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Interview with Ester Watson

Watson, Ester
Watson, Tameula
Watson, Shonda
Date of Interview: 
African Americans and Charlotte, NC; farm life; child labor; family life; spirit world; ghost stories; superstitions; foodways-Southern; teenage pregnancy; the supernatural.
Interviewed by her granddaughters in 1992, Ester Watson shares a wide range of her personal experiences, from the everyday to the supernatural. Watson discusses her childhood on her family's farm and reminisces about working in the fields. She also discusses the food her family grew, gathered and ate including fruit from her family's own trees and wild-growing foods like poke salad, peppergrass, and wild onions. Watson recounts social conventions regarding teenage pregnancy in the African American community of her youth. In addition to sharing memories of daily life, Watson also recounts several brushes she and others had with the spirit world.
Charlotte, 1920-1992
Interview Setting: 
Ester Watson's home in Charlotte, NC
Levine Museum of the New South, Local History Series
SW (Shonda Watson): Museum of the New South. Oral history report. Date, 7/29/92. Time, nine-fifteen. Place, Ester, Ester Watson house. Interviewer is Shonda Watson, and the interviewee is Ester Watson. Could you name--.
EW (Ester Watson): You better cut that off.
SW: Could you name your brothers and sisters?
EW: Yeah. Marion Brown, Thomas Brown, and Leonard Brown, brothers. Eva Bell, Ivory Bell, Mamie, and, (Early), and Wilma, and (Plume), and Mildred and Willie [Pause] and Mildred. Our mother had children real young and, and her children was the large, way older than I was. I was the baby. And so, they all took, the oldest girls took care of her hair, fix up her hair, and boy of her clothes and things. Get us ready for church. So my mother didn't hardly have anything--, hardly have to take care of, because she had grown children. Some of my children--, my sisters was about eighteen years old when I was born. I don't even know when two of them got married, because I was too small. My mother had a real large family, twelve children in all. And they lived on a great, big, large farm. And they got to made a good living because they had a big farm and all kind of fruit trees, and, oh, a big gardens and everything. So we got along just fine until late down the year, there's my father got sick. He couldn't work and he had to give up his farm. Then we had it a little bit tough. But, but af--, before then we got along fine for to have twelve children in the family. And what else now?
SW: After your daddy, after your daddy got sick, what, what did y'all start doing?
EW: Well, they tried to get my brothers to come out and finish and work the farm, but they didn't like a farm so they moved up in the city, which my mother and them didn't like the city. And so they stayed in the city a little while, and then they moved out, kind of on the outskirts of town, just about a block or two from town where they could have their own garden and that's the way they stayed until death.
SW: Could you tell us the chores you used to do when you was a little girl? How you used be out in the field with your daddy.
EW: Well, I, I loved to work in the field, and I would ask my father to let me hoe the cotton. And he told me I was too young to hoe cotton. Say I'll cut down the cotton and leave the grass. But he would let me try some anyway, and I cut down so much cotton so he stopped me, and he told me to stay out of the field. And so he told me to stay at home and baby-sit my nephew. So I stayed there for a while with my other sister. She tend to one of the babies, and I tend to the other. And so as I was going across the field and fixing to step over a big gully, there lay a great big python about, over bigger than my arm. The Lord showed it to me. I was picking at--. I was too little to, to step, to hop over the ditch so I was going to step down in the ditch and come up. And God showed me that was a snake down there. And I called for about an hour, my daddy and them was so far in the field, I called for about an hour for help. Finally he heard me, and I, and a, and a pytho--, a pilot snake, he didn't run; he just laid there. And so my father got up on top of the, up on top of the ditch, and he hit all over the snake's head, and that snake still wouldn't move. He said, "I don't see him, but I'm hitting at him." And so when he hit at him, he just still laid there, and I told him, I say, "Go down further and hop over the ditch and come on this side and you can see him." And he said, "Ooo! Such a snake! Oh, you'd a got bitten by him, you'd a died. That's all. That's a, a rattlesnake! That's a rattlesnake." And he come down on his head and hit him and cut his head half off. So after that I didn't want to go to the cotton field anymore. I didn't.
SW: [Laughter]
EW: [Laughter] So I stayed at home. [RECORDING INTERRUPTED, THEN RESUMED]
SW: Any strange encounter during the period, in the period of your, in, period of time of your life?
EW: Well, yes. As I was going to work one night, a lady I had been knowing for a long time but I didn't know she was dead, she had on the same clothes she had on, she wore when she was living. I saw her two blocks before I got to her. And I don't know why I wouldn't change sides and get on the other side after I saw her standing on that side. So [Pause] every time I would look at her, I was two blocks from her, she'd be done turned a different way every time I look. And when I got near to her, she turned side ways. And after I get closer to her, she'll stand bent. And when I got right up on her, she put her coat up around her mouth and turned her head like that. And [Pause] after while I just walked on by. My coattail hit hers. And I said, "What that lady standing there for?" It was a little old cafe right below her house sitting there on the corner. And I said, "I guess she watching her boyfriend." And I just passed on by, and I didn't cross over or anything. And about time I got by, a rock hit me in the back--.
