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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: Lew Barton
Typed by: Sally A. White
B: This is April 26, 1973. I am Lew Barton recording for the history department of
the University of Florida. This is the Doris Duke American Indian Oral History
program. And today, we're privileged to be in the home of Mr. Lonnie Hammonds, is
that right? And that's spelled H-A-M-M-O-N-D-S, with an "S" on it. They're kind to
have us today. I've been looking forward to talking with you, because you're so
unusual, a person. So many people know you, and, uh, you're one of the people I've
always admired, incidentally, because, uh, whatever you do, somehow you make a success
out of it. Uh, how many children do you have, Mr. Hammonds?
H: 5 children.
H: 5 children.
B: Could you tell us their names, and ages?
H: Kenneth Ray is the oldest one, and Connie Jean, and Ronnie Dean.....
H: ..... and John Henry.
B: Uh, about how old are they?
H: Kenneth is 15, 12, and Connie and Ronnie are twins, they'll be 12 in
June, and John is 3.
B: Now, who was your wife before you married?
H: Before we were married, she was a McNeil, uh, Ruby McNeil.
B: I guess that's spelled M-C-N-E-I-L?
B: Well, uh, we have certainly glad of the opportunity to chat with you, and, uh, you
have a large operation in eggs. Are you still, do you still......
ll we t have any chickens laying right now. We ot young chickens and
H: Well, we don't have any chickens laying right now. We got IS young chickens and
be some time in July or August, before they start layin.' Uh, after I got hurt, we
got rid of some of the chickens. We were keeping 40 thousand, got rid of 20 thousand,
though. I have 20Ayoung chickens, now, will start layin' in July and August.
B: You do all your farming on a large scale, don't you?
H: Yeah, up until I got hurt, we were working about 7 hundred acres of land. 'I
haven't been able to do anything, now, in a year, since the first day of last May.
And, work a-been getting done in the and I've let some of the
H: And the hogs, I was keeping 12 to 15 hundred head of hogs, last 25 or 30 years, and
don't have no hogs, now, but I hope to get some more, if I ever get back able to work
B: Uh, did this happen in an auto accident?
H: Yes. First day of last May, a school bus backed out in the road, backlright into me
Sand I was driving a pickup. Broke my leg in 2 places and my hip, and recently, I
had another operation up a Durham, a few weeks ago. They say in about 6 months, I
should be able to start walking on it.
B: Well, we certainly wish you a speedy recovery. These things do happen, and they are
very grievous, at times. And, uh, but I kind of think you're made out of good
H: Well, I hope so, I thought I was. This is the first time I've ever been out of work,
more than a day or two at a time. This accident stopped me for a whole
B: I know this sort of bothers you because you are an active person, aren't you?
H: It killed me (laughs), all this sitting around, I've had to do alot of it. I had to
stay in the bed for 5 months, one time, on my back, I couldn't even get off my back
for 5 months. I stayed in the hospital 2 more times, since then. Stayed 4 weeks at
a time. So I'm getting along pretty good, now. I hope I'll soon be able to get back
out there and work.
B: Well, I certainly hope so. Now, this about 10 miles from the University.....
H: Saddle Creek.
B: Saddle Creek. Always get them a little bit confused.
H: Yeh, their like adjoining.
B: And we're just about 4 or 5 mile rom Lumberton.
H: From Lumberton.
B: Uh, I would like to ask you some questions and, of course......
H: Well, you just go ahead and ask them, I'll answer them the best way I can.
B: I certainly appreciate that. We, uh, who was your father and mother before......
H: Henry Hammonds was my father and Rosie Oxendine was my mother. Uh, they separated
before I was born and she married Griffin Oxendine, up at Pembroke. He's dead, now,
she's still living up there.
B: Have you always lived here?
H: Uh, I was born and raised right here in the community. I was raised down there at
the store. About a mile from here.
B: You seem to have, success seems to mark your efforts. And I know this is not just
an accident. It's because you're hard working, and hard planning, and all that, it's
good business principles and so forth, I'm sure.
H: Well, I was raised to work. My grandparents raised me and they raised me to work and
I've always lived to work, and always have worked up until I got in this accident,
and haven't been able to work. Right now, I'd much rather be working, at work, than
sitting around here.
B: This is something that people have often said to me about our people. Uh, they're
hard working people and they, uh, and they don't take defeat, easily. Do you think
this is a fair assessment?
H: Yeah. Well, up until I got in this accident, a year ago, for the last 20 years I
ain't done nothing but work seven days a week. Uh, I've been doing the same thing
on Sunday, as I do, any other day 'cause when I'm, I'm not proud of that, not bragging
on it and people ought to rest on Sunday' and go to church, but if you're in the
chicken and hog business, and they had to have the same attention on Sunday as they
did Monday and say on Sunday why wait til Monday to do what there is to be done
you can't wait. So, by having chickens and hogs, I've worked on Sundays,
just like we did any other day.
B: Well, if you don't know what you're doing when you're in the chicken business, you
can .really lose can't you?
H: Yes. And you can lose that fast. I've had some hard times with the chickens and I've
had some good times, like everything else. Prices have been bad, and they've been
good. For the past year, they've been real good.
B: I've never been quite able to understand why, when the farmer sells his produce, and
his crops, he doesn't receive, always receive as much as should be coming to him,
his fair share, it doesn't seem, does it?
H: Uh, when the farmer goes to sell something, he has to ask the man, "what will you
give me for it ?" You go to buy something, you got to ask, "how much you gonna charge
me for it?" The farmer has to pick what he can get'
B: Do you think that there's, uh, any way of doing something about this? This is a
problem. I imagine, a universal problem. Do you think the farmers could organize,
H: I, they've talked about it, I don't see much you could do. Farmers just ain't able to
hold for better prices. When they gather the crop, most of them, alot of them,
owe for making the crop. They've had to borrow money, or get, uh,
credit for making the crop, and most of them have to sell it for what they can get
out of it, to pay what they owe on it. And then, alot of stuff is perishable stuff,
you can't keep it. I don't see much you, they could do as far as holding back for
B: It seems that the packagers and the packers, uh, get the lion's share of the profits.
