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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
March 16, 1976
D. D. McCloud
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWER: TOM KING
PLACE OF INTERVIEW: GAINESVILLE
DATE OF INTERVIEW: March 16, 1976
This is an interview with D. D. McCloud, class of '34, and it is part
of the University of Florida Oral History Project. In the interview, Mr. McCloud
discusses his years at the University and his years as a county
extension agent in several different places throughout Florida.
Mr. McCloud was at the University from 1930-34. He majored in
horticulture, was a member of the Army ROTC unit, and had a part-time job
milking cows at the dairy farm on campus. He feels he was fortunate to
have the job as there were very few part-time jobs for students on campus
during the Depression.
Following graduation, McCloud worked briefly as a county extension
agent in Milton, Florida. He then was a cotton adjustment agent at
Bonifay. Following those tenures, Mr. McCloud worked as a county extension
agent in Santa Rosa County and Taylor County. While in these counties, he
served as director of the local 4-H clubs.
Mr. McCloud feels there have been several important gains made in
farming techniques in Florida in the last thirty years. The most important
included terracing to prevent soil errosion, developing new fumigation
techniques to stop nematodes, and the fencing in of livestock on farms
bordering on roads.
K: Mr. McCloud, I understand that you are a graduate of the University of
Florida. When did you first come to the University?
M: In 1930.
K: You were telling me a few moments ago that when you came up here you had
very little money. You had difficulty paying tuition, room and board?
M: I had a hundred dollars I'd saved up over a period of two years with the
help of Johnny R. DeVane, a former home-demonstration agent after World
War I, and that was enough to live on for one month. I was going to quit
the University and probably go to Georgia Tech, to play football. I walked
down to the dairy farm one afternoon, and the milking machine was broken
down. I asked them what was the matter, and they said the machine was
"Well, do you want somebody to help you?" I had the willies, and I'd
worked at that before, so I helped them milk.
The graduate student there was getting his master's and he asked me to
come back in the morning. I asked him what time? "Four o'clock." I
said, "I'll be there." So I got up, and helped him milk.
That morning, he said, "Can you come back this afternoon?" I said, "Yeah."
So I came back and he told me, "You got.a job for four years, as long as
you keep your studies up, and your workAsatisfactory." That is how I landed
At that time, you couldn't get a job. There weren't but nine jobs on the campus.
There wasn't but three automobiles that I could see, and about four bicycles.
You had to be an upper graduate to even get anything. I started working--
they paid sixty cents an hour--getting up at four o'clock in the morning.
Later on, times got worse, and they cut us to twenty-five cents an hour.
K: That was during the Depression.
M: We had three rooms at the dairy barn, and they would give us white clothes
to wear to milk in because it was a University. We had to look neat and
everything about it. They'd get a number of suits, and then we would hold
one back every now and then to wear in the afternoon after we got through,
to save our clothes. At that time we'd have to take artillery.
K: That was in ROTC?
M: Yeah. I was in the artillery service and we'd get a suit of clothes. You
had to buy the boots, but we'd wear those and when they got a little shabby,
we'd tear them up and go back and get a new set because you look neat, so that
way we were getting by, living down there. I've been through many months on
eighteen dollars a month.
K: What were you majoring in?
M: I was majoring in horticulture.
K: Was that a two year program at that time?
M: No, you'd get your minors and then you'd get your major, and there were-four
years. I had to go for four years to get my degree, a B.S.A.
K: Right, but the horticulture program, was that for two years? You went two
years as an undergraduate then. What was the equivilent of the University
College then? Now we have the general liberal arts. Like in the first two
M: Well, we didn't have the two years. You had what they called some minor
studies you had to take. That was sort of general, and then it stepped up
through the years. You'd take general animal husbandry and you'd get into
it just like citrus. The next year you have the courses 202, 301 and 401,
and you'd go up. It was just extension; you'd start off, like horticulture,
drafting, the fundamentals--the ground floor, you might say. You had to take
a lot of biology and sciences to understand the plant life and how it functions.
You'd take biology, zoology and entemology. There was another one, pathology.