SW: [Laughter]
EW: And busted went up in the air and rained down rain. Just hitting the street, nothing but rain. And I looked in the street, no rock, nowhere. And cars just roll, wasn't hitting a car or anything. It just hitting the street. And when she hit me in the back I say, "Who in the world, who in the devil hit me in my back?" And there's a high fence up there she couldn't get away, you know. So they fenced in, and she couldn't get away. But she was standing on the outside of the gate, and I thought she was living. And, and I, I was, the girl say, "Come on, Ester. Come on, Ester. Come on. What's wrong?" I say, "A woman standing up here hit me in my back, and it bust up and went in rainwater." I said, "What in the world is that?" She said, "Come on here, that's a ghost! Come on here. Get away from there." And she said, "She disappeared." Then I said, "Disappeared?" I ain't see it. I, I, I said looked for her, looked around for her. I say, "You don't see her nowhere." She said, "Do you know who that is?" I said, "Yes, I know who she is," I said, "but she's living." She said, "Living? You can, who you talking about say Mary?" She said, "Mary dead." I said, "How do you know she wasn't dead?" I said, "She got on the same coat and the same hat." And she say, "Honey, she is dead. That man, her boyfriend, stay right there, you know." I said, "Yeah, I know she go with (a man)." She said, " He, he don't even go by there in daytime, honey. That woman rock that man to death. Ooo," said, "When you come back along in the morning, when you get off from work," I was working on the night shift, said, "you go down there and ask Mr. (Kullum) about it. Tell him about it. See what he'll tell you." And that's what I did. I went down there and ask him. He said, "Yeah, that's (whore)-talking Mary throwed that rock at you, honey. Ooo, she throws rocks at everybody. Oh, yes. Don't you--. Next time you just go on the side, on that other side. And don't go on that side." I said," No, I ain't going by there no more by myself." I said, "I'll take my husband with me." I said, "I ain't going by there anymore by myself." He said, "You know, you don't see all the time." I said, "No, just certain time of the moon you see them." He said, "That's right." So [Pause] she was standing out there. Had on her fluff down hat and her brown coat. Well you see when she was living, she would throw rocks at you if she think you were making fun of her when she was living. She'll take a rock, and she'll take a rock and throw at you if she think you were laughing at her. And she would come to my house, be done stole people's shoes and things and ask me to buy some shoes. And I tell her I didn't have any money. And she said, "Well all right then." And she--. [Pause] And that's the devil in her. I don't know why she throwed it at me. If she's mad at her boyfriend, she can throw it at her boyfriend, but I don't know why she would throw it at me.
SW: [Laughter] Did you have another experience in your life like that? Something like that?
EW: Hum.
TW (Tameula Watson): The one about the one--. The lad--, the man in the cab that went to that cafe.
EW: Yes! Yes! Uh-huh. The taxi man. The taxi man. He picked up the man and told him, and told him to take him to John, John Hayes'cafe [Pause]. And so the cab picked him up, and took him to John Hayes' cafe, and he told the cabman that he'll be right back soon as he get the money from him. So he stayed so long in there until he went in there and, he asked for the boss man of the cafe. And the boss man, he went in and told the boss man what the, what the boy told him. And he said, "Oh yes! I'll pay you." He said, "That's the boy I killed." And he said, "You killed?" He said, "Yes, that's the boy I killed." He say, and he called his name. He, the taxi man remembered his name. He told him his name and so John Hayes, he went then, he went to the taxi man and told the taxi man, he say, "You look nervous. You better let me drive you and lead back to the station. Because you, you, you kind of shaky." And he say, "I think I'll be all right." So he got in the car anyway and, and drove behind him. And so, he say little, just a little piece after he got off-it's right there on McDowell Street. Right, right down the hill from the courthouse, because I used to go in there and get me a sandwich. And, and he said after a while, that car just speeded up, and he speeded, too. And that time he got pretty close up on him, he just went right straight down in that creek at Piedmont Community College. And he said the reason he followed him because, he figured he was going to, he was going to blank out, and the ambulance people wouldn't know what in the world wrong with him. And so, when it, when he saw him fell in the creek, he ran and called the ambulance. And they got him and pulled him out. And so when they pulled him out, they wanted to know what was wrong with him, so John Hayes told him that he picked up a ghost and that's what was wrong with him. And they said, "Oh! He saw a ghost." And they took him on to the hospital, and he followed them on over there and paid the hospital bills and everything. And they got him back to, you know. He was unconscious. Yes sir! Them things will scare you to death sitting up in people's cars. Now the devil ought not to do that. Sitting up there, get in a cab.
