Drums and Shadows, by Georgia Writer's Project, , at sacred-texts.com
Within the western limits of Savannah are Frogtown and Currytown, through which flows Musgrove Creek, narrow and sluggish, on its way from "Big Ogeechee" to the red Savannah River. These are two poor communities, as can be seen from the paintless little houses on dirt streets that often lack sidewalks. With the canal cutting the center of the district, there is scant space for gardens; but in spite of this, there are small patches of earth green with collards and turnips, and almost every "stoop" is decorated with a row of plants in tins of assorted dimensions.
During week days, with many persons away at work in other sections of the city, it is mostly the old who are found at home. Grandmothers and grandfathers "mind" the small children while the mothers work out.
One old woman, Anna Miller, 1 had lived most of her youth on a Butler Island plantation, where some of the older workers had occupied the same cabins given to them before emancipation.
"Sebral ub dem hans wuz bery ole people," said Anna Miller. "Dey speak a funny language an none ub duh res ub us couldn hahdly unuhstan a wud dey say. Dey hab special name fuh all kine uh ting, but duh only ting I kin membuh is dat dey call a watuh bucket a 'juba haltuh'."
We found here, too, that in certain households certain foods are considered to bring bad luck.
"I dohn eat peanuts," Millie McKen 1 told us, "an I dohn let a soul in muh fambly eat em."
"Can you tell us why?" we queried, but she only shook her head.
"All I know is dat dey's bad luck. I foun dat out, an I wohn leh one come in muh house."
Handicraft objects in this section were more numerous than in many of the other communities. We found a most unusual brush 2 made from the palmetto. 45a It was about four inches in length and two inches wide; both bristles and back had been made from a single piece of the rough fiber of the palmetto bark, spliced into splinters on one surface to form the bristles.
The work of two wood carvers was brought to our attention. One of the carvers 3 made a specialty of small wooden figures. He showed us several full length human figures, two or three busts mounted on square blocks of wood, and two oddly shaped objects, each with mask-like features carved on one surface. 41i When we remarked on the originality of his work and its symmetry of design, he said simply, "I jis picked it up wen I wuzn wukin."
The other carver 4 had made several nondescript figures, but we were chiefly interested in two linked wooden chains. One of these, which had an attached box with a ball enclosed, was similar to a chain previously shown us by another man in the community. Each man had cut his chain with all its details from a single block of wood. 70f, 70h
In Frogtown and Currytown there is intense interest shown in witches, spirits, and conjure. Personal experiences were related to us by several old residents, who had come in contact with supernatural elements.
Old Henry Gamble 5 told us that he has been accustomed to "seein tings" since childhood. Particularly on rainy nights ghosts appear to him. He said, "Sometimes dey float right at muh side. 59 Ise use tuh um now an it's jis lak natchul people
tuh me. Yuh kin skeah witches an ghos ef yuh make a cross mahk. Dis will stop um frum followin yuh."
Seventy-five year old Henry Bates 1 readily acknowledged a belief in the supernatural. "I done seen all kine ub strange ting happen in muh lifetime. Yuh wahn me tuh tell yuh bout some uh dem ting, missus?
"One night I finished eatin dinnuh. Den I walk tuh duh kitchen doe. I see a strange man comin down duh road; he wuz twenty yahds away. I tun muh head tuh look in duh house an wen uh look back he done disappeahed. I know he mustuh been a ghos. 59
"Anudduh time I heah a knock on duh doe. I heah it tree times. Bam! Bam! Bam! Wen muh dog heah dat knock, he holluh lak he wuz sked tuh det. I git up an go tuh duh doe an muh haiah riz up on muh head. Wen uh gits tuh duh doe, uh see sumpm as big as a cow, only it look lak a dog. 54 Den it vanish lak a shadduh.
"One night muh wife an me git ready tuh go tuh bed. We fasten duh doe an winduh. Attuh a time we heah a noise. Den we heah a click. Duh winduh come open jis lak somebody open it. I strike a match an uh see a big yulluh cat walkin long side duh bed. It hab a face jis lak a pusson. It go right out duh winduh.
"I fine out latuh dat duh cat wuz a witch. 68 Witches is jis livin people wut bin sole tuh duh debil. Lots uh nights I kin feel em ridin me. Jis duh udduh day I wuz sittin in a cheah an I dozed off tuh sleep. All at once a hag jump on me an staht ridin me. 69
"Wen I wuz a boy I heah lots uh stories bout people flyin. Some folks brung obuh frum Africa could fly off aw disappeah anytime dey wanted tuh. I alluz belieb dat story. I know folks right now dat kin make duh spirits uh dead people come back. 56
"Wen I wuz jis growin up I knowd a boy dat hab a strange powuh. Eben ef he wuzn wid duh udduh boys he could tell each one wut he bin doin. 22a, 22e One day attuh we grown up he say dat he could bring back folks dat hab lef town an gone away.
