LEWTON:This is Clarence Wells being interviewed by Zack Lewton on July 16th, 1991. [Interruption in taping] Okay. Well, what we're going to do first, I just want you to tell me a little bit about your mother and daddy and where they lived and anything you can remember about them.
WELLS:Well, I'll tell you about my [coughs] . . . my father. He . . . he was . . . he died in 1918 when this flu epidemic came around, you know, . . .
WELLS:. . . and he was . . . we lived at St. Charles, Virginia. That's where I was raised at, in St. Charles. My mother, she . . . she lived over there until she died here three or fours years ago, and I didn't . . . I don't know exactly the date right now. You think it ain't a doing anything? 1:00
LEWTON:I'm sorry, go ahead.
WELLS:Now, I mean . . . I said my mother, you know . . .
WELLS:. . . she lived there in . . . so, what I mean, what else do you want to . . . want me to go through with your . . .
LEWTON:Well, I just wanted you to tell me little bit about your parents and just what they did and your life growing up.
WELLS:Well, . . .
LEWTON:Just that and the other.
WELLS:. . . of course, you know, my mother married again, and after he died she married again and raised . . . there was eleven of us children but there was four of Wellses. And I had three sisters and they're all living in . . . over in Virginia, different parts. I think I got one sister in Tennessee, a younger sister. So that's . . . I was . . . I left there and . . . and you want to know anything about that? I mean other . . . anything else about my parents or . . .
LEWTON:Yeah. Well, tell . . . tell about . . . first you said you had some brothers and sisters that weren't Wellses? How . . . how . . . 2:00
WELLS:Yeah, they were Toomeys. She married . . . my mother married again after my daddy died. He died, I told you, in '18 when that flu epidemic came around and killed all the people. I was two years old when . . . when he died, and she married again, so they raised a family of Toomeys. She married him. He was from Alabama, my stepfather was. And, of course, he went back down there. He died, I don't remember. I can't remember the dates when it happened because I was in the army. I . . . when . . . when he died. So I left St. Charles when I was just a young man, seventeen years old, I believe. And do you want to know anything about that, and what else? 3:00
LEWTON:Well, first, te-. . . tell me about your brothers or sisters? Now, whe-. . . where were you in this? Like, what, were you the oldest or the youngest or . . .
WELLS:My . . . my three sisters, there's two older than I am and there's one younger, and that's . . . that's the situation there. So the other children, they . . . they . . . they's Toomeys. I can't remember too much where they're located at. They just scattered around. There's part of them at St. Charles, some up in Indiana and different places. We don't communicate too much with each other. We was talking about it, my wife, the other day, and we don't . . . just . . . we don't get around too much. We . . . I'm . . . I'm not much to travel or go anywhere. I like to stay at home like that. So that's about the case on the . . . on the family, I guess. What else do we want to go on to? 4:00
LEWTON:Well, I was just going to try to get a little bit about you growing up and everything. Do you remember . . .
LEWTON:. . . like what . . . what was the house like that you grew up in?
WELLS:Oh, you want . . . you want to know . . . you want to know . . . yeah, that's what the . . . that's what the . . . this . . . my boy . . . I got a boy at Corbin down here. He . . . he works at the washer plant at Corbin, and . . . but we'll . . . we get on with that, but you want to know something about me a growing up?
WELLS:Oh, my boy. [Laughter--Lewton] You don't . . . you don't hear my life story. It's . . . that boy at Corbin, they . . . they've all wanted me to go through my life story. Man, I had a . . . I lived a . . . I lived a rough life.
LEWTON:Well, we really want to hear it. 5:00
WELLS:When I was . . . when I was growing up . . .
WELLS:. . . back during the Depression, you know, and . . . and also my wife in there, we . . . we had it tough. When I was . . . I was a going . . . let's see. I believe I was . . . I believe I was eleven years old we lived . . . my stepfather he . . . he had typhoid fever and was just getting over it and it . . . it was tougher than that, you see. And I was going school and I . . . I was a pretty good-sized boy eleven years old, and I'd go to school in the . . . the winterest fall of year, and the frost . . . frost had come on. You know, it'd been a frosting. I was going to school barefooted, you know. And we lived at . . . I don't if you know anything about that country over there or not, I'd . . . I'd say you don't.
WELLS:But, anyhow, I had a pretty good ways to walk. So we lived at a . . . we was renting off of a . . . some people that owned a . . . a lumberyard there. So on Friday evening I 6:00went out to this man that run . . . owned it and run it there, him and his brother. I said . . . I said, "I'd like . . . I'd like to have a job. I liked to work tomorrow," you know, on Saturday. He said, "What could you do?" I said, "Well, I believe I could do a whole lot." I said, "I'd do it right smart." And he said, "Well, you come out in the morning." I . . . I went out the next morning and they had a big boxcar . . . boxcar load of lumber. Just big two by eigh-. . . sixes, eights, tens, you know. They just had room to shove me up in the top of it to start poking it out, you know? He had two men working on the ground. So I shoved that out to them boys that day and they . . . they . . 7:00. men they were, and they stacked it and all like that. I went in that evening and he . . . he told me to come in. He said, "Clarence," he said, "what are you going to do with this money?" I said, "Well,"--Mr. Frye was his name--I said, "I'm going to buy me a pair of shoes." He said to his secretary, he said, "Write him a check for two dollars and a quarter." And he gave me a check for two and a quarter. He said, "Now, Clarence, don't say nothing about this." He said, "My men out there, on-. . . I only pay them a dollar and half a day," see. That was back in the hard times. That was during the Depression, and I took the check and gave it to my mother. We lived right there close. She went to town, bought me a pair of shoes for two dollars and nineteen cents, and that was . . . you know, you only got one pair a year, you know. And so we lived . . . we lived there. 8:00Now my stepdad, he . . . he got over that typhoid fever, and we moved over on a little farm that my daddy had bought when he was living. He . . . he was a . . . him and another fellow was a big coal operator in that country over there. They had the biggest mines in there then at that time. And, of course, they didn't have any . . . you know, back them days, they didn't . . . they didn't write up no contracts doing their deals, no nothing. What they had only handshakes and things. So this guy, he beat my mother out of the biggest part of what they had. They had a . . . they had a big outfit there, so she didn't get much out. Anyhow, we owned this little farm over there, and that . . . we went to the farm then after that and kindly [kind of] got started out farming and that. But we lived pretty fair back during that time. It . . . it was tough time. My dad . . 9:00. my stepdad only made about . . . when he worked at the little mines over there, he run one of those . . . these monitors. You ever see 'em run up and down the hill, you know, one bypass the other one like that? It was a small outfit . . . well, it was pretty big then, but I think they paid him about, maybe, two dollars a day, I don't know, something like that. But in the meantime, it . . . it . . . it was . . . it was rough. I had the . . . I'd . . . I s-. . . I s-. . . I didn't get much schooling. I started working right after . . . after that I had a uncle that . . . he . . . he was in a . . . there was a big sawmill and an outfit like that. I start working around at that with him, and I got . 10:00. . that's where I g-. . . you know, I . . . I learned this farming business is what I do, I . . . we . . . I got a hold of an old horse off of one of my uncles. And then, you know, like that kept it, and finally I got me a good mule. And there was an old man over there that . . . he worked for those companies then. There was some companies over there. He'd go in the mountain and hew these . . . cut down these small trees. And they didn't have this . . . this stuff like they got now, these metal ties, but he'd hew two sides of 'em and . . . and he . . . he hired me to . . . to go on the mountains like that and . . . and snake 'em out. I . . . I believe he gave me three dollars a day was . . 