SW: [Laughter]
EW: And you know, and you know they shouldn't do that. And this other one, over at, over there on Cemetery Street. I got in the cab with him. He asked me--. Whenever you get in a cab and a man asks you, "Are you going near Cemetery Street?" you going to know that's him. He still driving a cab, and he's been driving ever since. I think he around eight--, six--, seventeen or eighteen years old. And he say, "Lady, that lady still stands out there. She's still there." I said, "How that lady is still there?" "She is still there." He said, "I'm going to tell you the reason why I know she there." He say, "We go by there. We know about what time to see her." He say, "We, I get in the car with my friends and we go by there." He said, "Which I don't want to go, but they said I'm just going to see if that woman out there--. I just going see." Then he say he go out there right now and you'll see her. Second time a month, you'll see her. I say, "You don't mean to say that lady still out?" She said, "Yes she is. Yes she is. She's still out there." He say she stands out there and flags the cabs. She don't even flag down nothing but a cab; that's all she flags down. Don't care how many cars pass her. She don't flag down nothing but a cab. She be going to the mother's house. So she got in the car and told him where she wanted to go on Boundary Street. And he said he took her to Boundary Street. And he say you know how--. He said, " You know where y'all's store, North State Laundry is?" I say, "Sure." I say, I say, "I used to go all over there to my church member's house on Boundary." He say, "Why you know when you turn you have to slow down," he said, "I slowed down and about time I pulled in and speeded to go up the hill, she was gone." I say, and he say, "She couldn't have got out the car. The car's still locked." He said, "What in the world become of this woman?" And I asked him, I say, [Pause] "What was she doing when she in that car? OK, you didn't say anything else to her?" He say she didn't say anything else. He said, "I looked in my rear window, and she be looking--. She'd have her whole face turned looking out the window." Said, "She would never look at me. She'd keep her head turned." That's just what they do. They don't want you to look in their face. They, like that woman, she didn't want me look at her face. She kept ( ) up there and turned sideways, and he say she got out the cab and went to the, to her momma's house and he told her momma about it. And he didn't wait until he got nowhere. He just collapsed there. Yeah, he didn't. He didn't wait to drive off or nothing. He just collapsed on the porch. And she told him about that was her daughter. He, she said "Oh, that's my daughter." And he look like she say she got killed or something. I done forgot how, how it went. How the child got killed, but poor thing, she, she wasn't ready to leave this world that way. But wherever she went, she kept coming back home to her momma, and he say she still stands there. She still stand there and go to her momma wherever she lives. And, and he said, or going to whoever's house her momma living. If it ain't, she's going to some of the people's houses, said because she be standing out there flagging down cabs. And he say, " I don't know what them local peoples do when they went to get in that cab." Say, "I don't guess they scared." He said, "But I, I, I just can't stand that. And that's why I asked you where, if you going near a Cemetery Street." And he said he collapsed on the porch and the, and the people called ambulance, and they all got in the ambulance with him and took him to the hospital. And say they were the nicest people, say they treated him so nice. Say they stayed over there with him until he came to and all her people, all the people, his people came over and they talked and told the people what it was. And he said they all treated him so nice and paid the bill and told his family that anything he need just call them or anything. Whatever he need, just call them or come over there or anything. And he said, "They sure treated me nice." He said but--. I said, "Look like you would be scared to drive a cab now." He say, "No, no, I, I--." [Laughter] He say, "Yeah, you are right. So you never know where another one at." I said, "Yeah." I said, "You are brave." I said, "I don't think I could drive no more cabs." He say, "But I do. But I just don't go on that street. But I do." He liked driving cabs. [Pause]
SW: What--?
EW: So they are very scary, especially when you get in the car with you. My brother was coming from the see his girlfriend and he was afraid that them old ducks was going to get in his car. He say he saw three or four little duck--, look like old women made up just like a duck with a white potato head. But they made [Laughter]--.
SW: [Laughter]
EW: But they made like a duck. And but they had a white potato head. And had a little sack across they back. And he say they liking to scare them to death. He say he keep looking back to see were they in his car. And he was so scared. He, he, he say he thought about the boy, you know, he used to be a, a young man come to my sister house up there on Spring Street. He picked up one down there on-ya'll remember that cemetery down there, where they buried Ophelia. What the name of that cemetery?
TW: Where it at?
EW: Huh? Down there on York Road.
TW: On what?
EW: York Road. Wasn't that cemetery--?
SW: York Memorial?
EW: York Road.
TW: Where York at? York Road?
EW: York Road. On in below South Side. Way on out there. That's where all the people, the colored people mostly been buried. Out there. That's where my niece--.
SW: York Memorial?
EW: Huh?
SW: Not York Memorial?
EW: Uh-huh. That's it.
SW: York Memorial.
EW: Um-hum. York Memorial. That's where my niece was buried and that the way my sister was buried. My niece--.
TW: Wasn't my momma buried out there?
EW: No, your momma was buried on--.
TW: On Memor--? What is that?
EW: On Beattie Ford Memorial Garden.
TW: She was?
EW: Uh-hum. That's out that way.
TW: I thought it was York Memorial.
