The All-Black Town: Part 5

Truehart had a shed full of raw cotton, but he needed it ginned and baled before he could sell it. Marse Little had always had a gin on the place, starting back in slavery days. In the past few years he’d bought a new ginning machine, and put it in a shed along with the baler and the seed separator. What his people didn’t need for seed he sold to be pressed into cottonseed oil.

There would be trouble if he didn’t take his cotton to Marse Little. Marse Little expected his people to gin with him.

Truehart worried about how to gin his crop. He thought of Mr. Levy, who had treated him so decently. The next time he went to Itta Bena, he stopped at Levy’s. He asked for a twist of coffee and a bottle of liniment before he could say, “Mr. Levy, I’d value your advice.”

“About what?”

“I have some bales of cotton I need ginned.”

“Mr. Little has a gin. You don’t take it to him?”

“Not this year.”

“Short weight?”

How did Mr. Levy know to ask that? Short weight, and fooling with the figuring, and deducting so much for furnish and credit that there was nothing left. “I don’t work for him anymore. Take it elsewhere, if I please.”

Levy said, “I could sell it for you.” He added, “Get full weight.”

Truehart knew better than to poormouth Marse Little, even if he deserved it. “I can pay you for your trouble.”

Levy waved the words away as though he were shooing a mosquito. “Let me talk to some folks. See what I can find out.”

When Truehart told Niecy about the arrangement, she said, “Marse Little ain’t going to like it.”

“Ain’t lying to him,” Truehart said. “Just ain’t saying.”