An Old Darky's
Reminiscences of St. Simons Island
causeway connecting St. Simons with the mainland was opened and
automobiles began to invade roads and byways on the Island where traffic
had been scarce, an old darky infirm with age sat in front of his cabin
near the roadside, day after day, nodding a welcome to the people as
they passed. Stopping one day to speak to him he attempted to tell me
something of St. Simons’ past, fragments of history I knew so well. An
automobile filled with boys and girls attired in bathing suits stopped
near. Their merry chatter attracted his attention, then turning his
faded eyes to me he said, “None o’ dat was good raisin’ when me an’ ol’
Mis was young”.
And so, as a souvenir of St. Simons, I am giving you his
reminiscences in rhyme and in his dialect—the negro dialect of the Sea
His seat is empty now. May the memory of ol’ Mis an’ ol’
Massa” comfort him until he reaches the last water’s edge and falls
asleep beside the restless sea.—Bessie Wright
Dis heah islan’ is
For t’ings dat happened in de pas’;
Some o’ dem I sho’ can ‘member
Some is so far back I can’t.
Fu’st der was ol’ Marse Oglethorpe
Who come on a English boat
Bringin’ wide m a bunch ob peoples
To colonize dis Georgia coas’.
‘Long de same time come John Wesley
‘Bout whose preachin’ we all know,
An’ his brudder Charles was de secretary
To Gen. Oglethorpe an’ his corps.
Ders a oak tree stan’in
In Frederica’s ol’ grabe-yard
Where Marse Wesley preached de fu’st sermon
On dis American sod.
Marse Charles was de one what writ dem hymns
An’ sung em loud an’ bold,
De one dat I likes best Suh
Is “Jesus ‘Lubber Ob’ My Soul”.
Wid de help ob all des gentmens
Frederica was made a town,
An’ dey built a fo’t to keep out Spaniards
What was ‘noyin’ em an’ goin’ roun’
Tryin’ to conquer lan’ what don’ b’longst to em,
But dat stone on Bloody Ma’sh will sho’
How Marse Oglethorpe’s army licked em
In dat famous fight you know.
Dey mus’ hab been a noble army
‘Cordin’ to dem breatworks what dey fixed,
Dey dug a trench at ol’ Frederica
Dat was deeper’n any ditch.
Hidin’ ‘hin’ em,
Dat’s de way hit had to be done;
I ain’ had no use for a Spaniard
Since to me dat yarn was spun.
All ob dis heah doin’s happened
Some two hund’ed years ago,
T’ink dat’s what dem chillun tol’ me,
Figgers makes my min’ go slow.
I don’ let no figgers bodder me,
I jes’ know dem fac’s was done,
‘Kase ol’ Missus of’en tol’ me
Dat’s how de white folks heah begun.
Der was sump’en else dat happened
Dat I could nebber understan’,
Why de people on dis islan’
Talks ‘bout de name ob a man
Scratched on de window pane ob de big house
Plain, so dat hit could show,
Cannon’s Point was de place Suh
An’ de name was Aaron Burr.
Den Mis’ Fanny
Kemble come to Summer it
At Butler’s Point what’s hung wid moss,
I can ‘member em wid dat long skirt
A ridin’ by on dat white hoss.
She writ a book ob letters
‘Bout we niggers what was slaves,
Tryin’ to turn all what read em
‘Ginst our massas in der grabes.
I don’ care what she say ‘bout em
I jes’ know dis nigger saw
De bes’ time he had a libbin’
Was de days befo’ de war.
But hit sho’ is a sight now
To look ‘bout dis islan’ an’ see
De t’ings dat am a happenin’—
Nuttin’ like hit use to be!
Der’s a rich man an’ some peoples
Has come heah, don’ you see,
Wid some new fang-dangled notions
‘Bout what St. Simons ought to be.
Dey took a dredge an’
pumped up dirt,
Dey built a hotel gran’
An’ dey say dem fine new golf links
Is ‘bout de bes’ dat’s in de lan’.
Der also is a lot ob t’ings
Which to me looks far f’om right
Der ain’ nuttin’ sets straight an’ eben
‘Cordin to dis ol’ man’s eyesight.
Now, in front ob dat hotel dey planted a palm tree
An’ stead ob settin’ hit straight
Crooked hit ober a puddle ob water
An dey say dat hit’s a lake.
An’ de roads Suh! You nebber see’d
De likes in all your life,
Dey is paved across dis islan’
But to me hit don’ seem right
To be ridin’ widout de san’ to stop you
An’ to balk you on your ways,
An’ de distance don’ seem no where
Lak hit did in olden days.
I’se des as ‘fraid for
dem rich folks
To go ridin’ by my home,
‘Kase I know dey’ll sho’ to want hit
An’ dey’ll offer me some gol’
Dat’ll make dem chillun’s eyes shine
An’ dey’ll say I ought to sell,
But I’ll nebber do hit, no Suh,
Not if I knowed ‘twas jes as well.
So when de autos go by
An’ on de seats is dem big bugs
I don’ say nuttin’ tall Suh
Till dey’s gone an’ der’s a lull.
Den I stops an’ tells dem chillum
To don’ do nuttin’ to attrac’ der eyes,
‘Kase dey’ll sho’ to want dis place Suh,
Which dey’ll not git till I dies.
To me dis place is as near Heaben
As a place could ebber be,
An’ I’ll allus lub St. Simons,
Dis ol’ islan’ by de sea.