I had to take a lot of chemistry: organic, inorganic,, qualitative analysis,
and you had to take a lot of sciences. In other words, at that time, we took
the same courses as a pre-med student took.
K: What year did you graduate?
M: In 1934.
K: You got a job doing what?
M: Well, I didn't get a job. I went down to Bradenton and I started doing a
little tree surgery work. I hadn't worked about a month or two and then
Mr. Spencer, head of the extension service, called me up one day. He told
me he wanted to get me on the payroll, and I said, "That sounds good."
K: Was the extension service located at the University of Florida at that time?
M: Yeah, and he came to Bradenton. I was up in a tremendous oak tree, but I
told the lady, "Tell him it will be about twenty minutes before I can get
down." I got down, he left the number, and I called him back at the hotel.
He told me to meet him at the hotel.
He had four jobs available, and he told me, "Dan, you've had to work a lot.
I'm scared to send these other, either of these other three boys, out that
far in West Florida." They were down in central Florida, Winter Haven area
and back down in there. I said, "It doesn't make any difference where you
send me, as long as I'm on the payroll." He said the federal government had
some money, so they'd give me a title: Assistant in Cotton Adjustment. At
that time the plow campaign was on. One year they paid them to plow up
the cotton, and the next year when I'd hit, they had the reduction in acreage.
You pay for the reduced acreage, you didn't have to plow it.
K: You didn't have to plant to begin with?
M: That's right. They sent me to Milton, Florida, and my boss was the county
agent. I worked in John G. Hudson's office, who is still living. He is
ninety-two years old, probably the oldest county agent in the United States,
and he doesn't have a degree. Back in those days when he come along, you were
apprenticed, sort of like a practitioner, a veterinarian or something.
That's the way it started off. Then the degrees come along, and they
had to have degrees.
K: What were your responsibilities as a cotton adjustment agent?
M: Well, they had contracts, there was a form assigned, they reduced the acreage,
and they'd pay them so much an acre. Then it would have to be measured and
recorded in the office. On top of that, the Bankhead Jones Act was in effect.
They got the average yields of cotton and paid them a bonus based on those
yields...in other words, I was helping out. Things were getting pretty
desperate along those times. They started that, and then later on they
started other things with the Triple A (AAA). They had a peanut program,
you reduced acreage and stayed within your allotments, and then when I went
down to Bonifay in about '36, they had Irish potatoes.
There was a farmer growing 250 acres down on the river who had a great big
wholesale grocery at Westmill, Florida. The election came in and elected
him chairman, and bless God, I found out he couldn't write his name.
We had to turn right around and elect somebody who could write, because
you had to have someone who could sign things.
K: Now you were up at Milton for two years, is that right?
M: I would say approximately two years. I was working down at Bonifay.
K: This was as an adjustment agent.
M: Yeah, in this farm program and at Holmes County, smallest county in West
Everybody started farming. The sawmills had closed out a few years before,
and everybody had to go into farming. Just about when they started in farming,
the Depression hit, and they were put in bad circumstances. I had peanut
contracts, corn hog contracts, cotton contracts to Bankhead Jones, a sugar
cane contract, and a potato contract. I was working about fifteen people
in the office there.
I was going back to catch up on my work in Santa Rosa County when they made
me county agent down there. I didn't want to go, because the county didn't
pay but fifty dollars, and the federal government extension service didn't
pay but 117 dollars.
K: That's a month?
M: That's all you got. I stayed at the hotel there for five months, before I
moved down there. After the first month I said, "M. D. what are you going
to charge me for staying here at the hotel? I never stayed at a hotel in my
life!" He's the one that instigated getting me down there. He ran a big
wholesale grocery and dried goods store, farmer's service. He said, "Will
thirty dollars a month be too much?" I said, "No, it just happened that
you gave me thirty-five extra." That's the way I got started there, and
then the economy started to pick up, and I had to have more money. When
they got a vacancy, they started to send me to Quincy, and I was packed
up. They stopped me, and then they sent me to Taylor County. They'd had
three county agents there. When they have trouble they used to send me, see.
K: What sort of trouble would they have?
M: Political. In other words, the county agent wasn't suiting them. He was on
the wrong side of the fence. Another county commission would get into some-
thing, and get on his coattails.
