Blanche Compton

Jennifer Belcher interviews her grandmother, Blanche Compton on Feb.15,1997. Jennifer's grandfather, Joe, and her uncle plant corn one spring many years ago.

Jennifer: Where and when were you born?

Blanche: I was born on Clearfork in 1921.

Jennifer: Who was your mother and father?

Blanche: My mother Lydia Strauss Higgenbotham and my father was John Henry Kinser and they were married in 1915.

Jennifer: What did they do for a living?

Blanche: They farmed. They raised cattle, sheep, and hogs for a living.

Jennifer: Describe the farm you were raised on.

Blanche: It had a lot of...... It wasn't much level land, it was more rolling hills and pasture was in... It was sorta rough land.

Jennifer: Where did you get your drinking water from?

Blanche: This farm had four springs on it and it run by gravity.

Jennifer: Did you have it piped into your house?

Blanche: We had it piped into the house.

Jennifer: Where did you water your animals at?

Blanche: The creek run through the farm and these springs had water that came out to the creek.

Jennifer: How did the dry weather affect your water?

Blanche: The water..... It didn't bother the water.

Jennifer: What was the house like that you lived in?

Blanche: It had fourteen rooms. It had up stairs and a front stairs, and a back stairs and it had eight fireplaces in it, and it was the old Dr. Bishop's house.

Jennifer: Did you have electricity?

Blanche: Well, we got electricity when I was about about fourteen, fifteen years old when we got electricity.

Jennifer: Did you have a phone?

Blanche: No, we didn't have a phone. We had an old-time phone that you cranked it. Each one would have a different ring and you would ring maybe one ring would be one neighbor and you would ring two rings would be another neighbor. It was an old-time phone and it was on batteries.

Jennifer: What was the first thing that you planted?

Blanche: You always plant your potatoes and onions and lettuce and peas the first thing.

Jennifer: Did you ever gather any wild greens?

Blanche: Oh yes, we used to gather wild greens. We'd gather dandelions, poke, and wild mustard and we'd mix it all together and cook it.

Jennifer: What about mushrooms

Blanche: No, we never fooled with that.

Jennifer: Where did you find the wild greens?

Blanche: Just out in the pasture field.

Jennifer: When did you plant your potatoes?

Blanche: Always plant your potatoes on Good Friday after Easter.

Jennifer: What kind of potatoes did you plant?

Blanche: Kennyback.

Jennifer: When did you plant your sweet corn?

Blanche: Well you planted your sweet corn after the frost area had passed over, oh you wouldn't plant that until up in May.

Jennifer: What kind of outbuildings were on your farm?

Blanche: Well, we had a dairy barn and a sheep barn. We used to raise lambs, and we had a big chicken house, and we had chickens. We raised baby chicks and we had baby pigs and all of that.

Jennifer: Where were they located?

Blanche: Out from the house. You didn't want them too close. The dairy barn was across the road.

Jennifer: How were they built?

Blanche: Well, the milking parlor was built out of stone, big rock and the dairy barn was built with weathered board planks.

Jennifer: Did you have chickens?

Blanche: Yes, we always raised baby chickens.

Jennifer: What kind did you have?

Blanche: Rhode Island Reds.

Jennifer: Did you keep them in a chicken coop or were they just out?

Blanche: We had a house we put them in.

Jennifer: What did you feed them?

Blanche: We fed them corn, wheat, and laying mash.

Jennifer: Who gathered the eggs?

Blanche: Whoever was loose at the time. No particular one.

Jennifer: How many eggs would you get in one day?

Blanche: Well, we never had too big a flock. I'd say we'd get a dozen or fifteen a day.

Jennifer: Did you kill chickens for dinner?

Blanche: Yes, we used to kill chickens and dress them and they're a heap better, they're better meat than what you have now.

Jennifer: Who killed them?

Blanche: Just whoever was handy.

Jennifer: Did you ever have to kill a chicken?

Blanche: Oh yes, I've killed a lot of chickens.

Jennifer: How did you kill it?

Blanche: You chopped their head off.

Jennifer: Did you ever have any varmints get into your chickens?

Blanche: Yes, we had a weasel that got in over here and he killed....he'd bite them through the neck and suck the blood out and pile them up.

Jennifer: How did you stop it?

Blanche: Well, I kept fixing holes and setting traps and finally one night I caught him.

Jennifer: Did you have a milk cow?

Blanche: We had several cows. We'd milk cows and made our spending money.

Jennifer: What kind of cows did you have?

Blanche: We had Jersey and Holsteins.

Jennifer: Did you ever have to do the milking?

Blanche: I always helped with the milking. Everybody had a milk stool and a bucket.

Jennifer: Did you ever get kicked by a cow?

Blanche: Oh, yes.

Jennifer: What did you do with the milk?

Blanche: We sold cream.

Jennifer: Did you have a spring house to keep your dairy products in?

Blanche: Yes we did.

Jennifer: What was it made out of?

Blanche: Stone. Had running water.

Jennifer: Who did you sell your dairy products to?

Blanche: Oh, I don't know..... At Fairmont Creamery Company. We'd ship out the cream in five and ten gallon cans.

Jennifer: Did you raise any beef cattle?

Blanche: Yes, we had about thirty or forty head of beef cattle, and we had about twenty-five or thirty dairy cows with the heifers.

Jennifer: What kind of beef cattle did you have?

Blanche: Black Angus.

Jennifer: How did you raise them?

Blanche: How did we raise them? Well, they were born on the farm there, and we always kept the cows and the bull and sold the calves.

Jennifer: Did you keep them over the winter?

Blanche: Oh, yes.

Jennifer: What was it like feeding the cattle when it was bitter cold?

