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Texas Slave Narrative

  Archie Fennels

Wandering eyes and an attidue of vague apathy, show that Archie Fennels , is beginning to fail. His accounts of his age vary from 73 to 83 years, and for that reason, no accurate picture can be formed from his scattered reminescences. Archie lives in the Pear Orchard settlement, and has been in Beaumont since a few years after freedom. He was a slave of one of the younger Neylands of Jasper county, possibly Dr. Neyland's son, but he has forgotten. The old negro is quite feeble, has a half-way smile on his face most of the time, and tugs weakly at a short white moustache which edges his thick lips.

De mos' t'ings I 'member is de li'l t'ings w'at happen in slav'ry time. I 'ember onct de ol' man give me a baby goat for Chrissmus. Dat was a real circus goat. I spen' mos' my time trainin' dat goat to do trick'. He name was 'Ponto'. I kep' him for nine years' an' den he die. I figger' dat I's gwineter train dat goat an' tek him 'roun' de country to do trick an' mek me money. I made 15 cents wid dat goat. Dat was de mos'es' valuab'les t'ing I ebber hab. I uster git up in de middle of de night to see iff dat 15 cents was dere. I din' trus' dem brudders of mine. De marster he 'low me to claim a chicken for a pet too. Dat chicken' name was Joe. Didn' anybudy dare try kill' dat bird. Po' Joe he die wid de whoopin' cough. One of de young Neylands was my marster. He hab a boy jes' my age an' us all play togedder. Dey was'n' any mo' w'ite chillen on de place, dat is none big, but dey was my two brudders wid us, dat was Lewis, de ol'es' an' my li'l brudder, Richard . De Neyland boy 'Archie . I'se 'bout ten year ol' w'en freedom come. I didn' do nothin' but tote dinner to de fiel' han's. De cook, dat my mudder Fannie , she put de food in a big wood cedar bucket wid brass hooks. Dey was us'lly co'n bread an' greens. Dey didn' put de jig hunks of bacon in it, jes' de grease drippin'. I hab it too good. I allus et fus' up in de big kitchin' an' den I et 'gin atter I git out wid de fiel' han's. Dat way I git double order of eb'ryt'ing an' git fat. De marster 'low my daddy, Elijah he name, to hab he own li'l garden an' place an' he raise t'ings an' sol' dem. Den he give de ol' man money on Sattiday sometime' too. My daddy he go in to town an' buy marbles an' t'ings. Sometime' he 'low us to hab a li'l money. One time us buy 15 cents wuth of pep'-mint candy. Dey was marble games us play. One call seben up marble. Us put one marble in de center an' fo' all 'roun' de corners. Den us lag from 'bout fi'teen feet. Us play 'Big ring Keeps' too. Us uster play 'All Eye Open'. De one w'at at de base count from one to fi'ty (50) an' de res' hide. Iffen you mek it to de base you don' hafter count up de nex' time. Den lotser times us boys go fishin' on de creek an' ketch bream an' cat an' perches an' cook dem right dere an' eat dem. De neares' other boys was a mile 'way but dey come ober sometime' an' stay all day an' play. Us was allus treated good. Dey give us plenty to eat an' plenty ho'mek clo's to wear. My mudder she was a good li'l pants meker. I neber did like chicken ah' fine food. Jes' gimmie plain ol' foods an' lots of it. Archie , dat de w'ite boy, he allus 'vide he money wid us. I guess he better though cause us would of tuk it 'way from him iffen he hadn. I kin 'member dat ol' Neyland house w'er I's bo'n. It were jes' a li'l box house wid no furn'chure. Dey hab Geogia hosses, one-legged bed buil' in de wall, an' benches. De marster' house was a big place buil' up on piles. Dem piles so high us could drive de hosses under dere. Sometime I git so hot I sleep under de house wid de hosses. De quarters houses hab no winders but dey easier kep' warm in de winter. Crissmus was a big time dem day. Dey hab lotser egg nog, cake an' sich. Us nebber did git 'nuf egg nog though cause dey jes' give us a tas' (taste). Dey hab dance too. I nebber like to dance cause it too much wuk. Atter de marster tol' us we free us stay 'roun' a w'ile an' den come to Beaumont. Dis was endurin' de dark days. Dey was jes' one dark day. It git so dark de chicken' all 'roos'. Dey hafter carry us part de way home cause us couldn' see befo' us.  been bunchin' shingle all my life but I too ol' to wuk now. I marry Zig James's gal Jane . I fergit de year but us hab a purty good weddin' for de money. Out of t'ree chillen dey's on'y one 'live now but dat ain' roun' yere. Dese been hard time for de ol' folks. Dat 'mind me of de story 'bout Uncle Possum. He outn' de woods tryin' for to mek a libin'. He git ketch by de dogs anyway. He ain' been doin' dem nuthin'. W'en he try fight Po' Possum, he done gone.