"Now deah wuz a uhmun whose huzbun hab lef uh. Dis uhmun wuz jis frettin uhsef tuh det. Muh frien go tuh uh an say 'I will cause yuh huzbun tuh come back tuh yuh. I will chahge yuh ten dolluhs. Yuh needn pay me till he come back but ef yuh dohn pay me den, he wohn stay.'
"In a week's time duh uhmun's huzbun wuz back. He stay home till he die. Duh uhmun pay muh frien in piece payments till she pay im duh ten dolluhs."
Living in a dirt lane on the fringe of Currytown is Chloe West 1 who was born at White Bluff and cannot remember her exact age. She told us that she frequently sees ghosts 59 and that a spirit warns her when anything out of the ordinary is about to happen. 22a, 22e
"One time I wuz; bodduhed by duh folks nex doe wut wuz tryin tuh cunjuh me. Somebody tell me tuh git some hot watuh an tro it wen I heah duh noise. Jis as I git duh watuh hot, duh spirit ub a wite uhmun I use tuh wuk fuh peahed an tell me tuh pray an duh witches would go way. Attuh she spoke, duh witches went out an nebuh did bodduh me since. Duh witches wuz two men. One ub um went crazy an duh poeleece foun duh udduh one out in duh woods. He died in duh po house.
"One night I heah a noise at muh winduh. A voice say, 'Chloe, dohn go neah duh winduh.' I stop a minute, den uh go tuh duh winduh. Some kine uh powduh wuz trone in muh face dat bline me. 8b Den duh voice tell me tuh wash muh face quick in karisene. I do dat an duh blineness leab me.
"Anudduh time duh uhmun wut lib nex doe want me tuh moob an she git a cunjuh bag an bury it unduh muh step.", Duh spirit wahn me agen an tell me a man would fine duh cunjuh fuh me. Duh nex day Doctuh Johnson, a root man, 48 come by. He say sumpm wuz laid down fuh me an he would take it up fuh fifty cent. I paid him duh money. He come back dat night, dig unduh muh steps, an take out a bunl. It hab some dut an some haiah 10 an sulphuh in it. Doctuh Johnson say it wuz grabe yahd dut. 9 Bin a long time since I bin bodduhed but uh sho belieb in all dem tings.
"Duh fus time I ebuh see ghos wuz long yeahs back. Once wen I wuz young an receivin compny, deah wuz two men comin tuh see me. I lak one man duh bes an duh udduh man wuz jealous. Well, duh jealous man die. Aftuh dat many a time uh see a shadduh lak him come right up tuh muh doe an disappeah. One night be come, stretch he ahm cross duh doe, an say jis as plain as anyting in a big loud voice, 'Is dat udduh man still comin roun yuh?' I wuz sked stiff."
D. C. Kelsey, 1 who has been blind for six years, told us that conjure had caused the loss of his sight.
"An I ain had duh money tuh git nobody tuh tun dis ting back on duh one dat put it on me," he complained.
He looked pleased when a piece of money was placed in his hand. When we asked why he blew on the coin, he smiled slowly. "Dat make mo luck. It'll hep me tuh git mo. Yuh know, a root man, he wohn take money out yuh ban. He tell yuh tuh put it on duh table aw duh shef."
We encouraged him to continue on the subject of root men.
"Dey kin fix yuh wid mos anyting," Kelsey said. "Duh chinch bug is use a lot an Ise sked ub em. I wouldn put muh han on dem ting fuh ten dolluhs. I hab a sistuh name Ida Walker wut wuz fix wid candy. She ate duh candy an den uh ahm swell up an tun blue. Yuh could see lill animals runnin up an down uh ahm. She got a root doctuh name Sherman. Soons he look at it, he know wut it wuz. He come Toosday an he gie uh a rub tuh use, and he say tuh rub down an he would come back Friday. Wen he come, duh tings all done come intuh duh finguhs. He tuk a basin wid some wome watuh, an he put muh sistuh han in it. Den he ketch hol uh duh han an duh tings run out in duh watuh. Dey wuz puppy dogs,
"He ax uh did she want em tuh go back weah dey come frum, an she say yes. So he say he know duh man wut sen em, an he went tuh duh winduh an tro duh watuh wid duh puppy dogs in it in duh direction uh duh man house an say, 'Go.' One week latuh duh man wuz in he fiel ploughin an he
drop duh. plough an fall down. Wen duh. people git tuh im, all he could say wuz, 'Dis is my wuk. Dis is my wuk.' He went plumb crazy an died, but muh sistuh got well an fine. She lib neah Millen now."
29:1 Anna Miller, 1018 Cuyler Street, Currytown.
30:1 Millie McKen, 409 West Duffy Street, Currytown.
30:2 Made by and property of Professor Redmond, Park Avenue and West Broad Street, Currytown.
30:3 Jerome Carter, 445 Jefferson Street, Frogtown.
30:4 Preston Coleman, 532 Charles Street, Frogtown.
30:5 Henry Gamble, 519 West Broad Street, Currytown.
31:1 Henry Bates, 1118 West Waldbury Street, Currytown.
32:1 Chloe West, 623 West Waldburg Lane.
33:1 D. C. Kelsey, 521 West Gaston Street, Frogtown.