A Dispute over a Bull
by Randy Battle

Recorded & transcribed by Peter de Lissovoy

[Randy Battle worked with SNCC throughout the 1960s.]

The following is one of Randy's stories that he told me several times, an amazing and essential anecdote about race in the American South. The family in question he loved dearly and respected. There is everything tragic but nothing offensive about it beyond what is offensive about race relations in America per se; however, I have deleted names. As Randy would have put it, the story "says what it says." I got this from Randy about 2005. — P. de Lissovoy

She is a good-looking woman, and you know, she is about white as you are too. That's a funny thing about race down here in south Georgia. Now listen, her mama, you know, she was the one that the cracker killed her husband over a bull, that he had lent him, from out in Baker County down there — yeah, where Charlie Ware got shot down there in Baker. Yeah, her uncle killed her mama's husband over a bull.

Look here, I should say, this woman's daddy. ... Here, the uncle was white, he was the cracker. Well, or maybe this was her great uncle. I can't remember the exact relation. Well it don't matter for the point of this tale I am telling you. The point is not the exact family relation — other than in race matters.

But look here anyway, the black man lent the white man his bull. They were all the same family. The two sides of the family.

The black brother lent his bull to breed it with the cow, or heifer, or whatever you call it, of the white brother. And he kept it so long. Too long, I guess you say! By the way, look here, if you look in the phone book right now down here, if you look up Miller or Johnson or Blakeslee or this or that or whatever, and if you don't know the section of town you are calling to, well you don't know whether you are calling a white person or a black person and they might even be related. They all intertwined ... intertwi-i-i-ned ... there in Baker County — Bad Baker County, right down about 20 miles, down Newton Road, there up the street here. Bad Baker. In the same family I mean.

So her daddy was black but her uncle was ... her black daddy had a bull that he rent out for breed, but since it was a white relative that borrowed it he just let him borrow it for free. So the cracker just kept the bull. He just kept it, and kept it, and one day this fine woman's daddy went over there and just got his bull, and just brought it home. And then white relation come over there and say, "What you think you doin coming over to my pasture and getting that bull without my permission?" The black man's own bull.

They had two or three words and white pulled a shotgun out and shot the shit out of black, white relative of the black relative did. ... Shot the shit out of him and killed him. That was the woman I am talking about's daddy. That happened in our lifetime, when I was young. They are from Baker County down there.

Copyright © Randy Battle

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