K: What sort of thing could a county agent do that would irritate the local
M: Well, when I worked for Taylor County, the last county agent likedotohunt: and
fish, besides treating the hogs, too. He told the farmer one day that he'd
been hunting, was sore, he couldn't climb over those things. That's what
started the ball along. Well, he wasn't adjusted to those type of people in
the first place. That was sawmill and turpentine country, Perry, and it was
rough. That's where I got the name of Dangerous Dan. I had to have some
I fought with some deputy sheriffs. One eventually got to be sheriff, but he
killed two or three people. I wouldn't back down, but I found out that they
were my friends, after I showed my colors, they would do anything you wanted.
I always had to work to make a living and I knew how to mix with people. I
could get along with them. Mr. Spencer, the head of the extension service,
said, "Dan, I don't care what you do, you just keep everything on the county
level. You get along. That means live with the people that you are working
with." I just got along with people. I knew how to handle them. I'd talk
their language, and I could get them to do most anything.
K: Did the individual counties have any say in who was hired as county agents?
M: Yeah, they had to match the money. But beginning way back there, they didn't
match the money. In other words, fifty dollars was all that county was putting
up now. Some had put up a hundred, a hundred-and-twenty-five, and a huided-andd-
fifty. But West Florida was a poor country. I call it the 11Hogiin .Harmony."
Everybody got along all right. They worked hard, but it wasn't like the citrus
and the vegetables down here, and they were getting tourist money,too. Up there
you weren't getting anything except what you got from the soil.
K: Between the wars, particularly during the Depression, did the agricultural
extension service try to get farmers to diversify their crops by getting away
from the old staples of cotton and peanuts? Did they begin growing food that
could be eaten?
M: In a way, but I wouldn't say too much. They were getting them to put up more
meat, more vegetables and to can. That's a woman's side,-canning and processing
the food, one thing or another. Put away for the rainy day.
Now when I went to Bonifay, I found out that county agent ahead of me was put on
special to show them how to grow a garden. Everybody had collards. That
was a must. We made a survey trying to find out how much meat to put up,
and the vegetables--one thing or another, the collards. Well, we found out
that it was a good thing, because collards carried iron. A lot of people
don't like them, but they were easy to grow, and everybody had them. They
put up all this meat, and we couldn't understand why they put up so much
meat. A man put up better than a ton of meat forhimself, per person, on a
K: That's a lot of meat.
M: Say that you kill so many hogs. Say they're dressed out, seventy-five percent.
If you visited, well, they didn't think nothing about throwing three or four
hams out there. That would break you today.
M: Open up the best preserves and all this, string the table out. They just want
to have plenty when company come, they didn't eat it all. But they just want
to be sure that they had plenty. When I was up there they had rolling stores.
I don't know if you know what a rolling store is.
K: A rolling store?
M: Yeah. Mr. McKinnon in my county had three rolling stores. A rolling store
is a truck with all the merchandise in it, even cloth. You go through the
country stopping and stuff and they called it a rolling store.
K: I've never seen one of those.
M: Well, they bartered. He had chicken coops under the thing, and he would take
in corn meal, chickens,, and pigs, (he had a place down there for a few pigs),
in exchange for his goods. He'd buy eggs and syrup. He'd go to the wholesaler,
and when he'd get his merchandise, the wholesaler would take the syrup, eggs
and chickens, and then he'd sell the hogs to a hogbuyer, the whoesaler there
didn't handle that. That's the way it was operating. And it was a profitable
K: Were oranges still being grown this far north in the 1930s?
M: To the right of the dairy barn, behind what is now the auditorium, there was
a grove. The dairy barn was on the east side. That grove went right into
the entrance of the dairy barn. There was ahouse by the road that went back
to the stadium. Mr. Leland lived in it, and was the farm manager there.
But he didn't have nothing to do with the dairy barn or the hothouses.
And there was about an acre or more of orange groves right there. They were
scattered. There's a remnant of one at Melrose today. The '95 freeze didn't
get it, but it got most everything over there. That grove came back. I know
the man that owned it. He sold it and made money off of it. Over at Bonifay,
I had one of the finest fiv'e-acre satsuma orchards in Florida.
