Georgia State University student Linda Mitchell conducted this 1968 interview in Red Top Mountain, GA, with “R.E. Faulkner, Mrs. Turner, Reverend Cox, and William ‘Pap’ Bailey.” A man named ‘Homer’ appears in the transcript below; most likely it’s Reverend Cox. From a series of oral history recordings coordinated by Dr. John Burrison, English Department, Georgia State University. Linda Mitchell, interviewer, was one of his students. Recording housed at Kenan Research Center, Atlanta History Center.
Interviewer: I know Mr. Faulkner had a pretty exciting time with the house they moved into. He was telling me about a ghost he ran into up there. Did you ever run into anything like that? A ghost, a haint?
Bailey: No, I never did hear them. I thought I heard one but I always run around and found out what it was.
Conesena Baptist Church, Bartow County, GA. Photo by Wilbur Kurtz (1882-1967), collection Digital Library of Georgia.
Interviewer: Like when?
Bailey: Hear something else, I’d think I heard one.
Interviewer: When did you hear a sound you thought was a ghost?
Bailey: Oh, I don’t know; used to hear that a lot when I was a boy. They tell me all kinds of tales and I could hear lots of things.
Interviewer: What did they tell you?
Bailey: They’d tell about haints, about seein’ somebody that didn’t have no head.
Interviewer: Did they give any reason? I mean maybe his wife had killed him or something.
Bailey: I just imagine after I got big enough to know anything about them, they seemed to stop. When I was just a little boy I stayed with him here and he’d tell me about a bear. I was about four or five. I stayed here with my grandpa and he was a widder, you know, his wife died.
And Little Twig lived right out on a branch here and he’d get me to ride the cow out for her to milk in the mornin’. And I’d take her up there, and ole man Twig was goin’ out there one night and there was something come up there from the branch, and come into the road there, and they just come and kinda met up, and it jumped the branch and he came down here, or sent some of ‘em down here, after my grandpa to go down there and look at its tracks and see what it was been a trackin’ in that mud, you know, before it jumped the branch.
Well, I was all alone, and I was just a little bugger, too. And they told me big bear tales all the time, and I was scared of bears. And he looked out, and says it was bear tracks. No, nary another time would I carry that cow up there. And I could see that bear once in awhile in the bushes and I’d holler and squeal, and it’d be a stump — a black stump. I could jest see it, you know; for a long time, I was scared to get out. He’d tell me a bunch of bear tales, you know, hisself. Yeah, I was jest a little bugger and I’d meet here and he’d tell me.
Interviewer: What kind of bear stories did he tell you?
Bailey: He said that there was two fellers, or three, went out to camp, and they stayed all night, and the next mornin’ they divided out, and one feller went one way and the other went another way.
He came upon this little bear layin’ on a log, playin’ with a plum. And he looked all around and he couldn’t see that older one nowhere, and he shot that little ‘un.
And when he shot it, he squalled and looked ‘round for a tree to climb. And when he shot it, it squalled and here come that old one right down the mountain, right at him. And he took up this tree and ran up to the top—just a big sapling tree—and run up to the top.
And the top broke out with him, and when the top come back down and scared the old bear, it run back up the hill, and he got on back up the hill ‘fore it got him back. Oh, that jest scared me to death!
Interviewer: I can imagine.
Bailey: Jest a little ole bugger.
Homer: He made you wash the dishes, didn’t he Pap?
Bailey: Yeah, he said “Now if you don’t take the cow, you’ve got to wash the dishes.” I told ‘im I’d wash ‘em. I wouldn’t carry the cow, and you know he’d have the water so hot it’d burn me. He’d have the water hot and pour it in the pan. I know I can’t stand the water, it burns me.
“Go on,” he said, “you have to wash ‘em in hot water to get ‘em clean.”
Interviewer: So you’d have to wash ‘em in hot water while he’d take the cow out?
Bailey: Yeah. And I’d wash dishes, wouldn’t carry that cow back.
Interviewer: Did you ever run into any ghosts?
Bailey: No, I never seed one.
Homer: Heard a few stories but I never did much believe in ‘em. Many has heard about the church, but I walked through it at night.
Interviewer: The church?
Homer: Yeah, up in the cemetery, the graveyard up there. There’s a trail right through it, you know.
Interviewer: Well, are there supposed to be ghosts in the cemetery up there?
Bailey: Say, I don’t care how mean you are to me, when you’re dead I ain’t scared of you.
Bailey: No matter how mean you are, when you’re dead I ain’t scared of you.
Interviewer: Cause you just don’t exist any more, huh?
Bailey: You couldn’t hurt me after you died.
Interviewer: I think I might scare you pretty bad.
Bailey: No you couldn’t.
Faulkner: I heard a story ‘bout two guys goin’ to steal some sheep. One of ‘em was goin’ to wait in the cemetery while the other went down there on the side of the mountain and got in his neighbor’s pasture to get the sheep. He went down and caught the sheep, throwed him on his shoulder and was comin’ back up.
There’d been some guys cuttin’ timber over there and one of them rolled a log over his leg and broke it. And broke his leg and he had him on his shoulder, and they had to go right by the cemetery, and he carried him to where he could get ‘im into a wagon and carry him to the doctor.
And this guy who was his buddy as goin’ to steal the sheep was going to help him carry it, was over behind the tombstone.
And this guy come along with that guy on his shoulders who’d broke his leg. He stuck his head around and he thought it was his buddy who’d gone to steal the sheep. And he said “Is he fat?” And the guy says “Fat or lean, you can have him!” And he throwed him down and took off. And that guy with the broken leg? Got up and outrun him!
Bailey: I’ll tell one. You told one; now I’ll tell one.
There was three of ‘em, I believe, these fellers. They went a-fishin’ and there’d been a grave dug right fresh and they lived down not fer from the church house, and his daddy hadn’t walked none in seven years — had rheumatism and couldn’t walk.
And they sent one of these fellers out to get a sheep while they was dividing the fish. And they was down in that grave dividing ‘em fish, and he’d say “Now you take this one and I’ll take that one. You take this one—and I’ll take that one.” And this boy come along, and he heard ‘em, and it scared him, and he run down to his daddy (who hadn’t walked in seven years), he said “Daddy, God and the Devil are up there in the cemetery dividin’ the dead.”
“Aww,” he says, “you know that ain’t true.”
“It sure is!” he says, “if you don’t believe me, you can look downy and see.”
He said “You know I can’t go.”
“Well,” says, “I’ll carry you.”
And he got on his back, and he carried him up there, you know. He heard ‘em.
“You take this ‘un and I’ll take that ‘un.”
He heard ‘em countin’, he wanted to get a little closer, and he got up and he wanted to see in the grave. They dug it, they was gonna bury somebody there.
So he got up, he kept wantin’ to get closer so he could see ‘em, and he got up close enough as one of ‘em sees ‘im down in the grave where they was dividin’ fish.
And he looked up and he says “Is he fat?”
He says “Fat or lean, take ‘ein as it is!”
And he said they split up and he run as hard as he could. And his daddy caught up and beat him back. I guess that would’ve scared me.