EW: Out that way. And that's where he picked up a ghost. He picked up a ghost and, and he drove. She got in the car with him, too. And when he got to a certain street she was gone. And he drove his car. He said the Lord give him strength. He drove the car unconscious. Don't know how he did it, he said but the Lord let him, because he didn't have nobody else to drive. And when he got home, his daddy was coming out of the door and saw him, saw his feet fell off the brick like that, off the gas and he fell straight backward. And the daddy didn't know what in the world was wrong with him. He ran, he called down the lane and got him to the hospital and didn't know what was wrong with him. And they took him to the hospital and worked on him and got him to. And when he came to, he told the doctors and all what, what happened. My, he say his daddy say, "What? You don't mean," he said, "a ghost got in the car with you." He said, "Daddy, a ghost got in the car with me. And I, I drove, and I don't even know where I fell out at but I got here by the help of the Lord. He said the Lord just drove me in." And he was telling it up there at Gene and them house. He was telling it, and he say it something else--. He said, "I ain't never drove a car, not no more by myself." He said, "Because it is something. It's something." he said, "Now I thought she was a natural woman." He said, "She flagged him down and she thought," you know "she wanting to go into the city." And she told him she did. And you know people help you out then, they didn't bother you. They'll pick you up and take you to your home. And that's what he thought, and when he got half way here, she was gone. [Pause] Well, that's the story.
TW: Wasn't there one about the one were throwing books and stuff? And putting the lamp on the lady head?
EW: Yeah. On the Park Road. [Laughter]
SW: I like the one about the, the little girl with the curls, about what the cat did to her hair.
EW: Yeah! That's the little dancing girl.
TW: Oh yeah! I forgot about that one.
US (Unidentified Speaker): Yeah. Oh yeah.
EW: Yeah. That's the, she wanted to show my brother that--.
TW: You never heard that?
EW: She wanted to show my brother that she could beat him tap dancing. And he could, and she could sure tap dance. And they used to stay in they house, and they didn't, they didn't know what, you know--. They didn't know she died there at that house. [Train whistle] And they moved out of that place. Yes, sir. My daddy prayed for an hour. Honey, you know I wasn't scared. I, I, I moved because they, they was scared. Now you know good and well. Honey, you know I walked along and kicked them things with my feet. I don't even think about them. My daddy say, "I be passing along and here come that big old man coming to the mailbox at two o'clock." My daddy be coming from the Lord's meeting at two o'clock in the morning and he say, "You know, that big old man come up to the mailbox wait on me." Say he'll put his hand up on the mailbox and do like that. I say, "That's what he'd do?" He say, "That's what he would do." He would come out there with his hand up on the mailbox. I said, "Then when you get next to him, then what he do?" He says, "He drop his hand, like that." And I say, I say, "Do, do you ever look back when you, to see where he is?" He say, "Yeah. I always cut my eyes back to see where he is." He say, "He's still was standing there looking at me. Yes, he sure did." And he say, "Ester," just as I walked by him, here come about twenty-five little ducks up under my feet." I say, "Under your feet?" "Up under my feet. I couldn't walk. I had to do like this to try to walk." He say, "I believe it was him that turned into that and came down there and got under my feet." Ooo, my daddy used to see the thing. He hit his lip. He still had that crimp. He had that crimp right there where he hit his lip. He thought they were wild horses. You know, wild horses used to come through, and he said those horses were running so fast to he struck out. He said, "Them horses, wild horses get me, they going to kill me." And he say he ran, he ran at my momma's sister's house. And he ran. He was running to get to my aunt house to tell her to open the door and let him in. And by time he got there to the door, the screen door slammed just as hard as, just as hard, he said, like the whole house going to tear to pieces and hit him on the lip and split his lip all up in there. Split his lip, he say a ghost, say, aunt had the door locked, the screen door locked and everything. That door slammed, and it was locked and he hit on her door. And he, and she say, "I knew I heard somebody knocking." He said, "Your door slammed." She said, "My door locked." He say, "I know it is, but it slammed and hit me on my, on my mouth." He says, "A ghost slammed your door." She said, "Oh Lord! Don't tell me that I'm moving tonight." She says, "Don't tell me that." He say, "Yes, it did." He say, "I thought they were wild horses. They were, that was a ghost. Them horses were ghosts." And he thought they were wild horses and that's why he was running so. And he turned around then after he found out they wasn't wild horses. He turned around and he went on back. And he say he went to singing. He was on his way going home where he, when he let them wild horses, he struck out and went to running to my aunt's house. And he say he went on home, went on, went to singing and told--. He said, [Singing] "Anything in my way, get back out of my way and let me by." He was just singing. And he say a great big old man, weighed about 700 pounds was sitting in his path right where he had to go. Said he just hustled his big self right on the side of the path and let him by, and he say he cut his eye around to see where he was. He hustled and got right back in that path. Right back in that path. That's how much my daddy used to see things. He ain't scared. He's not scared of anything like that. He say he's born wrapped up in a veil. And his mother, they knows that take that veil and put it on top of the house and let the sun dry it out, and he wouldn't have saw all of those ghosts. See Gladys will see things but not too much because my mother and them took the veil she was born in and put it on top of the house and let the sun dried it up.