K: What's a satsuma orchard?
M: Well, it's like a tangerine, but the skin's not as thin. I got a tree outside
,but there's no fruit on it. It was a freak place. Of course,I believe it got
just as cold there, but the way it was managed, it looked like a commercial
orchard in south Florida. We had old automobile tires, which we had picked
up in town, and we placed them on the north side in case of a frost late in
the spring, when the trees were blooming. You could prevent the frost, but
you couldn't prevent a freeze. There was one orchard, of about three or four
acres, right at the edge of town there, and it never did produce but instead
just died out.
In Jackson County, they had about a two-hundred-and-fifty acre orchard there.
They thought they were going to get rich. Well, they lost their shirts.in
Pensacola, Florida in the '30s. There was a fad, a real estate boom. They
wanted to grow satsuma oranges. Well,the county agent, Mr. Scott, was going
to get fired about that because he didn't go along with it.
K: He had advised them not to grow it?
M: Yes. Along with one of his sons, an auditor up here with powers or somebody
there in town now. They tried it, but the freezes would come, and they even
built packing houses. Somebody over in Mississippi on the coast had some, and
it just looked like it would just be a few years. Things looked good, and I
was taking economics. Mr. Turlington was the superintendent of public instruc-
tion, well, they didn't call it that.
K: I know what you are talking about.
M: He's the head of education of the state of Florida. His father was teaching
me economics, and he gave me a question, back there in '30. He said, "If you
lived in northwest Florida, give the economic crop you'd grow, and give your
reason why." On my examination, I said two crops instead of just one, cotton
and peanuts, and I'd say that's the only cash crop you can grow without knowing
anything about the success. But the answer was satsuma oranges. There's not
enough land in the United States where they'll grow to cause overproduction.
He wanted to give me a zero. I changed his mind right quick. I went out there,
after I graduated in '34, saw the condition and realized that he was wrong.
You have to go with what cash crops would grow in that area, which was peanuts
K: Were they making much money growing peanuts and cotton?
M: No, they were making a living. Most of the peanutswere hog fodder, and then
we had commercial peanuts, but everybody fattened hogs on corn. Hogs had gone
down to about two-and-a-quarter cents a pound, but theywere coming back up to
eight cents when I went to Bonifay. When they got up to a dime the next year
we built a market.
Mr. Mayo's man, department of agriculture from the market's bureau, came
through and said, "Oh, you all can get a market, if you can get somebody to
furnish the land." Well, I did nothing, but instead I just told the councilman,
"You know, if we can get a hog market down here, we won't have to carry
these hogs up to Slocomb and Hartford, Alabama." He said, "Well, here, we'll
just deed you the land out here in this railroad." Well, when we got it, and
called on Mr. Mayo, he said, "We ain't got no money." Well, the bank said,
"We'll loan you the money, and you pay us when it comes in." So, we built a
hog market next to the railroad for when we want to ship them by rail, we
shoot the pen out there, and load them in their pens or we could load them
on a truck.
Hogs got up to twelve cents before I left. Man, there were people making
the money on them! I'd get a quarter a hundred. A quarter cent a pound
more than anybody else's bid. I had a standing bet that the highest bidder
could go a quarter over.
So the market was run right, our shrinkage was way below anybody else's
going into Swift & Co. at Moultrie. That's the reason why they let me,
when they wanted the hogs, because they knew that they were weighed right,
that their shrinkage was right, and everything. In fact, they held the
train up in Pensacola on my sale days, so they could get to Bonifay at two
o'clock to pick those hogs up and get them to River Junction and hook them on
the train there and go right into Moultrie, and that's how the railroad would
cooperate. They'd laugh at you now. Sometime you wouldn't have but one car-
load, you may have three or four, but the train, they didn't have to make but
one trip a day. You couldn't mess with the schedule.
K: You ran the market?
M: Yeah, I ran the market. I ran it on one percent commission. I weighed all
the hogs. We called it the Holmes County Swine Growing Association. I got
an article I think I wrote back there to WRUF. I can get it if you want me
to show it to you.
K: Mr. McCloud, do you know anything about the introduction of tung oil trees
in this area, when it occurred, and how profitable it was, and so forth?
