That’s the way I remember Earl, Arkansas. A town filled with evil. Even as a little girl, I wondered why there was so much evil happening there. The older people believed a sorceress was causing it. Growing up black in a town like this was very hard. I had to watch my back all the time. There seemed to be so much pain.
Living in Earl was cheap in those days too, and if we had even a little money, Mama wouldn’t have had to worry about us kids going hungry.
Grandfather and Grandmother would go fishing every other day. They liked to eat fish. It was mid-summer of 1962. One day they took my sister and me fishing with them. It was the first time that I had ever been fishing with my two grandparents. All day long we sat by the river. It was so boring watching them and waiting for a fish to bite their line. But they were having so much fun just sitting side by side talking. I was looking into the water thinking, how could father let us live the way we were living. I didn’t want to live that way any more.
I don’t know what we did wrong, but my grandmother never did anything with us kids again after that day of fishing. Maybe she didn’t like us because she never liked Mother.
At the time, I began thinking about my family and my own life. I was seven years old. I had always tried to understand the things that were happening in the world, but I never did. There was so much pain at that time because we were born black. I had to watch my back at all times. It was not easy.
Most of the time my little brother, sister and I would be hungry. Before we would go outside to play, the three of us did not worry about what we were going to eat or wear. It was like I forgot I was hungry when the three of us went outside to play. I knew that Mama was doing her best to feed us. I really didn’t worry about how she was going to feed the three of us. It was a very hard time for myself and my family. It was like we were living in slavery. I always thought my father could have done better than he did to all of us children. Sometimes I thought that we were living good, but we weren’t. It could have been much better.
Mama had everything inside the house smelling very clean and fresh. But it was very hard on me as a child. I made up all kinds of dreams just so I could make the pain go out of my heart and to feel better about what I was going through as a child just to live in Earl.
In the good times, my family and I would all get together and sit on the front porch eating watermelon and talking until midnight. The moon would shine beautifully giving us light to see because we didn’t have any streetlights.
One night I decided that I wanted to go out into the front yard. It was 10:30 and I was playing and spinning around when I stopped because I was very dizzy. All of a sudden I began to stumble and went crashing headfirst right into the bricks on the side of the house. I just lay on the ground with my arms stretched out. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t do anything stupid like that again.
A few days later I fell on some glass and my leg was cut wide open. Blood began to flow down my leg very fast. Mama knew what to do because she took the ashes from the coals in the stove and sealed my cut and stopped the bleeding. Mama was the doctor for all of us kids. I never knew what a real doctor was because Mama was the best doctor for us kids. She knew what she was doing and she knew how to get rid of all the difference illnesses.
I was six years old when I knew I didn’t like some of the things my sisters would do to one another. Usually Lani picked on Carol. One time she turned Carol’s friends against her, which was very selfish because she really loved Carol. To cover her butt, Carol would tell lies to Mama and Father and accuse Carol’s friends of doing the bad things to her that Lani herself was doing to Carol.
So many bad things seemed to happen to Carol. Even when Lani wet the bed and told my sister, Pat, not to say anything about what she had done, Mama blamed poor Carol.