SW: How you know if you be born in a veil?
EW: Because you wrapped up on in it.
TW: What's a veil?
EW: That's a veil. It's a skin. They call it a veil. Born with a, like a skin, like a cow being, calf being born. Calf born being in a, in a veil. They in a veil. And that's the way they were, when they, my daddy was born and Gladys was born. They call it a veil. It's a little thin thing and you born in that. And you take it and put it on top of the house and let the sun dry it out. You will see a, still see things but not as much. But they didn't know when to do that for my daddy. And he saw things all the time. Don't care where he steps, he'll see things everywhere he go. Especially on the new moon and this moon on the change. That's when you see them. That's when they used to go in my pocketbook. That's the reason I know so good because I, I know when they, what, what is being done. When, when my pocketbook go to open up and shutting and snapping, I call across the street, I say, "Can you tell me if a new moon or a, the moon on the change?" And the lady said, "The moon on the change." And I said, "Thank you. I thought it was. Thank you." And I--. When I get to hear that girl going by here, I call Sister Jackson. "Sister Jackson, you got a 1992 calendar or '91- or '91 then-'91 almanac?" She said, "Yeah." I said, "What is it? Is it new moon or moon on the change?" She said, "The moon on the change." I said, "Um-hum." I heard her going down the street. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. And I was sitting in the window pinning Mamie and saying one night, "There she comes just as slow." No feets walking nowhere. No feet. No feet sound. She had on shoes though, but had on blue jeans. She didn't see me. I was sitting up in the window.
US: She didn't?
EW: And walking. I said now that can't be a real woman. That there will mess you up the old devil, honey. And yes, you got that man's head completely around. He sure did.
SW: How many men?
EW: Yeah. My brother. My brother used to be with him. Um-hum. He sure did. He, he, he was passing along--. He was passing along a graveyard or somewhere he was passing. And he went, he went and shouted out it, and cussed him out, cussed it out. And it, I know what they'll do because, you see, they used to beat the dog down there where we lived. The dog named Fanny. And they would beat that dog. That dog would be screaming. My daddy said, "I'm going to go out there and I'm going beat the hollering out of that ghost if he don't leave that dog alone." Yes, sir! That dog be hollering and running and juking up and looking wild looking. And I tell you whose dog it was. [Pause] They wasn't married then. It was Dot, my niece Dot's Aunt. They wasn't married then but they were going together. Her aunt what died not long ago, boyfriend dog. He lived right behind here. And his dog was named Fanny. And she had a child by him, but he died. [Pause] And, yeah, this man was passing along, believe he passed by the cemetery. And I don't know whether this ghost was bothering him or anything or not but he didn't, he ( ) at it, I think. And he went to cussing at it, you know. You don't supposed to do that. You don't supposed to do that at all. He went to cussing at it, and shooting at him. Oh he was shooting. And, he, before he could turn around, that thing had done slapped him-Pow!- and torn his whole head, all the way, his head back here.
SW: Hum.
EW: Yes. They say everybody saw him down there. He say--. He'll tell you. He'll tell you the reason why his head back there. His whole head.
TW: ( ) his head back there?
EW: Um-hum. His head back there.
TW: Ooh!
SW: [Laughter]
TW: What you be talking about?
SW: [Laughter]
EW: Whole, whole head. You can't, you can't mess with them things. I mean you have to talk nice, call the Lord name. That's when they go. Uh-huh. That's why people tell you, say, "You call the Lord's name and, and he'll go, they'll go then." But if you cuss, good gracious alive. That suit the devil, you know. And they can hit you too, buddy. They can hit you. I'm a witness!
TW: Can you hit them back?
EW: They'll go off and hit you. Huh?
TW: Can you hit them back?
EW: No. [Laughter]
TW: Well they better not hit me.
EW: No, you can't hit them back.
TW: (They can't get) nothing right here. [Laughter]
EW: [Laughter] Ha! You get, you just done got hit. That's all. My back stung for a long time. It did.
SW: She must hit you with them big hard rocks.
EW: Must have been. And hit me in the back with the, with the, with that rock and it bust. That how I know it wasn't no real woman then. The rock, I know when, what it hit you with rock, it's going to fall on the ground. It went up. Instead of going on the ground when hit me, it went up and went to raining. Nothing but rain. Nothing but rain! I say look at it raining. Done turned into rain. Look like that would have scared me to death, but I still didn't know what it was. I went all on the job. I told all the white peoples about it. They say, "Ester, Ester, that has to be a ghost." I still didn't know the woman was dead. The girl told me about it. I don't think that child know who I'm talking about. "Ester, that has to be a ghost, Ester. Ester, when the rock went up and went to raining, and, and, and, and hitting the street and not hitting no cars and, and then you out there looking. There wasn't a rock nowhere and wasn't no water on the street. Ester, it has to be." I said, "I'm, I'll find out in the morning. I'm going to have my say. I'll find out." I was so scared. I was too scared to work on the line. I get ready to go down the line to push them things down when they done slowed down. I be trembling. I be trembling. If, my sister had to sleep with me in daytime. See I had to sleep in daytime because I worked at night. And I, I--. She had to sleep with me in daytime. Likened to scared me to death. See, because I thought she was living. I didn't--. I never heard she was dead. Come back with the same coat. And I up and give my coat away. Then, fifty dollar was some money to pay for a coat. It was pretty. Hers was dark plaid. Mine was light beige plaid and big belt in the back with two pretty buttons sitting there. Big fuzzy white sleeves and big fuzzy collar. I give it away. I couldn't stand to look at them no more. Give it away. Brand new coat. Sure was. And then none of my sister and them wanted it.
