger young'uns.
"They whupped the women and they whupped the mens. I used to work some in the tan'ry and we made the whups. They'd tie them down to a stob, and give 'em the whuppin'. Some niggers. it taken four men to whup 'em, but they got it. The nigger driver was meaner then the white folks. They'd better not leave a blade of grass in the rows. I seed 'em beat a nigger half a day to make him 'fess up to stealin' a sheep or a shoat. Or they'd whup 'em for runnin' away, but not so hard if they come back of their own 'cordance when they got hungry and sick in the swamps. But when they had to run 'em down with the nigger dogs, they'd git in bad trouble.
"The Carters never did have any real 'corrigible niggers, but I heard of 'em plenty on other places. When they was real 'corrigible, the white folks said they was like mad dogs and didn't mind to kill them so much as killin' a sheep. They'd take 'em to the graveyard and shoot 'em down and bury 'em face downward, with their shoes on. I never seed it done, but they made some the niggers go for a lesson to them that they could git the same.
"But I didn't even have to carry a pass to leave my own place, like the other niggers. I had a cap with a sign on it: 'Don't bother this nigger.
or there will be Hell to pay.' I went after the mail, is the town. It come in coaches and they put on fresh hosses at Piseapple. The coachman run the hosses into Pinanpple with a big to-do and blowin' the bugle to git the fresh hosses ready. I got the mail. I was a trusty all my days and never been 'rested by the law to this day.
"I never had no complaints for my treatment, but a one the niggers hated syrup makin" time, 'cause when they had to work till midnight makin' syrup, its four o'clock up. jus' the same. Sun-up to sundown was for fiel' niggers.
"Corn shuckin' was fun. Them days no corn was put in the cribs with shucks on it. They shucked it in the fiel' and shocked the fodder. They did it by sides and all hands out. A beef was kilt and they'd have a reg'lar phonic feastin'. They was plenty whiskey for the niggers, jus' like Christmas.
"Christmas was the big day at the Carter's. Presents for every body, and the bakin' and preparin' went on for days. The li'l ones and the big ones were glad, 'specially the nigger mens, 'count of plenty good whiskey. Mr. Oil Carter got the bes' whiskey for his niggers.
"We used to have frolics, too. Some niggers had fiddles and played the reels, and niggers love to dance and sing and sat.
"Course niggers had their ser'ous side, too. They loved to go to church and had a li'l log chapel for worship. But I went to the white folks church. In the chapel some nigger mens preached from the Bible, but couldn't read a line no more than a sheep could. The Carters didn't mind their niggers prayin' and singin' hymns, but some places wouldn't 'low them to worship a-tall, and they had to put their heeds in pots to sing or pray.
"Mos' the niggers I know, who had their mar'age put in the book, did it after the breakin' up, plenty after they had growned chillen. When they got married on the places, mostly they jus' jumped over a broom and that made 'em married. Sometimes one the white folks read a li'l out of the Scriptures to 'em and they felt more married.
"Take me. I was never one for sickness. But the slaves used to git sick. There was jaundice in them bottoms. First off they'd give some castor oil, and if that didn't cure they'd give blue mass. Then if he was still sick they'd git a doctor.
"They used to cry the niggers off jus' like so much cattle, and we didn't think no diff'rent of it. I seed them put them on the block and brag on them somethin' big. Everybody liked to hear them cry off niggers. The cryer was a clown and made funny talk and kep' everybody laughin".
"When massa and the other mens on the place went off to war, he called me and said, 'Cato, you's allus been a 'sponsible man, and I leave you to look after the women and the place. If I don't come back, I want you to allus stay by Missie Adeline! I said, 'Fore Gawd, I will, Massa Oll.' He said. 'Then I can go away peaceable.'
"We thought for a long time the sojers had the Fed'rals whupped to pieces, but there was plenty bad times to go through. I carried a gun and guarded the place at nighttime. The paddyrollers was bad. I cotched one and took him to the house more'n once. They wore black caps and put black rags over their faces and was allus skullduggerin 'round at night. We didn't use torches any more when we went 'round at night, 'cause we was afeared. We put out all the fires 'round the house at night time.
"The young mens in gray uniforms used to pass so gay and singin', in the big road. Their clothes was good and we used to feed them the best we had on the place. Missie Adeline would say, 'Cato, they is our boys and give them the best this place 'fords.' We taken out the hams and the wine and kilt chickens for them. That was at first.
