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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ethelene McCabe Allen, May 21, 2006. Interview C-0316. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Taking over the family farm and changing technologies for farming

Allen discusses how her younger brother, James, and her mother took over the family's tenant farm following her father's death in 1958. In addition to explaining the irregularity of "a widow and a teenage son" assuming such responsibilities, Allen describes some of the changes in farming that were taking place during those years and how those changes affected the kind of work her family did on their farm.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ethelene McCabe Allen, May 21, 2006. Interview C-0316. 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

BARBARA C. ALLEN:
So was this something he did - the roofing - just until the opportunity to farm came up again. He had missed the season for hiring on as a tenant, was that it? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Yeah. So when this opportunity came up we - he jumped on it. He and Mr. Raynor got along really well. The whole Raynor family and us – we got along really well. Mr. Raynor was a good landlord and he really appreciated Daddy being a good tenant.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
That was then the last landlord he worked for. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: The last place. And he died when James was sixteen and James stayed on. James and Mama stayed on there and worked the farm. Leonard helped them. They worked the farm.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Leonard is your husband. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Mr. Raynor let them stay he was not about to run them off and get somebody else. If they were willing to do it, he was willing to let them stay. So he stayed until he graduated. Then the year he graduated - and he turned eighteen in November. His year he was in his senior year so he was eighteen in November and he stayed on and farmed through the next year. Then along that fall when all the crops were sold they let Mr. Raynor know that they would be moving so he got another tenant. I don't think he had another tenant though. I think he rented the land to somebody and the house he rented it to somebody to live in, just the house, but not the whole farm. I think somebody in the neighborhood, somebody tended the farm, the land, and the tenants just probably some kind of day laborers or something.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Was it unusual back then to allow a widow and a teenage son to farm a place after the - ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Didn't happen too much. Cause James had never taken much responsibility. He didn't even have his driver's license when daddy died. So he had to become a man real fast and get his driver's license and work the tractor. He had never even worked the tractor before. I think daddy did all that. It was one of those tough old tractors – old tractor that was hard to change gears and all that. But James managed it and he did it.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Your husband helped out. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Yeah, Leonard helped him some. Without his help James probably couldn't have managed it. He at least told him what and when to do things. He relied on his experience to know when he had to do certain things and he would help him get the machinery right to do it.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
When to plant, when to fertilize and all that. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: How to plow. He probably helped him with the cultivators and how to plow. Now when Cecil was growing up we had mules, we didn't have a tractor. Cecil had to plow a mule. In fact, I think we had two mules and daddy plowed one and Cecil plowed one. When he was just a thirteen, fourteen, he was barely – he was small for his size and he was barely big enough to handle a mule and plows. It was a tough job. But he did some of it. James never plowed a mule. He worked with the tractor.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
When did he get the tractor? When did your dad get the tractor? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: I guess it was after we moved to that Raynor farm, cause he had to buy a mule. He had sold everything. He had to buy new things to farm with, so he got a new mule. Then later on he bought a tractor. He stayed there a number of years, I don't know how long. Well, it would have been about ten years I guess, from age forty to age fifty.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
When did that house burn down? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: There was a family living in it, but I don't remember when.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
It was before I was born, wasn't it? ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Yeah.
BARBARA C. ALLEN:
Before '67. ETHELENE McCABE ALLEN: Yeah. I don't remember. Several people lived in that house. It was a family of blacks that had moved into it. They had lived in another house and burned it down before they went to that one. They moved in that one and then it burned. I think what it was, if they were old chimneys and they probably had a rip-roaring fire. It was too much for the chimneys and it caught fire in there and burned out. The same thing had happened at the other old farmhouse they had lived in. That was the end of that place. It was a few years after mama moved out. I don't remember how long it was.