SW: What about that little girl who got her hair curled when she died by that black cat?
EW: Oh yes! Wasn't that a pitiful thing? I declare. That, you see--. Of course her momma didn't really wanted her to do that. But she should have never let her did that when she was small. I don't think they should start little children out the dancing; they should start them in church. She say she'd rather go to hell with her hair curled than to go to the church or read the Bible. And you see that was awful. Yes, she said that. And then when they got to ready-see they bury her then, like they bury presidents in wagons. And they buried, the wagon pulled you then. And the wagon wouldn't go, the horses wouldn't go because see they'll, when they see a ghost they'll, some horses will kill you. Mercy they scare them horses! You know, they must look scary looking or make, or either be doing something in front of them horses because them horses will just tear up that wagon. They'll just tear that wagon up, and the, the wagon wouldn't go. The, the mule just "He-e-e-eh, Heeh!" They, they, and they throwed the man off the wagon, you see. And he said, "Let me see what in the world. And he went back there and he went back there and he stopped that wagon and, and he said, "Let me open up that casket. There must be a ghost around here somewhere." And he opened it up, and there was a big black cat. He said it looked like weigh about 200 pounds sitting up in the casket. And say he hopped out and say when he hopped out her hair was curled, what looked like it was about 200 beautiful curls all over her back that kept uncurling. I reckon her momma and them didn't have a hair curler, and she wanted, wanted her hair curled. And it curled it, and so, when he did that the mule was ready to go, (back and) to normal. And the momma say, "I knew that's what it was at the beginning." She say, "Because you see my daughter say she'd rather go to hell with her hair curled than to go to church or read the Bible, and I knew that's what it was." And she say, "It's a shame. It's a shame." And I think she was sixteen years old and been dancing ever since she was a little girl. See, her mother should have never let her done that. And [Pause] and so, so my brother and them moved in that house and he went out--. He goes out there every evening. My brother love to tap dance. My brother go out there every evening on that porch. Here's a funny-made house he said. You have to go outside to get to your bedroom, one of the bedroom. He said he got so he wouldn't sleep out there in that bedroom. She got out there, and my momma said you ought to heard that tap dancing. "Woo-hoo," she said. She said, "Tom, you ain't, you, you can't even tap dance. Just listen at that girl out there singing. Good! (Ain't that child) a tap dancer!" There she, there she was, and my momma [Laughter] and them said had to get them children away from that house. Had to move. [Laughter] Had to move. [Laughter] And said, my brother say he, he ain't try to tap, tap, tap dance no more. He say, "Ester, this the first time I ever tried to tap dance since that girl tap dance. Ester, likened to scared me to death." And, and he say, "Ester, God you ought to heard that girl." I wasn't born. He said, "You ought to heard that girl. Said "She was really a good tap dancer." I said, "She tap dance, but she going to hell." That's bad. Yes it is. And that momma going be hold responsible because she stayed right there with her. And she didn't have to let her do that. So she going to be held, held guilty for that. Sure is. Absolutely. [Pause] Let's see what's another one I was going to say about but I'm done forgotten it. Let's see what it was.
SW: The one who threw them books?
EW: Huh?
SW: Was throwing through them books?
EW: And then there was another one, too.
SW: Or was the one your sister went ( )?
EW: Who?
SW: The one who, the one who came, you said used to knock under your bed.
