P ERSPEC T IV ES
BARBECUE AT BEN'S NECK
by Ethel Howe Moormccn
T WAS a mid-summer afternoon it
Ben's Neck, an Alabama colore
settlement. An indolent breeze whis
pered to itself in the tops of th
long-leafed pine trees and pink crep
myrtles that snuggled close to the gre
cabin walls, cradled droning bees.
Mrs. Pleasant Williams sat on a benc
under her scuppernong grape arbo
smoking. Her slim figure slouche
against a post as, with studied grac
her violently red finger tips brought<
cigarette to the lips that matched then
in color. She puffed, inhaled, bles
smoke rings, flicked the ash elegantl
from the end of her cigarette anm
hoped that some of the neighbor
were watching her. Divers aunts anm
grandmothers of the settlement clun
to their well-seasoned pipes and near-
ly everyone, young and old, dipped snuf.
but cigarette smoking was modern anc
smart. Moreover, Azaleen Annabell
Williams had been the iirst of the young
matrons of Ben's Neck to take it up.
Azaleen smoothed her straightene
bobbed hair, that shone like a piece o
anthracite, and drew her plucked eye-
brows together thoughtfully as she
planned a campaign. The Reverend
Jeremiah George Washington Jackson
of Ben's Neck Free Water Churcl
was more successful at shooting craps
than he was at managing the finances
of his church. The treasury was empty
and the church building was in dire need
of repair. The pastor and the senior
deacon, Ben Bowling Third, had asked
the Amalgamated Daughters of Mary
and Martha, of which Mrs. Williamss
was president, to raise the necessary
funds. A barbecue had been agreed upon.
"Let's see now," mused Azaleen, with
he pencil poised in air. "Gotta git
Fony Johnson to make the crab gum-
bo, jest lak she useter -when she cook-
ed in New Orleans. Good ole Creole
crab gumbo with plenty of rice, barbe-
cue sanitches - Uncle Reece'll admire
to do the barbecuin' -- some of Am-
nonia Roger's pear pies, cake and ice
enough. The sof' drink man fum Mo-
bile will fetch all the drinks us kin
sell and pay a ten per cent commission.
With gittin' most things donated and
chargin' white folks double lak always,
the Amalgamated Daughters sure oughta
make some money."
Having completed her menu for the
barbecue, Mrs. Pleasant Williams, note-
book in hand, started down the main
street of the village. Pausing before the
ancient cabin set in a grove of moss-
hung liveoak trees, she turned into the
cleanly swept yard, innocent of grass and
"Hi, Aunt Fony," she called. "Where
"Here I be," answered a thin old
voice and a thin black woman appeared
in the doorway, wiping her hands on
her apron made of sugar sacks.
"Howdy, Azaleen, come in and set,"
she said cordially. "Ain't seed you for
a coon's age. Lawsy but you's gettin'
purtier and purtier."
Azaleen Annabella entered the cabin
and seated herself in the proferred
rocking chair, careful to display her
sheer hose and new pumps.
"Thanks, Aunt Fony, you allus did
brag on me," shesaid. "And how is
you feelin' today?" she inquired solici-
"Tollable, tollable," 'replied the old
woman. "Had a mean misery in my
side last week but it's nigh about gone
now. Reckon I hadn't ought to complain
"I was hopin' to find you feelin'
right peart," said the younger woman.
"The Amalgamated Daughters would'
love to have you crab gumbo for the
barbecue next Saturday. Cain't nobody
make the good old Creole crab gumbo
lal you does."
Azaleen's hostess grinned delightedly,
showing all four of her teeth. "Meebe
I can do it, seein' it's for the church."
she assented. "How many gallons of
gumbo does you reckon we-all gonter
So that was settled.
M RS. WILLIAMS was certain
that Uncle Reece, the best bar-
becue cook in Mobile County.
would do the meats. for the
old man cherished his reputation as a
cook and lost no opportunity to add to
its lustre. Ammonia Rogers, champion
pie-maker of Ben's Neck, might prove
difficult. Mrs. Rogers, now fifty, had
once been the belle of Ben's Neck and
had not hitherto looked with much fa-
vor upon her immediate sucessor in that
role, Azaleen Williams Jones. But the
president of the Amalgamated Daught-
ers walked up and knocked on their
"I reckon I kin make some pies," re-
plied the gratified Ammonia. "Flow many
pies had us oughta have?"
