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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James W. (Jim) Connor, December 19, 1999. Interview K-0818. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Caring for animals instills values

Connor sees caring for animals as an essential part of the farm business, and an element of rural values. He tried to instill values in his sons by giving them chores.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James W. (Jim) Connor, December 19, 1999. Interview K-0818. 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

CHARLES THOMPSON:
It's about money but it's also about caring about the animals.
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
Yeah. It's terrible. It's all intertwined. You do everything you do to make a living. You do your interviews to make a living. I farm to make a living. It's all intertwined. You can't have one without the other. If you don't take care of your animals, they're not going to live and you're not going to make any money. I think it's all intertwined; everything we do.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Where do you get these values though that cause you to care about your farm and how do you teach that to people?
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
I guess they have to live it. You can't take somebody in New York and have the same appreciation for the land or for the animals as the guys down here on it have. They just can't comprehend it. I know one time when I was flying, I met this guy in La Guardia that was a baggage handler. You can get passes to go anywhere, and I had just been out to Las Vegas and I told this guy, I said 'Ernie. I said, 'You need to get a passߞhe worked for Eastern Airlinesߞand go out of Las Vegas.' I said, 'That's a pretty place out there in that desert.' I said, 'You'd really like that. You'd really love the gambling.' He said, 'I'd be afraid to go out there.' He said, 'I've never been out of New York City in my entire life.' This guy was thirty some years old. I said, 'I'll tell you one thing. If you ever get up enough nerve to go out there, you'll be afraid to come back. You go see how the rest of the world is, you'll be afraid to come back.' I think stuff like that is all relative to how you grow up, what you do, probably a lot ofߞI say all my ancestors made their living off the land. They were all farmers.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You saw this need to get your boys out to the country.
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
That was strictly personal, environmental thing. I see kids that were drinking and doing drugs and raising hell, and it was because they were bored. It was not because they were bad kids; it was because they were bored. I got my boys out in the country, and they can't be bored much.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did you put them to work?
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
Yeah. We always had animals for them to look after. They had their chores to do in the morning before they went to school. They had chores to do in the afternoon when they got home. The weekend, we'd cut firewood and did hay and whatever. Then when they got up old enough, rather than get bored, I didn't have so much work you could do, I'd take them to go to work for other people. My oldest boy, he worked on another hog farm, Dennis Humphries over on the other side of Burgaw. They all worked in the blueberries during the summer and the tomato fields and stuff like that. That's where you learn, it's working for other people. Daddy might say you can slip off early and go to the dance tonight but that damned guy over there paying you by the hour. That's Kelly and Jobe, that's my youngest and next to youngest, they were working on Thomas's tomato farm one summer. Harry Thomas was a tough taskmaster. Well, Kelly overheated and passed out. So they drag him over under the shed. Well, that afternoon when they got paid off, Jobe, he got more money than Kelly got. So Kelly went over and said, 'Mr. Thomas, we came to work at the same time and we're going home at the same time. Why'd he get paid more than me?' He said, 'I ain't paying you for that fifteen minutes you was laying over under that shed.' Now see I told them, 'I said, 'Boys, you learned a real lesson.' They worked for another guy on a blueberry farm. My wife would take them over there at five o'clock in the morning, and they'd get home after midnight. They were working in the fields and the packing shed. He paid them for one day, eight hours. They did it all summer. They were whipped. We were talking about Harry and we were talking about the blueberry deal and all that. 'You learned a valuable lesson. That's why I've got you working for other people and not me. You two learn how not to treat people.' I said, 'One day when y'all get up and if you've got your own business, and a guy, if you start having employee problems, you'll think back and well, I'm doing the right thing.' Because people don't buck up at you if you're doing them right. You treat them right, they aren't going to blow up at you. That's like that old guy out there at the other farm. He's been here twenty some years. I give him a place to live; pay his expense. He's not real bright but if I were in his situation, I'd sure appreciate somebody looking after me. I told my wife, 'If I die, he's yours until you die.' When I went up to Boeing one time to go to school on the 767, my youngest son was home for the summer. The second day I called and he answered the phone. I said, 'How's it going Jobe.' He said, 'I fired Sammy today.' I said, 'You can't fire Sammy.' I said, 'Go get him.' I said, 'He's there for the duration. You can't fire him.' He said, 'He didn't do what I told him.' I said, 'Is he smart enough to do what you told him?' He said, 'Well, I don't know.' I said, 'Think about it. I said, ' Go get him back anyway. You cannot fire that man.' I don't know, you just have toߞ.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
These are the values you learn from work. You can't teach them any other way.
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
No, your parents. My mama was pretty much like that. She was a pretty levelheaded person. You treat everybody the same. It doesn't matter if they're jillionaires or just dirt farmers. They're all the same. They came out of the same envelope. You just made your mark a little different.