Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Sam Parker, December 5, 2000. Interview K-0252. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Life in rural Madison County

Parker tells some anecdotes to describe life in rural Madison County.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Sam Parker, December 5, 2000. Interview K-0252. 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

ROB AMBERG:That was my next question. My experience is that most of the new-comers that have moved in-especially people who moved back in back in the late '60s [and] early '70s-were to a person always adopted by one or two people. SAM PARKER:It's true, and it's interesting how that happens. You get a kindred spirit. Now, there are other people who are real standoffish. But like you say, mine-I suspect I had two. Well, I had more than two, but two major ones. Van Ramsey, who lived below me, was a second father. Van had grown up into what I was doing, had been part of it. Van was an intelligent guy, had been away, had been back. Knew the old customs. Knew how things operated. Knew who to talk to, knew what to do. He knew. He was a major loss, like losing family. But Mr. Willis, too. He and his wife were, as status in the community, were not of the elite. They were the more common folks. Wonderful people. Knew everything about their environment. Knew what was good, what was bad. Knew what to do and when to do it. She was a local kind of a doctor. She was called when the regular doctor couldn't come. Ed had been-had made some whiskey, had done some other things that of course didn't bother us. In fact, it was kind of interesting and exciting that he had done that. Ed told me soon after we bought the place. He was up on the place and we were walking around, and he was showing me the lines. We had to walk the boundaries. That's part of the deal. You've got to walk the boundaries. And Ed said to me, he said, "How you getting along?" "Fine, I'm getting along fine." And he said, "I've got some advice for you." First time he'd ever said this or anything about advice. And I said, "What is it?" And he said, "Let me tell you something about Madison County." "All right," I said, "What is it?" He said, "If you're a son of a bitch, that's all you're going to run into around here." That's all he said. But when you think about it he said a mouthful, because we found that most of the folks in the count-if not all-were precisely that way. If you approached them with respect, with interest, that's what you got. If you approached them with anything else, that's what you got. And I never had any sort of threat. Now, I've been called a son of a bitch or two. In fact, Preach Davis, who was one of my favorite people-who owned the service station down here, and who is now dead-Preach Davis had worked in the service station business all his life. Had made a lot of money doing that. Was very close with his money. Had the best grip of anybody in the county. In fact, could put you to your knees just on doing it, and is alleged to have the best grip in the county. In fact, it was said that when he was a young man he could pick up an anvil by the horn in one hand and move it from floor to bench or bench to floor. I don't know whether that's true or not, but he certainly had a big grip. He stopped me one day down at the service station. I was working for the social services at that point in time. He said, "There was a guy in there talking about you a while ago." And I said, "Who was he?" He told me who it was, and we had in fact taken the man's child away from him, because he was abusive. And I said, well, "What did he say, Preach?" And he said, "Well, Sam, he said you were a revolving son of a bitch." And I said, "Wait a minute, Preach, what's a revolving son of a bitch?" And he said, "It's a son of a bitch any way you turn." [Laughs].