A Doctor's Memories
Victor C. Vaughan, M.D.

Table of Contents

Appendix 1

Negro Slavery in Missouri
as I Saw It

Negro slavery was well established in Missouri long before it became a part of the United States. However, the number of negroes in that territory in proportion to the whites was never large. In 1860 the population of Randolph County, in which I lived, consisted of 8,777 whites and 2,619 negro slaves. In the whole of Missouri at that time the proportion of whites to negroes was as nine to one. The number of negroes decreased from the Missouri River to the Iowa border and in the uppermost tier of counties there were but few.

It is not my purpose to enter into any detailed description of the history of slavery in Missouri nor of the various legislative acts concerning the civil rights of the negro and his legal protection from cruelties that might be inflicted upon him by his master or others. I am telling only of what I saw of this institution on my father’s farm and among our neighbors. The negroes in our community were divided into two quite distinct types. One had a black-yellow or tan skin. He was quick and alert in his movements; generally spare, muscular and graceful; above the average height of the other type; intelligent and ready in comprehension; generally good natured and eager to join in every sport; though impulsive and quick to get angry. The males of this class were the artisans on the farm, carpenters, blacksmiths, tanners, harness makers, teamsters, etc. The females of the tan type were cooks, waitresses, house girls, spinners, weavers and dressmakers. The tan type of negro as I knew him was not due to admixture of race. He was not a mulatto. I am quite sure that the two types were distinct in their African homes, and, among us at least, they did not readily marry and intermarry. The tan type of negro, as I knew him, resembled the modern Zulu more than he did his comrades of the other type.

Those of the second type were coal black with thick lips and flattened noses; slow and somewhat awkward in movement; inclined to corpulency; highly superstitious and emotional in their religious conceptions; some of the males were great exhorters and some of the elder females great shouters in their religious revivals; inclined to great devotion to the whites and capable of making sacrifices for those whom they loved; most of them had great pride in the family which they served and resented the undertaking of any apparently menial service on the part of the whites; most of them were thoroughly trustworthy; slow but dependable and for the most; part fairly industrious; greatly appreciative of words or acts of commendation; credulous and easily deceived; thoughtless and care free; willing to trust tomorrow and its needs to master; contented to enjoy today and blessings; improvisors of meaningless melody; with a soul full of music often struggling for expression; energetic but unskilled performers on the banjo or the violin.

Louis, the most efficient of the tan negroes on our farm, made, with the help of his fellows and under father’s direction, a family carriage, including all the iron and woodwork and the greater part of the harness. This vehicle would not have graced Connecticut Avenue, though I have seen and occasionally still see more disreputable turnouts on that fashionable thoroughfare. The same artist made modest articles of furniture for the house and the cradles in which the babies were rocked and the coffins in which all ages and both colors were consigned to mother earth. Louis became quite a skillful carpenter and possibly he might without undue exaggeration have been called a fair cabinet maker. These and other encomiums I might pass upon Louis, who, I will admit, was one of my childhood heroes. However, his last act in my presence was one of the tragedies of that long ago time. Notwithstanding all the talk about freeing the negroes and their enlistment in the army, no negro on my father’s farm showed any intention of leaving until the spring of 1864. One morning before breakfast I stood at the wood pile near the kitchen gate. Father and two or three negro men were near me. Louis, with an ax on his shoulder, was trying to drive a troop of young horses into the barnyard. One colt, in a spirit of playfulness, turned and scampered by him. Louis viciously threw the ax at the animal. Father cried out: “Louis, what do you mean ?” The negro picked up the ax and facing father said: “You touch me and I will give you the ax,” or words to that effect. Father made no reply but quietly turned and walked into the house. Shortly he was back with his rifle. Drawing a bead on the negro he ordered him to drop the ax. The man stood stricken with terror and slowly the ax fell from his hands. Father then told the other negro men to bind Louis to a post and to strip him to the waist. One of the big black negroes laid on the strap with gusto. The next morning Louis was gone and later we learned that he had enlisted in a negro regiment.

