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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with J. D. Thomas and Lela Rigsby Thomas, November 14, 2000. Interview K-0507. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A boy's farm chores

J.D. remembers some of his farm chores. He carried water to his father and older siblings (there were seven) in the field, chopped wood, fed livestock, and eventually worked in the field himself. Lela remembers helping her mother and her aunts with their tasks. Lela and J.D. knew each other even in childhood.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with J. D. Thomas and Lela Rigsby Thomas, November 14, 2000. Interview K-0507. 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:
So, part of the reason to have a big family is that it provides you with some workhands.
J. D. THOMAS:
[Laughter] You're exactly right!
ROB AMBERG:
Was that your experience?
J. D. THOMAS:
That was the experience, because the older siblings—brothers and or sisters—would help mother raise the family. Ladies would do the housework inside, and the boys as they got older would take charge outside. Well, you go back to Daniel Boone or David Crockett and see the old Walt Disney movies—that's exactly what went on.
ROB AMBERG:
So you were born in 1930?
J. D. THOMAS:
1930.
ROB AMBERG:
So, I would expect that you probably had some chores even by the time you were five or six? You maybe had some things to do. I'm curious about what that would've been.
J. D. THOMAS:
Well, I as a boy would have had the—not being the youngest boy—I have one brother that's five years younger than I, but the other brothers were older. My chores would be when they were in field to carry to them if they needed water, as you have seen and all like that.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Or food.
J. D. THOMAS:
And then I would stay around the house. Maybe I would fix wood up with an axe when I was old enough for to cook with or to heat with in the winter time. The other things you could do, you had hogs to feed; you had chickens to feed and the other animals on the farm. After I got old enough I could do that rather than go to field and [do] those harder jobs; [Laughter] those much greater tasks that the older boys would do.
ROB AMBERG:
So you learned to figure out ways to stay out of the field?
J. D. THOMAS:
Oh yes! [Laughter] Oh yeah, I sure did.
ROB AMBERG:
I can understand that. Was your family farming, Lela?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Well, that's a long story. My mother and her two sisters raised me and my brother. There wasn't any factories or anything. They more or less worked in fields and gardens, and did housework and all that stuff, for other people. They would set tobacco, they would [unclear] the tobacco. They would hoe corn, they would schuck corn and whatever.
ROB AMBERG:
And your father?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Well, he left me and my brother when I was five. I was five, and he was two. So we didn't have a father. We didn't actually have a father.
ROB AMBERG:
I'm sorry to hear that. So, you were not really farming on your own here?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
No, everybody—well, we raised a garden.
ROB AMBERG:
Oh, sure.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
We raised a big garden, but we helped all the neighbors do their farming. Well, I used to ride the tobacco—back years ago you had to drop the plants and set them with a stick. I would drop them and J.D. would set them out.
ROB AMBERG:
So you all worked together back then?
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
Yeah, even back then. Went to school together.
J. D. THOMAS:
[Laughter] She's going to tell on us, Rob!
ROB AMBERG:
That's amazing.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
We went to school together, we played together, we worked together. He and me and his sister and brother. Then when he joined the marine corps he started writing to me. Then when he come home, we'd go out. And then, here we are. [Laughter]
ROB AMBERG:
That's wonderful. So you've literally known each other all your lives.
LELA RIGSBY THOMAS:
All our lives, right.
J. D. THOMAS:
Yeah.