11:00. And so that . . . that's the way we lived back then. That was during the Depression there and things were pretty tough. You didn't . . . if we had . . . we c-. . . we had a cow and we had hog . . . raised hogs and chickens. We lived pretty good but there was people that actually didn't . . . didn't get along, you know. They'd got on that government stuff. So I started out in . . . after that I started out in the timberwoods over there for . . . and I was about fourteen years old then, I guess. I started out in that . . . working for that feller [fellow] in the timberwoods, and I had a great-uncle over there that was working in a . . . working as . . . in this pony mine, you know. That's about all they had back then. They didn't have much of this big stuff. And he took me in the mines and started . . . started me out like that. I worked with him awhile 12:00and found out then that they was hiring men up a big mine, the Benedict over there they called it, the big mines up there. And I went up there and that's when I started lying about my age, you know. I was . . . I was about as big as I was going to get, I guess, you know, as tall as I am now like that. But you had to be a certain age to . . . had to be . . . at least be eighteen years old, and so I'd . . . I'd go up and I'd . . . I . . . I jacked my age up and I got a job in the big company. So I worked there for, I don't 13:00know, a year or two. I was . . . anyhow, they . . . that's when they started organizing the union. So there was a motorman there. He signed about thirty of us up and he turned us in to the . . . the mine foreman. They fired everyone of us. And so we went off about a couple of weeks and they recognized the union then, went back to work. Then I decided . . . there was a bunch of us. There was about . . . I believe there was about fifteen of us. We's . . . we we-. . . decided we were going to go to the army. And so the train, the old local train, it left out of St. Charles a going to Appalachia of a morning, so we decided we . . . that's about the only way we could get to where . . . we 14:00had to go to Bristol. And so we all hoboed to Appalachia, then we caught the coal drag out and it took us all night about it to get to Bristol. We had a layover in Bull's Gap there. Like to froze to death. We just finally set a big tie pile afi-. . . afire. And we got into Bristol, why, went to the Salvation Army and they give us soap, towels, give us a breakfast, and we all went to the recruiting place, you know, and they turned everyone of them boys down but me. I was the only one. The only one. This was in first 15:00part of '33, right after . . . right after [Franklin D.] Roosevelt . . . when Roosevelt was elected. [Herbert] Hoover had went out. And I ended up . . . they sent . . . I got with some more guys from another place, they were a couple of brothers, and they sent us to Richmond. We left Richmond, stayed all night there, and they sent us to Washington, D.C., Fort Myer[s]. That's when they had these . . . they had all these horses there, these 16th Field Artillery, them big French .75s and all like that. That's the outfit I went in. Of course, that was just right up my alley, you know. I made a big hit with the . . . because I knowed all about horses and all like that. But when I went in they's 16:00only paying eighteen dollars a month. That's . . . that's what we got. And they took out a dollar and a quarter [for] your laundry. You only got sixteen dollars and seventy- five cents [inaudible] saving like that. Money was scarce, you know. So, I stayed there. I made first class private and expert gunner and it paid me thirty-five dollars a month. I . . . I was doing pretty good. I stayed there till '36. That was in '33 when I went in, and I come out in '36. I had sister lived up here in Cumberland. Brother-in- law was working at Lynch up here. So I was a wanting a job, and I went up there and that's when I started lying about my age again. Man come out, there was a big line from the 17:00store down, do you . . . you know anything about Lynch?
WELLS:You don't? Well, from the store down to the bathhouse or from the tipple up that way, the guys from down here up that way was men that had worked there before they was hiring, and the guys from down the other way, the line I was in, was guys that never worked there before, you know. And I was twenty years old, but the man come out . . . the employment man, he come out, he said, "Boys, if you ain't got ten years of mining experience, you'd just as well drop out." Well, I needed a job and so then the line got short, you know. I come down, went in the employment office and the man asked me . . . I knowed coal mining 'cause I'd been a working in it. He asked me how you mined and all like 18:00that, but I jacked my age up about . . . I don't know, about any-. . . anyhow, almost ten years or something. I jacked it up anyhow, and so the man gave me a job. I went to work and, 'course, later on when . . . when the war broke out, why, they . . . they called . . . they was calling all us guys under twenty-nine years old to be examined, you know. We . . . I went . . . we went to Huntington, West Virginia. The employment man, he called me in, he said, "Clarence, who . . . who . . . who's got the right age here?" I said, "Well, Roy," I said--Roy [Overbey?]--I said, "Roy, Uncle Sam's got it." I told him then, I said, "Roy, when I come here," I said, "I . . . I . . . I didn't . . . I 19:00wasn't old enough to have ten years' mining experience," but I said, "I just jacked it up," you know. And so I straightened . . . leveled it off. I straightened it out then with him and I thought he straightened it out with everybody. 'Course, I . . . I thought he straightened my age out. As we go on I'll tell you about what happened about it. I went ahead and I . . . of course, I run a motor. I worked . . . I worked for the st-. . . company. I worked thirty-nine years for 'em, that U.S. Steel. I . . . I was a supervisor up here, or a foreman up here at thirty-seven when I retired, and so by my age a going on like that, I was working up here and I was about fifty-five years old, I guess, and I got a . . . a thing from Social Security down here saying, "Dear Mr. Wells." Said, "You're eligible for Social Security at age 65." Man, I went . . . I lacked ten 20:00years of being [laughter] . . . and so I didn't go down then. So in a few days I got another letter that said, "Dear Mr. Wells, You are eligible for Social Security at age 65, Medicare, and . . .", you know, they made it look good. And I had to go down and straighten that out like that 'cause . . . I just went down and told 'em how it was, you know, and they straightened it out. I went ahead and worked till I was sixty-two and I retired. So that mine I was a working at in Virginia, I was working here and I went back over there to . . . 'course, my first wife, I moved her over here five times. 'Course, I don't know whether it means anything or not. It . . . it's just what happened. And she 21:00wouldn't live over here and I . . . I . . . me and her, finally we separated. That's my s-. . . that's my second wife right there. Me and her finally separated in a divorce. But I went back over there and I went to that same place where . . . where they fired me and all that kind of stuff, you know, then asked the old man for a job and he said, "Clarence," said, "you had trouble with the boss when you was here." I said, "No, sir." I said, "You fired me for joining the union." He said, "I did?" I said, "Yeah." I said, "You . . . we went back to work." But he said, "You come back up here tomorrow," and said, "if that's what it was I'll give you a job." I went back the next day and the old man gave me a job, you know. Just outright he . . . I just making my crooked past straight, you know, all the way with my age and everything that like. I went to Bonnie 22:00Blue then and worked there, but I didn't li-. . . I didn't like that. We had to ride them mine cars up and down at the top of them mountains, you see, and Lynch up here, you just went right off of the . . . the road into your bathhouse and into the mines, see, until they went on the mountain up there. Of course, that's where . . . a . . . I . . . I shortened my time with them there 'cause I'd quit three or four times and went back over there and tried to work and . . . and I didn't like it. So when it come up, they started cutting off on the bottom. I was the first man they cut off on . . . down on the bottom down there, and they opened this mine on top of the mountain . . . at Highsplint on top of the mountain, and the mine foreman said, "Clarence, let me call up there and . . . and see what they'll do." And he called the superintendent up there and he . . . he 23:00told me to come on up, and I went to work up there. I run a motor on top of the mountain for eighteen years on top of the mountain. One of those big motors up there. And then I went to bossing and I bossed the rest of the time at . . . until I retired at thirty-seven up here. And I was really glad to get out of that up here. Do we need to go on with any . . .
