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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Serena Henderson Parker, April 13, 1995. Interview Q-0073. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Parker's father and others are naturally gifted

Parker reflects on the physical gifts of some of her family members. As she remembers her father's talents at construction and farming, she recalls "good eating and everything in the world you wanted" on her father's farm.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Serena Henderson Parker, April 13, 1995. Interview Q-0073. 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

EDDIE McCOY:
Well, how did Mr. Nick's brother, Willard, learn carpenter and contractor work? Through help working with his father or he just learned it on his own?
SERENA HENDERSON PARKER:
Just gifted. Just gifted. He and like [Linwood] Parker and all of them— all them Parkers, Lorenzo and all them. They didn't have no training for no carpentry. They were just gifted. Just gifted.
EDDIE McCOY:
Don't you think a lot of blacks had gifts and—?
SERENA HENDERSON PARKER:
Yeah!
EDDIE McCOY:
You know, white people go around and take credit that they taught blacks how to carpenter, build barns and stuff like you say. And you and I know Mr. Nick Parker and his brothers is just as good—Willard and them are just as good a carpenters as any professional. That's what they are.
SERENA HENDERSON PARKER:
Uh-hum. And Samuel Robinson took it after—he got it after his daddy. His daddy just used to go and build little old things and put up a little chicken house or whatever. But little things like that til he got like that. And Sam would go with him and hold things for him and all, and that's how he gots what he got. They didn't go to Hampton, you know, and take up a little special . They're just gifted, that's all.
EDDIE McCOY:
I know. A lot of people are like that and people take credit for their work, or say they did this for them and say they did that for them. I know they didn't do it for them. Because blacks had to dig their own wells.
SERENA HENDERSON PARKER:
Uh-hum. Yeah, they did. They did, and put them rocks—laid them rocks up, you know, to line it, you know. Shucks, they did all this. And they dug wells with their hands.
EDDIE McCOY:
Yeah, shovels, picks.
SERENA HENDERSON PARKER:
Uh-hum. And how in the world did they get down to digging a well, I don't know. Lord, there's so many things they did, I don't know how in the world they got by to save my life!
EDDIE McCOY:
It was tough, won't it?
SERENA HENDERSON PARKER:
Yes, it was tough, but it wasn't tough for them. They just thought it was all right.
EDDIE McCOY:
They did?
SERENA HENDERSON PARKER:
Yeah, they did. They didn't think they—just like digging all the wells and cutting ditches. My daddy and Robert Amos— all them boys did all their work—. But—and Joe [Brennan, Doris's] daddy—they had the biggest farm and they had the biggest farmers in Granville County. And I mean, I was thinking the other day, how—I said, "How could my daddy know how to do that?" You know, like some people let the land just wash away with the rain. He'd know how to get out there and put that mule up—and he'd call them furrows. And he'd run a furrow so when that water would hit that and go on and never get into the field. And where some of them—everything in the field would be washed away. And just all those things. How you put up fences for the cows and [clean the branches out for them to get]—well, I couldn't name the things that he did. And we would—[Lettie was] talking about we used to eat at corn shuckings—until you'd get pure sick. Mama and Mrs. [Hattie Hawley] and Doris's mama and all would come and help Mama cook for corn shuckings and we'd just eat after that and all that stuff. And I said, "Now, he knew it was time to shuck that corn." And he'd bring it up to the crib and put it all around that crib. And the people in the community would come, get there early in the morning, and shuck that corn. Sit there and shuck corn with him and then they'd come to eat supper. Shuck all that—and when they'd get through, they'd throw it in the crib and that crib would be just about full of corn. Shucks, they wouldn't have sense enough now to even go to the field and pull it off the [stalk]. That's the truth.
EDDIE McCOY:
Everybody says it was some good days then, corn shuckings and stuff.
SERENA HENDERSON PARKER:
It was, it was. Uh-huh. It was good eating and everything in the world you wanted.
EDDIE McCOY:
Cutting wood for the barn and everybody—.
SERENA HENDERSON PARKER:
And my daddy could cut more wood—I think they call it—. I don't what they call it, but anyway, they laid it this way and all. And he could put up I don't know how many a day just [open airage]. He was a smart man. He was a smart man and was a good worker. Everybody say he was one of the best farmers that they'd ever seen. And Nick's daddy was a big farmer, too, but he didn't use no sense with his. He'd take up forty acres—Daddy said he remembered once they had forty acres of tobacco. Now, you know, that's a—and said they had to pull tobacco on a Sunday. And Nick said his mama said, "If this happens again, it was going to stay in the field and rot." They had to to save it. And, see, he was just trying to get—just hoggish after things. Just wasn't thinking about how much work it was going to take to do what they were doing. He just did it so he could—so people would say, "Lord, you know, Old Man Nick Parker planted forty acres of tobacco." Had forty acres of tobacco and I think Daddy said thirty acres of corn. I don't see—but he had a lot of boys and grandchildren and all. But they made it. They made it. I'm sure—I'm glad I didn't come on at that time [when it was] hard work like that. I didn't ever do nothing over there. I— used to say, "She doesn't feel well this morning. Don't let her go out there and hand leaves." I 'd make out like my stomach hurts me this morning, but [it ain't nothing in the world]. And then I'd go get in the bed and sleep all day [laughter] . said, "Oh, shut up. You know you ain't never wanted to do nothing."
EDDIE McCOY:
You didn't want to be bothered with them tobacco worms, did you, crawling all around there?
SERENA HENDERSON PARKER:
No, I didn't. I didn't ever do anything.
EDDIE McCOY:
Well, at least you tell the truth.
SERENA HENDERSON PARKER:
Uh-huh. I was the baby—.