I'm just making a cursory observation. I don't know whether I'm accurate, or not.
But does it seem this way to you, that they get split than, uh,
H: Who is that?
B: The people who package and pack, uh, produce.
H: Yeah. Yes, I would think so.
B: And, maybe some of these things will be ironed out as we go along. Have you noticed
that, uh, farming is becoming a larger and larger operation? Would you say this is
H: Well, uh, uh, farming is getting bad, I mean, labor, you can't get any more labor on
the farm, anymore without having to pay more than you're able to pay, and, and alot
of people have quit farms: and gone to public work, and what we have to sell is
so cheap, and what we have to buy, equipment, and stuff, is so high, it's hard to
make anything on a farm, anymore, unless you're in it in a real big way. A little
farmer just can't hardly make it, anymore, on a farm.
B: Some large changes have taken place in my life and yours.
H: It sure has. It used to, anybody could farm with, with nothing' hardly, and you
can't do it anymore. You can't get labor and you have to buy equipment to take the
place of the labor, and it costs so much. And there's just no way a farmer can make
it, unless he's a real big farmer.
B: I, uh, somebody was telling me about seeing a write-up about you in, I believe it was
the Progressive Farmer, where you seemed to attract alot of attention, not by trying
to, but, you know, Mark Twain said, "If one man invents a better mousetrap
than other people, he'll find the world beating' a path to his door."
B: I think you, you've made it, made it work. You've made the farming operation a
diversified thing, too, haven't you? And you haven't just stuck to certain crops
or certain operations.
H: No, I, I've had more than one thing to depend on as far as the farm. See, I've had
chickens and hogs and the crops, different varieties of crops, corn,;/wheat, soybeans,
and tobacco. I have for the last 20 years, depended on my hogs, moreso than any
other part of my farm operation and, about 7 or 8 years ago, started in with chickens.
And out of 7 years, about 3 real good years with chickens and made a little-
money with them. And since labor's go so hard to get on the farm, I ended up
working the tobacco myself, and the last three years, I worked the tobacco, uh,
other people who had labor get it with. But I, I've had plenty
of work to do. In fact, for the last long years, I've done the work, myself of 4
or 5 men.
B: 'Bout how large is your farm? 'Bout how large a farm?
H: Well, for the last about 8 or 10 years, I've been tending anywhere from 5
to 7 hundred acres of land, plus chickens and the hogs.
B: Well, you just have to have a little fleet of tractors, don't you?
H: .Well, I've 3 and 4 tractors. Had one real big tractor, 2 or 3 smaller ones. I have,
uh, what they call, no-till planting. I've done some of that, and that saves alot
of labor on the farm. Last year, we planted corn right in the weeds and grass for....
it had come up some places it was knee high, the weeds and grass. ____ planted, it
will plant in the roughage, like that, and then turn right around and spray it with
and 2-4-D and that kills the grass and weeds and your corn will be clean
and grow and yield better than it will where you cultivate.
B: Well, that's certainly interesting.
H: Well, the last few years, there've been a few people
H: Well, the last few years, there've been a few people b go intgkhis kind of farming.
And, uh, it saves alot of labor.
B: You don't have to irrigate, do you?
H: Uh, we haven't irrigated in the last 5 or 6 years. We used to irrigate the
back land. I got an irrigation system, and to irrigate with. After I
started renting the back, some people don't believe in irrigating. They say the
Lord will send the water when the crops need it. When I tended the back, myself, I
irrigated it and I though it paid. But, alot of people don't like to irrigate.
They say the Lord will put water on, if it needs it. I say the Lord will do his
part, but the man has a part to do, too.
B: Does, uh, does and irrigation system, is that a pretty expensive operation, or....
H: Well, no(oo expensive if you've got a good supply of water. That's the most im-
portant thing, to have a good supply of water, when it get dry. An irrigation
system, I reckon, right now, will cost you 4 or 5 thousand dollars. You set up to
irrigate a small amount of the time.
B: You've got a swimming pool, out there, haven't you? I sure love.....
B: .....be that near to a swimming pool. I love to swim.
H: Well, I built that there, I believe, about 4 years ago for the children. They've
B: That's great.
H: When I was a child, we had to go to an old muddy pond somewhere in the woods to
swim. Still don't have alot of the things, now, that we did have when we were
B: Right. Uh, what would, would you have any advice to give other people, especially
our young people who, uh, want to be farmers. Some people just love to work with
H: Well, that's me. I'm one of them, I've always, I was born and raised on a farm.
I ain't never done nothing else. And I love it, too, as long as I was able to
work. But...uh, I had hoped that my children would take an interest in the farm,
and take over when I got to where I couldn't work, but the last 2 years, farming
has gone so bad, I'm about to change my mind about it. A young boy, now, can get out,
if he's got an education, and make more money and so much easier, somewhere else,
than he can on a farm. I, I don't know if I would advise the young men to go into
farmin', now, or not. Like you say, there's alot of them, not alot of them, but
there's a few that, that, that were raised on a farm, and they gonna stay there,
if they can make a living at it. Farming's a good life, young ,
work mostly as you want to work, if you want to stop an hour to two, out of the day,
you can. It don't hurt, like you do on some of these cooking jobs. It's alot
easier work than some of these plants.
B: If you're out on the farm, being able to, uh, grow what you eat, or some, a great
of what you eat, that .should, that's pretty important, too, isn't it?
H: Yeah. Well, that old farm can grow the most of things you eat, and it's alot better
eating than what you buy in the store.
B: So you think, then, that farming will probably keep growing bigger and more
mechanized, more machinery......
