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TRADITIONAL SONGS AND BALLADS 35
songs and stories of her race. She told of a certain mountain section in North Carolina, where lived some people whom she described mysteriously: " Dey ain't niggers an' dey ain't whites. And yet you can't scarcely say dat dey's mulattoes. Dey is called by a curi's name — Ishies. Dey lives off to demselves an' sho is funny folks."
I learned later that the term used to designate them was "Free Issue," since they were the offspring of Negroes who were not slaves, and so these mulattoes, or their ancestors, had been born free.
The girl sat idly swinging her foot, and gazing across the lake, when suddenly she said, "I'll sing you a song about the Hangman's Tree."
She then gave a lively rendering of a ballad I had never heard sung before, making vivid gestures to dramatize her words. I asked Lucy to write it down for me, and here is her version, just as she copied it, with her own " stage directions ":
(Spies Father at a distance, and sings) Hangman, hangman, hangman, Loosen your rope. I think I spy my father coming. He has come many a long mile, I know.
(To Father) Father, have you come? And have you come at last? And have you brought my gold? And will you pay my fee? Or is it your intention to see me hung Here all under this willow tree?
(Father to Son) Yes, I 've come, I 've come. I have not brought your gold, I will not pay your fee. 'T is my intention to see you hung Here all under this willow tree.
(Spies Mother) Hangman, hangman, hangman, Loosen your rope. I think I spy my mother coming. She has come many a long mile, I know.
(To Mother) Mother, have you come? And have you come at last?