I was born in Elgin, Texas. My daddy taught himself the carpenter trade doing for the black folk there. I tell you, anything that man put his hand to - table, chair, wedding chest - he make that wood sang. Now one day, a man, Mr. T. O. Persall come 'round. He a white man, own his own store, stable, hotel. He say to my daddy: "I hears you the finest carpenter in Elgin." My daddy tell him: "well I can't say one way or the other, but I knows a bit about somethin'." So Mr. T. O. Persall take my daddy to this house he was building. Biggest house in town. They walk in there, say: "this here gon' be the library. What you think 'bout that?" My daddy say: "Well I think you need some bookcases." "Well then, that's what I want you to make me." Ten months my daddy worked there. And when he finished, he bring me 'round. "Mr. Persall, this here my boy. I'd like to show him what I done." "Well, come on in! Through the front door!" Just like that! And we did. When I see them bookcases, all covered with scroll and flowers, baskets of fruit, little angels floatin' in the corner... that was the most beautiful thing I ever seen. About a month later, another man come 'round. "I see what you did for T. O. Can't let that old dog top me. You come 'round my house, I'll show you what I need. My daddy go with him to the edge of town. Wasn't nothin' there but six white men, twelve foot of rope, and the pepper tree they hung him from... These here my daddy's tools...
What are you gonna do with them?
Well... I ain't buildin' no bookcase...
These here are my daddy tools.
[nervously] What are you going to do with them?
Well, I ain't building no bookcase.