H: Well, I'm sure it will. I think farming is growing bigger and bigger, and gonna put the
little man has gone out of farming. People that's, that's able to buy the machinery
and equipment to farm with, they just want to take over maybe 10 or 15 small farms,
where that many families used to tenant (farm), where one or two are gonna tenant,
B: This kind you used, awhile ago, about this specialized farming, I've forgotten the
name of it,:already,.......
H: You mean the no-till planting?
B: Yes, sir. Is that like when you're planting soybeans or.....
H: Soybeans and corn......
H: Any kind of grain that you plant with a planter. You can gather your wheat or
oats, and get right out there in the straw, don't have to burn it or it, nor
nor nothing, just go right through the straw and plant your stuff and it'll come
right on up through the straw. But then you, you have to spray it, then for grass
B: Can you, do you have to break your land first, for this?
H: You don'lave do anything to it, just put the planters right out there in the
H: And they have a big blade that runs in front of the planter that clips a
for the planter to run in and plant the seed. It does a real good job and, too,
I think that the land will hold more moist, but that stands to reason that it will
hold more moist because it's not been broken to dry out. And you make good crops,
and alot of people are going to that kind of planting.
B: Dr. E. Stanley Jones, a very famous Methodist leader, who was, when he was over
here, several years ago, made a remark about the soil, here, in this county. He
said that the soil here was the second richest in the world. Uh, is, this is unusually
rich soil, do you think?
H: Ah, yes, I would think so.
B: Is alot of your farm in bottom land? The Indians used to call it the Land.
H: Uh, I had some of that land, and the, most of my land is pretty heavy land,
not that much field is light land, most of it ishdalled pretty heavy land.
B: This is the black type of soil, isn't it?
B: Well, uh, what do you think of our community situation? Uh, maybe you can give us
some advice on how we can improve do you spend much time doing civic
affairs, or meetings of this kind?
H: No, sir. Uh, for the past 12 months I haven't been able to, to attend any meetings
like that. And before then, I didn't have time to. I don't know much about what's
a-going on in the, in the county. I don't hear much news, and I don't visit many
people, uh, and I don't go to very few meetings, hardly any. For the reasons before
I got hurt, I didn't have time to. And since I got in this accident, I haven't been
B: It must give you a great deal of satisfaction though even, though it is hard work,
whe, you know when you were able to work full time, uh, to be able to do these things,
and see your accomplishments, work with them, and live with them.
H: And nothing could be any- better than to get out there and do a good day's work
and everything goes good, get a big, good days work done, everything's done like
I want it. Nothing me no better.
B: Do you think our people, generally, are,>uh, hard-working people, and that they
H: I think, I think that most of the Indian race of people are hard-working and
alot of them have to work on a farm. I reckon there are more people, more Indian
farmers in Robeson County, than any other race of people.
B: Some of our people have moved to the industrial cities. I guess this is part of
the so-called industrial revolution, with machinery taking over, and iso on. Do
you think this part of the reason for that?
H: I would think so.
B: I've heard it said that once any of our people leave home, they always, eventually,
plan to come back.
H: Most of them do. I've known alot of people that left from around here, and gone to
Baltimore and other places, and some of them stay 4 or 5 years, and some longer.
But most of them wind up coming back.
B: You think, then, the migration is out of just pure necessity, and not just because
they're, uh, necessarily want to find another area, but because, they have to make
H: Well, on the farm, here, it gets to looking pretty bad, sometimes. They hear tell
of these good things, though, sounds good. Alot times they get off and they don't
find it like they think they will, and they usually wind up coming back.
B: You think our people are attached to the land, tog,generally speaking, like this is
home to them?
Hi Yes, sir. I think so.
B: Alot of people have taken an interest in our people because they have accomplished
so many unusual things. And, uh, do you think they are a friendly people. Strangers
come in, are they usually very hospitable and friendly, on the average, would you say?
H: Yes, I, I would say they was. I would.
B: Sometimes we ask an unusual question, not because we want to, uh, ........
H: (Says something, I think, to one of his children).
B: .....uh, not because we want to ask a trick question, or anything like that. We don't
ask those. But there's one that I like to ask everybody I talk to. And that's this,
if you, if you could change anything about the county, if you had the power to
change anything you wanted to, of course, this is purely a rhetorical question, uh,
what would you change? Or would there be several things, like, uh......
H: If I had the power? Well, I guess I don't know how to answer that question. There
is alot of things I would change. I don't, I don't think, I hope people have got
a fair deal in getting an education. I think that can be changed some ways,
had the power to.
B: You'd like to see better schools?
H: Yeah. Things like this. I think, I hope people are their own education.
any race of people, color for some reason, I don't know if
there can be anything done about it, or not.
B: Well, education seems to be, uh, thought of as the answer to our economic problems,
by a good many people who share this feeling, too.
H: Education is the answer to many problems.
B: Well, I certainly am intrigued by, uh, by the way, your philosophy of life, and
the way you, uh, go ahead and take care of things. Uh, do you, I'm wondering do
you, uh, study, uh, farm publications and magazines, and things like this?
H: A very little bit, uh, a very little bit, not near as much as I ought to. I, I
should go to alot of the meetings and read more about farming than I do, too, but
like I said before, I, before I got hurt, I d--,I didn't do nothing but work. I, it
sounds crazy to some people to work overtime, but that's what I did. Work, all the
time. Didn't take time for nothing but work.
B: Well, with the large farm on your hands, that you had, I don't know as you had time
to do anything else.
H: No, I .didn't.
B: Just to look after it is somebody else's doing, whereas looking after them working
would be-a big job, wouldn't it?
H: Well, I ;had had enough work for keeping 8 or 10 men busy, here, for the last few
years, and there's been alot of times down here, when I didn't have but maybe one
or two besides myself, working. I did ,over half of the work, then and I
B: Do you, uh, plan, when you are doing your operations, do you plan, do you )think
about it at night when you go to bed, at night, when you go to bed, or plan what
you're gonna do, or......
