∟”I was born in Elgin, Texas. My daddy taught himself the carpenter trade doing for the black folk there. And I tell you, anything that man put his hand to…table, chair, wedding chest…he make that wood sing.
Now one day a man, Mr. T.O. Purcell, come round. He a white man, own his own store, a stable, hotel. He say to my daddy, “I hears you the finest carpenter in Elgin.” My daddy tell him, “well, I can’t say one way or the other, but I knows a bit about somethin’.” So Mr. T.O. Purcell take my daddy to this house he was building…biggest house in town. They walk in there, say, “this here gonna be the library. What you think ‘bout that?” My daddy say, “Well, I thinks you need some bookcases.” “Well then, that’s what I want you to make me.” 10 month my daddy work there. And then when he finished, he bring me round. “Mr. Purcell, this here my boy. I’d like to show him what I done.” “Well, come on in through the front door.” Just like that. And we did. When I seen them bookcases all carved with scroll and flowers, baskets of fruit, little angels floating in the corner, that was the most beautiful thing I ever seen.
About a month later another man come round. “I seen what you did for T.O. I can’t let that old dog top me. You come round my house and I’ll show you what I need.” My daddy go with him to the edge of town. Wasn’t nothing there but six white men, 12’ of rope, and the pepper tree they hung him from.”
“I had to run like hell for about ten blocks, carrying two bags full of small change, before the guy chasing us ran out of breath and quit. It might have been better if they’d caught me because after that I was game for anything”