Collected by M.C. Parler Robert Wilcox
Bald Knob, Ark. August 5, 1960
Reel 411, Item 4
Autobiographical narrative MCP: Where were you raised?
RW: Up here at Bradford in White County. Bradford's ten
miles north of here, towards St. Louis.
You know, when I was a young feller — well, my father got killed when I was sixteen years old. He was killed the seventh of October before I was sixteen the twenty-ninth of March. And we was uh my sister and Daddy and I were living together -- and Mother died when I was seven years old, we lived in Searcy County then. Marshall's the county seat of Searcy County, you know where that is*
So we came to Bradford when I was seven years old. And my brother -- well, I had a older sister that was with us then — and kept house for us till she married, and then Daddy and my little sister and me. we just batched! So he got killed in the Fall, the seventh of October before I was sixteen years old.
And I worked by the month all the time on the farm.
And I went to work on the farm when I was just a little feller, for five dollars a month — four dollars a month, in fact, first time I ever harred out, four dollars a month. Lived with the family I was working for, and they done my board and washing. And uh McKnight up here at Russellville is -- some of 'em are living yet, the ones I worked for.
I worked by the month all the time as I started to tell you. And after he got killed, I went to Missouri.
And I carried the -- I knowed the letters but I didn't know the writin' letters. And I carried my Reader and Blue Back spellin' book. And I learnt how to make the letters out of that Second Reader.Reel 411, Item 4
And we went up there after Christmas. We got to Missouri after Christmas, Neosho, Missouri. And I wrote to Jim Westinhan (?) Willie Westinhan. I come back and went to work for him the first of March. And I wrote to him, wrote him a letter good enough for him to read it. But I don't know all the capital letters yet. But I learnt them letters and wrote him a letter, and come back. I walked from Neosho, Missouri, down through them hills.
MCP: How long did it take you to walk that far?
RW: I can't tell you how long I was a-coming to Marshall,
Arkansas, but I was two days and a half a-coming from Marshall to Bradford. It's a hundred -- we was up there the other day, and come right down through the country, only they've got a good road now. It was just through the woods when I come down there, you might say. You know how the roads was away back yonder.
MCP: Would you find some house to stay in for the night?
RW: I didn't finish it. I didn't have no money when I
left up there. And my brother -- I don't know how much we had to start out from Missouri to Marshall. But we spent the
last dime we had. We lay out one night. That's the only
time I ever lay out in my life that I really had to lay out. Just this side of Eureka Springs, between Eureka Springs and Berryville. And we actually had to lay out, we couldn't get a place to stay all night. Is that thing turning now?
MCP: Uh huh. I want it. Go ahead.
RW: So we got to my uncle's at Marshall, and he wouldn't
come no further. I stayed there for some time, I don't know just how long I was there. And I got a hold of seventy- five cents some way, I don't know how I got it, couldn't tell you that. But when I left Marshall I had seventy-five cents. And my cousin come with me a half a day on a horse.
We rode fifteen miles. And I hit out the rest of the way — never been out among strangers in my life before. And just before dark I walked up to a house, nice place, and asked if I could get a chance to stay all night. And he says "Yes, come in." And I went in. I had seventy-five cents, and I didn't have no more idea than nothing what it was to cost me.Reel 411, Item 4
But next morning I asked what I owed 'em. Said a quarter.
I give 'em a quarter and that left me fifty cents. Now
I don't know what I done for dinner. But the next night I
stayed up fourteen mile yon side of Flora (?), and it's twenty mile yon side of Denmark, where I was landin' at.
And I paid a quarter there. But I don't know what I done for dinner. But I stayed two nights, cost me fifty cents.
And I made it in two days and a half.
I went to church with a feller down here, here a while back, went to Batesville. It was just this side of Batesville, we went up there to church one night. I told 'em. says "I could tell you fellers something that you wouldn't believe." And you there are not very many people will believe that. Now I walked right down through them hills.
We was up there the other day and the car registered a hundred and six miles up here a mile and a half above here*
That would be a hundred and seven miles and a half to here.
And we come right down by Timbo and Alco. First time I been to them places since I walked down through there.
MCP: Was that about 1900?
RW: About 1900 the last time I was up there. But I believe
I was a-horseback.
MCP: Did you farm?
RW: Yes'm, worked by the month on the farm.
MCP: After you were grown and married?
RW: Yes'm. Well, now I farmed uh, and I worked for the railroad company but I farmed on the side. I worked for the railroad company. I pumped for the railroad company down here twelve years. And I fired on the road 'bout two years.
But I didn't have no education, and I was afraid if I tried to stand the examination I couldn't make it. And I never did go and stand the examination. Thought I'd get by without that, and I was firing on the road here, just a-working extra out here. And they just quit calling me. and I didn't have no seniority and nothing I could do about it. Well, if I'd a went on -- they wanted me -- I went over there and madeReel 411, Item 4
application. And my application was OK, but I was afraid I couldn't stand the examination. So I thought I could get by without it and they'd call me and I wouldn't say nothing about it. But there was nothing I could do about it.
Then I went to work for the railroad company pumping, I pumped twelve years down here at ....
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