H: Yes, sir. I mean, I did when I twas doing it. Uh, done alot of thinking, at night,
what I was gonna do the next day.
B: You sort- of have to plan ahead on a farm, don't you?
H: Yeah. Yes, it's a right smart thing.
B: Well, when you try new things, and, uh, different things, that's sort of like, that's
sort of a gamble, isn't it? I mean, in a sense.
H: Well, yes, I, I 've done my gambling' with the farm, so far, I, I've been pretty
lucky and ain't never lost out with mankhings. Of course, some people say that's
luck, some of it might be luck, and some of it might be luck, but I've had people
tell me I was lucky, and I say,"No, I ain't lucky, I just work for what......"
B: I think most people are, are, uh, apt to say something about that if somebody's
successful, as they will if ....They're just lucky......
H: You don't get out and work by having luck, you ain't gonna get nothing just by
having luck, you gotta work for it.
H: That's the Lway I've always done it. I ain't never had nobody to give me nothing.
B: Yes. I certainly pays off, hard work does. And planning what you're gonna do and
how you're gonna do it, that was,........
H: Well, that's the most important part about most anything is management. And you
can be worth a million dollars and if you don't manage everything right,
B: Uh, somebody, some of the young people who were planning to go into the farming
business, if they're not born on the farm, do youithink it would pay 'em to, you
know, if they come in kind of green, like a tenderfoot, and you're not born and
brought up on a farm, it'd be kind of hard on a fella wouldn't it?
H: everything from I don't believe a man'd make it
on a farm, if he had been used tgomething else, and try to go to a farm, I
believe he'd get disgusted and quit.
B: I can hardly believe they have changed as much, when I was coming up, I,........
H: Just the last few years, things has changed considerable, on the farm. I'd say,
uh, ten, twelve years ago, I used to have people come here, a-looking for work,
3 and 4 hours a day. And I can't get nobody to work, now, for 3 dollars an hour,
a little while at a time.
B: You .don't plant much cotton, do you?
H: No, sir. I don't plant any cotton.
B: Used to be that alot of the people planted alot of cotton, and the cotton picker
is always one of the things that's always Sort of amazed me I never thought
when I was a boy, that, I, I tried to do a little cotton ,picking, uh, but I was
never ver/good at it. But, I never thought the time would come that it would be
done with machines.
H: Well, all the cotton, now, has gone to big farmers, where they have machinery.
Getting cotton picked by hand, now, would be out of the question. These machines,
they, they do a raggedy job of cotton, but that's the only way they
have of getting it out, now, is with machines. And all the little cotton farmers
is gonna quit. People that got tend cotton, they have 4 or)5 hundred acres
of cotton, enough to justify :them buying equipment, they have to have to work
it and it with.
B: I remember, uh, when I was coming up, if you could pick 200 Ibs. a cotton a day,
which was, I don't believe I picked that much in any day, uh, but some people,
some of our people pick as much as 500 Ibs. in a day. Did you ever hear of
anybody picking that much?
H: I,heard of that. I never did do it, myself.
B: I never did. If I got 200, I was a happy boy. Well, some people are better at it
than I was, I don't know what the difference is. It seems to me like I worked
as hard picking 200 or 180 and along, 160. Seems to me like I workeAdas hard as
anybody else, but I just didn't get anywhere.
H: Our people have just about quit cotton, right around here. Now, up in Polk county,
up in there, and around Red Springs and up there, they tend a quite good bit of
cotton. Right around here, nobody don't work any cotton any more. And there
ain't too many people even interested in tobacco, anymore. It takes so much labor,
uh, getting the tobacco. And it costs so much to gather, there ain't too many
people even interested in tobacco anymore. Alot of farmers wanna, all the land
they can get for planning corn and beans. It don't take much labor to plant that,
and, or gather it, but anything, now, on the farm that takes alot of labor,
people don't want it, anymore, 'cause they can't get the labor.
B: Uh, with your livestock, do you, uh, you plant your own feed, mostly, don't you?
H: I, I've been planting 5 or 6 hundred acres of grain, and for, for the last few years,
I haven't been a-making enough to, to supply my needs for grain, that
alot. I've been using fifty to sixty thousand bushels of corn, a year.
I've been making, maybe some years about half of that. And buying the other half.
I have my own mill. I make my own feed. And save some that way.
B: Well, if you can figure out ways of, sort of, like cutting the corners, like, uh,
like having your own mill and grinding your own feed and stuff, this goes a[ong
way to help, then, doesn't it?
H: That helps alot. And anyway you can save a little bit, here and there, on the
farm, it, it adds up.
B: I'm beginning to understand more, what you mean by good management. And this is a
part of it, isn't it?
H: Yes. Yes.
B: Knowing what to do, and doing it at the right time, and in the right way.
H: Well, we had been keeping 20 thousand chickens, here, and 20 thousand
up there, at the other place, uh. The children, here did most AOf the work with
the chickens, here,after they come in from school, every evening. My boy, one
boy would feed 'em every morning before he'd go to school. I don't have automatic
feeders, in there, houses out there, but I have a feed cart, runs by electric, and
it takes about 45 minutes to feed about 20 thousand chickens, twice a day. It
would cost me 12 thousand dollars to put automatic feeders, in there. I was,
I'd like to it with the man to put feeders in, and I got the stuff, now,
a week or more, around here, before I made up my mind to show
him. My cost him anything, this boy going to school,
if I had automatic feeders in the house, he wouldn't do_ everymorning,
before he went to school, 'cause the feeders would feed themselves. And in the
evening, about the same way. If I spent 12 thousand dollars on automatic feeders,
and like it is, he, he's feeding 'em before he goes to school every morning and
when he comes home from school in the after noon, and if he didn't have that to do,
he wouldn't do nothing, so I figure my feeding won't cost him anything, and I, I
didn't put the automatic feeders in. We have automatic feeders in the houses,
up there, and I would_
B: And work's good for young people, isn't it?
