Along about the end of the war years, that's the first WW, not the big WW2, a fair amount of problems were developing in the south; you know, a lot of Jim Crowism here and there. A lot of rural white folks could take advantage of the school system. Black folks couldn't. Those mixed blood Indians? Well, some could get educated and some couldn't. This tale is about Moriah, a mixed blood Creek woman. Actually, there were two such women kin folk named Moriah. One didn't read or write, hardly spoke English and had no last name that was really ever known. The other Moriah, one of her daughters, is the woman of this story--Old Moriah. Often, she was just called Coweta in Creek. Old grandma Moriah or Coweta was one of those educated mixed bloods; I don't rightly know if she actually went to school much, if she learned from others or was self-taught. I suspect the latter. But, she was just as finely educated as can be. Yes indeed-- its this Moriah we're talking about.
Well, at this time when people were sorta cutting up and carrying on and being nasty about this, that and the other, Moriah had a black woman that came to her house and worked with regularity and competence, as great grandma would later tell us. Old Moriah could play piano a little bit. Every now and then she would play. This black woman would enjoy the music and sing while she went about cooking fancy meals, cleaning and washing. It was a real interesting time for those two particular women. That black woman was named Emma Burney (or Birnny, I think). These two women got along reasonably well. They did things, though, that were looked down upon by the neighborhood--hell, they were looked down upon by the whole darn county which, of course, was mostly rural white farm folk. The main thing looked down upon usually occurred about in the middle of the afternoon.
Grandmother Moriah, Coweta, would fix some tea or coffee which she only served in her good china cups. She saved real hard for that china--she wasn't gonna have her meals out of anything chipped and busted up. She had to have good china cups and that was just the way it was, and, the way it was gonna be! What a gloomy day it was when one cup and saucer had the misfortune of the being in the path of a falling pie roller. Eight cups were reduced to seven with fragments. Odd numbers weren't to Moriah's liking --had something to do with her Indian ways. You can safely bet that one pie roller was cursed into eternity and destined to become stove wood!
So, in the afternoon, she'd fix a pot of beverage herself, make up a tray, and tote it out on the front porch where there were a couple of rockers and some straight back lattice chairs. Then, she'd call Emma out to sit down--Miss Emma would always protest a little, and Old Moriah would say "NONSENSE... if you're good enough to be in my house and care for my family, you are good enough for my tea and I don't care who knows it". Moriah would hand Emma a cup of tea or sometimes coffee, and they'd share that pot back and forth. There wasn't much ice to be had in those days. When it was on hand, it was in the kitchen-cooler during the middle of summer for things that absolutely had to be cooled. Yes, ice was a commodity that was in short supply even when spring houses often went dry. For several years these women cut up and carried on as real "equals of heart" with each other. Local white folks got pure riled up that Moriah would serve one of "them" and with good china, too! I guess they thought Miss Emma should have drank from a jelly jar or tin cup.
Quite often, Moriah would go to church, out of duty, mind you--but certainly not out of belief. That, she made very clear! She wasn't much of an actual believer, but had married a man that leaned toward Presbyterianism; of which Moriah was highly suspect. In our youth, we heard her mention many a time that she had her problems with any minister of any congregation that had a view of Creator where a woman did not have the right to make up her own mind--where supposedly, it had been made up for her in advance. That was a view she could not and did not abide. She just thought that Presbyterianism might be one of those kinds of views. That just didn't fit with her ideas about Creator--another fact she made abundantly clear.
Calvinism wasn't a religion she said--it was an excuse! Nor, did she hold too much with her Baptist neighbors. It was her recollection that the God of the Baptists just might be something of a hollow-headed individual. One who didn't have His or Her business in order. Apparently, said Coweta, that deity had presented the world with a group of people that had so much time on their hands, they could not only mind their own business, but everyone else's business, too. Those Baptists even proposed to tell everyone else what God was thinking. She just would not hold to or be bound by any conversation to propose to tell any of your neighbors what God was thinking. To believe that, she firmly uttered, was a *&^%^*$%* poor attitude. No, she sure wasn't much of a believer but she was richly spiritual--especially in the ways of her Indian background which she kept faithfully, privately, and quietly.
Old Coweta, Moriah, went to an Anglican church periodically (that means Episcopal) because she liked the singing service called "Evening Prayer" and "Morning Prayer." It was quite exotic and she liked that--said the sung service was like a warm feather-quilt on a cold night...and you know...they have so much of that beautiful ceremony and music that it didn't leave much time for preaching. She could take church if they didn't have much preaching which she defined as, "The last thing religion needed--more words." She thought preaching was an infliction the world would be better off without.
Well, as mentioned before, this was a time of fairly tough years. Some people in her neighborhood lynched a man--a black man. That was something she was very unhappy about and spoke to on every occasion she could belittle her so called Christian neighbors for allowing it--and from a church tree, too! Moriah did not actually see it but knew it was going on at the time. People would come hurrying by the house, all excited, sweaty and running to make sure they got there in time --dragging their little children along behind them by their tender little arms. She talked about that all the way up to the time she died, and just how awful it was that they actually dragged their children along, took them out of school, to see some poor man meet a wretched end all because of rumor. The day of the lynching, when word came, miss Emma just stiffened up and bit her bottom lip. Moriah told us there was a tear or two in the corner of Emma's eye. Emma said she had a job to do and she was going to do it--duty demands it! Emma's resolve and Moriah's were equally matched, I suspect.
Moriah was very unusual in many ways as you no doubt have surmised by now. Other people were paying these domesticate women about 15 or 20 cents a day, at best, for doing all that work--heating sad-irons on a wood burning stove and ironing clothes. It was totally unheard of, but Moriah would not have Emma come over unless she could pay her a decent wage for the day which she considered to be at least 50 to 75 cents a day; this was at a time when many a grown white man working only made $1.20 a day. Moriah was very clear cut about not taking advantage of another person, no matter what their circumstance or the fact that someone might have a different skin color or culture. She said that was no excuse to be an ass. Had Creator wanted more asses, she said, more donkeys would have been born. That's was about the only time you ever heard her use a strong word--when it came to human abuse, animal abuse or religion. Moriah treated everyone decently. She would say "you do right by everybody, all the time, in all situations, and you ain't ever got to remember anything, deny anything or bow your head in shame before Creator." "And, You won't have to worry about doing an accounting, because there won't need to be an accounting--your record will be clear and balanced. You just do right--period," that was her basic creed, agree all who knew her.
(End: part I)
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