Within a few months after the above-mentioned incident, every negro on the farm and most of those in the community acceptable to the military service had enlisted in the army. In the winter of 1864-1865 when my father was hunted by the militia, as I have told elsewhere, the Negroes aided in his hiding and on at least one occasion saved his life. Neither the military accouterments of the searchers, their cajolery and promise of reward nor their threats could induce the Negroes, young or old, to reveal the whereabouts of their master.

When the family fled to Illinois in February, 1865, the house, the farm, and all that the marauders had left, including some live stock, were left in charge of Uncle Jeff, who aided us in our departure and had as definite an idea of our intended destination as we could give him; but to all inquirers, especially from those in military dress, our disappearance was to him as unknown and inexplainable as if we had been taken to heaven in a chariot or swallowed into the earth. During the summer of 1865 Uncle Jeff, with such help as the negro women and children could render him, cultivated a few acres and reaped a meager harvest. On our return in the fall of that year everything was intact and turned over to Mars John in perfect fidelity. Uncle Jeff and his dependents remained as tenants on the farm until death removed the elder ones and time dispersed the younger. Every third load of the harvest went to the negroes, while personal service and work in keeping up the place were paid for either in money or in produce. Surely no steward could have been more faithful to his trust than this old negro man. His care had saved the buildings and their contents from the despoilation and torch of the marauders who, during the late months of 1864 and the early part of 1865, rode over the fairest portions of my native state.

When the family in the fall of 1865 found itself again on the old Missouri farm, Mars John, with all other former slave owners in Missouri, found that his economic condition had been greatly enhanced by the emancipation of the slaves. In former times he had been compelled to house, clothe, and feed his negroes, through infancy, childhood, youth, manhood, and old age, in health and sickness, through nonproductive as well as productive seasons, whether the price of tobacco and hemp was low or high. Under the old regime if a negro, through ignorance, inadvertence, or viciousness did injury to a neighbor’s property the owner was responsible. In slave days if a negro girl went astray, her mistress was, at least, criticized, probably ostracized by her former friends. The mistress of a house was expected to bring up her negroes in good behavior much as she did her own children. For a while the Missouri slave owner dreamed that he was being robbed, but on awakening and after rubbing his eyes and looking about he found that some one had lifted a heavy burden from his shoulders. Many of the slaveholders, certainly of those in Missouri, did not believe in the institution of slavery, but they did not know what could be done with their negroes should they liberate them. Now, the government had done this thing and had shouldered the responsibility. Possibly some of the then wise old heads, like Thomas Benton and others, had seen what should have been evident to all, that negro slavery in Missouri did not pay-that economically it was all wrong. Possibly some of them were mere sentimentalists as they were accused at the time of being. Sixty years have passed since the legislature in the state of Missouri freed its negroes, but the free negro problem has not been wholly and satisfactorily solved yet. The New England abolitionists of sixty years ago charged the slave owner with debauchery in concubinage of his more likely female slaves. Since emancipation the number of mulattoes has increased so rapidly that it is safe to predict that within a few centuries black negroes in the United States will be as rare as white elephants are now in Africa. Miscegenation, practiced but rarely by the slave owner, promises to be the ultimate solution of the negro problem. This is not a prediction for the future but a statement of a present fact. As to its effects upon both races I have decided opinions, but this is not the place in which to state them.

In the harvest of 1866, I, in my fifteenth year, driving a Wood mower, was cutting more hay in a day than seven lusty Negro men with their scythes would have cut in seven days. Besides, driving a mower was a good thing for the boy. Had slavery continued, he would most probably have been doing something else, neither so pleasing nor so useful. Watching the heads of red clover fall did not always interrupt the boy’s thoughts on what Caesar had to say in indirect discourse, nor, mirabile dictu, prevent his following the wanderings of Aeneas as described by Virgil. One day, however, thoughts along these lines were abruptly and painfully interrupted as the flying shuttle cut through a hidden bumblebee’s nest. The hitherto docile and lazy horses were instantly converted into their wild ancestors scampering over Russian steppes with their heels striking out madly for the four corners of the earth. The chariot driver, with equal celerity, threw out the gear and managed to check his flying steeds before they had reached the farther end of the eighty acre field, While his discourse became most positively direct. With this experience the boy learned a lesson not found in the writings of either Caesar or Virgil, but notwithstanding this he has not always been equally successful in the promptitude with which he throws his blades out of gear. In adult life the memory of the bumble bee incident has been awakened, when in anger I have not been able to throw my hot words out of gear soon enough to save me from humiliation if not from mutilation.