LEWTON:Well, now, before we get going too far, let's go back to when you were growing up. I just wanted to get an idea of what the house looked like that you were born in, or where . . . you know, . . .
LEWTON:. . . and how many rooms it had?
WELLS:The house? Oh, well, we had the house that . . . where all of us children was borned was on the farm over there where we went back to, you know. We lived in a . . . in the 24:00mining camp up there at the . . . but all of us children was borned in this house over on the farm, and . . . and the only thing about it . . . it . . . it was a . . . it . . . it was only a four-room house, you know, with two porches. You know how that is. It's a . . . that's about the size. 'Course, some places they had bigger houses, but I guess that was a good size for . . . there wasn't no family much at that time, you know, but of all of us children was borned there in that house on the farm like that. I don't know whether the house is still standing or not. Don't know what happened to it. I . . . I built a house on the farm later on after I got married. I built a log house on the farm 25:00and didn't stay with it. I mean, I . . . I got over in this country here and . . . and I liked it, so I spent all of my time over here.
LEWTON:How big was that farm that you grew up on that . . .
WELLS:Oh, I would say there . . . let's see, there was . . . it had to be about . . . I guess it was a little less than fifty . . . probably fifty acres, but it was just mountain . . . just mountain, you know, that's all it . . . mountain land all it is . . . all it was, you know. Ridges, not the big mountain. Just a s-. . . ridges around it, you know, like that, and it was about a mile . . . it was about a mile from St. Charles up to where it was at. And we . . . we lived there for s-. . . I mean, like I said, my mother and them lived there for several year, and then they . . . my sister and my brother-in-law, they finally took it over, and I reckon they finally sold it. I . . . I don't know what 26:00all happened when I . . . when I was in the army. After I got away, why, didn't have too much . . . too much contact with 'em, 'cause when I come back I come over here and I've been in this part of the country. Like I said, I worked thirty-nine years for the U.S. Steel up here. And this farm now right here . . . I mean, this place, I don't know, is it any beneficial or anything about this?
LEWTON:Yeah, I want to hear about your land here, too. Yeah.
WELLS:The land? Well, this . . . when I got this, I lived on a lease back on the mountain up there. They had leases and I had a nice little farm back on . . . on the mountain above Lynch. Man, we loved it back there. It was just . . . you just went up through the camp. They got a big housing project back there now. Somebody has. I mean some . . . 27:00whatever outfit has these housing projects. But back there the . . . the mountain came down . . . the Big Black Mountain came down and then there's a big bench come off. It was . . . it was almost . . . it was almost level enough that you could . . . you could just almost run an automobile or truck over it, you know, like that what I had. But it was just a shack house. Just a shack, that's all it was. But, man, you talk about . . . we had six children. I had four by my first wife and she had one, me and her had one, that was it, to raise and it was pretty tough, you know. That's the reason I had the farm. So I had a . . . up there I had a big black mule. We had a cow. Man, I raised hogs 28:00and chickens and, golly, you talk about farming! You talk about something you could grow! One year up there I know that we picked and sold sixty-five bushel of beans, my wife and I. I mean, she helped me farm then. And I'd sell . . . you know, we'd just have all kinds of stuff. Tomatoes, I'd peddle 'em down here. And I knowed how . . . I knowed how to raise that stuff. So we lived up there nine years and they come . . . they s-. . . that's when they sold the houses out at Lynch. And our youngest boy . . . all of 'em had left and gone somewhere. Our youngest boy, he signed up for the army when . . . when he was in school. He was getting out of high school. He was graduating. So I told my 29:00wife, I said, "Now, you won't want to stay here by yourself of a night." I said, "They're selling the houses down there and I'll just . . . I just . . . we'd better buy one." So I bought a double house there in Lynch. Eight room, it had been two houses but they had it made into one. And I bought that house and we lived down there for awhile. I came down here now when this place right here . . . the old road's over there. So this was mountain here.