EW: Oh! [Laughter] What you talking about Uncle Joe? [Laughter] Uncle Joe. Yes, yes, that's the one that used to go in my pocketbook. Uh-huh. Yes sir! He was a sight in this world. He really was. He'd go in my pocketbook, and you could hear him hitting on my dresser. I'm going to tell you truth. The Lord sure has helped me. Because, I didn't--. My husband told me, he said, "Ester, I don't know what in the world you going to do when I die." He say, "You too scared to get up to go to the bathroom. Ester, you are too scared. I don't know what you going to do if I die." He say, "I hope you'll get out of it." He say, "Because it sure is bad be that scared." I don't know how in the world, the Lord so help me. I prayed. And he helped me because I'm telling you, all what I have heard, when many people wouldn't have stayed there in their house by themselves, but I did. The Lord helped me, because he would go in the pocketbooks and he would open them, and he would knock on my dresser. He would play the guitar under my bed, and there wasn't no guitar in the house. He'll go under there and play the guitar. And you could, you could hear him in there waking my sister up, shaking the whole bed and all, all of that. And then my niece, that's Louis' and them sister, she told me, she said, "Ester, I love you. You give me anything I want. But Ester, I don't want you to have my clothes if I die." I said, "Why?" I say, "Your clothes just fit me." "I know it. And I don't know why, Ester. I don't understand it. But I just don't want you to have my clothes." [Train whistle] I said, "You've got on a pretty brown skirt." I say, "I like to have that brown skirt." I said, "But look, I give you my clothes and then you come down here and stole my coat." I said, "Now I didn't say nothing about it." "I know I did. I say you good to be but I don't want you to have my clothes." So when she died, my sister say, "Ester, Ophelia's skirt too big for me. It's too large and it got a pretty"--
EW: "and it got a pretty yellow, yellow, yellow blouse to go with it. I'm going to give it to you." I say, "OK." I said, "But she said she don't want me to have her clothes. I don't know whether to take it or not." She said, "Aw, she not going to (bother) you." And, and so I took it and I wore it out to Miss Lane and them house and to Miss Vorheese. [RECORDING INTERRUPTED, THEN RESUMED]
EW: bump down in the basement. I said but this here in the closet, and that's where I had stake hanging up, you know, in the closet. And it Bump-Bump-Bump-Bump-Bump-Bump the whole time I wore that skirt out of there, Bump-Bump. So, I when I got home, I put it in my wardrobe. I had a wardrobe up in my bedroom. I put that, put it in the wardrobe and hung it up. And a great big in that closet.
SW: What ( )?
EW: What! I had to get it out of there. My, my wardrobe was--. Doors were open and slamming and (bunging). I said, "Here, here, Willie"-that was her mother. I said, "Huh. (Damn) gracious, I told you she didn't want me to have her clothes. There they are get them out of here." She said, "Hum. Reckon that something you did?" I said, "Sure is." "Well, you, you, you be telling the truth when you say things. I tell you. I say I can make you out a story when you, when you say you used hear Uncle Joe, but I couldn't make you out no liar. I just had to come out and tell them. I just had to come out and tell all of them here yes, you was telling the truth. Because I didn't have to have no clock when I stayed with you because he wake me up every morning." I said, "I know he did because Catherine say he be shaking the whole bed, waking you up." I said, "Catherine said it kind of tickled her. She got used to it."
TW: My momma?
EW: Um-hum. She say she kind of got used to it. And I was sitting in there one night--. Catherine had done moved. She was staying up there where ya'll stay down there. And it was about eleven o'clock, and that boy had got killed right out there in the parking lot. I said, "Oh goodness! What I'm going to do?" I said, "If I was up here, if I hear anything down here I'd be too scared to go up check because that boy got killed right there." And I say, "I just stay on here, then. I just won't go." And after a while, I was sitting right there in front of the table just like that table sit down there in the den, and I was sitting there looking up in the closet and had the television on. And he come there with his hand and hit on that table: "A-wom!" I said, "Oh devil! You trying to scare me, but you don't scare me devil. I don't care how you hit, in Jesus name." I said, "You're not scaring me." And it's a wonder I didn't groan or holler or say something, but I didn't. I stayed right there in that, in, in Catherine and them room and listened to the television, and I didn't move. I sure didn't. Now you know the Lord give me a nerve. I didn't run, and I see the time honey, I be done fainted. And that's what my husband say. He say, "Ester, you pray that the Lord move that, that sadness." He said, "Because Ester, you won't, you won't hardly stand it. It's scaring you off." [RECORDING INTERRUPTED, THEN RESUMED]
EW: I would go and pick poke salad, and in the time of picking blackberries, I would go and pick blackberries, my sister and I. [Pause] And we would go and pick, and when we'll be picking blackberries you would hear something give a big blow. And I knew that was a poisonous snake he calls--. They blows when they--, when they, a poisonous snake they blow and, and I knew that was either a copperhead or a pilot snake. And so we started to running, and I had picked a whole bucket of blackberries and I was running and dropped my blackberries and my bucket and all. Then when it was time to pick poke salad we would go and pick poke salad. Snake love around poke berries. And we would go out and pick poke salad, and in the field they did and burned it, burnt black stumps all over the field, burning and cleaning it off. And we wouldn't see a thing but a whole field of black snakes. So we would skip that part, and it was pretty poke salad there. And we would skip that part, and we would go on down to another place and we'd go there and start to picking poke salad and there'd be a big snake laying there. So we just give up on picking the poke salad. So we went home and we told our mother about it, and she said, "Yes, you have to be so careful. Just don't go out and pick any because I'm scared you children might get snake bit out there." Because if the, there's a whole lot of snake lays around berries and poke salad. So from that on I didn't go out and pick any more poke salad. But I would go out in the clean places and pick wild onions and peppergrass.
