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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Roy Ham, 1977. Interview H-0123-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Frustration with an interfering but ineffective government

Ham remembers an effort to make a profit on a good crop of beans one year in the late 1940s, but despite hearing from a government assessor that his beans were worth a profitable sixty cents per bushel, he ended up losing money on the venture. He expresses his frustration that taxpayers fund assessors without any power to set prices. The incident "taught me to distrust my government," he says, further illustrating his point by relating the story of the government forcing a farmer to slaughter hogs he needed to feed his family.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Roy Ham, 1977. Interview H-0123-1. 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

The government man that we were talking about assessed the price of the beans. He said, law, that's the prettiest beans he'd seen that year. The price would be sixty cents a bushel. That's the exact price that I had in the beans that day. And I was a-hoping that when the buyer would see them that he'd give me seventy cents a bushel. When the buyer came around he said, "I'll give you forty cents a bushel." So that left me paying people twenty cents a bushel just to take my beans. I lost twenty cents a bushel on the beans that year. The rest of the beans I had to leave in the field. It was a shame.
PATTY DILLEY:
That was just terrible.
ROY HAM:
What I've never been able to understand is why we paid the government man the money to control the price of it, and all he was doing was just drawing the money and writing and wasting pencil. Because that was twenty cents a bushel. The buyer wouldn't give but forty cents, and he had put sixty cents a bushel.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you think there was ever something between these government men and the buyers? You think they ever had anything up their sleeves?
ROY HAM:
No, I never thought that. I thought it was just an idiotic thing, taking our freedoms one by one, when we could pay a government man to something like that, and then he didn't have any more control over anything than that. A waste of money, a waste of time. Maybe he couldn't use his brain for nothing else; I don't know. But it seems like our government has wasted so much that could have been put to good use, just worthless things like that. It has hurt me. It's taught me to distrust my government. I can't help it. Some of the hardest times I ever saw was when our government… One year we didn't have a bite of meat in the house. We weren't asking nobody for nothing. But on this year—it must have been in '36 or '37—our government come and got our next-door neighbor's pigs, twelve of them, and killed them and buried them. And two or three families there with not a bite of meat in the house. Not a bite.
PATTY DILLEY:
Now why did they do this?
ROY HAM:
Oh, to run the price of other pigs up.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did they do this with this man's permission, or did they just come in and kill them?
ROY HAM:
He kind of begged them to let him give them to some family that needed them. No, that wasn't our government's wishes at that time. That is what has brought us up to what we're in today. Right now it's pretty hard for me to say anything good about our government.
PATTY DILLEY:
It's kind of ironic that all the people were …
ROY HAM:
All the people throughout the world that were starving, and that next year our government took millions of bushels of wheat out in the ocean and dumped it. Now we have never paid for those pigs. We have paid interest on the money year after year after year until today. That's still down in this big debt that's hanging over our head. Done nobody no good. The millions of bushels of wheat that was dumped in the ocean in '37 and '38 may have kept us out of the War;if we had just given and helped the hungry people instead of making them fight, maybe things would have been better. I don't know where the Lord was at when all this was going on.
PATTY DILLEY:
He was still there, I guess.
ROY HAM:
He was bound to have been there, and some of these days He's going to frown on what we've been doing, maybe.