Asked about midwifery, Nancy smiled.
“I was a midwife myself, to black and white, after freedom. De Thomson doctors all liked me and tole people to ‘git Nancy.’ I used ’tansy tea’—heap o’ little root—made black pepper tea, fotch de pains on ’em. When I would git to de place where I had a hard case, I would send for de doctor, and he would help me out, yes, doctor help me out of all of ’em.”
Asked about signs and superstitions, Nancy nodded.
“I have seed things. Day look dus’ like a person, walkin’ in de woods. I would look off and look back to see it again and it be gone.” Nancy lowered her voice mysteriously, and looked back into the little room where Vanna’s unsteady figure moved from bed to chair. “I seed a coffin floatin’ in de air in dat room—” she shivered, “and I heard a heap o’ knockings. I dunno what it bees—but de sounds come in de house. I runs ev’y squeech owl away what comes close, too.” Nancy clasped her hands, right thumb over left thumb, “does dat—and it goes on away—dey quits hollerin’, you chokin’ ’em when you does dat.”
“Do you plant by the moon, Nancy?”
“Plant when de moon change, my garden, corn, beans. I planted some beans once on de wrong time of de moon and dey didn’ bear nothing—I hated it so bad, I didn’ know what to do, so I been mindful ever since when I plant. Women peoples come down on de moon, too. I ain’t know no signs to raise chillun. I whup mine when dey didn’ do right, I sho’ did. I didn’ ‘low my chillun to take nothin’—no aigs and nothin’ ’tall and bring ’em to my house. I say ’put dem right whar you git ’em.”
“Did you sing spirituals, Nancy?”
“I sang regular meetin’ songs,” she said, “like ‘lay dis body down’ and ‘let yo’ joys be known’—but I can’t sing now, not any mo’.”
Nancy was proud of her quilt-making ability.
“Git ’um, Vanna, let de ladies see ’um,” she said; and when Vanna brought the gay pieces made up in a “double-burst” (sunburst) pattern, Nancy fingered the squares with loving fingers. “Hit’s pooty, ain’t it?” she asked wistfully, “I made one for a white lady two years ago, but dey hurts my fingers now—makes ’em stiff.”
Hull Street near Corner of Hoyt Street
Kizzie Colquitt 243 Macon Avenue Athens, Georgia
Miss Grace McCune
Mrs. Leila Harris
Federal Writers’ Project
[Apr 20 1938]
[TR: These two interviews were filed together, though not recorded at the same place or time.]
Alice Bradley, or “Aunt Alice” as she is known to everybody, “runs cards” and claims to be a seeress. Apologetic and embarrassed because she had overslept and was straightening her room, she explained that she hadn’t slept well because a dog had howled all night and she was uneasy because of this certain forerunner of disaster.