H: Yes. The children need some thing to do. My children, here, have helped me alot,
the last 5 or 6 years in the chickens. I would have hoped, the work would be done
with the chickens, the children and women could do it as well as some grown person,
with pickin' up the eggsand feedin'. And if they weren't doin' that, they'd be
out on the open road, somewhere, playing .
B: Do you hatch your own eggs?
H: No, sir. I buy the biddies, the day-old biddies, and keep 'em up at the other place,
'til they're 20 weeks old. After 20 weeks, they start to layin' and we bring 'em
down here, and put 'em in the cages.
B: I've tried to raise few chickens, once in awhile, and the little ones, it
seems, I've had bad luck, or maybe I didn't know what I was doing, they'd get
smothered, uh, smother eachother. Uh, they're very small, like that, it takes
alot of special care, for 'em, doesn't it?
H: Well, what causes 'em to smother is that, at night, is that when they smother,
B: Yes, sir.
H: They get too cold. If a biddie gets cold, they'll pile on top of eachother to
get warm, and that smothers 'em. Or, if something scares 'em, and you go up there
and maybe, and bl6w a car horn right loud, and they just pile up
in them corners, right on top of eachother, maybe knee-deep, and it don't take
them just a minute or two and they's dead under there where they can't get air.
And they'll do the same thing at night if they get cold. They'll start piling up
in a corner, somewhere and just keep right on piling up on top of eachother to get
warm and smother. If you keep it warm, in there, they'll keep spreaded out.
B: It takes, uh, it takes special ways of keeping it warm, doesn't it?
B: What do you use to,......
H: We got gas barners running in the houses, up there, uh, brooders, they call 'em.
H: After the biddie get up to 5 or 6 weeks old, in this kind of weather they don't
need no heat.
B: It's _April, I guess it's getting on toward the last of April.....
B: Uh, you just raise your biddies, or your chickens at one time of the year, in
spring, or in......
H: No, there's no certain time, uh, a chicken, we keep 'em here about 2 years.
They lay about 12 or 13 months, the first time. We run 'em through a
process, what they call forced moulting. Stop 'em from laying for about
30 or 40 days, and then another 30, 40 days to start back laying again for
another, maybe 8 or 10 months. And then, they've laid twice, then, replace
'em, then. Been doin' it two years, and put some day-old biddies up at
the other place, time enough before they'll be, uh, five months old, when
the old chickens quit layin' here, they'll replace them.
B: Uh-huh. What breed, do you, do you favor one breed of chickens, or do you
have several that you........
H: Uh, we use all white leghorns, we used 2 or 3 different varieties of white
leghorns, called and Babcock. And we keep some of both of 'em.
But they're both white leghorns.
B: Is the white leghorn the best layer, you find?
H: Uh, they think so, everybody thinks so. They lay more eggs, and they eat
B: 'Course I don't know much about the different breeds. There used to be,
when I was a boy on the farm, you'd see alot of, uh, the speckled kind of
chicken, ,what's this called?
H: I, I know what you're talking about, but I don't know the name of it. There's
a brown leghorn, brown small chicken........
END OF SIDE 1.
April 26, 1973
Interviewer: Lew Barton
Typed by: Sally A. White
B: This is side 2 of the interview with Mr. Hammonds. Uh, Mr. Hammonds, we
lost some of what we were saying, there, on that other side by running out
of tape and not knowing it. Do you remember where we were when, uh,.....
H: No, I don't, uh, I don't think we lost much after we were talking about the
brown leghorn chickens, then, and you got that on there, didn't you?
B: Right. And the differences in the chickens, and the good layers, and the
ones that don't lay too well. Some of the chickens are better for meat,
than others, but these leghorns are not meat chickens, are they?
H: No, sir, they, uh, we usually sell them to the soup company, they make
soup out of them after they quit laying. Campbell's soup company buys all
of them, here after they quit laying. They don't buy 'em though.
They give a dollar, 65, 70 cents apiece for them, and sell 'em for 25, 30
B: That, that's a big loss, there, isn't it? Do, have you experimented with
different chickens, to see, uh, which ones did better laying, or.......
H: Only 2, 2 varieties of chickens I, Babcocks and And I found
very little difference in them.
B: You don't have a, you don't have to have a male chicken......
H: No, sir. Not if your selling commercial eggs. The rooster is for hatching,
m-a'-I-, if you're gonna hatch the eggs, you have to have the rooster, but
not for laying. You know, there's alot of farmers that have lived on farms
all their lives and don't know that. They think a hen has to have a rooster
to lay, but.......she don't.
B: She lays just as much if there isn't a rooster around, then.
H: That's right.
B: Uh-huh. I just wondered if, uh, 'course I don't know anything about it,
I was thinking, you know, when we were talking, I was wondering if, you,
if there were a few, uh, roosters to skip around to 'em, for the sake of
their morale, or something, to make, encourage 'em to lay, or anything
like that. That shows you how little I know about it.
H: We usually keep a few around, but don't intend to. If you've got 25 chickens
out there in those cages, they might stay 2 or 3 roosters, out there, a
whole year or two and you won't even know it.
B: You don't even know you got 'em.
H: Yeah. (Laughs).
B: It's very hard to, uh.......
H: You might hear 'em crow once in a while, then you don't know where he's at.
B: It's very difficult to pick 'em out, the .....
B: ....roosters from the pullets. They don't make alot of noise, do they?
H: No, sir. If there's a rooster out there, he might crow once in awhile,
but not often.
B: The hens don't make any noise, do they? It's a pretty quiet.....
