Slave Narratives: Voices and Faces from the Collection

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Walter Rimm

Walter Rimm, Age 80

"My pappy wasn't 'fraid of nothin'. He am light cullud from de white blood, and he runs away sev'ral times. Dere am big woods all round and we sees lots of run-awayers. One old fellow name John been a run-awayer for four years and de patterrollers* tries all dey tricks, but dey can't cotch him. Dey wants him bad, 'cause it 'spire other slaves to run away if he stays a-loose. Dey sots de trap for him. Dey knows he like good eats, so dey 'ranges for a quiltin' and gives chitlin's and lye hominey. John comes and am inside when de patterrollers rides up to de door. Everybody gits quiet and John stands near de door, and when dey starts to come in he grabs de shovel full of hot ashes and throws dem into de patterrollers faces. He gits through and runs off, hollerin', 'Bird in de air!'

"One woman name Rhodie runs off for long spell. De hounds won't hunt her. She steals hot light bread** when dey puts it in de window to cool, and lives on dat. She told my mammy how to keep de hounds from followin' you is to take black pepper and put it in you socks and run without you shoes. It make de hounds sneeze.

"One day I's in de woods and meets de nigger runawayer. He comes to de cabin and mammy makes him a bacon and egg sandwich and we never seed him again. Maybe he done got clear to Mexico, where a lot of de slaves runs to.

*"Patterrollers" (patrollers) were white men who served on local patrols organized throughout the South to control the movement of slaves outside their home plantations. Patrollers policed their neighborhoods by challenging any slave whom they suspected of being away from home to produce a written "pass," or authorization, from his or her master. Slaves found without a pass were subject to arrests, beatings, or other forms of violence, some of which led to death.

**"Light bread" is leavened bread made with wheat flour. Where the rest of the country simply says bread, Southerners often say light bread or, less commonly, loaf bread, to refer to bread made of wheat flour and leavened with yeast. Contrary to what Northerners might think, light bread is not a synonym for white bread. "Light" refers not to the color of the bread but to the yeast that "lightens" it, so light bread can be whole wheat or white. Light bread or loaf bread contrasts instead with pone or cornpone, bread made with corn meal and usually unleavened. Source: American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000)

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Slave Narratives: Voices and Faces from the Collection