"Jest as you think, Ammonia, you's
the chairman," said the diplomat, know-
ing that Mrs. Rogers was one of the
most generous housewives in the settle-
ment and that the supply of pie' would
"The Daughters sure will 'preciate
yotr 'sistance," added Azaleen, rising
The president of the Amalgamated
Daughters of Mary and Martha went
from home to home, soliciting donations
and promises of help with the barbecue,
whipping plans into shape, with the
earnestness of a general pre aring for
a battle. Planning such things and mak-
ing them click was a game that Aza-
leen Annabella loved.
The day of the barbecue was clear
and fine. Even the usual afternoon
con'ri u ord
. JOHN MALCOLM BRINNIN, twice previously a winner of Hopwood prizes
in the class of minor poetry. is a native of Nova Scotia. He has had poetry pub- -
lished in Harper's Bazaar, New Republic, Life and Letters Today (London), Poetry,
and New Masses.' Last spring lse received a major award in poetry.
EDWIN A BURROWS is a graduate of Yale University, having attended Mich-
igan last year for the first time. He has spent considerable time in Europe and for
two years lived in Syria, Palestine and Egypt. His poetry has been published in
College Verse, Yale Literary Magazine and The Listeners (London). He also re-
ceived a major poetry award in last spring's Hopwoods.
JAY McCORMICK, a junior this year, was a winner of minor awards in both
fiction and essay last spring. At present he is working on a novel.
CHARLES HENRY .ILLER came from Northwestern in 1938 to do graduate
work here. He has had Pbetry published in CollegeVerse and was a winner of a
scholarship to the Cummington School in Massachusetts.
ETHEL HOWE MOORMAN lives in a small town in Alabama. She has had
many of her stories for children printed in national education magazines, but
Barbecue at Ben's Neck, which won a summer Hopwood Award, is the first of her
more serious works to appear.
FREDERIC R. WHITE, a graduate of Oberlin College, is now a member of the
English department, having come to Michigan in 1937 to do graduate work. His
essay, Measure for Measure, received a major Hopwood Award last spring.
the count remained the same. A sus-
picion in the mind of Mrs. Pleasant
Williams grew to a certainty and her
"That cussin', crap-shootin', old bap-
scalyum of a Jeremiah done took our
money and I knows it," she asserted,
"Doan you all worry none, us gonter
git it back. Come along and bring the
Clutching her food lists, she marched
straight to the home of the senior dea-
con. Ammonia and the cigarbox were not
Deacon Ben Bowling, huge and black,
was honest as they come, slow to anger
but mighty in wrath. "Bothah Jackson
been buyin' Mistah John's old Ford se-
dan on payments and he ain't worked
none lately," he remarked, when he had
heard the report of the infuriated
Daughters, "Reckon I better have some
confab with him. Come along, you-all.
He's likely at the church yet."
The trio found the Reverend Jere-
miah George Washington Jackson, a
small yellow man with ratty eyes, still
in the church. He had been closing the
windows preparatory to locking up. Dea-
con Ben strode toward his pastor, hold-
ing out his right hand with palm up-
ward but saying nothing. The little man
backed away, looking shiftily from side
to side, seeking an avenue of escape.
Azaleen Annabella sprang to the door
and locked it then secreted the key in
her blouse. Ammonia stood staunchly
beside her chief. breathing hard from
excitement and the unwonted haste of
her walk back to the church.
"I ain't got any of the money, Brothah
Ben," Jeremiah protested, in a shaky
voice. "You ask that painted hussy
where it done went. I sweari I give it
all to her not half an hour ago and it's
a fact. You jest ask her. Ain't she the
modom president and 'sponsible for the
"You ornery low-down double-cross-
er " hissed Ammonia.
"You is got ten dollars of the bar-
becue money, you no-account brown-
skin, and doan you 'spute with me,'
insisted the deacon, still advancing,
"Give it here."