"Then the boys and mens in blue got to comin' that way, and they was fine lookin' non, too. Missie Adeline would cry and say, 'Cato, they is just mens and boys and we got to feed them, too.' We had a pavilion built in the yard, like they had at picnics, and we fed the Fed'rals in that. Missie Adeline set in to cryin' and says to the Yankees. 'Don't take Cato. He is the only nigger man I got by me now. If you take Cato. I just don't know what I'll do.' I tells them sojers I got to stay by Missie Adeline so long as I live. The Yankee mens say to her. 'Don't 'sturb youself, we ain't gwine to take Cato or harm nothin' of yours.' The reason they's all right by us, was 'cause we prepared for them, but with some folks they was rough somethin' ter'ble. They taken off their hosses and corn.
"I seed the trees bend low and shake all over and heard the roar and poppin' of cannon balls. There was springs not too far from our place and the sojers used to camp there and build a fire and cook a mule, 'cause they'd got down to starvation. When some of the guerillas seed the fire they'd aim to it, and many a time they spoiled that dinner for them sojers. The Yankees did it and our boys did it, too. There was killin' goin' on so ter'ble, like people was dogs.
"Massa Oll come back and he was all wore out and ragged. He soon called all the niggers to the front yard and says, 'Mens and womens, you are today as free as I am. You are free to do as you like, 'cause the damned Yankees done 'greed you are. They ain't a nigger on my place what was born here or ever lived here who can't stay here and work and eat to the end of his days, as long as this old place will raise peas and goobers. Go if you wants, and stay if you wants."
Some of the niggers stayed and some went, and some what had run away to the North come back. They allus called, real humble like, at the back gate to Missie Adeline, and she allus fixed it up with Massa Oll they could have a place.
"Wear the close of the war I seed some folks leavin' for Texas. They said if the Fed'rals won the war they'd have to live in Texas to keep slaves. So plenty started driftin' their slaves to the west. They'd pass with the womens ridin' in the wagons and the mens on foot. Some took slaves to Texas after the Fed'rals done 'creed the breakin' up.
"Long as I lived I minded what my white folks told me. 'cept one time. My was a nigger workin' in the fiel' and he kept jerkin' the mules and Massa all got mad, and he give me a gun and said, 'Go out there and kill that man.' I said, 'Massa Oll, please don't tell me that. I ain't never kilt nobody and I don't want to.' He said, 'Cato, you do what I tell you.' He meant it. I went out to the nigger and said, 'You has got to leave this minute, and I is, too, 'cause I is 'spose to kill you, only I ain't and Massa Oll will kill me.' He drops the hanes and we run and crawled through the fence and ran away.
"I hated to go, 'cause things was so bad, and flour sold for $25.00 a barrel, and pickled pork for $15.00 a barrel. You couldn't buy nothin' lessen with gold. I had plenty of 'federate money, only it wouldn't buy nothin'.
"But today I is a old man and my hands ain't stained with no blood. I is allus been glad I didn't kill that man.
"Mules run to a ter'ble price then. A right puny pair of mules sold for $500.00. But the Yankees give me a mule and I farmed a year for a white man and watched a herd of mules, too. I stayed with them mules till four o'clock even Sundays. So many scoundrels was goin' 'bout, stealin' mules.
"That year I was boun' out by 'greement with the white man, and I made $360.00. The bureau come by that year lookin' at nigger's contracts, to see they didn't git skunt out their rightful wages. Missie Adeline and Massa Oll didn't stay mad at me and every Sunday they come by to see me, and brung me li'l del'cate things to eat.
"The Carters said a hunerd times they regretted they never larned me to read or write, and they said my daddy done put up $500.00 for me to go to the New Allison school for cullud folks. Miss Benson, a Yankee, was the teacher. I was twenty-nine years old and jus' startin' in the blueback speller. I went to school a while, but one mornin' at ten o'clock my poor old mammy come by and called me out. She told me she got put out, 'cause she too old to work in the fiel'. I told her not to worry, that I'm the family man now, and she didn't never need to git any more three-quarter hand wages no more.