WELLS:This was all mountain here. It . . . it was rough. And we had a big swinging bridge across from here over to there, and anything that we brought in here we'd have to go up here and come down in the summertime. If you wanted to haul anything in here you had to come down by the dairy farm there and through the river and down through that field there. You know, if you had to haul anything in you had to do it in the summertime because we had the swinging bridge. That's the only way we got in and out of here. So I had 30:00a friend that . . . that owned . . . had this lease down here. This was a lease, a company lease. And I come down here one day . . . we could come down here and buy eggs and produce off of him, you know, this guy. I come down here one day and he said, "Clarence, how . . . how would you like to . . . how would you like to have this farm?" I said, "Man, I'll tell you. I've wanted this all my life. I've wanted [chuckling] this," you know, talking like that. He said, "Well," said, "I . . . I'm going to let you have it," and I figured he'd . . . I figured he hit me for a big . . . pretty big, you know, something. That's the way you do it. I . . . if I had a lease and . . . and you wanted, I . . . I'd sell it to you, you know, and nothing about the company. You'd just go up there and the company'd just sign . . . they say sign it over to you. So I said, "Well,"--Red Handley was his name, he and his wife both are death now--I said, "Red, how . . . how much you want for it?" He said, "Well, I'll . . . I'll tell what I'll do. I'll give you 31:00everything." He had a whole bunch of hogs out there and he had all kinds of stuff around here. He said, "Tell you what I'll do." He said, "I'll . . . for six hundred dollars, " said, "you can have it." Man, I told my wife I said, "Lord, write him a check before he changes his mind." And we moved down here. It was rough. You . . . you ought to have seen this house. Oh, it was . . . it . . . it . . . it was a shack. This was a shack. It was a shack house, that's what it was. Had . . . had been built out of rough lumber. It had roofing shingles on it. That what's had the roofing shingled on it and all like that, and no bathroom. You went out of this . . . that . . . they had an old 32:00cookstove set over there and they had a . . . an old round sto-. . . stove in there that used oil, and they had an oil line running from the other side of the river over there. Had an oil line that filled the tank up over here with that oil line. You went out of this into another room in there, and when you went in there, there wasn't no floor in it! Had boards layed down and had manoleum [lanoleum] on it. And, oh, it was rough, anyhow. 'Course, after we moved here . . . I've been here twenty years, we have and, of course, we've got a house . . . we built this after . . . after I bought the land, see. When the highway came through here, cut it off, we got to trying to buy the land, and so they 33:00finally just . . . everybody was a wanting this property. It goes all the way to that bridge. I didn't buy it all. I could have, but I just bought four acres. People got to running up there trying to buy it out from under us, you know. And they jacked the price up on it. They . . . they . . . I could have gotten it a lot cheaper but they jacked the price up on it. Finally they came down here and an engineer, he was a good friend of mine, and he said, "Just tell me how much of this you want . . . how much of this land." I said, "Go to the lower end of the field down here, down at them woods down there there's a drain goes through there," and the highway was another fifteen feet on. I said, "Measure me off four acres right straight up the field." So that's how we got this farm here. I call it a . . . four acres is a pretty good piece of ground. And I did 34:00try to keep some cattle or something out there, but they got so high I couldn't . . . I couldn't . . . couldn't afford to buy 'em. Year before last I went and I got two acres out there of grass and clover, but cattle got so high that I . . . I couldn't do nothing with 'em. I couldn't afford to buy 'em, I couldn't come out on 'em. You go to the market, man, gosh, they . . . they run them little calves out there, a day-old's two hundred and five dollars. Run a big cow out there at eight hundred and some dollars. There ain't no way. Year before last I went up here at Cawood and bought two cows and two yearling calves three months old. I give him nine hundred dollars for 'em and put 'em on the field out there, and then I sold 'em in the fall, I don't know, about thirteen . . . twelve-thirteen hundred dollars, something like that. But I went this pas-. . . this year 35:00and I . . . I couldn't handle it. I said, "I can't . . . ain't no use me buying some and fool with 'em," you know, like that. It's just . . . it's just out of the question. So that's how we come into this farm. Of course, this ri-. . . this room . . . this . . . before we built this home, we . . . when we moved down here, we . . . we put in a bathroom and done all that kind of stuff. We fixed them rooms up. You can look at 'em. They're as good as you . . . it's a house in a house. We redone the roof up there. It had . . . it had little poles for a . . . in the roof and all like that. We done that. Me and this son-in-law of mine, we did this . . . we did this right here. He's a . . . he's a good carpenter. I spent ten thousand dollars on this kitchen and dining room here, this outfit here. And we . . . that's how we come into this little plot of ground. 36:00We've been happy with it, me and wife. I said, "Well, it's a good place to settle down. That's all we ought to do." And that's the way we . . . all I do here, I don't know whether you'd want to see it or not, but all I do here, I . . . I do all this by myself. My wife don't nary a thing. I . . . I raise it and bring it to the house and she takes care of it. We got two freezers in there. I got one twenty-one foot and I got an eighteen foot. I got a pumphouse over there. I just this week . . . last week I . . . I don't know. We've . . . we've spent a lot of money. Our water here is . . . everybody's water is iron water.
WELLS:Comes out of mountain here, got that iron in it. These people come around, they'll sell you . . . sell you a filter for that thing and it'll be a . . . g-. . . sell you a 37:00water softener. And I don't know how many times I've spent . . . twice that I know we spent over, I guess, twenty . . . over two thousand dollars. So it went out here last week and I got a feller from the pound to come in here, we give him sixteen hundred dollars the other day. He put us in a real outfit here. Takes care of the . . . it takes care of the . . . of the iron and everything. Just water just as clear as it could be. My wife is just tickled to death with it. And like I said, we . . . we d-. . . we put all these groceries up, and me and her don't need 'em. But if she . . . she knows how to do it, though.
LEWTON:Hmm. So you . . .
WELLS:But we had to do it while we was raising them kids, and I've got . . . like I said, my children . . . I got a b-. . . I got a boy in Georgia there, my oldest son. Both of 'em 38:00was in Vietnam. The oldest boy, he . . . he went . . . he was over there twice. Then he . . . he come out . . . he retired. The same day as I retired out of the mines, he retired out of the army twenty years.
WELLS:Now, it's been thirteen years ago, or will be September the 30th. And so he . . . he was a first sergeant. He retired at Fort . . . out of Fort Knox down there, and then he . . . he had him a fine place down there and, of course, you know how these women is whenever you retire. They got to go all over the country. "I want to move to Florida. I'm wanting to do this." And they broke up and sold their farm and everything and run all over the country and back to Somerset, and he's the one that likes to farm . . . likes to farm, too. So they finally went back down there in Fort Knox, out the other side of Fort Knox, and he's been a deputy sheriff down there in that county for . . . I guess, three 39:00years in the county. And it come up . . . this job come up . . . a government job come up there at . . . guarding this gold at Fort Knox. He's in Georgia right now in a ten- week . . . ten-week school down there. But, man, you're talking about . . . you're talking about a real job and money, too. He's the a . . . you can't . . . you can't live on . . . on twenty-year retirement with your family. His wife works in a bank down there at Fort Knox, and he got two girls that works in the . . . somewhere down there. They come by here the other day and . . . but he has got a real, real job. Pay's good. But he just lucked into it. There was a job come up for a Viet guy, one for a civilian. And 40:00he . . . he just lucked right into that job, and he can work him out another retirement like that. And he was lucky. He went to that darn war over there and . . . and he was a . . . he was a sergeant, had a patoon [platoon]. He went through that without a scratch. You know, most of the guys come out bad. My youngest boy, he went through that over there and he come out without it. He got a good job down here with the . . . at Corbin at that washer plant, the U.S. Steel, or the Arch Mineral now. And he got a good job down there. His wife is an x-ray technician in that big hospital down there at Corbin. And all of our children come out good. I had a daughter, my youngest daughter, she was 41:00working for a telephone company in w-. . . in Columbia, South Carolina. And she was just driving down through town, happened there was somebody in there with her, and she just clumped over dead on the . . . driving right down the street like that. They never . . . never knowed what . . . what happened. She just took the examination. She was wanting to . . . was taken an outside job, a linesman?
WELLS:She'd just took the examination and passed that and all like that for that big company, and just driving down the street, buddy. And she was twenty-seven years old, I believe, when she died, like that. Just fell over dead.
WELLS:So I guess we'd expect these things. I don't know. You . . . is there anything else you want me to . . .
LEWTON:Well, hold on a second. . [End of Tape #1, Side #1]
WELLS:42:00 I love it. I love it. I love to farm, and that's why I do it. And I ain't got a bit of business out here doing all that. I f-. . . I do all this farming. I try to . . . well, I did up to this year . . . past year I hunted a whole lot. And my hunting dogs died on me, and I just kind of give it up.
WELLS:[Laughs] I had . . . man, I had two . . . I had two beagles out there. I mean they were rabbit dogs and just . . . they was getting . . . they would have been eight years old, I guess, next month. I guess I hunted 'em to death. But I reckon if a man needs to do something, rather than . . . you can't . . . you can't just sit down and retire. 43:00Now, see, I'm . . . last . . . no, the third day of this month I was seventy-five years old, and most of the people have been dead about thirteen to fifteen years when your seventy-five years old comes up. Is that about right?