M: I tell you at best, I don't know where Mrs. Bennett, Mrs. Bennett is living up
here above, between Alachua and La Crosse, Alachua and Brooker. That was China
tung oil, but when I was here, a man, Williams, was advocating it, as well as
my boss. If you go back, there's some bulletins on it. The University
printed some bulletins. If I could get in this closet here, I could go back
and get all those bulletins.
K: No, that's not necessary. (A woman enters)
K: Hello, how are you?
M: That's Mr. Jones there, that's ...
M: That's my wife. They thought it was going to bevery profitable. That was Hal
Mallory's project. He was assistant to Dr. Wilbur Newell, who was the head
of the experiment station, at that time his position was head of the plant
board, and I think he was head assessor over the extension service and the
agricultural college. In fact, he was the big MOJO, and he and Dr. Tigert
used to have a lot of words. Dr. Tigert was president, but I think Dr. Newell
had more power, especially politically, over the state. They were starting
with citrus right around Gainesville here.
There was one project in the state going on that nobody around here knew
anything about. That was at Lamont, Florida, which used to be known as
Lickskillet. That's the highway from Perry to Tallahassee. It's on the
Marsella River, but you go down the river just a few miles. Chase and Company
in the '20s put in a grove, and those were the largest trees I've ever seen.
I knew Chase and Company when I was on Terra Ceia Island, in '21. They had
a packing house. Of course, Chase and Company was a stock company, and the
big stock company was over at Sanford. 'That was where they warehoused.
They had groves and they packed and shipped the goods to a warehouse in New
York. It is not operating now, I think it's a thing of the past. They had
the last fertilizer plant down there, and they sold the old warehouse.
That was the first of any tung oil that I knew anything about, and that
was in the twenties. It looked good, so they started at Gainesville. Dr.
Newell went in heavy for it, and I think he lost his shirt. They just thought
it was going to be the thing. The China Tung Oil Co. out here even built a
plant downtown, I think Mr. Powers and somebody owns it over in northeast
Gainesville, going to the graveyard.
Tung oil was good for making varnishes and paints. West of Gainesville,
there's a big orchard out there just as you start out on 75 going out to
your right down in there, but they petered out.
K: Do you have any idea why?
M: Well, the trees have a short life, and I always thought they acted like the
citrus trees, declined as a result of nematodes or something. Also another
thing, because of the climate here, they bloomed early, and sometimes the
frost would get the crop, the trees would start declining, and would just go
down and down.
They had a press up at Brooker, there's a mill up there. Mrs. Bennett lives
back a couple of miles on this side of China Tung Oil there if she's not
dead. So does Mr. Edwards. The Edwards got the cows. They destroyed
most of the groves, and turned everything into pasture to raise cows. He
can tell you the history of it. I noticed the other day that another person
who had large holdings in it just died. That's north of Brooker, there was
a big field of it. N.G. Hayes, I'd been through that, when N.G. was living
and when I was working. I'd go into that orchard there on the farm. They've
ripped up most of that. I forgot the name of what it was, but anybody in
Brooker there will tell you that those were the three big places.
Now when I was in Perry, there was a big industrialist. He put in thousands
of acres above Lamont, where'd I tell you Lickskillet, on the hills, at
Capps, that was the headquarters at Capps, and you'll see the remains. They
have oil tanks and oil there now, a press, and a big generator. It went from
St. Marks right on up through to Capps. They bought out the Maize plantation,
the old Maize house is there yet. That's probably one of the first houses
built in Jefferson County and Buddy Bishop, I think, was the one that fell
heir to that. He sold out, and moved over on 90, between there and Tallahassee,
and he put one in there. I was through there the other day on 1-10, and it was
K: It wasn't very successful then?
M: No. It looked mighty successful and was boosted up highly, and I think
one reason why was because Dr. Newell, who was the head of the experiment
station, was the connection. He thought it was the thing, and he lost his
shirt in it, like everybody else. Now,over a period of years the China
Tung Oil. Mr. Bennett was the one ramrodding that. I don't know whether
his widow is still living there or not. Anyway,China Stock Co., I think,
China Tung Oil, and then they had the press up at Brooker. They converted
that press over here a few years ago to make oil out of soybean, peanuts,
they tried peanuts. Well,they couldn't, there wasn't any storage facility.