H: The hens, in the morning, before they lay, they do alot of singing. But
after they lay, over in the evening, they get pretty quiet.
B: Well, do they, do they feed the rest of the day, usually?
H: Oh, they eat all the time, day and part of the night. We leave the lights
burning, the lights are on a time clock. They come on and go off, automatically.
And, some of the chickens are eating all the time, as long as there's a light
out there, day and night.
B; The more they eat.......
H: The more they eat, the more they lay. None....they ain't gonna lay but
one egg a day. Some !people think if ye, if you keep a light for 'em to
lay at night. That's not true. You keep a light for 'em to eat more, and
they lay more. I mean, they ain't gonna lay more than one egg, but, uh,
they all not gonna lay one egg a day. But if he eats more, he
come here layin' every day, than he would if he didn't eat as much.
B: Well, if, if he lays one egg a day, and, uh.......
H: He done good, if he lays one egg, he can quit. (Laughs).
B: Well, it, it certainly is interesting talking with you, and I certainly
do appreciate your talking with us and sharing these things with our
readers and our listeners. 'Cause some of the people whow will be reading
these things, and listening to them, never saw a chicken in their lives,
perhaps, and, uh, they know when they go toAbreakfast table every morning,
they're probably going to have an egg or two, but they don't think much about
where the eggs come from, I guess.
H: Yeah, there ain't too many of them that know.
B: Does disease ever, do you ever have disease strike?
H: Well, they got the disease down on chickens, pretty good, now. Up until
3 years ago, had a disease in the chickens called lucosis (spelling-I found
a spelling of leukosis in the dictionary as a synonym for leukemia, but I
don't know if it's the same, or not-ed. note), and it was bad. If it
struck your flock of chickens, alot of times it would kill half of them,
maybe over half of them. But they have got a vaccine for that, now, vaccinate
'em when they're small, and that's been alot of help. And right now, they
vaccinate, got vaccines for all the bad diseases in chickens.
B: Uh-huh. And you have to vaccinate each one of these chickens.
H: Yes, sir. For 3 or 4 different diseases.
B: Uh-huh. And that adds to the price.
H: Every time you do something, that adds to the price of 'em.
H: Only one vaccine you have to vaccinate 'lm with, injections with a needle
for, All other vaccinations we give to 'em through the water.
One of the vaccinations, for you have to inject 'em with a
B: Well, a chicken's not as expensive as some other farm animals, you don't,
uh, if they get sick, do you bring in, do you ever bring in a specialist
to examine, see what's......
H: How's that?
B: Do you have a specialist to come in, do you have to have that at times?
H: Uh, yes. If they get something in them that you don't understand, or
can't get under control right quick, uh, we have, uh, uh, place in Raleigh
that some, and some over in, uh, Roseburg. There's a doctor over
there, a veterinarian, uh, that does work with chickens. And any time
something happens to 'em that he canl:t control right quick, he take up a
few and take 'em over there, to Raliegh, or, I think it's Rose, Rose ,
or somewhere they have a doctor they take 'em to. There's nobody in
Lumberton, no closer than over there in Raleigh. Or if it's bad enough,
they'll come right here to the farm and check it. Well, if you got 20
thousand chickens out there, you don't think nothing about, maybe 8 or 10
a day, uh, dyin.'
B: 'Bout what is the life span of a chicken? If you were keeping 'course you
never keep one that long, do you? Replace them.......
H: I never keep one over about 2 years at the longest. I don't know how long
a chickenlives. After they get about 2 years old, they lay right on, but
the older a chicken gets, the thinner the eggshell gets, and you can't sell
the eggs, when the shell gets so thin, They have to handle it so much, the
shell isn't thick enough to hold up, and they break so many of them.
the price of an egg, I reckon would stay goo Cight on, where you'd,
say, if you just use 'em for your home use, where you're shipping them,
they have to be handled so much, that if they ain't got a good shell on 'em,
have more of 'em to get broke.
B: Do you, uh, is there certain food that you can feed them, that will help in
that respect, give them better shells, and all?
H: Yes, sir, we give them, put limestone calcium in the feed, for the shell, and,
once in a while, use, uh, oyster shell. That's supposed to make the egg shell
better on the eggs, and had used baking soda, a few times. They claimed that
help it some to make a better shell on the egg.
B: Well, it certainly takes a lot of thinking and a lot of planning, uh, as well
as hard work, doesn't it? And staying alert in case something would go wrong.
You could, you could have a big loss if, uh, if you didn't take all the pre-
cautions like vaccination, and things like this.
H: Yeah. You'd be taking too much chance, now, with 20, 30, or 40 thousand
chickens without vaccinating them. Like, say, that, that leukosis, when it
hit here, I've hauled 'em, from up here truckloads at a time,
dead. But they got pretty good control, now, if you vaccinate.
B: How old are they when you, uh, when you how old are the
H: Uh, we, we get 'em at.,a day old.
H: They take 'em right out of the incubators, and bring 'em here.
B: Well, that's a very critical period for the first few days, isn't it?
H: Well, yes, for the first few days, say about the first seven days, uh, we
keep 'em in the brooder for 7 days, and then, take, turn 'em out and cut
their bills off, after the seventh day, and turn 'em loose to go free all
over the house.
B: Well, I certainly have enjoyed this interview with you, and I certainly want
to thank you for sharing it with us. Uh, is there something you'd like to
add to what we've already said?
H: Well, we talked about the chickens, there isn't anything else, I reckon, but
I, like I told you before, I always liked my hogs 'cause I I like chickens,
too, I've made some pretty good money with chickens, but I've depended on the
hogs, more. And I know more about hogs than I do chickens 'cause I've had
hogs ever since I was a small boy. And up until last year, I got hurt, I kept
12 to 15 hundred head of hogs, all the time. And that was, that was
chickens, than the hogs. I got houses, out there. I had
spent alot of nights out there, all night, when have sows and to
keep the 200 brute sows, and some of them having pigs about every day and night.