"So I left school and turnt my hand to anything I could find for years. I never had no trouble findin' work, 'cause all the white folks knowed Cato was a good nigger. I lef' my mammy with some fine white folks and she raised a hole family of chillen for them. Their name was Bryan and they lived on a li'l bayou. Them young'uns was crazy 'bout mammy and they'd send me word not to worry about her, 'cause she'd have the bes' of care and when she died they'd tend to her buryin'.
"Finally I come to Texas, 'cause I thought there was money for the takin' out here. I got a job splittin' rails for two years and from then on I farmed, mostly. I married a woman and lived with her forty-seven years, rain or shine. We had thirteen chillen and eight of them is livin' today.
"Endurin' the big war I got worried 'bout my li'l black mammy and I wanted to go back home and see her and the old places. I went, and she was shriveled up to not much of anything. That's the last time I saw her. But for forty-four years I didn't forget to send her things I thought she'd want. I saw Massa Oll and he done married after I left and raised a family of chillen. I saw Missie Adeline and she was a old women. We went out and looked at the tombstones and the rock markers in the graveyard on the old place, and some of them done near melted away. I looked good at lots of things, 'cause I knowed I wouldn't be that way 'gain. So many had gone on since I'd been there befo'.
"After my first wife died I married 'gain and my wife is a good woman but she's old and done lost her voice, and has to be in Terrell most the time. But I git 'long all right. 'cept my hands cramps some.
"You goin' take my picture? I lived through plenty and I lived a long time, but this is the first time I ever had my picture took. If I'd knowed you wanted to do that, I'd have tidied up and put on my best.
Carter, Cato -- Additional Interview
Cato Carter, born 1836 or 1837 near Pineapple, Wilcox County, Alabama. He was born in slavery to the Carter family. He is a spry little copper colored man. He and his wife live at 3429 Booth St., Dallas, Texas. He receives a pension from the State and Federal Government.
I'm home today 'cause my little old dog is lost and I had to stay around to hunt for him. But he ain't come back and I ain't found him. I been going every day on the truck to the cotton patches. I don't pick no more on account of my hands get too tired and begin to cramp on me. But I go and set in the field and watch the lunches for the other hands.
I am 101 years old 'cause I was twenty-eight going on twenty-nine, a man growned, when the breaking up came. I'm pretty old but my folks live that way. My old black mammy, Zenie Carter, lived to be 125 years old. And ole Carter my white marster which is the brother of my daddy lived to be 104. He aint been so long died. Al Carter, my daddy, lived to be very ageable but I don't know when he died.
Back in Alabama Miss Adeline Carter took me when I was past my creepin' days to live in the big house with the white folks. I had a room built on the house where I stayed and they were always good to me 'cause I was one of their blood. They never hit me a lick nor slapped me once and told me that they would never sell me away from them.
They were the best quality white folks and they lived in a big two story house with a big hall that ran all the way through the house. They didn't have no kitchens and pantries built on to the houses in them days. They wasn't rough as some white folks on their niggers.
My mammy lived in a hewn oak log cabin in the quarters. There was a long row of cabins, some bigger than 'tothers on account of family size, 'cause my marster had over eighty head of slaves. Those little old cabins was cozy 'cause we chinked them with mud and they had stick chimneys daubed with mud mixed with hog hair.
The fixings in the cabins were just plain things. The beds were draw beds; wooden bedstids held together with ropes drawn tight to hold them and put the mattresses on. We scalded moss and buried it for a while and stuffed it into ticking to make mattresses. Them beds slept good. Better than the ones now-a-days.
There was a good fireplace for cooking and on Sundays the Mistress would give the Niggers a pint of flour and a chicken for to cook a mess of vittles for themselves. Then there was plenty of game for the Niggers to find for themselves. Many is the time when I have killed seventy-five or eighty squirrels out of one big beech. There was a lot of deer and bears and quails and every other kind of game but when they run the Indians out of the country the game just followed the Indians. I have seen the biggest herds of deer following the way the Indians drifted. Wherever the Indians left the game all left with them for some reason I dunno.
Talking about vittles, our eating on our place was good. Cant say the same for all places. Some of the plantations would half starve their Niggers and lowance out their eating until they wasn't fittin' for work. They has to slip about to Niggers on other places to piece out their meals. They has field calls and other kind of whoops and hollers that has a meanin' to them.
