Isom Starnes





Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson

Person interviewed: Isom Starnes, Marianna, Arkansas

Age: 78





"I was born in Marshall County, Alabama near Guntersville. Father belong

to the Starnes. They bought him in Alabama. My parents' name was Jane

and Burrel Starnes. They had two children I knew of. When they was set

free they left and started renting. I don't remember much that happened

before freedom. I picked up chips and put them in a split basket I just

could chin. I'd fill all the baskets and they would haul them up to put

under the iron skillet. Other chaps was picking up chips too. They used

some kinds to smoke the meat. I could tote water on my head and a bucket

in each hand. They was small buckets. We had to come up a path up the

hill. I stumped my toe on the rocks till they would bleed; sometimes it

looked like the nail would come off. My mother was a good cook. I don't

know what she was doing in slavery.



"I been farming all my life. Yes, I owned ninety-eight acres in Alabama.

I had a home on it. I lost it. We brought a suit for water damage. We

lost it, I reckon. They fixed a dam that ruined my place. I left and

went to the North--to Springfield, Ohio. I started public work and

worked three or four months in a piano factory. I liked farming the best

and come back to it. My boys hope me down hill. I got two boys. My girl

left me all I got now. She is dead. I got a home and twenty-five acres

of ground. She made the money washing, ironing and farming. I 'plied for

the old folks' pension but didn't get it and give it up. I made four

bales cotton, one hundred pounds seed cotton. My place is half mile from

town. I have to get somebody to do all the work.



"My father did vote. He voted a Republican ticket. I have voted but I

don't vote now. I voted a few days ago for a little cotton this year. It

was the cotton control election. I voted a Republican ticket. I found

out Democrat times is about the best time for us in the South. I

quit voting because I'm too old to keep up with it. If a woman owns

anything--land or house--she ought to be allowed to vote.



"The times is mighty hard. I need a little money now and I can't get it

nowhere. It looks like bad times for me. The young folks don't work hard

as I did. I kept study (steady) at farming. I liked it. My race is the

best fitted for farming and that is where we belong. I never been in

jail. I never been arrested in my whole life."





Interviewer's comment



I stopped this clean, feeble, old Negro--humble as could be--on the edge

of town. He had a basket of groceries taking to his old wife. It was a

small split basket. His taxes worried him. He couldn't get a holt on any

money, so I told him about the Farmers' Loan. He was so scared looking

I felt he didn't tell me all he knew. He looked tired. I gave it up and

jokingly asked him if he had ever been in jail. He said, "I never been

in jail. I never been arrested in my whole life." I laughed good and

thanked him. I told a young woman who had curiously been trying to catch

the conversation from her yard that I feared I frightened the old man

till he couldn't think to tell me all he knew. She said, "Maybe so but

he has a reputation of being good as gold and his word his bond."





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