“We lived in different houses, all different sizes. We lived everywhere. Mom and Dad, they just moved around a lot. We would tell them that they moved so much, that every time they’d go to move, the chickens would run out in the yard and cross their legs, ready to be tied!”
James Hall, Disabled; Abingdon, Virginia:
“I grew up down around Greendale, Virginia. I liked growing up there. I never did like city life. As a kid, I went fishing and hunting, and worked in tobacco and hay. We just got out and wandered around and different stuff. We played horseshoes, we’d take corncobs and put feathers in them and a nail and make homemade darts…stuff like that.
When I was able, I just liked to get out and go through the mountains. We used to ginseng hunt and hunt herbs in the mountains. My brother and me was young, and we would hunt ginseng every year just to get enough money to buy our fishing and hunting license. You had to make a dollar somewhere! You just dig it and dry it out and, after it’s dry you take it to the buyers and sell it. You can just lay it out. You didn’t hang it, there’s really just no way to hang it. Spread it out in boxes and stuff; put it out in the sunshine and let the sun dry it out. It’s according to how big the root was to see how long it would take it to dry. We knew where the buyers were. There was one over at Douglas Wayside over on 19. They ship it everywhere! When we were little, we used to peel bark. Slippery elm, they called it. And catnip root. I think they used slippery elm for medicine.
My parents farmed. My Dad was sort of disabled. My Mom farmed and took care of the house and us six kids. We enjoyed farm life. You raised what you ate back then. We raised potatoes, corn, beans and stuff like that. A hog every now and then! We had a smokehouse, but we didn’t use it.
We lived in different houses, all different sizes. We lived everywhere. Mom and Dad, they just moved around a lot. We would tell them that they move so much, that every time they’d go to move, the chickens would run out in the yard and cross their legs, ready to be tied!
After I got out of school, well I just gandered around. I went to work at an early age, at eighteen. I guess my first job might’ve been Castle Mobile Homes. I worked there three or four month. Most of my work, I worked at Andis Palette Company for 27 years. I go hunting and fishing and stuff like that. Just lazy man’s fishing. Sit on the bank and catch whatever bites!
One of the saddest times in my life was when my parents passed away. One of the happiest times, back then, was whenever we sold that tobacco! (Laughs) We was going to eat then and we had a little money
A lot of people outside the region don’t know how it was growing up. A lot of them these days didn’t grow up the hard way. Everything’s handed to them now. The hard way was, if you ate, you got out here and you raised it. There weren’t any certain jobs. [You did] anything; hoed tobacco, corn and the whole garden, hung tobacco. About September, you cut tobacco, and then you hang it. You got to hang it to dry, it cures out. The last of October, first of November, you start working it off. Stripping it. You strip the leaves off the stalk, then you put it in a box and you bale it. Then, you just take it to the markets and you sell it. I haven’t raised none in years, but they’d have an auctioneer and they’d be a bunch of buyers who would go through,
I’ve got two kids. I tried to teach them to stay out of trouble. The way things are these days, there is a lot of dope and kids are into a lot of trouble these days. Thank God I’ve got two good kids. I’ve got one that’s sixteen, still in school and one who is twenty-three, she’s disabled. She’s had three heart surgeries. She had her first one before she was a year old; she had a hole in her heart. The second time she had what they call patent ductus valve. They had to go in and sew it shut. The last time, she had a microvalve put in. She’s doing wonderful now. She’s doing wonderful.
I want to be remembered just the way I am.”