Our place is 1500 acres in one block and besides the crops of cotton, corn and the home rice and the ribbon cane we raised in the bottoms, we raised vegatables and sheep and beef. I couldn't hardly eat fresh beef but mostly we dried beef on scaffolds we built. I used to tend the beef as we were drying it out. But best of anything to eat I liked a big fat coon and I always liked honey. Some of the Niggers had little garden patches they tended for their own use.
Every thing I tell you is the truth but they is plenty that I cant tell you. I heard plenty of things from my mammy too and from my grandpappy and my grandmammy. My grandpappy was a fine diver. He used to dive in the Alabama river for the things that was wrecked out of boats and the white folks would get him to go down for things that they wanted in the river. They would let him down by a rope to find things on the bottom of the river bed. He used to get a piece of money from the whitefolks for doing it.
My grandmammy was a juksie, because her mammy was a Nigger and her daddy was a choctaw Indian. That's what makes me so mixed up with Indian, African and white blood. Sometimes it mattered to me, sometimes it didn't. It dont no more 'cause Im not too far from the end of my days.
I had one brother and one sister that I helped raise. I helped to tend them and I whipped them. But they was mostly Nigger. The Carters told me never to worry about them though 'cause my mammy was of their blood too and that all of us in our family would never be sold and that sometime they would make free men and women of us. My brother and sister lived with the Niggers though.
I was trained as a houseboy and to tend the cows. The bears was so bad that a 'sponsible person who could carry a gun had to look after them.
My marster used to give me a little money along to buy me what I wanted. I always bought fine clothes. In the summer when I was a little one I wore lowerings like the rest of the Niggers. That was the things made from cotton sacking. Most of the boys wore shirttails until they were big yearling boys. When they bought me red russels shoes from the town I cried and cried. I didn't want to wear no rawhide shoes. So they would take them back. They had a weakness for my crying. I did have plenty of fine clothes; good woolen suits they would spin on the place and doeskins and fine linens. I drove in the carriage with the whitefolks and I was about the most dudish Nigger in those parts.
I used to tend to the nursling thread. When the slave women were confined with the babies having to suck and they were too little to take to the fields, the mammies had to spin. I would take them the thread and bring it back to the house when it was spun. If they didn't spin seven or eight cuts a day they would get a whuppin. It was considerable hard on a woman when she had a fretting baby. But every morning those babies had to be taken to the big house so that the white folks could see if they were dressed right. They was money tied up in little Nigger younguns.
They whupped the womens and they whupped the mens. I used to work some in the tannery on the place and we made their whips. They used to tie them down or to a stob and give them the whuppins. Some Niggers it would take four men to whup them, but they got it. The overseer used to whup and sometimes the Nigger driver did it. The Nigger driver used to be meaner than the white folks. They better not leave a blade of grass in the crops. I have seen them beat a Nigger for half a day. That was usually to make them fess up to stealing a sheep or a shoat. Or they would whup them for running away. It wasn't so hard on them if they come back of their own accordance when they got hungry and sick in the swamps but when they had to run them down with the Nigger dogs they would get in bad trouble.
The Carters never did have any real 'corrigible Niggers. But I heard of them plenty on other places. When they was real 'corrigible the white folks said they was like mad dogs and they didn't mind to kill them so much as killing a sheep. They would take them to the graveyard and shoot them down and bury them face downward with their shoes on. I never did have to go and see it done but they used to make some of the Niggers go as a lesson to them that they could get the same.
But I didn't even have to carry a pass to leave my own place like other Niggers. I had a cap with a sign on it: "Dont bother this Nigger or there will be hell to pay." I went after the mail in the town all the time. The mail came in coaches and they put on fresh horses at Pineapple. The coachman would run the horses into Pineapple with a big-to-do and a blowing the bugle to get the fresh horses ready. I got the mail. I was a trusty all my days and never been arrested by the law to this day.
I never had any complaints for my treatment, but some of the Niggers hated the syrup making time 'cause when they have to work til mid-night making syrup its four-o-clock up just the same. Sun-up to sun-down was for the field Niggers.
Corn shucking was fun. Them days no corn was put in the cribs with the shucks on them. They shucked them in the field and shocked the fodder. They did it by sides and all hands out. A beef would be killed and a regular picnic feasting would be had. There was plenty of whiskey for the Niggers just like at Christmas.
Christmas was the big day at the Carter's. Presents for everybody and the baking and preparin' that went on for days. The little ones and the big ones were glad. 'Specially the Nigger mens on account of plenty of good whiskey. Mr. Oll Carter got the best whiskey for his Niggers.