SW: What's peppergrass?
EW: It's real good. And lamb squash. It grow kindly in little flat things, and you can see all around your feet. And we go there and we'll pick that and we'll get the peppergrass and the lamb squash and mix it all together and cook it like greens. And they the best. Make you eat your head off. And we would pick that and then we would go and we would go and pick--. Let's see, what was the name of that other?. Peppermint. Peppermint. It look--. It was a little small little thing. It made just like a okra; only it's little. And you go and get it and make a pie out of it, and it's the best pie you have ever eaten. And we would pick wild onions. Wild onion is good. We pick wild onion. Ooo, that's the best eating. Wild onion. It's better than the onion you grow yourself. And we would go and we would carry home to our mother and boy she'd be so happy. She'd go to picking them and getting them ready for supper. That's in the good old days, eating good old vegetables. And then we had fruit trees in our yard. We had a mulberry tree in our yard. We had a big pear tree in our backyard, and we had a front yard and it was hard. It didn't have no grass. We didn't, wasn't planning on staying there too long, and we didn't plant any grass. And, and everybody from the city would come by want to buy those pears. They were big as my two fists together; the finest pear. We had never seen any pear like that in our front yard. Then we had a orchard right out from my house. We had apples and peaches and all that kind of stuff, plums, and everything. And big garden. My momma would can all kinds of fruit for the winter, when we'll have plenty to eat. And, and she would go to her garden and she would pick string beans. She canned string beans and tomatoes and all that sort of stuff. And we just had plenty food for the winter. Big orchard. We didn't have to worry about apples, pears. We just had plenty of fruit. Isn't that good?
SW: Um-hum.
EW: That's good. We just had plenty fruit. Didn't have to buy any fruit. My momma would can apple, put up applesauce and stuff like that. Green beans, tomatoes, and sugar peas and all that kind of food. And we just had a good time in those days. It was night, sleep with the doors open. Nobody would bother you. You could walk and go to any store that'd be open late at night and nobody would bother you. So it was a good time then. Didn't have any trouble. [Pause] So if we just have those good days like we used to have it would be fine. But now it is dangerous, it's dangerous. You have to take the Lord with you now everywhere you go. You need him in your home, you need him in grocery stores, and you need him in banks, hospital, cafes. There's shooting in every place you go in. So we, the whole world need to turn to God the Father and Jesus Christ. And the world would be better then. It would be better. It wouldn't be danger, but sin causing all of it. So and I hope everybody will turn to the Lord.
SW: Grandma, if a girl got pregnant, what, what would happen if she was ya'll friend and she ended up getting pregnant?
EW: And she, when she's young?
SW: Um-hum.
EW: They mother still keep them, but they be really upset. But the other people won't they, wouldn't let they children run with them, your daughter and her mother. And if it be a shame up on the family. But they wouldn't give them away or anything. The grandparents would keep them. But if it, it, it make them be shamed because when my sister had her baby out of wed--, wedlock, my father just got sick because he was the deacon of the church and my momma quieted him down. And she say, "Don't get upset." Say, "Those people got to have daughters, and they going to mess up, too." And about a month from that, one of the head deacon's daughter got pregnant. She said, "You see there don't you?" She said, "You see there? They go around talking, but they forgot they got children." And he said, "Yes, I know it, but I don't think these girls should mess up like that." He say, "They in the church, they singing on the choir, and I don't think they should do that. They go to the church and they, they read their Bible and they teach them not to do that. It's a sin." My momma say, "Yeah, but, you know, girls will break the law. Grown people break the law." And she said, "Ain't none of us perfect. We all have sin. Come short of the glory of God." She said, "You just have to pray." So people back then didn't want they daughters--. They'd stop they children from coming to you house. [Pause] And it wasn't like it is now. Girls didn't have babies like they did now. Once in a while. And some mothers would put them out, tell you the truth.
SW: Where would they go?
EW: Didn't have nowhere to go. Somebody take them in. Because this lady live right cross over there. She dead now. She told me she got pregnant when she was fifteen years old. And she said her mother and them-and she was almost ready to have her baby-and her mother and them throwed her out. She said she just watched her had, just watched as she had her baby in the street under the house. I said, "You don't mean it." She said, "Yeah, honey. Yes, yes, I did. She said--. I think she told me one lady saw her and took her in and had a midwife to come and deliver her baby. Yes, she did. She was, she was about seventy-six or seventy-seven years old. And she said she was fifteen and her momma and them, you know, they--. Back then they didn't have to. They didn't want her, didn't want her in there. And some people--. Now my momma and them didn't do that. Way it hurted my daddy, he didn't do that. He was crazy about his grand. He said wasn't nobody going to get his grand. He didn't care how much they marry. Only way they'll get them is when he die. And he kept them. And, and be teaching them to be a carpenter like--. Yeah. (Tee) around there building a wagon when he was about three years old. Well, I guess that's it. That's a long story.
SW: [Laughter] Well, Grandma, thank you for your time.
EW: That was a long story.