Negro dialect was discouraged among both whites and blacks in our community. I do not intend to say that our speech would, in all particulars at least, meet with the approval of grammarians. In fact! I am quite sure that had Missouri in or about 1850 been split off from the rest of the world and so continued all to the present time there would have developed among its people a distinct dialect. Dialect specialists assert that there is such a brogue, or at least there was a generation ago, and that it was recognizable over the greater part of the territory west of the Mississippi since Missourians were the most numerous pioneers in this region. After I went to Michigan one of my close friends was Professor Hempl (late of Stanford University), an earnest and learned student of dialects in this country. With his dialect map of the United States he was wont to come to my laboratory where I was busy with microscope and test tube and ask me all kinds of foolish questions. He found it easy to place me in one of his larger groups which includes parts of Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri, because when asked to call “cows” I said “sukey” and not “co-bos.” I carried water in a bucket and not in a pail. I designated a frequently used implement in cookery as a skillet and not as a spider. I bought butter by the firkin and not by the jar or tub. I wore galluses and not suspenders. Hempl said that the only Missouianism I employed was an affirmative grunt something like “uhum.

Among my grandmother Dameron’s negroes was a couple who in my boyhood days were very old. To the children they were “Daddy” and “Mammy.” To the other members of the family they were Uncle Harry and Aunt Esther. “ Daddy” was no Beau Brummell. His face, the small part of it which one could see, was coal black. His features were mostly hidden by his abundant woolly hair and whiskers as snowy white as the fleece of the whitest sheep and I must add that they were never stained by tobacco. His underlip turned down and quite constantly the saliva drooled from his mouth keeping him busy wiping it away which he did with the back of his hand and his shirt sleeve. The backs of his hands were as black as pitch and his fingers were long and loosejointed with no signs of arthritis. He had no tasks, at least during the time I knew him, but was far from indolent. One generally saw him with an ax on his shoulder or cutting weeds and bushes in the fence corners with a brush hook. He had frequent visits and conversations with the devil whom he regarded as by no means as evil as his Satanic majesty is held in our estimation. His devil rode in a small coach drawn by tiny black horses, sometimes by black dogs. Occasionally he rode some black animal, horse, dog or cat. His Satanic majesty gave Uncle Harry exclusive and certain information concerning both past and coming events. He was especially strong and reliable in foretelling the future, generally pertaining to the weather or to the crops in different fields. In short, Uncle Harry was a senile dement with harmless hallucinations and delusions. To the children he was most gentle and kind. He believed that he had been brought from Africa, but of course this could not be true. Grandmother said that he had been in the family beyond her memory, but in her childhood he had been an efficient man. Aunt Esther was younger and less infirm. She did not believe in Uncle Harry’s devil but she was full of stories of “raw heads and bloody bones,” which she poured into my ears as I sat on her lap before the great kitchen fire in the winter or before her door in the summer. For a while Aunt Esther’s stories so frightened me that after listening to them I was afraid on a dark night to walk alone the few paces from her cabin to the back door of the house, but, being assured by mother that they were mere stories, I teased for them as a child does for fairy tales. However, I did once see Aunt Esther’s “raw head and bloody bones.” I had grown old enough to help do the chores. One evening while it was still light, accompanied by two negro boys, I was sent to the woodland pasture to find and drive in some horses. We lingered under the mulberry tree until it was growing quite dark. Then, with some anxiety, we began our search for the horses. They had strayed farther than usual and when found they were not inclined to follow our directions. In this part of the pasture there was a neglected graveyard, unfenced. I was heated and angry. While running after the horses my foot struck a grave stone and I fell sprawling full length on the mound. As my foot struck the stone I was uttering a swear word and before I could rise I saw the apparition which Aunt Esther had so often and so graphically pictured. I told mother about it and she said that my vision was pictured by my conscience and was due to the swear word.

