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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 13, 1979. Interview C-0013-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A working family on a working farm

Farm people grow up fast, Spaulding claims, because they have to work at an early age. He remembers some of his farm chores, including feeding the mules, drawing water, or tending to the horses. Spaulding remembers that while he and his brothers worked outdoors, his sisters helped around the house. With the whole family working on the farm, the Spauldings produced enough food to feed themselves and share with neighbors.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 13, 1979. Interview C-0013-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WALTER WEARE:
What age were you when you started school? Did children start at a particular age?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, no earlier than six.
WALTER WEARE:
Were children assigned duties already, on the farm?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, well, that's one thing about rural life, you know. You have a greater sense of responsibility on the farms at an early age than anywhere else. I notice they mature earlier, and they have a sense of responsibility. They can take on and do things that I didn't find taking place when I first came to Durham.
WALTER WEARE:
Can you remember the first chores you had?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, get up in the morning and feed the mules and horses. Get up around five o'clock and go out and give them their breakfast: the corn and the fodder, whatever, and see that water was drawn for them. That starts early. Then the matter of getting wood in. We cooked with wood and heated with wood, which would come off the land there. It was divided amongst the different ones according to their age.
WALTER WEARE:
How many children were in your family?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Five. Three boys and two girls.
WALTER WEARE:
Where did you rank in age?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I was the third. I had an older sister and brother, and a younger brother and sister. I was the middle.
WALTER WEARE:
We might want to talk about them later, but I want to pursue this matter of life on the farm a little bit. What kind of crops?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
We raised corn, cotton, tobacco, hay, that we'd feed the cattle with. We'd plant a cover crop. We'd plant oats and peas. You'd sow these peas, you know, and cut the vines.
WALTER WEARE:
Field peas?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes, field peas. And of course truck gardens. We had everything that you eat. All the vegetables. We raised our own hogs. Another chore was feeding the hogs. One of the boys was responsible for seeing the hogs were fed. Another of us would see that the mules and horses were fed. We always had two mules and a horse, at least two mules. And, of course, the cattle had to be cared for, and water drawn, you know.
WALTER WEARE:
And what about your sisters? Was there a division of labor?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
They helped in the house.
WALTER WEARE:
Would your mother assign their duties, and your father assign the duties for the boys?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I guess it kind of just grew up. Well, he would tell who would be responsible for the mules and horses. There was a division of labor. Well, see, the mother and sisters would help. At that time you had to chop cotton. Both thinning the cotton out as well as keeping the grass out of the crop. It was interesting when I went to Central America the first time, and those Central American countries, and see how they were farming. Even there reminded me of India. You know, they didn't have the plows that would turn it. So it was interesting to see the development. I remember when we got our first Oliver Plow. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Did you have when I was born on there?
WALTER WEARE:
Yes, 1902. And we were talking, I think, about the grade-school experience, and life on the farm. And you were talking about your mathematical skills and you developed that: in part from being in school, but also from your father's general store. You worked parttime in the general store; you worked on the farm; and you're also going to school. What age did you begin having these three roles?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, my role at the chores around the home, I'm sure, started as early as six years of age. When we were responsible for feeding the mules and the horse—always had at least one horse—and the cattle. We raised cattle enough to provide beef as well as milk. And my mother always had a garden, and she liked flowers in the yard. She had some very beautiful flowers, all kinds. And also I remember having in the yard a big pear tree. And I've never seen a pear tree more heavily laden, sometimes so much that the weight of the fruit would break the limbs. And, of course, pumpkins, and Kershaw. I don't see any of them now.
WALTER WEARE:
A kind of melon?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yeah. But all of the different fruits and vegetables.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you raise enough of this to sell, or was it just for your own?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Our own consumption; and share with neighbors.