storytelling Miss Annie

fairytales Janet and Tam Lin

endings LaLlorona

technique The Lute Player

beauty Pretty Maid Ibronka

truth The Condiment Basketball Game

meaning Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, or Morgiana the Clever

meaning Chien Nang

Miss Annie

As told by Mary Grace Ketner
San Antonio, Texas

 

People used to say the strangest things about African American Texan Annie Buchanan. Like the white Doctor from Groesbeck who was called in right after her birth--he said she was a clairvoyant.

"What's a clairvoyant?" says her mama.

"It means she can tell you things under the earth just like she can on top," is what the doctor says.

Well, she was Jack and Margaret's seventh child, and she was born with a full set of teeth, and it wasn't any time before people found out the doctor was right.

It was in 1900, and she was just five years old.

It was September. Her mama says, "Y'all children get ya'lls sacks. We're going to pick off that last bit of cotton tomorrow."

"Ooh-ee!" Annie says. "I'm already happy. We ain't pickin' no cotton tomorrow." Says "Icicles gonna be on the roof. Trees, all broken on the ground."

Next morning her mama looks out the window and says "Looky here, children, look at this." Says "I ain't never seen nothin' like this. Not in September."

Then in 1900, when Annie was eight years old, it was her first day of school. She was out on the playground that morning reading another child's palm. Teacher saw her and told her to go home and never come back. They said she never did.

Well, it wasn't long before people started calling her "Miss Annie." You could just tell the cab driver, say "Take me to Miss Annie's." He'd know right where to go.

By the 1920's, Miss Annie was a financially independent woman. Her waiting room was always filled with people of all races and stations in life, some kind of weeping, some looking anxious. Teenagers wanted to know who they would marry, and sick people wanted to get well. Some people wanted to know if they would be happy in life, other asked if they should move or where they could get work or how long they would live. Annie would shuffle the cards and tell them, or she'd read the blood circles in their hands; not the lines, but the blood circles.

Some came with particular questions. Like Harry Anderson. He wanted to know who had stolen his mule. Miss Annie told him go out the road to a bridge, a certain bridge, and she named it. Wait there. Harry did that, and it wasn't any time before his mule came along. That thief was so surprised, he just handed it over. Just handed Harry the harness lines.

One man came in who'd lost his cow and a calf. Annie told him go east, a long way. Not a hundred miles, but a long way. the man went' east 90 miles, and he found his cow, the calf beside it.

One woman came in and said her husband was seeing another woman. One from Dallas, shiny clothes. Miss Annie told her to write the woman's name on a piece of paper, wrap it around a stick and tie it with a string and throw it in the first water she came to. The woman did it, right away, right in Miss Annie's office. Wrote the name, wrapped the paper around a stick and, when they left she threw it in the first water she came to, just a few blocks from Miss Annie's house. Sure enough, it wasn't two weeks before that woman's husband came back.

Now, you or I, we may not want that man back, but this woman did. And Miss Annie always did what would make people happy. She always used her powers for good. Everybody said so.

Miss Annie gave psychic readings from nine in the morning until sundown every day. For two dollars, she would read anyone's fortune.

Well, except for that one white woman who come through the front gate wearing pants. Miss Annie saw her through the window and ran out onto the porch and shouted "Don't you come in here wearing pants, you nasty, stinking heifer!"

Miss Annie could heal with her hands, they said. If an ailment was stubborn, she made a tonic for it out of red pepper, saltpeter, and olive oil. then she poured in Aquamarine Tonic from the Square deal drug store, mixing it in with a backwards stir, chanting, soft and low.

One man brought in his wife who hadn't walked in eight years. Miss Annie sent him to the Square Deal for tonic, and when he came back she walked out to meet him, walked out to the car.

Some people went to the doctor and came to Miss Annie too. One man drove fifty miles to buy Carter's Pills from Miss Annie. He could have bought them in Dallas, but he said they worked better when he got them from her. That's what he said.

Another thing Miss Annie could do: she could see where to drill for oil.

Her brother in law had a piece of land there in Mexia and he was going to sell it. Miss Annie told him it had oil on it. He said "There ain't no oil on that land and I'm going to sell it." Miss Annie said "You sell it, and it's going to be some white man come in here and I'm tell him about that oil."

Well, he did and she did and he did, and it was Colonel Humphries, Wildcatter Deluxe. Miss Annie told him, says, "Here's the first well." And that's how he got his first well at Mexia."

Miss Annie found other wells for him, too, and he always gave her something, like a reward. He built her a house in Corsicana and some other houses, too, in Freestone Couty and in Houston. People would walk by and say "That's the house Colonel Humphries built for Miss Annie when #4 blew in."

She found oil for other people too, and most of them gave her presents, like a reward. If anybody asked, she told them she liked Pontiac cars.

They said Howard Hughes, Sr. never drilled without consulting Miss Annie, and he always gave her fine presents or money.

But Miss Annie didn't just keep it all. she shared her fortune. She paid off the mortgage on a school and bought seven churches.

Then in 1962 when she was 70 years old, Miss Annie was on her knees praying in Smith Chapel Primitive Baptist Church. She stood up and fell over dead.

That's what they said.

They buried her over in Freestone County where Clark West was buried, right next to him. You can still see their pictures on the big double tombstone Miss Annie had made.

Out of all her eight husbands, she liked him the best.

At least, that's what they said.

 

Having eight husbands also made it a little hard to find information on Annie Buchanan West! Practically everything I was able to find out from books or from people is in here somewhere! If you know more, tell me. --Mary Grace

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