Most of our negroes were deeply religious. While the whites were divided into many sects the church of preference for the negroes was the Baptist, though many affiliated with the churches of their own white folks. There were in our community at that time no separate negro churches. Negro preachers were numerous and exclusive services were occasionally permitted in the churches for the whites. Negro revivals were most frequently conducted in some grove with one or more whites present to see that the exercises were kept within bounds. For the most part, however, negroes attended church with the whites, a railing or a gallery setting apart the seats reserved for them. Basket dinners were common in warm weather. The whole family, white and black, with hampers of food, in farm wagons, drove to the church. After the morning service a picnic dinner came with visiting, gossiping, crop discussions, and more or leas love-making among the young people of both colors. Then there came a second sermon, a christening, a baptism, or some other function. After emancipation quite a discussion arose as to the propriety of the whites attending services with the negroes. The congregation was divided and some un-Christian things were said. In the midst of this feeling it was decided to awaken a revival. An elderly preacher, with some local reputation in bringing sinners to repentance, was chosen to give the first sermon. He had spoken vehemently, if not eloquently, for an hour or more when he began a peroration, something as follows: “ Brothers and sisters, saints and sinners, old and young: The good old ship Zion lies at the wharf. Who will go aboard? Her sails are filling with propitious winds. Who will go aboard? She is bound for the heavenly shore. Who will go aboard?” After multiplying these descriptions and these questions the good man stood disappointed at his failure to secure response. At this juncture a huge black mammy on a back scat arose and started down the hall. The preacher was dismayed. On the front seats he saw those who had vowed that they would not worship with freed negroes. He hesitated and then his Christian spirit prevailing he stretched forth his hands advancing to the penitent and cried out: “Come on, mammy, come on! I will take you on board if it sinks the old ship.

The health of the negro slave was looked after as well as the knowledge of the time permitted. In the fifties a strong, vigorous negro male in Missouri was worth, or at least sold for, $1,000 to $1,500; sick, he was worth nothing. For selfish, if for no other reason, the owner did not imperil the health of his property. Even marks left by whipping diminished the negroes’ value, not so much on account of the physical injury but as an evidence of the vicious character of the bearer. The same doctor administered to whites and blacks and charged the same fee for each call. There were in our community at that time no chiropractors, no osteopaths or other cults. All practitioners of medicine were graduates mostly either of Philadelphia or Louisville schools. From a hygienic standpoint there was undoubtedly overcrowding in the cabins, but most of these were built of logs and with a huge fireplace filled with burning wood there was no need of artificial ventilation. The food was the same as the whites had with the exception of certain delicacies like squabs. There was plenty of it and vitamins were not wanting in the diets of those days. I once heard mother chide Louis for leaving so much on his plate. “ Lord, Miss Adeline, how does I know that l get enough unless there is something left?” The clothing, possibly with the exception of Sunday suits, was all made from fibers grown on the farm and there carried through every step in their manufacture. Whites and blacks wore in summer coarse linen and in winter rough Jeans.

The two diseases, tuberculosis and syphilis, now so prevalent among the negroes were rare among Missouri slaves. In some communities tetanus of the newly born was common. This was due to hot of asepsis in dressing the cord. This fact was ascertained by the country doctor in the South long before the discoveries of Pasteur and Lister. In the preface to my work on Epidemiology and Public Health I have said something about the sanitary conditions of the Missouri farm in my boyhood days. As we now see it, it was pitiful. The average life was short and the death rate was high, but this was common throughout the country, and it applied to both races alike. Slaves were amenable, the same as whites, to all the criminal laws, but there were three offences for which special penalties for the negroes were provided. These were (1) conspiracy and insurrection-death; (2) criminal assault on a white woman-castration; (3) resistance to owner or overseer- 39 stripes on the bare back.

