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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 >>

A farm life is free, but difficult and subject to the whims of nature

Snipes liked the freedom of farm life, he says. He describes a lifestyle of simplicity but also of hard work and at the mercy of nature. Snipes remembers the destruction wrought by the red spider and the boll weevil in the early 1900s.

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

BRENT GLASS:
Well, did you enjoy living on the farm?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
What did you like about it?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
The freedom, I reckon. When you'd caught up, when you'd done your day's work you'd go out and sit on the porch. Weren't nobody right near us much of the time; weren't too thickly settled. On Saturday dinner in the summertime and farming time my Daddy'd let us off. We'd come home. There were nine of us, and if you had about five or six pair of overalls they would fit any two in the crowd. But it didn't make no difference which one got them on first, [Laughter] because they were so near the same size. My mother made them little old britches. She used to make little old britches 'til I was up twelve or fifteen years old. Never had a store-bought pair of britches 'til I was grown, I mean a great big boy. I don't know whether we was clean or not, but she washed every Monday morning. And she had four or five tubs of water and build a big fire in the yard. And she washed with homemade lye soap. And she didn't wash no more 'til next Monday morning. We had maybe one or maybe two changes. We'd have one on and the other on the line or in the wash, one: that was all the clothes we had. We handed them down from one to the other just like stairsteps. [Laughter] If this one outgrow them this year there was one right behind you to pick them up next year, so it didn't make much difference.
BRENT GLASS:
So you'd get off from work on Saturday afternoon and come home?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Just play around the yard, just stay around the house.
BRENT GLASS:
But it's hard work, isn't it, around the farm?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Yes sir. We farmed four mules one time; we had about four or five mules. We raised corn, potatoes, garden peas, cotton—never no tobacco. That land up there was not to amount to anything. Very little tobacco. But we raised a lot of corn, cotton. The boll weevil come, you see. First the red spider come, and it hit the cotton. And that slowed people up. And then later on the boll weevil.
BRENT GLASS:
When would this be?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
That red spider must have hit along about 1911 or '12, 'cause it was about four or five years before the boll weevil. The boll weevil was in the late 20's. It was about World War Number One when the boll weevil hit the worst, and it got so we couldn't make no cotton. We didn't have the stuff to spray it with, and the boll weevil'd eat it up.
BRENT GLASS:
What kind of jobs would you do on the farm when you were getting up a little bit older? Say would you do plowing?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Oh yes, plowing, cutting wheat, pulling fodder, shucking corn, sowing wheat, cutting firewood. See, you'd cut fifteen or twenty cords of wood a winter for fireplace wood. Two or three great big old fireplaces, and three or four foot long. We'd cut down trees as big as them out there, and just cut them down with an axe. Didn't have no saws; weren't no such a thing as a chainsaw.