They couldn't buy peanuts to bring in, press, and come out, so they tried
it fora little while and quit.
I don't know much about presses, but they got two types. One is the old
auger type press, but they got another one, that extracts everything out
of the meals, and they add a little of it back in there. I forget what
process they call that. Chemically, they take all of the oil out, then
they add some back and sell it for food, but all that's closed up. It's a
Jew from, they are brothers, they own the Duvall Construction Company, but
he moved out there and was running that, I've forgotten his name now. He's
a nice old fella, and may be living. I don't know why he wants--he says he'd
rather live there, and he don't care about New York or Jacksonville or
nothing, he wanted to live out there and he ran that. He commutes to Jackson-
ville, to the company every now and then, I guess,when the mood moves him.
Now he can tell you more of the history of the details. I ought to know
his name. I had to check him once a month for years.
K: What did you check him for?
M: Well, they were handling seed, a ship, here's the way it was. They were
growing soybeans down here at Lake Apopka, and further down there was where
he was. He was put on a project and it looked like it.was doing good. They
shipped the beans up there, and that's where they were pressing the oil. They
were selling and they had to get registered as a seed and feed dealer, because
they were selling the meal, and then again they had something, I think they
were selling the hulls of those tung nuts, making up fertilizer, or something.
K: Earlier you had talked about that hog farming or hog marketing co-op
that you helped form in Bonifay, I think it was. Were you involved in any
sort of marketing enterprises? Was it the responsibility of the agricultural
extension service to try to help farmers market their produce?
M: Yeah. Today they don't do that but back when I was a county agent you'd do
practically anything to help a farmer, because you ran up against the proposi-
tion about the local enterprise, like that hog market. The man that fought us
though, was the cat-in-the-bag man. They didn't weigh anything; they only came out
there and made you an offer, "I'll give you so much for these five hogs." Well,
that man made a living and he knew what to give the farmer, and the only correct
way to sell anything is by direct weight. You know what you can sell at the
market price. In fact,I'd buy hogs from that same man.
He tried me. He'd wait till the sale was over and see what the price was,
and run some of the hogs he bought from the other fellow. He told me one
day, he said, "Dan, I made 650 dollars sitting out yonder at that road buying
them before they got here." We had to fight that, and then after he got estab-
lished and got them educated, well, that's the way we, but now, I was running
only one percent, and most markets, one over at Marianna was going over at
five percent, and I had to fight thattoo.
K: Was that another agricultural extension agent?
M: No. That was a private thing. You know how it is, I was paid by the taxpayers
and I was supposed to be doing this and that, but the government
bought back thousands of gallons of syrup for forty cents a gallon.
K: Who did you get it from?
M: From farmers.
K: What kind did you get?
M: Now,every farmer had syrup. He'd plant some acres for his own needs on up.
K: Cane syrup?
M: Yes. The largest producer I had would make about fifty-five hundred gallons,
and that was a pretty good operation for back then; they started to use evaporators
instead of a kettle. The evaporator was a continuous process, after it
cooked down and kept moving back, and the little stream of syrup coming out,
and the juice coming in, and back where the juice- was coming in, she was
really boiling, and sort of a self-skimmer, too, it would come out the side.
The kettle type, you always had your dipper taken off the skimming. But you
couldn't sell the syrup back in those days. Nobody had the money. It was
just luck that the government bought it up, and they were supposed to give it
to the people on relief. All it had to do was to weigh ten pounds a bucket,
you may have said specific gravity. We just weighed buckets among and
some of the buckets looked terrible, were rusted and everything. Anyway,
we'd load them in the cars and there they'd go (where they were heading, I
don't know). I handled that deal, you noticed that made me power of attorney.
K: That's right. What county was that in?
M: That was in Holmes County. I can give you that.
K: No, that sort of thing wouldn't be of any value to us. That's a power of
attorney and you had better keep that for your own files. Was that going
on all over Florida?