Christmas off the old Missouri farm was a great time for the white children and for the blacks of all ages. There was one ceremony carried out on father’s farm which was of supreme interest. I do not know how widely this was practiced. The last time I saw it was during the Christmas of 1863. Some months before this holiday the negroes selected a great tree. Of course, its selection must have the approval of the master, but I never knew of any difference on this point. There were on the farm fine walnuts and oaks, but these were reserved for lumber. There were great shagbark hickories, some four or more feet in diameter, but the best part of these trunks were, on account of their toughness and elasticity, reserved for ax helves and wagon spokes, tongues, double and swingletrees, while the less desirable portions of the tree were split into fence rails, but the negroes were not selecting a tree for its value in the market. They were searching for a log which would absorb much water and which would burn slowly. Each year there was much discussion as to what species of tree on the farm would prove most satisfactory for the desired purpose. Uncle Harry consulted his friend the devil about it and then gave a most decided opinion. Others held that Satan was not an authority on slow and low burning. He had hot fires, even those that would melt iron and other metals. Besides, the devil used brimstone as an auxiliary fuel and this the negroes could not do. The problem became quite important from an educational standpoint. I, as the eldest white child, read everything in the modest library, seeking information on the capacity of different woods in absorbing water and their lasting properties in combustion. I found nothing; even Virgil in the Georgics, where he deals out his great store of agricultural wisdom in his stately lines, had nothing to say on the points under consideration. The question of the size of the log was much discussed. All agreed that size was not everything and that some big logs would burn out quicker than smaller ones of different wood. It is too bad that I made no written record of the arguments, and I admit that I was so wanting in scientific acumen that I have no protocol of the actual experiments. The tree having been decided upon was felled with axes and a section of the trunk, measured to fit in the enclosure intended to receive it, was cut out with a cross-cut saw, all agreeing that a log with smooth ends would contain more wood and absorb more water than one with chopped ends. The log thus prepared was dragged by oxen to the big pond in the woodland pasture, rolled in, and there permitted to rest in the mud and water until Christmas eve when it was rescued and brought to the kitchen door. After an early and unusually hurried breakfast on Christmas morning all the family, white and black, assembled in the dining room. All the wood, embers, and ashes in the great fireplace were drawn and the Christmas backlog rolled into place. Smaller sticks made up the front of the pile and the fire was lighted. By the time the fire was crackling and the flames were shooting up the chimney, mother stood at the table with an immense bowl of egg nog in front of her. Each member of the family, first the whites and then the blacks, in order of age, received from her a glass of this delicious beverage, and drank to her health. Christmas was then supposed to be inaugurated and the holidays were to continue for one week and as much longer as a trace of the backlog could be identified. If my memory does not betray me, the gain was usually from one to three days. Of course, everyone will understand that a vacation on the farm cannot be absolute. Fires must be kept going, food must be cooked and served, and stock must be watered and fed, but all nonessential work ceased during the holidays.

There was no Christmas tree but much giving of Christmas gifts. In this there was a certain etiquette. The one who cried out the name of some other member of the family and then added “Christmas gift” was entitled to something. Yet between whites and blacks of the same ages it was never proper for the white to call out first. White children might claim gifts from adult negroes and I may add always had them, especially from “Daddy” and “Mammy,” but with this exception it was always the proper thing not to see the servant on Christmas morning until he cried out “Christmas gift” and then one should seem much surprised. The children of the house had great fun watching the servants on Christmas morning pretending to hide behind the leafless shrubs in the yard in order to catch a Christmas gift from the master of the house, who was always stone blind on that morning; and the look of pretended surprise on his face when he raised his eyes in recognition of the greeting was a joy to all. “Oh, Mars John, I caught you that time,” was the gleeful cry that came from the mock hiding place. Then the master’s eye would fall, after acknowledging that he had been taken wholly unawares to be equally surprised at the next call. The mistress went through a like ceremony with the house servants; and when all had assembled in the dining room before the briskly burning fire with the great water-soaked backlog, the gifts so recently claimed, but long prepared in anticipation, were piled on the table ready for distribution accompanied by kindly words in recognition of services faithfully and cheerfully rendered. The scene certainly was in strong contrast to the overdrawn pictures of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, exceptional in reality in Missouri.