Blanche: Well, you would really go after it to get through because it was cold.

Jennifer: Did you have to break ice?

Blanche: Yes, had to break water holes so they could get a drink.

Jennifer: Where did you take your cattle to the market?

Blanche: Tazewell and Wytheville livestock market.

Jennifer: Did you raise any hogs?

Blanche: Yes, we raised pigs.

Jennifer: What kind?

Blanche: Hampshires.

Jennifer: What did you feed them?

Blanche: We fed them corn and skim milk. We had a cream separator and we would take the cream off that milk and then you after you a five or ten gallon can you would take it to the freight station and ship it off to Fairmont Creamery Company and you would take the separated milk and feed your hogs.

Jennifer: Did you kill the hogs yourself?

Blanche: Yes, they killed hogs their selves.

Jennifer: What's hog killing day like?

Blanche: Well, it's messy and cold. They always killed hogs around Thanksgiving.

Jennifer: Did a lot of the neighbors come over and help?

Blanche: Part of the time.

Jennifer: How did you make your sausage?

Blanche: Well, we ground it by hand and just put salt and pepper in it.

Jennifer: What about the country ham?

Blanche: Well, we'd salt them down and fix them the old time way. Put them in salt and let them take salt and then you'd hang them up and dry them off and then you would wash them off in hot water and put borks and pepper on them and put them in a cloth bag.

Jennifer: Did you have any horses?

Blanche: Yes, that's how we did the work on the farm was with horses.

Jennifer: What kind of horses did you have?

Blanche: Belgium.

Jennifer: How did you use them?

Blanche: We had harness and wagons and we used them to feed the cattle. We used them to feed the cattle and used the horses to plant the corn and to plow the corn and to put up the hay and we used to haul in hay shocks. Somebody would ride the horse and they'd throw a rope around a hay shock and drag it into the stack. They didn't bale hay back then. They stacked it.

Jennifer: Did you help take care of the horses?

Blanche: Yes, everybody helped take care of the horses.

Jennifer: Did you ride much?

Blanche: Well, some.

Jennifer: What kind of tractors did you use?

Blanche: Tractors? Didn't have any tractors.

Jennifer: What other farm machinery did you have?

Blanche: Well, everything. All the machinery was horse-drawn like the wagon, the corn planter, and the mowing machine and the rake and all that was run by horses.

Jennifer: What kind of crops did you plant on your farm?

Blanche: We raised corn and wheat and hay.

Jennifer: How would you prepare the ground for planting?

Blanche: Well, they'd plow the ground with the horses and then they would work the ground down with the horses with the, oh it'd be, a harrow that had teeth on it and it would go through the ground and then they would smooth it up before they planted it.

Jennifer: How did you plant your corn?

Blanche: We had a corn planter and we always hooked up two horses to plant it.

Jennifer: How did it work?

Blanche: You put the harness on them and just hooked them to the corn planter and went on down through the field.

Jennifer: How did you harvest your corn?

Blanche: We cut that corn by hand if we wanted to make silage we cut it by hand and put it on a wagon and brought it in, and then they chopped it at the silo or if you wanted to shuck the corn, you would cut it and put it in shocks and then you would go back the last of October or the first of November when it got a little damp and shuck out that corn and haul it in.

Jennifer: Did you have a corn crib?

Blanche: Oh yes, we had a corn crib.

Jennifer: What was it like?

Blanche: Well, it had a slatted bottom and you fixed the corn crib so you could have holes to dry the corn out. It wasn't tight.

Jennifer: Did you raise other grain like wheat and barley?

Blanche: Some wheat, not too much.

Jennifer: What about sorghum?

Blanche: Well, we'd make molasses a few times not too often.

Jennifer: How did you make the molasses?

Blanche: Well, you did that work by horse and you would hook him to this press and he would run around and mash out the juice and then they'd put the juice in the can and boil it down.

Jennifer: Did you have an orchard?

Blanche: Yes, we had an orchard with lots of apples. It had a lot of crow eggs and a lot of the old time apples was in it.

Jennifer: How did you pick them?

Blanche: Well, we didn't pick too many of them just what we wanted.

Jennifer: Were frosts a bad problem for fruit?

Blanche: Yes, if it frosted too early it would kill the bloom on the apple trees and you wouldn't have any.

Jennifer: How did you keep your apples?

Blanche: Well, we would put them in the basement. We didn't keep too many. They didn't keep too well.

Jennifer: How did you cut firewood before chainsaws came along?

Blanche: We had a cross-cut saw and we had a man on each end and they pulled that saw. That's the way they did it.

Jennifer: Where did you get lumber for building?

Blanche: Well, you had to buy it off your fellow man that had a sawmill.

Jennifer: Did you have a sawmill on the farm?

Blanche: No.

Jennifer: Did you ever do any logging?

Blanche: Not much.

Jennifer: How did you pull the logs out of the mountain?

Blanche: Well, they had a cane hook and they'd stick it in that log and hook a horse to it with a rope and that's the way they'd drag out logs.

Jennifer: What was your favorite job on the farm and why?

Blanche: Go swimming.

Jennifer: What was your least favorite job on the farm and why?

Blanche: Hoeing corn when I was young. I didn't like hoeing corn. The buck flies would just eat you up.

Jennifer: Do you have any stories that you remember from being on the farm?

Blanche: Well, it's a good life, but it's a hard life.

Jennifer: Why do you think small farmers had to quit farming?

Blanche: Well, the government had to have everything government inspected before you could sell it. The eggs had to candled and the meat had to be government inspected and you couldn't sell them.

Jennifer: How has farming changed over the years?

Blanche: Well, it's changed so much you have to be a big farmer to make a living because a little farmer can't hardly make a living.

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