I was born in a little small town, McAdams, Mississippi, a few miles from Kosciusko, on August 6, 1942. I live in Kosciusko now. My mama was a midwife. My daddy was a cotton farmer. Me and my sister didn’t get names, just initials; she was Q.T. and I was L.V. My auntie in Waterloo, Iowa, is named A.D., and I got an uncle in Chicago, be named Reverend V.B. Wingard.
When I was coming up, I made little things out of mud, like little dogs, dolls and things, little men. We didn’t have no paint back then, way back in the country. After I moved to town I started painting stuff I would find. Beer bottles, perfume bottles, rum bottles, sticks and planks—whatever I got my hands on. I decorated plenty of things. Salt and pepper shakers, hatpins. I can decorate needles and straight pins. I don’t decorate no two things alike.
When I started decorating the yard, I wanted to do something that somebody else wasn’t going to do. I started pulling tires into there. I waited until folks went to sleep and dragged the tires from behind their houses. I didn’t want nobody to see me ’cause I didn’t want to hear the stuff they would say about me. People said stuff anyway: “Old L.V., she’s crazy.”
I piled the tires up and then I painted them. I wanted something to go with the tires. I already had flowers coming up all around, and I thought about shoes. I put the shoes on the sticks and decorated them, and the flowers grew up with them. People bring me their shoes now, and little baby toys, bottles, boards to make placards on, and Coca-Cola bottles, and beads. The idea of painting was always in my mind waiting for its time to come out. It had to be somewhere; it didn’t just come out of the blue sky. I keep my brushes close to me now. If I can’t sleep, I get up and go with my brushes. If I’m awake, I’m busy. The devil will use you if you ain’t doing something. If you’re using yourself, he’ll have to use somebody else.
They call my house a hoodoo house. They say you can come there with some problems. Even my mama say, “L.V., you ain’t practicing no hoodoo in there?” I say, “Mama, I don’t know nothing about no hoodoo.” Some white people came once, say, “Can we come in and talk?” They told me they were needing some help, they couldn’t sleep, and then their dog couldn’t sleep. There was some kind of racket they could hear, wouldn’t let them sleep. They said they could tell that I knew something. I told them to get them a fruit jar and fill it full of water and vinegar—half and half—add some salt, and then get them six marbles and put in the jar, and bury that jar and come back in a month’s time and tell me something. I had done forgot about the month and then they came back grinning and everything. They was so happy. “Oh, Miss Hull, we been sleeping and the dog been sleeping and we ain’t had no more trouble with them strange noises.” But it was just because of their belief. I just made up all that stuff, but as long as it helped them it’s alright.
I like to give advice ’cause folks need it. I don’t pretend to be smart. Doctors are supposed to be the smart people, with all those degrees, Ph.D. and B.M. and a S-this-that-and-the-other. I tell them, I got a Ph.D., too: post-hole digger.’” I write advice on signs and placards and a lot of other things around here. I tell people to always tell the truth. You tell the truth, you only got to tell it once. A lie is like an inner tube. You got to keep patching it. You can see what I write, like “Sin is wrong.” “Jesus is real.” “Love all the artists.” I got it wrote all around: “Jesus is coming to Kosciusko.” People say, “How you know?” I say. “Jesus is coming everywhere.” I get some good ideas from church, and some from other folks’ placards. “When God closes a door, he opens a window.” “Take a smile from someone else and pass it on.” “Frogs have it easy. They eat what bugs them.” “If you’re going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance.” I like this: “Courage is the art of knowing that you’re the only one who knows you’re scared to death.” My best advice is on my mailbox: “Mind your own business. Thank you.”
Life for black folks has changed a lot. James Meredith, when he tried to go to Ole Miss, he caught it. They never did shoot at him, but they did everything else to him they could think up. They killed those civil rights people over in Philadelphia not very far from here. But they kept on walking. It don’t matter what nobody do, right’s going to win.
They pay more attention to black folks now. But it looks like being black can be more of a problem now than when I was coming up. These young people now, they co-mingle, and you find black people knowing they got a privilege. They’re not afraid, but they end up asleep and never wake up. Way back yonder, I believe, people were concerned more, and respected each other more even if they couldn’t mingle. They’ll undermine you quicker now. They’ll dig you a ditch. Back yonder they’d just dig only one. Now they got to dig several. It's hard to know who loves you now. I get plenty of the worst “back yonder” kind of looks today.
It’s different with children now, too. When we were coming up, Mama didn’t do no whipping or yelling at us. All she had to do was give us that eye. We did it. Children today ain’t got nobody over them, not like it was when we were coming up. Today they turn them loose like chickens, and soon they’re babysitting. It seems to me that more children today are born sickly. Got a lot of ailments to them. It’s ’cause children are having children, then the little boys getting into gangs, killing themselves, pass-by shootings, selling dope, wanting something for nothing. Pretty soon there ain’t going to be nobody here.
Things might get a little better. The bad people are getting rid of each other. God’s got a way of getting you. He’s out there taking of things. He’s got the power. He hear all things, and he know all things. Like the preacher say, “God might not come when you want him, but he’s on time.” They say, “He can do everything but fail.” I believe it. My faith is in God.
On a bus to Memphis once, this white lady got on and there wasn’t no place to sit except beside me, and the white lady just stood up. I finally said to her, “Lady, you can sit down. This black ain’t going to come off on you.” When you’re black, you keep your black on you.
Taken from interviews with L.V. Hull by William Arnett in 1997.