M: Yes. Up in Santa Rosa County, when I was working both places I shipped
several carloads up there, handled it. A county agent was handling it
because when I was working as a cotton adjuster, now I was sort of assistant
county, I handled everything a county agent would do. In other words, that's
really what I was, but my title had to be assistant to cotton adjustment,
because you get the money from that source.
K: I see. Was the money for assistant cotton adjustment, cotton adjuster, being
provided by the state or by the federal government?
M: By the federal government. Paid by the federal government. At that time, they
were taking ten percent of my salary and giving it to relief. I didn't like
K: I bet you didn't.
M: But I was getting along. See, when you got out of college then, there
wasn't anybody grabbing you. Prior to those years, the Depression hit, so
you got out of college, you just show that sheepskin and somebody was after
you. But they were a dime-a-dozen during the Depression era. We felt that
everybody was in the same boat,so it didn't matter. I used to tell people,
it doesn't make any difference in the time alive you come up or years or
when. I said,"if you had a fine-spirited horse, a fine buggy, a nice home,
and a farm, and everybody else didn't have anything any better, you got just
along as good, as the man living in a mansion."
...Well, everybody knows about 4-H, what 4-H was. We got that today.
Its principles are the same identical thing.
K: And that was a part of your job as well.
M: Yeah. I had to handle the 4-H club work, too.
K: Can you tell me anything about the introduction of staple mulberry bushes
in this area? I understand there was some attempt to try to grow silks
M: Well,the only thing I know about a silkworm is what I read. That was
a ways back. I think it was in connection with that old plantation over
in Jacksonville. What was the man that...
K: Kingsley Singleton?
M: Kingsley, Kingsley I think tried it. There's somebody further up that I
read about it, but it didn't work out. If you go around you don't see
them now, that tree perished out. I don't know whether it was a blight or
what. After they age they generally go back, but everybody had a little
orchard around his house with several trees. Somebody got it out, and the
county agents pushed it. Therewere different people who produced berries.
This time of year, they're full.
Well, it ain't nothing for a hog to eat at all. Well, they called it the
hollow belly time, you didn't have anything. These sows would have pigs
around the barn and they'd eat these berries. That was to hold them on until
blackberries came in or some other thing. The farm had a few of the trees,
little groves, and that's what they were used for. When those things started
dropping, the pigs would eat them, to keep them going until other things come
K: Speaking of hog fodder, I understand that chufa nuts used to be used quite
M: Yeah, the chufa will grow on very light soil. In other words, you'd put
them on the poorest land you had. A lot of people wouldn't rent your land
if you were going to put chufas on good land, they claimed it was hard on
the land. The reason why I think it was hard on the land was because it
wasn't necessarily taking it out. I don't think it would take out any more
food value than a peanut, but they put the hogs in there in this hot sun
bearing down. You'd have to clean and cultivate them. They would grow up
like nutgrass. The peanuts spread out and cover the earth. I think it
was the hot sun and then putting it on the poor soil, which would get
about 130, and kill the bacteria, the organism in the earth.
But that was the crop back then, the poor man's crop. At the present is
a Mr. Parrish, north of Defuniak Springs, on this side of Florala, Alabama.
Florala is right in Alabama north of DeFuniak, across the line. He's in
Florida, and I imagine he's still growing chufas, and selling seeds. To
James Venable, from over at Archer, I'd take samples. I imagine he grew
them longer than anybody else around here. James M. Venable, if you put
his name down, you can ask him, he can probably tell you more about them.
K: Okay, we'll get that off the tape.
M: He was with Mr. Williams, Mr. Williams runs a fertilizer place over there,
I think it's W.R. Grace and Company now, it used to be
They had them together, but to James Venable I'd send the samples off, it
was a funny thing. We'd send the samples off, and they'd send the samples
off to Georgia, because the farmers in Georgia would buy them, and they'd
come back saying they were no good. So I took the samples, sent them to
the laboratory in Tallahassee, and there was good germination. They wrote
Georgia, and come to find out the man up there didn't know how to germinate
chufas. You have hard seed in chufas, and then you have to let them go through
a dormant state, like a peanut. When you first take a peanut you may get from
zero to three or four percent germination. You let them rest three or four
months, and they'll come right on up there to ninety, and then after a period,
say two months, they'll come and they'll go on back down to virtually nothing.
