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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ralph Waldo Strickland, April 18, 1980. Interview H-0180. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Talking out fire and pacifying bees

In addition to the knowledge she gleaned from a medical textbook she owned, Strickland's grandmother relied heavily on local traditional medicine. According to him, she could talk out fire—or use words to ease the pain someone incurred from a burn—and pacify bees.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ralph Waldo Strickland, April 18, 1980. Interview H-0180. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Was it putting out fire and bees?
Oh yes. My Grandma Strickland was the one that could do that. Those Indians, she'd go around. There was an Indian man. A man had to tell a woman, a woman couldn't tell a man. I don't what the witch-craft about it, but it was true. Grandma Strickland could talk out fire, she could stop you from bleeding, and cure the rash—when babies had rash in the mouth—she could do all that. She could take warts off your hands. I know when I had a handful of warts when I was a little boy, and Grandma Strickland took me out to the cotton patch. She picked up a rock out of the cotton row and looked at it a little bit, and rubbed that little old round rock on my hand and put it right back down where it come out of the mold. She says, "All right, go on, Ralph." I went on. The next two or three weeks, I forgot about my warts. Mama looked at my hands one time says, "Ralph, what. All them warts is gone off your hands." Sure enough there was. Because I know she could take off warts and stuff like that. Papa had a mule that got hung in a barb wire fence and was bleeding pretty bad. Grandma went up there and stopped him from bleeding.
How did she do that?
I don't know. She learned that from this Indian man. There was a Indian man. She learned that stuff from him. I really don't know. I tell you about them warts. What else could she do? She could tell fortunes.
What about the bees?
We were sitting on Grandma Strickland's front porch one time. My daddy was up there and there was a whole crowd of us up there. It was one summer day in the warm weather. Grandma raised up. She begin to look all about, look all about, and all of a sudden, she run out there in that front yard and grabbed up a plow! What they called a "scotter" plow. She grabbed a hammer, and she run out across the field. Bang, bang, bang, bang, beating that plow! Making a hollering and hooping banging on that plow. We thought she'd lost her mind or something. After a while, she come on back. She had seventy-five beehives out there in the front yard—had a long wooden grove—she had these seventy-five hives of bees. What she did, She had beaten that plow gear(), that plow "scotter." That ring in the bell, the sound of that, they couldn't hear themselves fly, so they just settle and come to the ground. They settled out there on the terrace in the cotton patch. It was a big terrace, around a little old root of a sassafrass tree. There was a great wad of bees there about as big as your head. What she did, when she come back—we followed her that time—she come back there and got one of her beehives. She slipped off some leaves off of a peach tree, and rubbed those peach leaves on her hands real good. She took that beehive, went out there, and set it down right beside where the bees—great big wad of bees big as your head—she just reached down with her hand, picked them up, put them in the hive, put the lid back on, just walking on back to the house. Put it on a stand out there in the front yard. They didn't sting her. Those peach leaves killed the scent of her. They couldn't smell nothing but the peach leaves. She just reached down and got that whole wad of bees, just picked them up and put them down in the beehive, come walking on back there. She learned that all back there, those old people that lived in the country back in those days. They knew. They were quite smart. They knew a whole lot of stuff. Sure did.