Though she has made few quilts, Moultree Kennedy creates art in her yard, writes gospel songs, and occasionally writes poetry. Her half sister was quiltmaker Arcola Pettway.
Those were the good old days, growing up in Sodom. Didn't have no telephone—just stood out on the porch and called out to people. You want to go to some place you call to your friend to go with you. We had that old store up there, the co-op and the gin house, the cotton gin—it was up there-and the store for buying clothes, and they had the post office inside the store.
I was born in '42. We walked everywhere. Walked to school way down there by the store, and you always take an egg with you when you go, a boiled egg or a fresh egg. You take it up to the cashier at the co-op and get a nickel worth of credit for it. Back then you could get five pieces of bubblegum for a penny. My daddy had these coupon books back then you could buy your flour, sugar, whatever you want with it from the co-op. During that time it was Little Pettway and Roman Sr., and Ed O., Nelson Pettway, and more than them that was all connected up with the co-op—owned it.
Daddy was Clarence Pettway Jr. He just was an amazing man. I haven't seen one like him. He grew everything just about what we needed. He worked up at the mill for Mr. Harris, a white man. Daddy did the grinding of corn, and they grind millet and cane to make syrup. You use mules for that. They go around in a circle and you're sticking cane, millet, whatever you making syrup out of. You're grinding it, stirring it, cooking it down to syrup. Daddy had a lot of land. Eight or ten acres up in what you call the "Piney Woods," and fifty-nine acres where I'm living now. He died and left me the house and all fifty-nine acres of land. The church we attended when we was little was called New Level, and it was on our land. You go there one Sunday, and on the next you go up to the Pleasant Grove.
We had goats, hogs, cattle, horses, mules, and chickens and turkeys. We always had our own meat and milk, never had to worry about buying fatback or anything. We used to go out at night to hunt coons and possums and we ate them. Foxes we'd catch in a trap, we sell the hides. Caught beavers, too, and otters down in the river. Eat the meat, sell the hides. I was just big enough to go along, me and my brother, and carry the flashlights. Daddy had a hat with a light—you call it a carbolic light—it went on the hat. You put some sort of powder in it and somehow it made the light burn.
We didn't get to play like other kids. After church the children came to our house so my parents could watch us playing outside the door. They paid close attention to their children. When my parents had company come, the children always went in the back so we wouldn't be up in their face like children now. In winter we'd have to go to the kitchen, and we stay by the cooking stove to help keep warm, and when it wasn't cold we'd go down by the smokehouse. That's when I started singing—about seven or eight years old, with my brothers and sisters. Three of us stayed together singing for years—Clarence Pettway III and William Pettway. We would sing in church, at Pleasant Grove. My sisters still sing; William, too. They live up in Rochester now, but when they come we all get together and sing in church. They call us the Pettway Sisters and Brothers. No matter what our last name is now, we're still the Pettways.
I wasn't much of a party person. Never did learn to dance. I think I was afraid to be out doing that stuff. I wanted to be a good person.
I wasn't one who was good at making quilts growing up, like some of the others around the neighborhood, like Lucy T., her mother Mary Ann Pettway, Annie E. Pettway—she was my auntie, my mother's brother's wife. All of them came to my house, helping each other to quilt with my mother.
My mother's name was Laureen C. Pettway. Nobody on this earth had a voice like she had. That was the singingest and the cookingest person on this earth. Did everything out of her head: singing, cooking, and making quilts. None of her quilts left now except a rag or two.
I remember when we had a chance to register to vote. I stood in line and registered at the old schoolhouse down where Ruth Mosely lives. But I never got to do the marching when they went over to Camden. I was pregnant with my third child. I have ten children now. One passed away when he got eleven months old.
My own quilts wasn't much but I always had ideas that would catch the eye of people. No fancy stuff, you see, but just what would come to me. I put that phone on a post in the yard. People stopped and asked me, "You got that there to call Jesus?" and stuff like that. I say, "No, just to show we can have things down here." I made the thing with the bird bath to show my feeling about the past. That cross, it came from a grave site. A white lady had it in her house and gave it to me. The box of washing powder for me symbolized the old days of keeping everything clean. Bible sitting in there, that represents faith. I used to write songs, just jump up from my sleep and wrote it. We have sung my songs in church.
I wrote poems, things like that, after I quit my job as a substitute teacher. I did that job for twenty years. I wrote this one time. I don't know exactly how I got the idea. Probably something I heard or saw someplace. I call it "The Days and Time Gone By":
My time will be no more.
It has long passed into a hurried and different way.
The cotton fields now stand empty.
The voices in the fields will be heard no more.
The sound of wagon wheels and harness chains has long been silent.
The gentle afternoons on the front porch are all but forgotten.
Listen closely, my children, to the story I tell you,
For my days are no more.
They have long passed into a time
Of days gone by.