Jolly and the Mississippi Flood

Cast Bronze, 2005
42" x 18" x 24"

Jolly worked in the Big House. During the high water time he tied himself to the very tree Massa used to whip him and his fellow slaves. "You black son-of-a-dog, you better save us, or I'll beat you within an inch of your life", Massa screamed from his perch atop the floating plantation house roof. Jolly so loved his fatback and his hand-me-down clothes that he tried and tried to save the Massa and his family, ignoring his own relatives in the water, because he had to save Massa first.

Jolly found an old mule rope and a ring with three hooks on it, which had floated up in the floodwaters. He tried to hook the house with it, but his hand wouldn't work. It was his begging hand---it only went up and down, and every time he tried to reach out he hit himself in the head and his eyes rolled back.

Jolly had a very special relationship with Missy, Massa's wife, and she just knew he would do anything to save her because of that. What that special relationship was, I'm not quite sure. It was customary for young slaves to sleep on the floor of the plantation owners' bedrooms, or to be used as footwarmers. But the odd thing about it, this practice continued even after Jolly became a young man-especially when Massa was gone on his long buying trips.

Missy just clung to that roof with her family, shouting epithets at Jolly. Jolly stood there tied to that tree with his usual grin plastered on his face, happier to be in the flood than tied to the tree being whipped by Massa.

Meanwhile, Ole Stinky, the rogue alligator, got himself inside the Big House looking for something to eat. Everyone on the plantation knew Ole Stinky, because anytime something died, he was out of the swamp to eat it, even before the buzzards. Ole Stinky was trapped in the house, and he was madder than a poke of honeybees. He thrashed around something terrible, smashing all the pretty things slave craftsmen had made the family over the years as well as the possessions brought from trips across the big water.

The flood waters were coming up around Jolly's waist. The catfish were jumping all in his face, yet he felt very safe. To him, this was a kind of resting place. Sad thing about it was that Jolly was unable to sacrifice his life for the safety and rescue of Massa, Missy and the family. They ended up drowning along with all the rats that had sought refuge on the roof of the Big House.