Used to have frolics too. Some of the Niggers had fiddles and they played the reels and Niggers love to dance and sing and beat.
'Course Niggers had their serious side too. They loved to go to church and we had a little log chapel on the place for worship. I never went so much on account of I went with the white folks to their church. But I have went there and some of the Nigger mens would preach from the Bible that couldn't read a line any more than a sheep could. But I heard them preach about the coming of the automobile and airplanes and about the big wars and they told of many wondrous things to come that I have lived to see. They used to sing Amazing Grace and How Sweet It Seems and other songs I dont recall just now.
The Carters didn't mind their Niggers singing hymns and praying but I heard all the time that some of the other places wouldn't let their Niggers worship a-tall. The Niggers had to put their heads in pots to sing or pray.
Most of the Niggers I know who had their marriage put in the book did it after the breaking up. Plenty I know had it put in the book after they had grown chillun. When they got married on the places mostly they just jumped over a broom and that made them married. Sometimes one of the white folks would read a little out of the Scriptures to them and they felt more married.
Take me, I was never one for sickness. I had pneumonia once when I was working on the Selma Gulf Railroad laying the tracks.
That was the first railroad around there and that was after the breaking up and I was a man some thirty-odd years old. But the Niggers in slavery used to get sick. There was jaundice in the bottoms. First off they would give a sick Nigger some castor oil and if that didn't cure him they gave him blue mass. Then if he was still sick they had a doctor which they paid to look after the slaves to come out to see him.
They used to cry the Niggers off just like so much cattle and we didn't think no different of it. I seen them put them on the block and brag on them something big. Everybody liked to hear them cry off Niggers. The cryer was a clown and made funny talk and kept everybody laughing.
When my marster and the other mens on the place went off to the war he called me and said "Cato, you is always been a 'sponsible man and I leave you to look after the womens and the place. If I dont never come back, I want you to always stay by Miss Adeline. I said, Befo' God I will, Mr. Oll. He said, then I can go away peaceable.
We thought for a long time the sojers had the Federals whupped to pieces but they was plenty bad times to go through. I carried a gun and guarded the place at night time. The paddyrollers was bad. I captured them and took them to the house more times than one. They wore black caps and put black rags over their faces and was always skullduggerying around at night. We didn't use torches anymore when we went around at night 'cause we were afeared. We put out all the fires around the house at night time.
The young mens in the grey uniforms used to pass so gay and singing in the big road. Their clothes was good and they looked so fine and we used to feed them the best we had on the place. Miss Adeline would say, Cato, they is our boys and give them the best this place 'fords. We took out the hams and the wine and we killed chickens for them. That was at first.
Then the boys and mens in blue got to coming that way and they was fine looking mens too and Miss Adeline would cry and she would say, Cato they is just mens and boys and we got to feed them. We had a pavillion built in the yard like they had at picnics and we fed the Federals on that. Three times the Federals said, We is going to take you with us, to me. Miss Adeline let in to crying and say to the yankee gentlemen, Dont take Cato. Many of my Niggers has run away to the North but Cato is the only man I got by me now. If you take Cato I just don't know what I will do. I tell them that so long as I live I got to stay by Miss Adeline and that unless somebody forces me away I ain't gwine to leave. I say, I got no complaints to make, I want to stay by Old Miss til' one of us die. The yankee mens say to Miss Adeline, Dont 'sturb yourself Miss we aint gwine to take him nor harm nothing of yours.
The reason they was alright by us was cause we prepared for them but with some of the folks they was rough something terrible.
They took off all their horses and their corn.
I have seen the trees bend low and shake all over and heard the roar and the popping of cannon balls. There was springs round and about not too far from our place and the sojers used to camp there at one of the springs and build a fire to cook a mule 'cause they got down to starvation and when some of the other gorillas would see the fire they would aim to the fire and many is the time they spiled the dinner for the sojers. The yankees did it and our boys did it too. There was killing going on so terrible like people was dogs and some of the old ones said it was near to the end of time 'cause of folks being so wicked.
