The Memoirs of Robert Winston
Stories as told to me by my Father Page 2
Table of contents:
- Papa & x-slave boy
- Papa & friends
hunting and playing prank at Duff Cook's shack.
- Papa & friends using
ground sounder at Cedar Creek bridge.
- Papa rough shoeing horses
for sled use.
One of the first
stories I remember Papa telling me, took place during the Reconstruction Period (1865 to
1875). All the children, boys and girls in their early years, wore a home spun garment
which was a simple dress. He was playing with a slave boy close to his age but much larger
than my Papa. They used thorns and pinned up sand in their dress and played as if they
were bulls. While playing, it turned into a rough game, maybe fighting. The slave boy put
a bear hug on Papa and Papa said he squeezed the breath from his body and he thought for
sure he was dying. I forgot if he told me someone stopped them or if it ended with him
recovering. I do remember Papa telling me he did not play bull with this boy anymore.
After the Civil War was over and several years during the Reconstruction Period, even
though the slaves were free, a large number stayed on and worked for people just for a
living. My Grandfather, even though he fought for the Confederacy, never owned slaves. I
remember Papa telling me about some of the families who were slaves and their heirs going
to Detroit to work. One of the families, named Gill, sent Papa paint and other presents
even into the nineteen twenty period. He must have had a lot of Black friends.
I remember Papa telling me when he
and two of his friends were hunting at night they came upon the cabin where Duff Cook,
former slave, lived. The wood shutters were open and the lamp gave enough light to see
that there were several black people sitting around a wooden casket they assumed contained
the body of Duff Cook. One of Papa's friends, Ben Burris, could throw his voice. Not
knowing what would happen, Ben got down on the ground and threw his voice under the house
saying "What do all you folks think you are doing here? Put that light out and leave
me be!" Papa said they all ran out leaving the front door open and the corpse. Papa
and his friends couldn't leave the house, fearing dogs or wild animals might take over.
Two of them stayed and Papa went a couple of miles to another house and told them while
hunting they came across Duff's house and he was in the casket with the lamp burning and
they should get some people to stay up with him. Papa said they knew about him being dead
but would not go unless Papa went with them. By playing the trick, they had to sit up with
them until morning. Papa told me he never was party to another prank like this.
Papa lived in the
same house from birth until moving to Franklinton, about 5 miles. The home place is only
600 yards from Cedar Creek. He fished and trapped this creek most of his life. In his
boyhood days, he and his friends would string a wire from a tree on one side of the creek
to the bushes on the other side.They would hang a white piece of cloth to a ring around
the wire fastened up the tree. They made what Papa called a "ground sounder" by
installing a waxed cord through the bottom of a flour barrel. When the cord was pulled
through their hand it would make a groaning sound that would carry a long distance at
night. When buggies and wagons would ford the creek, one of the boys would start the
ground sounder and the people would stop the mules and horses to hear the sound that
carried in such a way it could not be detected as to the exact location. Once they were
looking up the creek, one of the boys would start the white cloth down the wire. Papa
said. most of the time the drivers would put the whip to the animals. He said they could
hear the wagons and buggies going at full speed for a long time. Papa said there were
stories in the area about the Ghost of Cedar Creek making a weird sound and disappearing
into the swamp. Papa said they stopped this prank when there was a runaway wagon. The
Ghost of Cedar Creek was being told for years after the happening.
Papa told me that when the snow
would fall in the winter, he would rough shoe the horses and people would travel to Church
and to the neighbors by sled. He did the blacksmith work for the neighborhood.
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