LEWTON:Yeah, I guess so. [Hearty laughter--Wells] You're doing good, looks like to me, so . . .
WELLS:Why, yeah, I'm doing good. I . . . I stay active, that's all I do. We've got a good living. Wouldn't have to turn our hands to nothing if we didn't want to. But here we go, raise all this stuff. Last year . . . let's see. I think last year I sold over two hundred dozen roasting ears to these . . . these people. What they do, I got customers, 44:00they lay . . . they've done all been a hollaring already. I raise . . . I raised this hickory cane corn? I've got the white. This field here is white. Everybody's crazy about it that knows anything about . . . about that. Do you know anything about it?
LEWTON:No, tell me about that.
WELLS:You don't? You don't know about hickory cane corn?
LEWTON:No, tell me about that.
WELLS:It's not cane. What it . . . really they call it cane but . . . but the old people, I think, changed the name of it. It is K-I-N-G, king. Hickory king. You've got the yellow . . . my wife likes the yellow, and I plant . . . I've got a patch out there of yellow out there. And I had two kinds of sweet corn. This . . . I never raised any of this Merit. They call it Merit. Man, I . . . I wish she'd show you some that we put in the freezer there, them big ears like that. Everybody kept talking about it, so I . . . 45:00I planted me six rows there. That's what I mowed down right there. The . . . the wind come in there and . . . and, you know, just done that. Just laid it . . . laid it down. It . . . just got right in the middle of it and just laid it down like it did this other patch there. And the other is a . . . is a yellow sweet corn. It's really good. We always raise it. It was good ears and we always raised it and put a portion of it in the freezer. And then this white hickory cane corn. I was telling you about people . . . they come down here and . . . and I'll gather it, and they'll come down here and buy it for their freezers. Some will come and get ten dozen, some will come and get some . . . a guy in Lynch, him and his daughter come down here, they got twenty-some dozen, and a colored lady up there she come and get some. They'll come down here and get it, you 46:00know. All I have to do is pull it off. There's a girl up here that I took corn to yesterday, her husband, he's kindly [kind of] been out of work or something. He's . . . he's . . . he's got an injury, a back injury, and he's out . . . he's not working. But, anyhow, she always comes down and she wants twenty or twenty-five dozen of that sweet corn. So [chuckles] I just . . . I took her twenty-some dozen. I counted twenty dozen then I quit counting. I just kept putting it in the truck out there, and I took it up there and I let her have it for about half price or less. I give her twenty-some dozen for twenty bucks. It . . . it don't matter to me, I said. Tickled her to death, you know. Last year she ordered twenty-five dozen to start with, and then she come back and she got some more. And then when I . . . when I finally pulled all the hickory cane corn down 47:00there, I took her another bunch up there. And so like I said, we give a lot of stuff away to . . . to people that maybe is retired. Old people, I'll take 'em the corn. And our neighbor over here, they're having problems. The old man, he has had heart bypass, and her daddy's about to die, and his brother is about to die, and every year we just give her all the stuff. She ain't been able to farm none, and we give 'em all the stuff they need, the . . . the corn and beans. Potatoes, I usually get the . . . I don't know 48:00why. I go and plant me . . . I plant one row there and I plant them in February. And, man, we was eating potatoes there in May, see. And in the fall of the year, last year . . . year before last, I . . . I put twenty-five bushel in . . . I've got a . . . I've got a potato hole in my hay barn out there. Well, I can go out there and put them potatoes in there, and right now I . . . I've got just a handful. I had to sell a bunch of 'em and give away a bunch of 'em that I had that . . . that I had in there at the . . . these red ones. You know anything about the red potatoes?
WELLS:All right. They're early but they won't keep. See, that's the first year I'd raised 'em. My wife wanted 'em last year and I raised a bunch of 'em and I had thirteen bushel, I believe, I put in there, and they won't keep like the [Candybacks?]. I put the [Candybacks?] in there and I put last year or before last I put twenty-five bushel in there, 49:00and in August we went out there, had some out there, they get real sweet after you keep 'em so long and we had . . . them potatoes never swiveled [shriveled] or nothing. They'll sprout but they won't swivel [shrivel] out there in that hole. And that's the way we kept 'em like that. I always plant my own seed potatoes. I'll get out there and . . . I've got three rows through that field right there and, man, they're pretty. They're . . . they're big potatoes right now. I mean the red ones, she thought she liked 'em. She does like 'em but they got deep eyes in 'em and . . . and they don't keep good. I'm not going to raise 'em ano-. . . I'm going to raise the [Candybacks?], see. They're the 50:00best thing that . . . that we can raise in this part of the country right here. And like I said, I just . . . me and another feller, when we go to dig 'em, I've got a potato plow that I got up in Indiana a few years ago at my wife's aunt. It's got a big blade on it like . . . just like a bull-tongue plow. And we take a truck, or I used to have a big tractor that . . . if there's nobody but me and her, she'll drive the truck and I'll plowing 'em out and we'll load 'em in the truck and take 'em out there and put 'em in there. Me and another guy did it last year. We . . . we dug twenty-some bushels for him down here and . . . and I saw him down . . . down here, one of my friends. I saw him down there spading 'em out? Man, it'd take you three or four weeks to dig a bunch . . . that many potatoes. I told him, I said . . . I said, "Shirley, you . . . ," we was eating at s-. . . we go to the steakhouse every Sunday and . . . and eat down there at Harlan. And I said, "Shirley, you come down Monday morning and," I said, "I'll go down 51:00there with you and we'll get them potatoes out of there in just a little bit." Well, go down there and take his truck over there and hook that plow on. He run the truck and I plowed 'em out I think about twenty-five or twenty-seven bushel. Why, we plowed them out in just three hours, I believe. Take you three weeks for to dig 'em out. That's hard work! I never would do that. I got a Gravely plow out there. I don't know whether you ever seen one like it or not. I got one out there. It's a twelve horse, does my work. I plow my ground. I have it plowed in the wintertime. Some time during the winter I have it plowed, then when the springtime comes I plow it again. I've got a five horse 52:00tiller out there that's got a . . . it's got a lay-off plow on it. And I plow my ground and I take that tiller and I lay it off and I go through and I put my fertilize through there. Then I take that tiller and go through there again and mixes the fertilize. I go and I . . . that's the hardest thing I have to do is just put them potatoes down, you know. I take that Gravely and I cover 'em. When they get up so high, I take that Gravely and go through there and I throw that up on each [inaudible]. That's all I ever do to 'em.
