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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Carolyn Rogers, May 22, 2003. Interview K-0656. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Negative memories of farm field work, despite husband's favorable image of farming

Rogers dispels her husband's romantic notions of farm work. Having grown up in a sharecropper's family, she recalls the difficult work she endured. Again, Rogers discusses her father's adherence to rural ideas despite his family's move to the city.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Carolyn Rogers, May 22, 2003. Interview K-0656. 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

PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Did they bite or pinch? Or they were just squishy worms?
CAROLYN ROGERS:
No, just squishy, fat, juicy, squishy. We'd have to pick them off and throw them down on the ground. And you would have to throw them in such a way that it would kill them. And you had to do it quickly because you've got to get this field done. Or if we were "putting in tobacco" which means that my brothers were out in the field "priming tobacco" which means they are breaking the leaves off of the stalk, putting those in what we called "sleds" and then the sleds with the horses would bring them to the barn. I "handed leaves" which means that I would have to gather three leaves together and hand it to the person who was looping it. The looper's job is to wrap this thread around the three leaves that I gave her and wrap it onto the stick. The stick then is taken to and hung up in the barn to be cured. We would have to do that. There were many mornings where we would have to, after the tobacco is cured, we would have to get up at 3:00 in the morning, take the cured tobacco out of the barn and be ready to refill that barn by 6:00. It was not a fun job. You would be dirty, the gnats were swarming around you, the mosquitoes were stinging you. It was not a beautiful job. Then when I started dating and still working on the farm, I would call my Mom in Cary, on Evans Road, and ask her to please run me a tub of water so that when I got home I could just jump right in the tub, get all of that gum off of my hands and from beneath my fingernails, and by the time my boyfriend was there, arrived, I was just as priss and proper. And he never knew I had been in a field all day. Never had a clue I had been in a field all day. But you know, that takes me back to the kids. Kids who live in the satellite areas do the same thing. They do that kind of a change when they come to school. Those who are able to do that because you never know what their home life was like by the time they got to school. Now some kids would bring it to school with them. Other kids, you'd never know. Just like my date never knew I had been in a field all day, we never knew some of these kids were up all night and some of these kids were fathers in their homes and some of these girls were mothers in their homes because the parents are out working. You never knew it. It's just a change that you undergo in order to become what you want to become. But it was not fun. Today my husband says, I want to build a home on a farm. And I say to him every time, that's when the divorce takes place. I'm not going with you. I've had it. He was not a farmer, he doesn't know what was like growing up on a farm.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
He has romanticized it.
CAROLYN ROGERS:
Yes, he's romanticized it and believe me, it was not romantic. It was if you owned the farm, and even then those kids worked on the farm alongside us and it was just as bad for them. But for me, it was not fun and I don't choose to go back under any circumstances. Even if I owned the farm I don't want any part of it. It was not fun, not a fun time in my life. Then when we moved to Cary and Daddy says, I don't want you all to feel like you are city slickers so you're going back to the farm, and he farmed us out during the summer.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
How long did you do that?
CAROLYN ROGERS:
I did it, let's see, seventh, eighth grade through high school. And then my senior year in high school is when I stopped. Because that summer I came back from college is when I worked at Rogers' Restaurant. I said, no more, this is it for me.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
So he was no longer a sharecropper?
CAROLYN ROGERS:
No, my Dad was no longer a sharecropper, that's right. He was then working at Southern Builders and a place in Cary called Proeschers Restaurant. I don't know how to spell that but it was right across the street from the then Taylor Biscuit Company. Daddy used to be a chef there. I didn't get a chance to work there but he worked there and then he worked at Southern Builders.