(Voice Recording dated May 1884. Location: Soothsayer Plantation, Stann Creek, Georgia)
I weaved ‘round de back of my land, passin’ underneath branched exhibitions of erect fruit. I let my machett dangle and swing from my grip. The yard snakes, them no easy: If you dash the heads off a million, one million more a-come inna de yard. And they are all different.You believe the benign snake them malicious and the malicious one them benign. You don’t know ‘til you get close. Either you kill all or kill none, love them or hate them. But it no make no sense aT-All fi you to worry if they love you or fear you or hate you because they just want to be free and you have nuttin’ fi do with dat unless you gwan an’ dash apart them spine inna de grass.
I reached the broken tree. Roots broke free from the seed and built the tree hyer to bear fruit. Fi years, this tree provide. We carried the seeds from ole Yucatan to plant mango trees wherever we settled. I was just a lee pickney following me grannie an’ my father. You know when you young and you can only remember fragments of experience? Well, we walk tchrough field an’ bush an’ up hills an’ ting, tchrough rivers. You know. But ‘twas me who carried de seeds, them. Inna me pocket, I carried my future plantation. Just the seeds inna me hands an’ rags hangin’ from my magga, boney little self.
With de machett, I bust tchrough the remaining piece a’ bark keeping the branch attached. An’ me vex for true! An’ at de same time, meLan-choly. Dis hyer was de first seed put inna the earth. I kiss my teeth, pick up the broken end of the branch fi drag it out. I taught, If I can still save these hyer mangos, den everything a’ be alright. Looking up to walk forwa’d, I see a thing, like a white shirt sneakin’ round my field, jumping behine bush like this and that.
I’m an old man, I say to me-self. Is that someone dere a-thief me for true? I drop de branch and walk like Yankee soldiare dem, but soft so he doesn’t hear me or see nothing. I’m hidin’ me-self inna de mango bush, looking through fi see if I can perceive the thief yonder. Eyes squinting. I should’ve brought me gun, I say. An’ right deh, I start feel young again. I move to de next bush an’ den to de next tree bright with mangoes, electric with birds. I gripped my machett. Dis hyer how Yucatan farmer do-it.
I twiss me head over me right shoulder. I don’t see nothing. Just the mangoes makin’ nods like fools and the leaves blowin’ leathery in de air. Sweat shine up me face, like the blade inna me hand. The still air beneath the Jaw-Jah-summer-sun can oppress a man, even if you live in it ye whole life. I pivot from behine de tree and into a lane lined with mango trees and bush. I step forward easy. An’ den lit by little, I pick up me pace fi find the thief. Now the machett no dangle. No dangle at Tall. Walking, I see a rustling to de left so. The movement was too quick to come from just de plants inna this hyer weak breeze. I slow down me steps. I approach de bush. My view honing in and in an’-in. Now, I start draw my machett back. Slow and Steady. And then out comes a young goat quick across de lane into the next set of bush.