03709_0148: Turnips Today, Turnips Tomorrow

George Carter, 1842, Virginia, Black, formerly enslaved, Savannah, 17 January 1939




duh station dat dey couldn't see me nohow an' dem dat wuz already dere don' notice me. I go down duh railroad track pritty soon I heah whistle blow. I knows dat whistle anywhar, I waits 'til de enjin starts tuh pass me an' I jumps right in duh cab. I ain't let dat fireman touch a shovel 'til us git tuh Savannah.

"Soon as I git off dat train I go fuh Doctor Arnold, but I ain't gone no whar fo' "Nigger Jones" done grab me. He know I done run away. He starts tuh put me in duh guard house w'en Doctor Arnold come up an' say, 'Jones, turn dat damn nigger loose,' Den Massa ask me 'bout Cap'n Potter. I ain't know nuttin'.

"Atta dis I done thought I ain't gonna hab tuh heah no mo' dem bullits; but heah come Cap'n Potter on fuhlo; dey sent me back wid 'im, tuh Vaginie dis time.

"But dey couldn't hol' George. I run 'way agin, wid anudder nigger. We follow Wheeler's Calbery tuh duh ribber. W'en dey done cross duh pontoon duh soldiers start pull'n in duh bridje an' t'row us in duh ribber, an' us hab tuh swim out. Us follow dat calbery tuh duh cross'n an' den slip 'cross duh bridge an' t'roo duh picket line.

"But dey done catched us. Us 'splains dat us is bodyguards an' is los' from our man, an' dey let us go. Us swim two rlbbers an' fin'aly us catched up wid duh boat dat carry us from Charls'on an' I hide in duh hol' all cramp up, but I git tuh Savannah.

"I ain't no mo' dan git heah fo' dey done grab me agin. I tol' duh man I b'longs tuh Dr. Arnold an' he loose me right quick. I ain't go tuh duh house though; I go tuh Dr. Arnolds' quarters on


Last edit about 2 months ago by nene


Fahm Street an' hide.

'Duh man tol' Dr. Arnold he hab brung a slabe ob his name George from up duh ribber, but Dr. Arnold say I ain't no slabe ob his 'cause I'se wid Cap'n Potter in Charls'on.

"Mis' Nellie she heah 'bout me an' sbe come an' foun' me. I couldn't talk 'bove a wis'puh, but she hab me rub all ober. Soon Doctor Arnold seed I ain't gonna be kept in no war, I'se put tuh firin' de enjin agin.

"I done met Gen'l Bragg in Macon t'roo Doctor Arnold. I play fuh him on muh cane whistle. De Gen'l sho' lubs good music.

"I wuz still firin' de enjin w'en Shurmen come. Us wuz stop in duh yards an' w'en duh Gen'l stop I come up an' ax him tuh lemme shine he boot. He do. W'en I go 'way I look in muh box an' I fin' two dollas an' eighty cents, good money."

George ceases talking; I must learn more about "Gen'l Sherman." I ask, "George, did many Negroes follow Shurman's army into Savannah?"

"Ooowhee! I ain't nebub seed so many Niggers 'fo in muh life. Dey jist lak blackbirds, steal'n an' carry'n off ebryt'ing dey kin fin'; dey wuz wors'n duh soldiers. We fin' 'em all ober dead in dub street. I t'ank duh Lawd dat war is done ober."

"What did you do when you were set free, George?"

George is quick to answer. "I ain't done nuffin but go back tuh Doctor Arnold. He tell me I is done free tuh go, but I tells him I ain't goin' nowhar but wid 'im. I do so, fuh long time.

"Den he went an' die, an' Mis' Nellie went up Nort'. I ain't nebuh seed 'er no mo'. Dey lef me my pritty bed though. God bless 'em. I lubs duh bery dirt Doctor Arnold is kivered up wid. Eb'ry


Last edit about 2 months ago by nene
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time I t'inks 'bout 'im I go lie down on duh bed dat he die on."

My heart goes out in sympathy for this old Negro. He sits before me, his head is bowed slightly; the corners of his mouth droop and tremble. I can not let this go on.

"George," hurriedly, "after Doctor died I suppose you got a job elsewhere, didn't you?"

"George jecks his head up and says: "Huh?" He has been very far away. I repeat.

"Yas massa, I wuks on duh waterfront, loadin' cotton an' rosum, fuh a long time. Den I ups an' jine a wagon train an' went tuh duh Spanish American War in Habannah. Dat's whar duh wagon done run ober muh back an' dat's what's wrong wid my back now; I ain't much good. I done made forty dollas a mont' in dat war though."

George looks at his pan of half-peeled pumpkin; I know what he is thinking; I must hurry.

"Did you serve in the World War too, George?" I think I may draw a negative answer here, but he answers quickly.

"I sho' did, I stebedored all t'roo duh Worl' War, an' git good pay fuh dat too. I wish times now is duh way dey wuz den."

I look at George. At first I do not see how it could be possible for a seventy-seven year old man to do the work of a stevedore. His shoulders are heavy and powerful, his neck short and muscular, like a bull's. I think of the steps he climbs; I believe him.

George has not mentioned any of his family, except his parents. He says his father "went tuh preach'n atta he lef', an' dey fin'aly sent him tuh Arkansaw tuh duh missum."


Last edit about 2 months ago by nene


"When did you get married George?" I ask.

"W'en I wuz thirty. We hab two chillun but all ob 'em is dead now. I got a granchile in Detroy; she sent me dis las' Chris'mas."

George picks up a box lid and shows it to me. The label on the box tells me that George's grandchild sent him a box of "Well knit Underwear." The lid is red. George holds the reading up to his eyes; it is upside down; he pretends to be reading.

"What did you do after the war?" I ask.

"George is tired. "I done dis an' dat, lib good sometime an' hard sometime, 'til muh back won't lemme wu'k no mo'. Den duh 'presbun come an' I can't fin' no wu'k nohow. I hab tuh ax fuh relief, but dey don' gib me much. Sometimes some ob my white fren's brings me somet'ing though an' takes me fish'n. See muh fish poles?"

George gets up and moves towards the platform at the head of the steps. I hesitate; I am afraid it will give way under our combined weights.

He beckons.

I stand on the porch. I do not look up at George's fishing poles. Instead, I am picking out a decent place to fall.

George says, "Well yuh bettuh go, an' lemme git muh punk'ns on."

I could talk with him forever, but I can see he is tired. I thank him and turn to go. It is a strange plaoe to think of a song but I do-the one about "If I had the wings of an angel."

George watches me. I start down the steps. I believe I should


Last edit about 2 months ago by nene
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go very slowly. I hold tightly to the railing and try to take some of the weight off my feet, as though that would do any good.

The steps creak loudly; it frightens me and I jump clear to the ground. I am not hurt. I count the steps I have just jumped over-nine.

George chuckles loudly.

Confound him.


Last edit about 2 months ago by nene
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