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Texas Slave Narrative

  Leo Mouton

Speaking in a soft, level voice, which, although melodious, is entirely devoid of overtones,Leo Mouton gives an interesting insight into the reactions of his people in the Reconstruction period. Born just at the close of slavery days, he has few actual recollections except those of an adored mistress whose name he still speaks in awe and reverence. Leo's parents were Creole negroes of Leesburg, Louisiana. Born on the plantation of Pitt Jones , south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, he came to Texas in 1886 and has lived near Orange for 51 years.

Ol' Mistus tol' me I was bo'n in September 'n' freedom come in June. Dat's w'at dey uster tell me. My mudder's name was Mary Mouton . I don' 'member my daddy' name now but I tell you later. Pitt Jones he was my marster. My mudder's been dead 'bout fi'teen year' now. I was raise' on d' farm 'n' lib dere 26 year'. Freedom didn' mean much t' me cause I jus' go on libin' on d' place wid my good people 's same's my folks befo' me. Den I come t' Texas 'n' been yere eber since. I was 'roun' sawmill 'n' d' like 'n' I still kin do eb'ry t'ing but dey say I too ol'. I ain' feel dat ol' do' (though). I wuk at one mill fawty-two year. My mudder was a cookin' 'n' house gal. Dat w'at she done, wuk in d' house all d' time 'n' do d' cookin'. My popper die' w'en I nine year' ol'. I stay wid my w'ite folks 'til I grow up 'n' I stay wid my mudder 'n' fo' (four) sisters 'n' two brudders 'til dey all grow up 'n' marry. D' gals was Millie , 'n' Ca'line , 'n' Harriet 'n' Tildy , 'n' my brudders was Sam 'n' Emil . Sixteen year' ago my wife she went t' Californiar t' see us daughter. She say she was comin' back w'en she git her visit out but she ain' neber come back yit. I still waitin' fo' dat women git out her visit. My daddy was bo'n in LaFayette. He was a Creole. He was d' sensibles' culled man at my home. He was d' onlies' culled man dat could sit on a jury. One time dey ax d' jedge how come he let dat nigger set on d' jury 'n' he say dat 'he qualify 'n' he got d' sense, 'n' he gwinter 'low him t' set dere. I had a head like popper. I was apt. Lot's 'r' times he's teachin' d' bigger chillen how t' speak 'n' talk 'n' sich, 'n' I's too little but I be listenin'. W'en my daddy was teachin' d' chillen he plead wid dem ober 'n' ober. Sometime he ax dem, 'Now w'at I tell you'? But dey couldn' say, 'n' I say right smart up, 'you tol' dem dis 'r' dat.' I was jus' little 'n' he warn't learnin' me but I git 'bout's much as d' big chillen git. I was 'spose t' be d' bestes' puppy my daddy had 'n' I didn' git but t'ree weeks 'r' schoolin'. I alays been a keerful boy. I wuk 'roun' 'n' not git a scratch. I ain' tek t'ings I got no bus'ness wid. Now I 'member my daddy's name was Ben Mouton . Dey tol' me he was fo' (four) year' ol' befo' he could walk. Dey buil' a frame on wheel fo' his feet but w'en he was 16 year' ol' he was a big fine man.