I've stayed out there with them, many nights, all night.....
B: Just watching over them.
H: Yes. I had to heat my hogs, the gas burners for my hogs, because when you got
sows having pigs, there's alot of pigs being around when they, they're having
B: Uh, do you have to vaccinate them, too?
H; They vaccinate a pig for several different things, there might be, you know,
just like a chicken. You have to give them iron shots when they's
born. you have to treat a pig, when a sow's carrying a pig,
you have to treat here just about like a woman carrying a baby. And after
the pig's born, you gotta treat him just like a, uh, newborn baby, for the
first few weeks, anyway. And if you have any luck with 'em. I know people
used to have sows and hogs and turn 'em out there, and then go in the woods,
and have pigs, andAlot of times they'd do good. That, that's the way things
have changed. I don't know what's changing, but things just don't work that
B: 'Bout how many hogs do you have, now.
H: Now, right now I don't have any hogs. Uh, I hope to get some more when I get
able to do some work, myself.
B: That takes a lot of work, too, doesn't it?
H: That takes a lot of work and that's something you can't hire help to do, is
tend to hogs, particular size I have in pigs. You've gotta have somebody that
will take an interest in, in the work, not somebody that's looking for the
end of the day.
B: Sundown and payday.
H: Yes. And there ain't may of them people available, anymore. That's going to
take an interest in your work, or my work.
B' Do you, you say you enjoy the hogs more...........
H: Yes, I do. I always did love to mess with hogs
B: Do you think, I shouldn't say, do you think, do you know if there's more work
with the hogs or the chickens, do :he chickens work you more?
H: Well, there's more work and harder work, and alot of nasty work, working with
hogs. If you got the hogs in a house, you got to keep the houses pretty well
clean. And that's a pretty nasty job, cleaning out hog-houses. And you gotta
be out in the cold, alot in the winter time, to tend the hogs, where chickens
is all in the house, and you don't have to be out in the weather tending to
B: Do you usually sire your own, or do you go to the vet and get artificial in-
semination, or what, in raising hogs, nowadays?
H: I kept my own boars, ain't never been no artificial breeding hogs.
B: What breed of hog do you favor?
H: I had, uh,_ in size, and try to keep to keep thorough-bred
York boars, and a York and a Hampshire sow cross A
will do better than a cross 2 or 3 ways, than a full-blooded sow. Have a
full-blooded boar and a crossed up sow. You have better pigs.
B: Have, uh, I just imagine this is, it seems.to me like hogs look different-
nowadays. They, uh, they seem to be, uh, fatter, or maybe I'm, maybe I'm just
imagining this, but when I...............
H: Well, people grow hogs alot differently than they used to, you know, they used
to, people, it'd take a year to make a 2 or 3 hundred pount hog. But they
make it, now, in about 5 months. And sometimes less than 5 months.
B: If, if you're able to use your own feed off the farm, this helps, doesn't it?
H: It helps alot with hogs, you, you can save alot ofeed with hogs, after you
get all the, harvest all your grain in the field, you still got a lot of
wasted left in the field and you can run the hogs back through the field, and
you can get everything that's left in the field. Where if you didn't have hogs,
that would be wasted.
B: Uh-huh. How 'bout livestock, have you raised any cows?
H: NO, sir. I ain't had no cows in a good while. I used to have seventy some
head of cows. But I ain't had no cows in about 12 years.
B: Do you think a dairy operation would pay off?
H: Well, I don't know nothing about a dairy. I was about to get in the dairy
business, one time and I tell ya, uh, it takes alot of land for cows to grow
enough feed for 'em. Uh, the land we have, around here, is too
valuable to keep a cow on. You can make more with something else than you
can trying to grow feed for a cow.
B: It's certainly interesting. I......
H: Where-you got alot of poor land, good for nothing but to grow grass, and
is close to no cow land around here. Make
more growing something else, than you can trying' to grow feed for the cow,
B: I imagine it takes alot of for a hog. It takes alot of corn, to
,make him, to bring him up, though, and get him ready to butcher, doesn't
it? I mean.......
H: It takes/eight to nine bushels of corn, bout sixty lbs. of supplement,
two or three lbs. of minerals to, to make a 200 lb. hog.
B: I've often wondered about that, if you have to feed one for a whole year,
like you said awhile ago.
H: Well, the longer you feed him, the more you're gonna have in him. What you
want to do with a hog, is give him the best of feed, and try to make him
eat just as much as you can, so you can get him as quick as
B: Keep him as short a period as possible.
H: That's right.
H: The longer you keep him, the more you're going to have in him. But give
him the best of. feed, and let him eat all he will eat. That way he will
grow as fast as he can, and you'll get him to market quicker.
B: How do the children feel about, about, uh, the livestock, and the hogs, and
the chickens, and so on?
H: Well, they have got tired of the chickens, everyday, everyday, been now for
about 7 or 8 years, and they've had a little break away from 'em now, I
think they're willing to go back to 'em, now.
B: They've had a little rest from them.
B: You know, I was, I was brought up on a farm, not a big farm. And it seems
to me, like the things that were plentiful, that you grew, you didn't like
eat 'em as well as other things. Of course, I love, I love all kinds of
vegetables, and things like this. But, do people working with chickens
have a tendency to turn against eggs and chicken, and......
H: That's one thing that surprises me, I always did love eggs and after we
got the chickens, here, I said, "well, I know I'll be through eating
eggs." And that was always my job everymorning before breakfast, I
get right out of bed and go to the chicken houses, and go through the
chicken houses, and pick out all the dead chickens and break down the
feed. And alot of times, maybe I'd find old chickens that had been in
there, oh, two or three days, and be half rotten. And I'd come right
back to the house and eat eggs for breakfast. And, and every child
here loves eggs, and we eat eggs, sometimes twice a day.