One of the pleasing mysteries of the farm was the location of the private watermelon patches. In addition to the large patch for the whites, each adult servant had his private patch and the location of this was supposed to be known only to the individual owner. The watermelon seeds were always planted on the first of May before breakfast, and after the large patch had been seeded, each adult servant took himself and his well-selected seed to the corner of the farm where he had already prepared the ground. All through the summer and fall the locations of the patches of Uncle Dick, Uncle Jeff, etc., were supposed to be known only to their respective owners, although there was not a nook of the farm unvisited by the barefooted sons of the farmers and their daily companions of color. Melons always grew to the largest size and had the reddest, sweetest hearts in Uncle Dick’s patch, and it was with much pride that he occasionally brought from that unknown spot one of its largest products as a gift to the family. The barefooted son of the house had often looked with covetous eyes on the great green-striped melons that grew only under the magic care of Uncle Dick’s hoe, and once the temptation proved more than mortal boy could bear; but, after the interview with his father the next day, he learned that although stolen fruits may be sweet to the palate they are prone to sour in the stomach.

Once or oftener each summer there was a barbecue, usually in the latter part of August, after the corn had been laid by and the tobacco hoed, primed, topped, and succored. Pits were dug, filled with logs and brush, and great fires roared. Pigs, sheep, and oxen were dressed and suspended over the glowing coals. Much of the preparation and the cooking were done during the day and night preceding the assembly. Often the barbecue was the occasion for some political event. Candidates from governor down to constable were present, and in a large arbor much eloquence was poured out upon both attentive and deaf ears. The negroes were there en masse, some as cooks and waitresses and some as hucksters. Many of the latter had booths arrayed and arranged most diversely. On the rude shelves were great green watermelons, yellow cantaloupes, cakes and lemonade, all for sale. Little white boys vied with one another in pointing out the superiority of the displays made by their family negroes. I was a hawker for “ Uncle Dick, “ and I never failed to receive my commission. In the afternoons when my allowance for the day had been exhausted and I came at the head of a small troop of white boys loudly proclaiming the superiority of Uncle Dick’s wares, he, or more likely Aunt Mary, his wife, would call to me: “Victor, here’s a big melon what has just busted itself. You boys go and eat it.

While on such occasions I frequently saw a drunken white man, I never saw a negro in this condition. Possibly fear of punishment restrained the latter, but so far as my observation went, drunkeness was not a common vice among the Missouri negro slaves. A wider observation in later life leads me to conclude that next to the red man the white male is the most ready victim to alcohol. Furthermore, I believe the more freely the blood of white and black have mingled, the more generally has the latter developed the vices of the former. Be this as it may, I never, during slave days, saw a drunken negro on my father’s farm, although there was always in the house, and not under lock and key, a jug or a demijohn of whiskey. While on this subject I may add that one of the earliest of my recollections was being sent to the garden every morning in summer for the mint for my grandmother’s mint julep, and as a reward I was permitted to eat the excess of sugar in the bottom of the glass. According to certain teachings, I should have grown up to be a drunkard. While I never was in pre-Volstend days a total abstainer, alcohol has never been a temptation or a danger to me.

We had one negro, George, who stuttered painfully and swore volubly. I have always thought that it is no sin for a stuttering man to swear. Certainly it does loosen his tongue. I have an idea that even my mother looked upon George’s profanity as an infirmity rather than as a sin. One morning I learned that George had “got religion” the night before at a revival then in progress. As we hoed tobacco side by side, I said: “George, I suppose you will swear no more. “ He leaned on his hoe handle, his lips twitched, his whole facial structure went through violent contortions. He made a desperate effort, but he could not begin without a “damm.” And George went through life with many “damns.” I hold that the hope that the recording angel did not keep tally. In George’s speech an oath was what the starter is to a gasoline engine.

