The first who hired me was Mr. Kemp, who used me pretty well; he gave me plenty to eat, and sufficient clothing.
The next was old Jemmy Coates, a severe man. Because I could not learn his way of hilling corn, he flogged me naked with a severe whip, made of a very tough sapling; this lapped round me at each stroke; the point of it at last entered my belly and broke off, leaving an inch and a half outside. I was not aware of it until, on going to work again, it hurt my inside very much, when, on looking down, I saw it sticking out of my body. I pulled it out, and the blood spouted after it. The wound festered, and discharged very much at the time, and hurt me for years after.
In being hired out, sometimes the slave gets a good home, and sometimes a bad one: when he gets a good one, he dreads to see January come; when he has a bad one, the year seems five times as long as it is.
I was next with Mr. Enoch Sawyer, of Camden county. My business was to keep ferry, and do other odd work. It was cruel living. We had not near enough of either victuals or clothes. I was half starved for half my time. I have often ground the husks of Indian corn over again in a hand-mill, for the chance of getting something to eat out of it which the former grinding had left. In severe frosts, I was compelled to go into the fields and woods to work, with my naked feet cracked and bleeding from extreme cold: to warm them, I used to rouse an ox or hog, and stand on the place where it had lain. I was at that place three years, and very long years they seemed to me. The trick by which he kept me so long was this: the court house was but a mile off. At hiring day, he prevented me from going till he went himself and bid for me. On the last occasion, he was detained for a little while by other business; so I ran as quickly as I could, and got hired before he came up.
Mr. George Furley was my next master; he employed me as a car-boy in the Dismal Swamp; I had to drive lumber, &c. I had plenty to eat and plenty of clothes. I was so overjoyed at the change, that I then thought I would not have left the place to go to heaven.
Next year I was hired by Mr. John Micheau, of the same county, who married my young mistress, one of the daughters of Mr. Grandy, and sister of my present owner. This master gave us very few clothes, and but little to eat. I was almost naked. One day he came into the field, and asked why no more work was done. The older people were afraid of him; so I said that the reason was, we were so hungry we could not work. He went home and told the mistress to give us plenty to eat, and at dinner-time we had plenty. We came out shouting for joy, and went to work with delight. From that time we had food enough, and he soon found that he had a great deal more work done. The field was quite alive with people striving who should do most.
He hired me for another year. He was a great gambler. He kept me up five nights together, without sleep night or day, to wait on the gambling table. I was standing in the corner of the room, nodding for want of sleep, when he took up the shovel and beat me with it; he dislocated my shoulder, and sprained my wrist, and broke the shovel over me. I ran away, and got another person to hire me.