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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 >>

Playing baseball, hunting rabbits, and watching square dances

Snipes remembers what he and his chums did for fun. They played baseball with homemade materials; hunted rabbits, killing them in vast numbers; and peeked in on adults' old-fashioned square dances.

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:
So you played with the children over at school. What kind of games would you play?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
See, my mother knit all of us stockings. She'd knit it out of white cotton thread. And she knit well-wore stockings, not socks. When I was eight or nine years old I wore knee stockings that come up to my knee. But my mother would sit by the fire at night and knit all of those, different lengths of them for different ones in the family. And then we'd get red oak bark, and get that inner bark next to the wood, the thin bark, and boil it and make a dye. And she dyed all of our socks. Then when we wore the feet completely out we'd take and unravel them and make a thread ball. Then we'd take the top of an old shoe and cut the shape of a cover of a baseball. It'd come around here, and then come around here, and then the one would come across this a'way. They're sewed together with four seams. We'd cut tops of an old shoe out (an everyday shoe or something) and make us a horsehide cover, we called it. And that was our baseball. Played with thread balls most of the time. Didn't nobody have no store-bought balls or store-bought glove or nothing.
BRENT GLASS:
What did you use for a bat?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We'd take us an ash and straighten it out, dry it, and cut it out, and take a drawing knife and scrape it down sort of in the shape of a bat. It didn't make no difference whether it was forty inches long or two foot or three foot or what, just so it was in the shape of a ball bat. There weren't no [Laughter] distinction or regulation.
BRENT GLASS:
Where might you play?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
We had a little place over in the straw field. I don't even know whether the bases were regulation bases or not; I doubt it very much, though. We had a rock at every base, and if you slid into it you were liable to bust your head open [Laughter] or knock your kneecap off or something. But there were some big games that day and time.
BRENT GLASS:
Who would play, just boys from around?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
One school. There were five or six little old country schools about two or three miles apart. We'd play each other along about school closing or Easter or something like that. School usually closed about Easter.
BRENT GLASS:
Well now, where was your school located?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Are you familiar with any of the land up at Chapel Hill Road? Are you familiar with where Fitch Creation is?
BRENT GLASS:
Yes.
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, Fitch Creation is sitting on our little old ball ground. We had a big boys' ball ground and a little boys'. As you turn there close to Manns Chapel Church, as you turn down towards the golf course, that was our schoolhouse right on the left there. Where you hit Fitch Creation's houses, that's sitting on our old schoolhouse lot, that old ball ground and schoolhouse lot. And that's where my wife was raised, right there. The Connie Smith land, R. B. Fitch and them built houses all over it. The Haithcock and Smith land there was where my wife was raised.
BRENT GLASS:
How about hunting or fishing? Did you do much of that when you were a boy?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Well, we didn't have nothing to fish. I mean, there's nothing but little old branches and creeks, and not much water up in that area. And we didn't get to go nowhere. I'd never seen the river 'til I was a great big boy. We rabbit hunted. Now, that was a big occasion: go out and kill thirty or forty rabbits a day.
BRENT GLASS:
What would you kill them with, guns?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Sticks and guns, and the dogs'd run them down and catch them. We'd just take the entrails out in real cold weather and hang them up in the smokehouse with the hide on them, and dry them out. Then we made rabbit hash, and cooked them. And they replaced a whole lot of meat, hog meat. There was a lot of quail way back there, a lot of turkeys. Chatham County has been blessed with rabbits: just thousands and hundreds of thousands of them way back seventy-five years ago.
BRENT GLASS:
And you were telling me that Chatham County supplied… ?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
It's the only county in the United States that ever shipped 'em by the carload, a carload of nothing but rabbits with the entrails taken out with the fur on them: just pack 'em down and fill the whole car full. Like this place over here Rabbit's Crossings, they've shipped them from there here in Chatham County, and Devil's Tramping Grounds and over there at Hogs Crossing and all that. They shipped them by the carload. But the foxes got so they destroyed them, and we don't have that many rabbits now, very few.
BRENT GLASS:
Let me ask you about these corn shuckings and cutting frolicks and so forth. Would there be music at these?
JOHN W. SNIPES:
Sometimes they'd wind up with an old-fashioned square dance, and move out everything after supper. See, they wouldn't shuck corn but well around Thanksgiving, and chances are it'd be cold by that late in November probably. And they had the big fireplaces. And they'd move out everything and put on a log fire. Now I was little, but them bigger ones, I expect they'd go out to the woodshed once in a while. The longer the dance the redder the eyes got, and they'd have the old-fashioned square dance with all figures, you know. Maybe some old neighbor would have an old banjo with about half the strings on it. It didn't make no difference, just so it was making a fuss sort of. [Laughter] I weren't big enough to get in on all that. I'd have to sit off and look through the door, peek through the hole. But they had good times.