We libe in a box house atter freedom d' same house dat d' folks lib in befo' freedom. Dey was moss beds 'n' six fedder (feather) beds. Dey was lots 'r' geese 'n' chicken. Mo' geese 'n' you could eber see. Dey come flyin' down 'n' lit in d' water. One shot git fo' (four) 'r' five 'r' dem lots 'r' time. Dey smoke d' geese; pluck 'em 'n' draw 'em 'n' smoke 'em jus' like bacon in d' smoke house. Dey kin keep 'em six 'r' eight mont' dat way. Den dey parbile (parboil) 'em t' git d' smoke outn' 'em. Sometime' dey git 60 duck in one day. I play d' 'corjan' (accordian) fo' dances sometime'. Dey uster sing 'Kitty Wells' 'n', 'Run, nigger, run, D' patterroles git you. Run, nigger, run, It almos' day.' Dey was a feller right behin' me w'at was alays playin' d' bass fiddle. Befo' I jine d' chu'ch I uster play fo' dances all time. Uster play all dem ol' breakdown tunes, but dem pieces done lef' my head. Since I jine d' chu'ch I quit all dat. Dey uster sing d' song d' w'ite folks sing 'n' den had some dey mek deyse'f. One 'r' dem went like dis, 'Little chillens, y' better b'lieve, I's gittin' tired 'r' waggin' d' cross. Little chillens, y' better b'lieve, My bones is achin' 'n' my body's feelin' pain. Call yo'se'f d' chillen 'r' God. Heben gwinter be my home. Sister Mary call Marthy, An' Marthy refuse' t' answer, Call yo'se'f d' chillen 'r' God. O, Heben gwinter be my home.' Dem Alabama niggers uster be d' ones w'at tol' ghos' story. But my mudder she alays say 'tain' so 'bout no spirits. Dey tell dem t'ing jus' t' hab us chillen scare' at night 'r' dis t'ing 'r' d' udder. I walk t'roo d' cem'tery in d' night plenty time but no spirit neber git me. Dey uster tell us d' debbil come git you. Dat jus' one 'r' his (the devil) lie, d' 'ceitful ol' t'ing. He kep' so busy below he ain' got time t' boder (bother) wid us w'en us still live. Dey uster be big time at weddin's. I been a waiter at weddin's 'bout eight time. Dey hab d' marriage 'bout t'ree o'clock in d' day. Dey feed moren' a hunnerd people, sometime' a hunnerd 'n' fi'ty. M-m-m-m, dey hab all you could eat but now dey don' gib you nuthin', not eben a ginger snap 'r' cup 'r' coffee. Dey hab charity in dem days. Dey gib 'em a couple 'r' chicken 'r' a hawg 'r' sumpthin' in dem day iffen dey hungry 'r' hab had trubble. At d' weddin's d' womans dey all dress up in ribbon 'n' dresses down t' yere; down d' way my pants is t' my shoe. Dey was mek outn' thin w'ite cloth 'n' dey wo' (wore) great big skirts. I reckon dey was ten 'r' twel' yard in one 'r' dem skirt. I guess dey could git (fo') four dress' out 'r' dat much now. Dey go waltzin' 'roun' d' flo' (floor) 'n' dey dress wrop all 'roun' dey legs. Some year ago dey wo' (wore) dey dresses too short. Dey wear dem longer now.

W'en my mistus die my mudder 'n' a nuder ol' culled woman lay her out. I had t' hol' her feet w'en dey put her dress on. Dat dress shine so it hurt my eyes. Dat night I 'member settin' by d' fire 'n' t'inkin' 'bout how she uster rub my little ol' kinky head w'en I stan' by her knee. 'N' den I t'ink how she uster sing to me w'en I's small, 'n' all d' t'ings she do fo' me. She was a angel. She sho' was a sweet ol' mistus. Mister Jack Griffith's mudder was my mudder's young mistus. W'en dey be in d' house d' preacher uster come dere 'n' preach right in d' house in front 'r' d' big fireplace. All d' fiel' niggers stay at d' winders t' lis'en, 'n' d' house niggers stay t' d' kitchen do' (door). I come t' Texas in 1886 'n' I been right yere eber since. Us neber celebrate no 19 'r' June on d' ol' place. I didn' eben hear 'r' dat 'til I been in Texas. I hear tell 'r' lots 'r' t'ings 'bout slav'ry time but dey git by me now. Jus' atter freedom dey kep' us altogedder jus' like befo'. I neber 'member hearin' none 'r' dem slaves eber leave ol' mistus w'en d' war end. I 'member how dey do on Crissmus day w'en I was small. Dey gib all my little sisters rag doll and gib us boys Barlow knives. Dem was sho' shiny. D' ol' folks d' mistus gib a hawg 'r' sumpthin' like dat. Den on Crissmus day us come t' d' big house 'n' sing song 'n' hear d' prayer. Us like Crissmus bettern' Fo'th 'r' July. On d' Fo'th dey gib all d' niggers a beef fo' barbecue, 'n' let dem stay idle. My ol' mistus alays 'tend dat us git tuk care of 's long she lib. Us fambly was neber broke up 'n' she wouldn' 'low no neglec'. She train us Christian. W'en she die I bring my mudder 'n' two 'r' d' sister t' Texas 'n' I neber co'rt (court) 'r' marry 'til dey all safe 'n' marry off. My mudder die right yere in my home 'n' she say, 'Leo been a good son t' his ol' mammy.' My mudder was a ol' Creole woman.