WELLS:Never stick a hoe to 'em. I don't . . . that . . . that . . . they killed me back my young days a hoeing and a beating around on these . . . on these mountains and hillsides 53:00and things. When you raised potatoes back when I was growing up, you hoed them three times. You'd go in there with a hoe, buddy, and, god, that's the hard way to do it. But that's . . . that's a . . . that's a way to raise 'em. 'Course, now, it's like I said, we . . . my wife and I don't need . . . we don't . . . we just . . . I just like to get out here and farm and raise it all for . . . and then it runs me crazy right now trying to take care of it out here, trying to pick the beans. I picked beans last year. We . . . we got seven or eight different kinds. I got a lot of these greasy beans. Them over the hill down there, I wish you'd see some of 'em. They're ready to pick. I need to pick some of 'em now. I've got some over here. I got them little white greasies over there. I picked a bunch of 'em there. I'd pick 'em and bring 'em in here. Me and her sat right 54:00there seven hours out there one day breaking beans, getting 'em ready for the freezers and drying 'em. I got two horses over there. You know what I'm talking. These work horses [wooden saw horses] you work on? I went and bought me . . . bought me some tin, just tin and we just lay it out there, throwed them beans on there. Man, you talk about drying beans. She dries a lot of beans every year, and they're worth a whole lot, too. I don't know. Beans is high right now. I don't know whether they're . . . they're awful high up here. I don't know how they are down where you're at. Man, a girl down here sold a bushel of [half-runners?] the other day, twenty bucks. Some of 'em twenty-five. They'll 55:00give you twenty-five for greasy beans. I never ask people that. They . . . they . . . what I don't give away I usually let 'em have 'em at a reasonable price like that. Like I said, we don't need much here.
LEWTON:Do you do all the selling yourself, or does your wife help out with selling stuff to people?
WELLS:She don't . . . no, my wife don't do it. She . . . she don't do nothing no more. She used to . . . she used to help me farm and all like that, but she ain't . . . she ain't in that . . . that good a condition, I mean, you know. Healthwise, she has a lot of problems and . . . and I bring it in here, she takes care of it what we need. And . . . oh, she might call somebody on the phone maybe and talk to 'em. I'll say, "Call so and so and tell 'em . . ." Girl down here the other . . . yesterday, I don't know what. They're 56:00kindly [kind of] poor people. She want . . . called us here a few days ago. I had some . . . I had a row of cabbage out there. I had a lot of cabbage there. I put it out back in March, I believe. But my wife had done made all the kraut and everything that she wanted. We give some away. And this girl called . . . somebody had told her we had some cabbage and she called up here. I said, "Yeah, tell her to come on up here." She come up here and I went and got her, oh, I . . . it just felt to me like it was almost a hundred pounds of cabbage. I just about give 'em to her. Then yesterday when I was gathering that corn, I had a lot of extra corn that . . . that wouldn't . . . I pick out the big ears, you know, and a lot of it it's real good corn but it . . . it's not big ears. And I guess there was . . . I don't know, there might have been . . . man, there was a 57:00whole lot of it. And I said, "Call that girl down there and tell her to come up here and get that," and . . . and I guess I sold her ten dozen. I guess it was ten or twelve dozen of it, or fifteen. Just bags of it. Four big bags. I said, "Give me three dollars for it or something," just something to . . . little bit. And no, I don't . . . these people that comes on and gets this good corn, I sell it to 'em for two . . . two dollars a dozen. That . . . I don't know whether you can raise for that or not. You couldn't count your labor much and do it 'cause . . . but when I get it I just have to . . . I have to . . . me and her don't . . . I mean as far as a . . . as far as needing to sell any 58:00and needing the money, we don't need it. Me and her's got a good living. That's . . . that's the way it is. I lived thirty years raising them six children. Thirty years I . . . I've . . . I rai-. . . on the credit. That's right, thirty years. And I bo-. . . I never got out of debt till I bought that house up there and . . . and paid for it and all like that, and the children finally all left home. From one year to the other we'd buy their clothes through a catalogue outfit and pay ten dollars a month on 'em. [Laughs] That's the way we lived! And we come up the hard way. She's got some . . . but now, she gets . . . you talk about some hard stories now. That gal in there almost 59:00starved to death back during the Depression, my wife did and her family. But like I said, we was fortunate enough that we had that little farm over there. That . . . that sa . . . that saved us 'cause my mother, she was able to s-. . . she was a worker. She died. She was ninety-three when she died. But we just farmed and raised our stuff like that. I guess that's where it got in me then, and I like . . . I like to . . . like to farm. Just like to raise that stuff, like see it a growing. I get out here and put it in the ground and let it grow. If we don't want it we give it away. If somebody wants to buy it, we sell it to him cheap. I don't know why a man would want do that, do you? [Laughter--Lewton] Huh? When you can sit down here. It's not good. It's not good. I mean a man may sit down and I have a little artheritis, that's . . . that's all that 60:00bothers me, and I don't even do nothing about it. Just . . . just live with it, that's all. And the . . . I don't know of anything else. Was there anything else you want to know about my . . .
LEWTON:Well, tell me a little more about raising up your children. Like you said that . . . where . . . where your first children born? Where they born up at Lynch in that . . .
WELLS:No, my first children was born at St. Charles. Her children was born at Lynch . . . at Lynch Hospital. Like I said, I used to see . . . she had one daughter when we married and I had four. So we'd taken the four. It's like I said, me and my wife . . . first wife, we couldn't get along and we just . . . we just went apart like that, me over here 61:00and her over there. And she . . . she went bad and so after a while this . . . her and her husband divorced and . . . and we got together. We've been here about forty . . . what, forty-some years, I guess now. And I used to tell people, I said . . . I said, "My kids and her kids beats the hell out of our kids." [Hearty Laugh]
WELLS:That's about the size of it. No, they are . . . they all get along good. We . . . we . . . we schooled 'em. They graduated, all of our children. This oldest boy of mine, he . . . he went to work at Lynch filling station up there before he graduated, then he up went into the army, and after he went in the army, why, he . . . he got his high school diploma after he went in the army. The other kids all graduated from high school, and that's as far as . . . well, this boy down at Corbin, the youngest boy, he 62:00ended up in Colorado there. He married out there. He married a girl out there and they . . . he lived out there. We went out there to visit him out in Colorado. We went out and went down into Wyoming, Laramie, Medicine Bow, we was all down in that country. But he was still in the army and finally he . . . he come out and come here. And his gal out there wouldn't . . . she wouldn't come, so they finally divorced and he worked . . . I got him a job in the mines up here. He worked a little in the mines. He went to U.K. to school. He went to college some, back to Colorado, then he come back and I got him a job at that washer plant in Corbin down there. That pays good money. He makes about a 63:00hundred and fifteen, sixteen dollars a shift, you know.
