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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John W. Snipes, September 20, 1976. Interview H-0098-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Shearing sheep and plucking geese

Snipes was raised by his grandparents, he recalls. He remembers wrestling geese to pluck their down and shearing sheep.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John W. Snipes, September 20, 1976. Interview H-0098-1. 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

My grandparents practically raised me.
BRENT GLASS:
This is your grandparents Hackney?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
On the Hackney side, yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
And what kinds of things would you do there? Did you help them on the farm any?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. I'd help them feed the pigs and the cows, and I'd hold the old gander's head for them to pick down off of him, the feathers you know to make feather beds and pillows. Nobody at that time didn't have mattresses. I'd never seen a mattress 'til I was a great big boy. They had straw ticks made out of wheat straw, and then they had the feather beds. And they had to make them feather beds. They raised the geese to pick the feathers. It took a whole lot of feathers to make a feather bed. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
I bet.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
And every spring my grandfather and them would round up twenty or twenty-five geese in this old log-boarded barn. We'd catch 'em, and I'd hold their heads. Them old ganders would bite you, pinch you. I was little fellow; I'd jump on him and hold his head for grandma to pick his soft feathers out from under. They didn't pick the wing feathers and the tail feathers (they were stiff, you know), they picked his soft down. You could have a barnfull [Laughter] and wouldn't have ten pounds. [Laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Really, 'cause they're so soft.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
And old fellow said it takes a thousand pounds of feathers to weigh a hundred. [Laughter] You'd have a barnfull, but you wouldn't have many feathers. The same way with shearing sheep. My grandfather got old, and I'd help hold those sheep. And the skin on the sheep will stretch, pull way up. You can just take hold of the sheep. My grandpa'd pull the wool up and clipping along, and he was nervous and his hands shook. And he'd just chip little patches of blood all off, you know; those sheep'd be bloody from their head to their tail [Laughter] when they got the wool off. Started at the hind end and sheared him on up to the front, and just turn it over. He'd have forty or fifty little skins where he'd pulled the skin up and he'd clip it off with the scissors, you know. His hand would shake.
BRENT GLASS:
So you helped him do that too?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes, I'd hold the sheep [Laughter] for him to shear them.