"I ain't 'sputing with you, Brothah
Ben, but you's wrong. You's jest as
wrong as if you'd burnt your shirt," re-
torted the pastor, trusting to a Provi-
dence which had gotten him out of tight
places before to open a way fbr re-
Deacon Ben's patience was at an end.
He rushed down from his great height
and lifted the protesting Jeremiah by
the coat collar, holding him at arm's
length, where he squirmed like a hooked
"You gimme that ten dollars or I kicks
your north end south," declared the
deacon, between shakings. Then he set
the little man on his feet, still keeping
a firm grip on the clerical collar.
Reluctantly, the man drew a roll of
bills from his pocket and thrust it into
his captor's free hand. "I jest borrowed
it," he explained. "Doan you reckon the
Amalgamated Daughters oughta be glad
to lend the Lawd's minister?"
"The Lawd's nothin'," snapped Aza-
leen Annabella Williams, while Ammon-
ia nodded emphatic approval. "You done
sold out to the othah gent-mun a long
time ago and everybody in Ben's Nick
They left a sadly disorganized Jere-
miah in a pew, groaning and rubbing
Due to the persistent and praise-
worthy efforts of the Amalgamated
Daughters of May and Martha, Ben's
Neck Free Water Baptist church has
been thoroughly repaired. It also has a
new pastor. Soon after the August bar-
becue, the Reverend Jeremiah George
Washington Jackson accepted a call to
another. field of the Lord's vineyard.
"Clare to goodness, Azaleen, this
am a surprise," said.Mrs. Rogers. "Come
in and set down," she urged, placing
for her guest the cabin's one sound
Azaleen Annabella seaed herself gfa-
ciously, crossed her silk-clad knees'and
leaned forward, smiling ingratiatingly.
"You sure am lookin' mighty fine,
Ammonia. That new hair-do you got
in Mobile last week jest sets you off.
You been losin' a lotta weight this
summer, too, and it takes years offen
your looks. I done told my husband jest
yesterday, 'They hain'ta han'somer wo-
man in Ben's Neck than Ammonia
Rogers and never was!"
"You hain't no chore to look at your-
self, gal," replied the former belle gen-
"I come special to 'point you chair-
mgn of the refreshment committee of
the Amalgamated Daughters' barbecue
next Saturday, Mrs. Rogers, being as you
wasn't at the last meetin'. Us all hopes
you kin serve."
"I'll have to think about it," replied
"Mistah John Winfield is aimin' to
bring a big fishin' party from Mobile:
the mayor, big railroad fishuls and all
like that, to git a barbecue dinner.
He done eben askin' is us gonter have
some of Ammonia's pear pies with dew-
berry wine in 'em lak we had last year.
Mistah John sure is powerful fond of
them pies and we-all knows how free
he spens his money."
shower of the rainy season blew inland
and forgot to come back, thus missing
Ben's. Neck. Long tables of pine boards,
set upon sawhorses, were spread in the
shade of liveoaks and magnolia trees
near the church. The boards creaked
under their load of good food; the
serving Daughters beamed upon all
comers and urged them to partake; gi-
ant Deacon Ben was a welcoming com-
mittee of one whose specialty was white
folks; coins jingled merrily into the
cigar-box guarded by the Reverend
Jeremiah, acting as cashier. Pickaninnies
of assorted colors and sizes scuttled
about under foot while foraging hens
picked up a banquet under the table.
Cars came and went all day. There was
curb service for white patrons but most
of the colored customers stayed for vis-
iting and the afternoon ballgame.
When evening came, everything had
been sold. Azaleen Annabella, tired but
triumphant, gathered her committee to-
gether for a final check. The canny
young woman, who knew her spiritual
advisor rather, had taken the precau-
tion to make complete lists of all sup-
plies so that she knew pretty accurate-
ly what the receipts should be.
"You count the money, Ammonia,"
she told her chief assistant, while she
herself re-checked the food lists. "How
much is it?" she asked, anxiously.
"Just forty dollars and fifty cents,"
replied Mrs. Rogers. "Oughta be fifty
dollars and fifty cents," declared Aza-
leen firmly. Count in agin."
But in spite of check and re-check,