WELLS:He . . . they make good money down there, and his wife, she's an x-ray technician. She's been there fifteen year in that hospital down there, so they live at Corbin down there and he works down there. And all the children have done well, just like I said. My oldest daughter, she married a boy at Pennington Gap. They live at Pennington Gap and he's a big supervisor for the big telephone company over there, and they all done well. Her daughter up here, I got . . . twenty years ago when I moved down here he was in Louisville, never seen the coal mines, and he come up here to visit and they was working about three or four . . . he was trying to work about three or four jobs down there to 64:00try to make a living. And I asked him, I said, "How'd you like to have a job in the coal mines?" He said, "I . . . I . . . I might like that." [Chuckle] I had him to go around to the mines and talk to the superintendent, you know, and . . . where I worked. Well, he just went back home, and the superintendent where I was . . . I was a supervisor up there at #33 then, he said, "Clarence, have you . . . could you get your son-in-law up here?" And I said, "Well, yeah, I can get him up here." He said, "Get him up here and I'll give him a job." He give him a job. He's a mechanic. He's got twe-. . . he's worked over twenty years now and his wife works for an insurance company up here in Cumberland. So he's done well, too. He makes a hundred and sixteen or eighteen dollars a shift a day. They pay good, you know.
WELLS:65:00 That's . . . that's where we all come out . . . that's where I come out good on . . . because I . . . I was a foreman, and when I retired I was getting . . . I was just . . . back then . . . of course, they get a little more money now, but back then I was . . . I was getting twenty-one hundred dollars a . . . a month salary, three hundred dollars for working the weekend. I'd get time and a half . . . I was working every other weekend and making plenty of money and . . . when I retired. But we had our problems with the 66:00company, though. Yeah, our children's all done well. They're all living it up. That's good, you know. None of 'em never took up but . . . none this dope, stuff like that. They all live a good clean life. None of 'em fooled around with it so . . . it makes you feel good, you know, to raise children and they all got their own family and . . . and good jobs.
LEWTON:Did you try to raise your children the way you were raised, or what did you . . .
WELLS:Yeah. Yeah, my wife . . . my wife . . . she . . . she . . . a time or two she got on me. She said . . . she said, "You're too hard on the children." When I lived back on the mountain I'd make 'em work. I'd make 'em work. They had to work. This oldest boy of mine, he . . . well, he was young then, you know, and if I wanted a . . . if I wanted a 67:00beef killed, I kept my own yearlings and beefs, hogs, and everything. If I wanted one killed, I'd say--Richard's his name--I'd say, "Norman Richard," I'd say, "I want that beef killed today." Him and her. Now, she's a good butcher. You talk about a good butcher? That woman in there's one of 'em. And . . . but, you know, I'd come in from work and it would be there. He get out there and he'd . . . he'd kill it, and they'd . . . they'd dress it and . . . my wife doesn't . . . now I . . . I don't mind killing a hog, but a beef, I don't want nothing to do with it. They stink, beef does. They stink. And a hog . . . hog don't . . . don't . . . you know, they're clean. I mean, there's something about a beef that . . . that smells. I don't . . . I don't care anything about it. I wouldn't kill one at all, and I always hired somebody to do it if the boys wasn't home. So 68:00used . . . when we lived back on the mountain, I'd always have a bunch of hogs. I . . . whenever our vacation come up, we didn't get no . . . no vacation like these boys do now. We'd get a little bit . . . a little bit of money. I'd have two hogs . . . weigh two-fifty or three hundred pounds, I'd have two hogs ready to go. I'd take them to . . . to Benhur. You know where Benhur's at?
WELLS:That's . . . that's between Pennington Gap and Jonesville. There was a meathouse . . . there's one over there now. I'd take 'em over there and I'd kick 'em in that meathouse, you know, just turn 'em in there, and I'd go back . . . I'd take 'em two weeks before our vacation so we'd have plenty of meat and everything, and I take 'em over there and kick 'em in. And I'd go back and get 'em, they'd be dressed and all like that, you know, ready to eat, packaged up, ready for the freezer. I've got a freezer in 69:00there we bought off of Betty Fields up here. Let's see, I believe it's thirty-. . . thirty-four years old, I believe. It's got two lids to it, two sides.
WELLS:We kept one side for the meat, the small side for the meat, and the big side for the vegetables. That's the only one we had then. It's either thirty-four or thirty-six years old. If you look right out under that shed right out there, there's a refrigerator out there that's forty years old. It's forty years old.
WELLS:It's been a running that long. It's been out there for eight or ten years sitting right out there. It runs year around. It's never had a . . . never had nothing done to it.
WELLS:70:00 We use it. My wife use it. She's got it full of stuff out there now. You know, like we go gather cucumbers or she's got stuff . . . she's got it . . . we got meal. There's a . . . on Clover Lick up here, these boys has got a water mill up there.
WELLS:Now, a water mill. We buy our . . . we buy our cornmeal to do us a year around, see.
WELLS:They ground it. I used to raise this hickory cane corn. I'd raise it and . . . and I'd dry it, and I've got a little meal out there that I can gri-. . . I grind . . . can grind chicken feed or I can grind meal on it if I wanted to. But these boys at that water mill, they grind their own . . . I used to take mine up there and let 'em grind it, but why should I do that when I can get it for about the same price? Six dollars for a big straight twenty-five pound bag.
WELLS:71:00 And she gets it and puts it in these freezers or in that, you know, to keep it year round like that. We buy it. She got enough to do a year like that and, boy, you talk about something good [chuckle--Lewton] is that good ground meal like that. So that's the reason I start selling all my corn 'cause I . . . I didn't have no use for it. A man came . . . now, over the hill down here, down here, I don't know where you could . . . after we get through with this deal, and I'd like for you to just walk around, just . . . just walk around and look at that and you can see what damage is done, but you can see what I 've got down there. That . . . that . . . my wife, when we was growing up, they used to 72:00raise that old big yellow field corn. Not hybrid, now, it was field corn. That's about all we used to have. But we'd raise that and . . . and we'd go out and gather it, and they'd cut it off, the roasting ears. Boy, that was good! I mean it was good. My wife said this year, said, "I'd like to have some of that old big field corn." And I found out a guy over on Linefork over here, one of my friends over there, that he had some. And I . . . I went over and got some seed and I planted it on that river bank down there, and we'll have some roasting ears down there. But the doggone muskrats are giving me a problem down there. Before I knowed it they had . . . had two rows of corn about took up. When it gets about . . . about like that . . .
