CARRIE NANCY FRYER 415 Mill Street Augusta, Georgia
Miss Maude Barragan
Federal Writers’ Project
An angular, red-skinned old Negro women was treading heavily down the dusty sidewalk, leaning on a gnarled stick and talking to a little black girl. A “sundown” hat shaded a bony face of typical Indian cast and her red skin was stretched so tight over high cheek bones that few wrinkles showed.
“Auntie,” she was asked, “have you time to tell me something about slavery times?” “No’m, I sorry,” she answered, “but I gwine to see a sick lady now, and I gots to ’tend to somepin’.” “May I come back to see you at your house?” “Yas’m, any time you wants. I live in de lil’ house on de canal, it has a ellum tree in front. I riz it from sapling. I name dat lil’ tree ‘Nancy’ so when I gone, folks kin come by and bow and say ‘Howdy, Nancy.’”
She seated herself on a stone step and spread her many skirts of gray chambray, hand-sewed with big white stitches. An old woman came by, her shining black face puckered with anxiety, dressed in a starched white uniform and a battered black hat, well brushed.
“Morning, Nancy,” she said. “You look mighty peak-ked dis morning.”
“Hunh!” grunted Nancy, “I oughter. I bin to see de mayor. I say ’Mr. Mayor, here I is. I ain’ got nuttin’ to eat—it ain’ right for a woman my age to beg food. Now what yer gwine do ‘bout it?’ De mayor say: ’Auntie, you go right down to de welfare office at de Court House and tell de lady I sont you to git somepin’ to eat.’ I done dat—dey promise to send a lady, but I ain’ see no lady yit.” A heavy sigh rolled out. “I didn’ lef’ skin of meat in my house or a piece of cornpone. But I didn’ take nuttin’ to heart ’cause de Lord is my helper.”
The old woman sighed too. “Yeah, Nancy, das de way dey does. I ain’ gwine keep nasty house for nobody. But white people’s funny. Dey think if you got clean house and bleachin’ sheets you mus’ have somepin’ to eat inside.” She clenched her fist, and her voice rose. “I tells you right now—I gwine keep my house neat jus’ like I bin taught, ef I never gits no somepin’ t’eat and ain’ got cornpone in de oven.”
“A poor creeter come to my house today to beg for somepin’ to eat,” said Nancy, “I ain’ got nuttin’ and I tell her so. She say she gwine to de court-house too.”
“T’won’t do no good,” answered the other woman. “Come over here, Nancy. I wants to talk to you.”
With a dignified excuse, Nancy creaked to her long length and moved deliberately to the edge of the sidewalk. Whisperings followed, the voices of the two old women rising in their excitement.
“I ain’ gwine into somepin’ I don’t know nuttin’ about.”
“Nobody gwine ’swade me either.”
“My husband didn’ put no composin’ on me. If I don’t git but one meal a day, I ain’ gwine dirty. I didn’ have mouthful t’eat in my house.”