Mr. Oll came back and all the others did too but he came back first. He was all wore out and ragged. He stood on the front porch and called all the Niggers to the front yard. He said, Mens and womens you are today as free as I am. You is free to do as you like 'cause the damned yankees done 'creed that you are. But they aint a Nigger on my place that was born here or ever lived here that cant stay here and work and eat to the end of his days as long as this old place will raise peas and goobers. Go if you wants or stay if you wants.
Some of the Niggers stayed and some went and some that had run away to the North came back. They always called real humble like at the back gate to Miss Adeline and she always fixed it up with Mr. Oll that they could have a place.
Near to the close of the war I seen some of the folks leaving for Texas. They said if the Federals win the war you have to live in Texas to keep the slaves. So plenty of them started driftin' their slaves to the west. They would pass with the womens riding in the wagons and the mens on foot. When some of them come back they said that it took three weeks to walk the way. Some of them took slaves to Texas even after the Federals done 'creed a breaking up.
Long as I lived I minded what my white folks told me but once. They was a Nigger working in the fields and he kept jerking the mules and Mr. Oll got mad and he gimme a gun and he told me to go out there and kill that man. I said, Mr. Oll please dont tell me to do that. I ain't never killed nobody and I dont want to. He said, Cato, you do what I tell you. And he meant it. I went out to the Nigger and I said you has got to leave this minute and I is too, 'cause I is 'spose to kill you only I aint and Mr. Oll will kill me. He dropped the lines and we ran and crawled through the fence and ray away.
I hated to go 'cause things was so bad and flour sold for $25.00 a barrel, and pickled pork for $15.00 a barrel. You couldn't buy nothing 'lessn you had gold. I had plenty of confederate money only it dont buy nothing.
But today I am a old man and my hands aint stained with no blood and I is always been glad that I didn't kill that man.
Mules run to a turrible price. A right puny pair of mules sold for $500.000. But the yankees give me a mule and I farmed that year for a white man and I had a job on all the time to watch a herd of mules. I stayed with those mules until four o'clock on Sundays for just a little time off. So many scoundrels were going about stealing mules that you had to watch all the times. That year I was bound out by agreement with the white man and I made $360.00. The bureau (Freedmen's Bureau) came by that year looking at the contracts with the Niggers to see they dont get skunt out of their rightful wages from the white folks. Miss Adeline and Mr. Oll didn't stay mad at me and every Sunday they come by to see me and bring me little delicate things to eat.
The Carters said they were regretful a hundred times that they never learned me to read or write and they said my dada had put up five-hundred dollars for me to go to the New Allison school for colored people. I started in and Miss Benson, a yankee lady, was my teacher. I was twenty-nine years old and just starting in the blue-back speller. I was there a little while when one morning at ten O'clock my pore old mammy came by and called me out. She tells me that the Niggers she was living with and working with done put her out of the place 'cause she wasn't a good hand. I told her not to worry that I was the family man now and she didn't never need to get any more three-quarter hand wages any more.
I turned my hand to anything I could find to do for years and I never had trouble finding work 'cause the white folks know
Cato was a good whitefolks' Nigger. I didn't have no trouble they was hanging Niggers like they was sheep.
I left my mammy with some fine white folks and she raised a whole family of they chilluns for them. Their name was Bryan and they lived on a little bayou. Them younguns was crazy about her and they used to send me word not to worry about my little black mammy 'cause she would have the best of care and when she died they was 'tendin to her buryin'.
I came to Texas 'cause I thought there was money for the taking out here. I got a job splitting rails for two years and from then on have farmed mainly. I married a woman and lived with her forty-seven years rain and shine. We had thirteen children but only eight of them are living today.
Enduring the big war I got worried about my little black mammy and I wanted to go back to see her and the old places. I went and she was shriveled up to not much of anything. That was the last time I saw her. But for forty-four years I didn't forget to send her things I thought she would want. I saw Old Marster, he had married after I went away and raised a family of chillun. I saw Miss Adeline and she was a old woman. We went out and looked at the tombstones and the rock markers in the graveyard on the place and some of them had nearly melted away. I looked good at lots of things 'cause I knew I wouldn't be that way again. So many had gone on since I had been there before.
I married again after my wife died. My wife is a good woman but she is old and has lost her voice and has to be in Terrell most of the time. But I get along alright 'cept my hands cramp some.
You going to take my picture? I lived through plenty and I lived a long time but this is the first time I ever had a picture taken. If I had knowed you wanted to do that I would have tidied up and put on my best.