It ain't stopped nobody from eatin' it (
B: It hasn't hurt anybody's appetite, yet, has it?
H: No. (laughs)
B: I love 'em, too, I could eat 'em fixed just about any way you could fix
H: I thought sure that would stop me from eatin' eggs, but it hasn't. And
chicken, we eat alot of chicken.
B: But, uh, people sure do, these are standard food items, and people are
always going to eat eggs and chicken, I'm sure.
H: Well, a couple of months, ago, chicken was about the cheapest meat you could
eat, but it's gone up, now.
B: They're up, too, aren't they? Well, what's this doin' for your egg business,
does it help, any?
H: Yes, sir. Eggs is a good price, now. 'Course feed is two prices from what
it was a year ago. I reckon a man could make more money,lnow, than what
he could, a year ago. If you figure out all your feed bills,........
B: So, when one things goes up, something else goes up, along with it.
B: Well I, I certainly have enjoyed talking with you about this. It's
certainly fascinating to me. It seems like there's always a chance of
losing alot, you know, the risk.
H: Uh, there is, but not as big a risk, now, as there used to be in chickens.
Because they've got vaccine, now for all the diseases. Before they got that,
yeah, a man was taking a big chance with 30, 40 thousand. chickens.
B: I don't think I've ever seen that many, together. It must be something
just to look out, and,........
H: Well, there's, there's, uh,.......
B: ..... see that many.....
H: 21 thousand, over there in now.
B: Is that right?
B: Oh my goodness. That's alot of chickens.
H: Well, they're small, now. It don't look like it. You go down there and
look in the houses, now, they just look like scatter, over there, but you
go there four months from, now, and they'll be just like that in there.
You won't have room to walk, in there, hardly, after they get grown.
B: Are they very friendly? They don't fear a person, do they? I mean, can
H: Well, if you go in the house. Just walk in there, easy, they won't pay
much attention to you, but if you go running' in there, or something,
they'd all run, maybe to one end and pile up. But if you just walk in
there, easily, normally, they won't pay much attention to you.
B: they stampede, sort of like.......
H: Very easily, very easily, the least little unusual noise, like if you
was to pull up there, and blow a loud car horn, they's liable to pile
up there, and smother a hundred or two, there in just a few minutes.
B: So, you do have special problems because of this large size, then,
H: Yes. Well, now, after we get 'em here in the cages, we don't have to
worry about that because they can't go nowhere, then. We put, we put
3 to the cage, out here, but over there, 'til they get 5 months old,
they loose on the floor, all together. But after we bring 'em here,
we put 3 to the cage. It scares them if you go there and walk on the
building or blow a horn, but they can't go nowhere.
B: Do you have any photos of yourself with,w:orking with the chickens? Anything
B: I'd certainly like to have a photo of you with your, working .with your
chickens for the paper. I think it'd make a great feature story.
H: It wouldn't be much problem with a flash camera. You got a flash camera?
B: I don't have my camera with me, but I could come over and.....
H: Well, sometime when I get able to put on some clothes,go over there to
the chicken house make a picture.
B: I would certainly appreciate that, and certainly do appreciate this interview.
And, uh, what you've told me is, is fascinating. Did your father or any
of your other relatives, work with chickens, or anything like this?
H: No, nobody in the family has ever messed with any chickens, more than just
a few in the yard. What got me interested in chickens, I was buying alot
of feed from feed companies for the hogs. I had hogs before we got the
chickens. And one of the feed meny one day here, wanted me to ride with
him down to County. I looked at some chickens. I went down
there and saw two or three farms, and I got right interested in 'em. Wasn't
long before I had me some houses going up, to put some in for myself.
B: Did you talk with the people who had been in business?
B: It's certainly fascinating because there aren't too many, uh, there aren't
too many chicken farms, anyway, are there?
H: Very few in Robeson County, but, uh,some of the other counties, you get out
of the county, you find a few chickens. I don't know of, about maybe three
farms in Robeson County. For one reason, there ain't many people in the
chicken business, is 'cause they been scared of the risk to take with
chickens. And another thing, it takes alot of money to, to, to, set up
the buildings and equipment and the buying the 40 thousand chickens.
B: So you're, your buildings are very important, aren't they, being the
H: Yes, they, they have to be built right, and when you've got the equipment,
B: Um-hmm. Do you grade your eggs by machinery, or by hand?
H: Grade 'em. No, sir, we don't grade any eggs. We sell 'em ungraded.
B: Oh, that's right. You told me that. I'm sorry, I.....
H: Uh, it costs so much to buy a grader, and you ;have to have more labor,
too, and the company we sell 'em to, they, they'se about 3 cents less,
and they, uh, I don't think I could grade 'em for that. No, the cost of
equipment, I'd have to have and the extra labor......
B: Well, I certainly want to wish you all the success and the luck in the
world. And I don't, I believe you're like me, you sort of shy mway from
this word, luck, because our luck is what we make of it, isn't it? To a
H: I think so. I think so.
B: When people talk about luck, they're really talking about good management
and good hard work, and things like this?
H: There's something good in management, I don't know about the luck. I think
your luck runs about the way you work.
B: I'm sure this is right, and I never depended much on luck, myself. Uh, in
rAthing, if you were going to ge an even amount of good luck, and an even
amount of bad luck, you could sort of expect a balance. Some people come
out like me, I, our luck doesn't turn out that way, always. If you want
to call this luck. But something like carelessness, or being diligent and
hardworking'., and thinking things through before you make a move, that's what's
important, isn't-it? Well, I sure do thank you for talking to us, and I
thank you for the University of Florida, and for the Doris Duke Foundation.
You've made a great contribution to the program. Thank you very much.
H: I hope I've been some help.
B: Yes, sir. You've been a great help. I really do appreciate it.
END OF TAPE.