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Henry, Jim


Jim Henry lives with his wife, Mary, in a four-room frame house, three miles southeast of Winnsboro, S. C. He owns the house and nine acres of land. He has only one arm, the other having been amputated twenty years ago. He employs a boy to plough, and he and his wife make a living on the property.

"I was born in the Bratton slave quarter, about six miles northeast of Winnsboro. I was born a slave of General John Bratton. He use to tell me I come from 'stinguished stock, dat he bought my father, James, from de Patrick Henry family in Virginia. Dat's de reason my pappy and us took dat name after freedom.

"My mother, Silva, and her mother, was bought from de Rutledge family in Charleston, by General Bratton. My grandfather, on my mother's side, was name Edward Rutledge. No, sir, I don't mean he was a white man; he just ginger-cake color, so my mother say. My pappy say his father was a full-blooded Indian, so, dat makes three bloods in my veins, white folks, Indian folks, and Negro folks. Derefore, us been thrifty like de white man, orafty like de Indians, and hard workin' like de Negroes.

"In slavery time, us lived in one of de nice log houses in de Bratton quarters. Our beds was pole beds, wid wheat straw ticks, and cotton pillows. De Brattons was always sheep raisers, and us had woolen blankets and woolen olothes in de winter. My mother was one of de seamstresses; she make clothes for de slaves. Course, I'm tellin' you what she tell me, mostly. I was too little to 'member much 'bout slavery time. All de little niggers run 'round in deir shirt-tails in summer time; never work any, just hunt for grapes, muscadines, strawberries, chinquapins, hickory nuts, calarmis root, slippery elmer (elm) bark, wild cherries, mulberries, and red and black haws, and was as happy as de days was long.

"I just can 'member de Yankees. Don't 'member dat they was so bad. You know they say even de devil ain't as black as he is painted. De Yankees did take off all de mules, cows, hogs, and sheep, and ransack de smoke-house, but they never burnt a thing at our place. Folks wonder at dat. Some say it was 'cause General Bratton was a high 'gree mason.

"While Marse John, who was a Confederate General, was off in de war, us had overseers. They made mother and everybody go to do field. De little chillun was put in charge, in de daytime, wid an old 'mauma', as they called them in them days. Dere was so many, twenty-five or thirty, dat they had to be fed out of doors. At sundown they was 'sembled in a tent, and deir mammies would come and git them and take them home. Dere used to be some scrappin' over de pot liquor dat was brought out in big pans. De little chillun would scrouge around wid deir tin cups and dip into de pan for de bean, pea, or turnip pot liquor. Some funny scraps took place, wid de old mauma tryin' to separate de squallin', pushin', fightin' chillun.

"Be overseers was Wade Rawls and a Mr. Timms. After freedom, us moved to Winnsboro, to Dr. Will Bratton's farm near Mt. Zion College. I went to school to Mr. Richardson and Miss Julia Fripp, white teachers employed by northern white people. I got very 'ligious 'bout dat time, but de brand got all rubbed out, when us went to work for Major Woodward. His 'ligion was to play de fiddle, go fox huntin', and ride 'round gittin' Negroes to wear a red shirt and vote de democrat ticket. I went 'long wid him and done my part. They tell a tale on Marse Tom Woodward and I 'spects it's true:

"He was runnin' for some kind of office and was goin', nex' day, up in de dark corner of Fairfield to meet people. Him hear dat a old fellow name Uriah Wright, controlled all de votes at dat box and dat he was a fox hunter to beat de band. He 'quire 'round, 'bout Mr. Wright's dogs. He find out dat a dog name 'Ring Smith' was de best 'strike'. Jolly Wright was de name of de cold 'trailer', and Molly Clowney was de fastest dog of de pack. Marse Tom got all dis well in his mind, and nex' day rode up to old Mr. Wright's, 'bout dinner time.

"De old man had just come in from de field. Marse Tom rode up to de gate and say: 'Is dis Dr. Wright?' De old man say: 'Dat's what de people call me 'round here.' Marse Tom say: 'My name is Woodward. I am on my first political legs, and am goin' 'round to see and be seen, if not by everybody, certainly by de most prominent and 'fluential citizens of each section.' Then de old man say: 'Git down. Git down. You are a monstrous likely man. I'll take you in to see Finky, my wife, and we'll see what she has to say 'bout it.'

"Marse Tom got down off his horse and was a goin' to de house talkin' all de time 'bout crops. Spyin' de dogs lyin' 'round in de shade, him say: 'Dr. Wright, I am a 'culiar man. I love de ladies and admire them much but, if you'll pardon my weakness, a fine hound dog comes nearer perfection, in my eye, than anything our Father in heaven ever made to live on this green earth!'

"'And what do you know 'bout hounds?' Old man Uriah asked, turnin' from de house and followin' Marse Tom to where de dogs was. Marse Tom set down. De whole pack come to where he was, sniffed and smelt him, and wag deir tails in a friendly way. Marse Tom say: 'What is de name of dis dog? Ring Smith, did you say, Doctor? An uncommon fine dog he seems to me. If dere be any truth in signs, he oughta be a good strike.' De old man reply: 'Good strike, did you say? If dere was 5,000 dogs here, I would beta million dollars dat Ring Smith would open three miles ahead of the best in de bunch. And you might go befo' a trial justice and sweat it was a fox, when he opened on de trail.'

"Marse Tom nex' examined de pale black and tan dog, which was Jolly Wright, de coldest trailer. Feelin' his nose and eyein' him all over, he say at last: 'Dr. Wright, I think dis is one of de most remarkable dogs I has ever seen. I would say he is de coldest trailer of your pack?'

"'Coldest, did you say? Why he can smell them after they have been along three or four weeks.' Molly Clowney was nex' picked out by Marse Tom, and come in for his turn. 'Here ought to be de apple of your eyes, Dr. Wright,' say Marse Tom, 'for if I know anything 'bout dogs, this is the swiftest animal dat ever run on four feet. Tell me now, honor bright, can't she out run anything in these parts?'

"'Run, did you say? No. She can't run a bit. But dere ain't a crow nor a turkey buzzard, dat over crossed de dark corner, dat can hold a candle to her flyin'. I've seen her run under them and outrun deir shadows many times. Dinner is 'bout ready, and I want you to meet Pinky.'

"Marse Tom was took in de house and de old man led him 'round like a fine horse at a show or fair. 'Why, Pinky, he is smart; got more sense than all de candidates put together. He is kin to old preacher Billy Woodward, de smartest man, I heard my daddy say, in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, or South America.' They say Marse Tom promised befo' he left to pass a bill dat no fence was to be higher than five rails, to suit fox hunters. Then de old man tell Miss Pinky to bring his fiddle, and he played 'De Devil's Dream'. When he finished, Marse Tom grab de fiddle and played: 'Hell Broke Loose In Georgia', wid such power and skill dat de old man, Uriah, hugged Miss Pinky and cut de 'Pigeon Wing' all over de floor. Marse Tom, they say, carry every vote at dat dark corner box.

"I fall in love with Mary Hall. Got her, slick as a fox. Us had ten chillun. Eight is livin'. Robert is at de Winnsboro Cotton Mills. Ed in de same place. Estelle marry a Ford, and has some land near Winnsboro. Maggie marry a Pickett. Her husband took her to Washington. John Wesley is at Greensboro. Florence marry a Barber and lives in Winston Salem, N. C. Charley is in Winnsboro. Corinne marry a McDuff and is in Winnsboro.

"Mighty glad to talk to you, and will come some day and try to bring you a 'possum. You say you would like to have one 'bout Thanksgivin' Day?"

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