WELLS:. . . last year I . . . I . . . I killed . . . I caught and killed nine I know there, and this year I ain't been able . . . I don't think there's over two of 'em, but they 73:00started . . . they'll . . . they'll . . . they'll cut it and drag it to their hole and . . . and that's what they done. And I got this . . . this reed stuff down here at the lower end in them woods and in the field down . . . down there. You know them reeds, they call it [inaudible]? I got them and stuck them beans, and the beans got so big, when that wind come it . . . it's laid 'em all . . . corn and all right up here, it's just laid it over. This down here is still standing, part of it. And I . . . I'd like for you to look at some of them . . . them beans that I've got down there. I've to pick 'em . . . if I start picking 'em today, and that's them . . . that's them good greasy beans. So that old field corn, that's about all we had. I . . . I never did . . . I'd hear some of that hickory king but people wouldn't grow it. I'll tell you what it does. It gets 74:00hard. It gets harder than . . . really harder than the other corn. When it dries, man, it's hard. But it makes good meal if you want to make meal out of it. It's the best roasting ears there ever was. Everybody's crazy about it up in this country and they won't nobody much raise it. I don't know why they won't, but everybody likes it. "Oh, I like that hickory cane corn!" "Yeah, it's good all right." I do, too, but I can't eat much of it. I . . . I'll eat . . . I got a son-in-law up there, he eats like an army mule. He ate dinner down here Sunday. My wife had fresh green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and corn and she went to church. She said, "Get me about seven ears of corn there." I said, "Okay." I dressed her seven ears of corn. She boiled it. He sat right there. You know what he done? He ate four ears of that corn, chicken, beans. He eats like an 75:00army mule. [Laughs] There . . . there's a colored feller up in Lynch. I used to tell him about him all the time. I said . . . I said, "You come back on the mountain up there, " and I said he . . . out of the city and he didn't know . . . he didn't know them corn silks. He didn't know what they was no how. I said, "He thought it was dessert or something. He didn't pick 'em out or nothing." [Laughs] This colored . . . this colored feller said . . . here the other day I met him up there somewhere up by Lynch. He said, "Clarence, tell me about that son-in-law [chuckling] of yours." I told him one time, I said, "He come . . . he . . ." I said, "He come out of the city up there," and I said, "man, he'd fill his plate up and he'd lay four ears of corn right across the top of it." And I said, "Hey, Allen." I said, "I got a mule to feed, man, you can't eat all [laughing] . . . all that corn." He's a good eater. He don't eat now like he used to, but he's . . . he's '6"4 and . . . and . . . but he did eat four of them big ears of corn 76:00there Sunday. I ate one but I couldn't . . . I couldn't . . . I couldn't go four of 'em. That colored feller, "Tell me about your son-in-law." I said, "Man, he's still eating just like an army mule." [Laughs] Oh, Lordy.
LEWTON:Tell me about your chickens. Who . . . do you take care of them chickens or is that your wife?
WELLS:No, I take care of 'em. The woman don't do nothing outside.
WELLS:I mean, oh, she might go out there and gather a little something like that. No, I got the chickens out there. There's a . . . there was . . . there's two ladies up . . . up the river . . . lives up . . . up the river, they come ever Thursday and get five, six, seven dozen eggs. We haven't got really that many, several chickens, but right now this time of the year I was getting a dozen a day and I had to put . . . there was six, seven chickens running out here and they started eating my tomatoes and stuff and I put 'em 77:00up. They was laying and I put 'em up the other night. We raise 'em out here and . . . and they don't want to stay in that field up there, and I got seventeen . . . fourteen . . . I got fourteen young chickens out there that I've raised this . . . we raise a few. Now, she kills them chickens and, man, you talk about making dumplings. Ooh, that woman cam make them dumplings . . . fresh dumpling! But I . . . no, all I do, I just go out there and I usually feed 'em a little every morning, maybe every evening, gather the eggs, that's . . . that's about all that goes on. If I'm not here, if I'm gone . . . if I'm going . . . if I'm going on a trip or I'm somewhere fishing or anything like that, me and 78:00the youngest boy we get together and go a lot of places or some places, and she takes care of everything. Most of the time my g-. . . the son-in-law comes down here, though, and stays, or the girl, one, stays with her while I'm gone. But we usually keep a bunch. I don't know why we do it. Just don't know why. We just got accustomed to it, I reckon. We did have about forty or more out there. The other day, my dog here, he . . . he . . . I know he didn't bark at you, but I got a good little watchdog out there. He's laying around somewhere out there right now. But he'll bark at everybody. He's getting about eight years old and losing his teeth. But two weeks ago, Sunday, there was 79:00an old big [Brandle] bulldog come in here. He come running in here and was running around, you know, and I didn't know if he was going to start . . . start on my chickens and I run him off. I got out there and I run him and he went up that road and I thought, "Well, now, you're gone. All right." My wife went to Sunday school--she's a Sunday school teacher up there in the church--she went to Sunday school, and I was sitting in there, I watched some TV, I come in here and I looked out the window and there that big bugger was right back there in the yard. And he had jerked the feathers out of about five or six and he caught one, I know. We missed one hen and . . . but he was right here in the yard and my truck was sitting right straight out right out that way. My dog was under the truck and I didn't know it, and I went in there and I grabbed that twelve gauge 80:00shotgun. I run out the door, and that dog, he headed across that way and was going to go into that corn patch and I shot him. And the shots scattered and went under that truck and they shot my dog in both . . . two feet there.
WELLS:Yeah, and he's been a hobbling around ever since. So that dog, buddy, he was going to get all my chickens. Of course, I don't know where he . . . I . . . I'd say he went off and died. I'd laid that whole twelve gauge shotgun right in him as he went through there and, anyhow, he never did come back. Buddy, I don't know whether you be interested to know what happened here one time about a big possum? [Chuckle--Lewton] Would it be interesting to . . .
LEWTON:Well, wh-. . . what happened? Just a . . .
WELLS:Well, I was going to tell you. There's a big old . . . there's a big old boar possum come in here. I . . . I couldn't believe it. I didn't know what it was. And it come in 81:00here and in four days, I believe, three or four days, he killed . . . in my chickenhouse out there he killed sixteen big hens.
WELLS:He come out there and he'd knock 'em off of the roost and all the . . . all he got was the head. And I couldn't figure what it was, you know. I thought it was a . . . I thought it must be a weasel or . . . so one night I backed my truck down there . . . I backed my truck out there and backed down there where I could see and I . . . I was sitting out there in the back of the truck a laying for him. And he come around the barn, come in there. He went in there, buddy, and he knocked two of them chickens off of that roost. He come around that barn so fast I couldn't . . . I couldn't tell . . . I looked . . . I said, "That looked like a big possum." I just tal-. . . kindly telling 82:00'em, I said, "That looked like a big possum." Well, this dog was there and by time I come around he got gone, and that made sixteen of them big hens, buddy, in four days. He'd come in there and knock 'em off the roost. I'd go out there and they'd just be laying there. So I fastened everything up, and where you first come in the barn, you know, there . . . he . . . he had the hole in the lower side down where he come in the chickenhouse. I went out there and I set me a big trap, a big double-jaw trap down there, and sure enough I walked out there the next morning, there he was. Buddy, that . . . I mean that was a big long-legged possum. I never . . . I didn't know a possum would . . . would catch a chicken. And I had a big old ball peen hammer and I walked around there. Possums are hard to kill. And [chuckle] I said, "Son, I'm going to give you a lick for every 83:00chicken that you killed from me." I beat his head in but, now, he got sixteen of them big hens and . . . and just knock . . . he'd go in there and . . . he went in there that night I was a watching him and he knocked two off of the roost, buddy, just bam! bam! I . . . I never seen or hear-. . . never was . . . nothing like that never did bother 'em. But the funniest thing. I had eighteen . . . last year, I believe it was, I had eighteen out there in a little building I got out there. I raise 'em in it. And I went out there one morning, I just turned 'em in every night and turned 'em out . . . feed 'em and I'd turn 'em out every morning. I went out there and opened the door, sixteen of 'em was laying there dead, buddy, and I ain't found out till this day what . . . what happened to 'em. [End of Interview]