The white children were taught to be respectful to the blacks. If I failed to thank the waitress who passed the hot biscuits, I was not allowed another at that meal. I acquired so deeply the habit of thanking the waiter that I still do so in hotels and restaurants and I have often been embarrassed by finding myself quite audibly thanking the waiter at a private dinner. The small white boys were also taught to tip their hats to the elderly negroes. Parson Root, of whom I speak elsewhere, was once criticized for tipping his hat to an old negro. “ What, “ said the parson, “ should I show myself less of a gentleman than the old negro?” On my visits to Missouri in recent years I have never seen a white boy tip his hat to an aged negro. So far as I remember, the only time my father ever laid his hand on me in anger was when I changed a request of his into a command. Preparing to shave, he told me to ask a negro girl to bring him hot water. I went to the door and shouted: “ Lucinda, father wants hot water for shaving, step quick. “ My command had hardly reached its recipient when a heavy hand fell upon my shoulder and sent a painful impression through every part of my anatomy as father asked, “ Who told you, sir, to say step quick? “ I sinned no more, at least not in that direction, in the presence of my father.

In the fall we frequently indulged in hunting coons and opossums down in the creek bottom. We frequently found the opossums hanging by their tails from pawpaw bushes. The coon was captured with more difficulty, and it was quite an event in life to bring home one of these ringtailed animals. Proud indeed was the boy who could wear a coonskin cap with a tail hanging down behind. This honor was supposedly reserved for those who had actually participated in the capture of the animal. Indeed, in our neighborhood for a boy to appear at school under a coonskin cap was a distinction. It was a badge of honor, a medal of bravery, and an announcement to the world that the wearer was worthy of the honors of manhood. From my eighth until my twelfth year I frequently accompanied the negroes on their coon hunts. There was no need of starting early, since it was supposed that the wily coon did not leave his hiding place until the shades of night were well drawn. With a half dozen or more hounds we would go into the great forest. Soon the dogs were busy and, when one of them let out a cry, negroes and small boys followed as rapidly as brush and swamp permitted. On successful nights, which were rare, the dogs track the coon. Generally, the animal was wise enough to select a large tree. Under this a great fire was built and occasionally it happened that Mr. Raccoon grinned down upon us from some inaccessible branch. I never knew a negro to show evidence of laziness in a coon hunt. However great the tree and however dense its wood there were always volunteers to ply the ax. The critical moment came when the tree fell. The dogs were immediately among its branches and the hunted animal either escaped or made fight. Choosing the latter alternative always met with disaster. Dogs and negroes were too much for the coon once within their reach. One coon a night was sufficient to satisfy the most ambitious hunter. When success crowned our efforts we had a great war dance about the fire. The negroes sang weird chants and dirges. Some of these still run through my memory chambers, but I would not dare to try to reproduce them. On many a coon hunt I was the only white among a dozen or more negroes. Some may say that my parents were neglectful of my training and that I had opportunity to enlarge my vocabulary of vulgarity. I can truthfully say that I never heard a negro slave tell a dirty story. My morals were in no particular corrupted by my associates. Many a time while hunting coons some negro man has carried me on his back over rough or swampy places when I had grown too tired to keep up with the desired pace.

I am sorry to say that the negroes, in my neighborhood at least, did not continue their reputation for industry and integrity after freedom came to them. On my second summer vacation at Michigan I went back to the old farm. On the morning after my arrival I wandered to a distant wheat field where four negro men were supposed to be busy cradling the grain. I found them playing craps in the shade near a small stream. I stripped myself of my outer clothing and told them I would shock the bundles as fast as they cut and tied the stalks. These negroes did at least one day of full work, but the next morning I did not get up. The doctor pronounced it a case of typhoid fever, but I have always thought that it would have been more correctly diagnosed as fatigue fever. At least it continued for some two weeks and I did not repeat the foolish experiment.

A Doctor's Memories
Victor C. Vaughan, M.D.

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