The oil seeps through the them, that's what they say, but that
chufa was a crop, it was especially put on new grounds. The hogs would come
in and root, and that made the land more tillable, they got it in good shape.
Of course, it had its problems. They had an insect to drill into it, and
the insect caused it to be bitter, wouldn't eat it, but drilled holes into
K: It's not used much anymore is it?
M: No. Only some people use it. Up north I've seen it in advertisements,
called earth almond. Did you know they parch it, and eat it like we do a
K: No, I didn't know that.
M: Well, I've seen it in the ads around, and I wondered what in the world was
an earth almond. I tell you another thing it's good for. A man who makes
good moonshine, if he'll take and soak that and put chufas in it, and let
it mellow, it'll make the moonshine taste much better, and it will take a
little fire. out of it too.
K: I didn't know that.
K: I've got a cousin I ought to tell that to.
M: Yes. Most of them use oak chips and things,that's fine.
K: I know that agricultural extension service had a great deal to do with
developing new farming techniques. Did you have any difficulty intro-
ducing these to local farmers?
M: Yes. I can give you an example of several examples when we were running
those terraces. Now, when I went to Bonifay, we got a law passed. I can
give the history of it. We had wall nothings in the government farming
camps, just like a C.C. camp, and they didn't have anything to do and
were starving to death, so to farm these camps, Mr. Bennett, from Green-
ville, South Carolina, sold the government on this soil conservation.
The earth was washing away. Well, that's where the soil conservation
came in, as me, Dr. Berra, a banker, Mr. Miller, a local merchant, and a
few others went down and got the legislature. There's a few other
counties come in, but we were more interested in it, because the govern-
ment had put the camp at Graceville, right across the county line, from
Holmes County. That was in Jackson. But they wanted the majority of the
land to take our county, that was my county, Holmes County, see. That was
a small county. Jackson was a large county.
It had been farmed before the Civil War. But Holmes County was fairly
young, less than, I'd say, fifty years some of the old land, some of them
about thirty. When the mills closed and cut out in the thirties, a little
before, and the turpentine went out, they started farming. They figured that
if they could get in there and terrace they could hold that land. Well, we
got the bill passed, they looked at these terraces and said that's too much
land. They made a broad terrace, and you just plow it out. You go up the
hill this way,and then up the terrace this way. But it was broad, and you
could just farm right over it. You'd farm with the contour, but I mean you
could use it. The old way they had, we called them tater ridges. They just
put them straight up, and if the water broke, it was too bad. They didn't
run the lines and didn't know nothing about the elevation, but they did
Well, we got it passed, and I'd run these lines, and they'd come out and
they'd argue with me, and say, "Well, those things going uphill, man, water
won't run that way." I said, "It's not going uphill." I said, "I started
off back yonder at the middle, and I am going to divide it." I'd say, "I ran
a hundred feet on a level. I ran another hundred feet on a quarter. Another
on a half. Another on three-quarters. Another on an inch." I'd say, "I run
it. I would never drop it over two-and-a-half, you start over here at a
quarter, that's why they dropped.
So, they would come out, bogged down in the mud, to see the water run up
the hill, and they'd come in and say, "Well, the fool made it run up the
hill." I'd say, "I didn't do such a damn thing," and I carried them back out
there, and I had several of them that saw a rain come up, and I carried them
out there and showed them. Well, they says, it's going :uphill. And I said,
"Come on over here." They said, "It's going downhill here." I carried them
over to another part of the field. I said, "I told you it's going downhill
all the time. It's just the way you are looking at it." I think it ran at
1750 feet field maximum this way and this way dividing. And then you had
your ditches, and we started the ditches, and we'd have to use wire and pin
it down, because if a rain came, it'd blow it out. We used concrete shafts.
It was cut out concrete, get around and go around it, and finally just blow
them out, but if you started with grass, it won't do it. Well, it's just
like a forest on a mountainside, it would just hold it. I got them on that.
Then when I went to Taylor County, I tried to get them to get stumps out of
the field, and get away, and start them using tractors. Well, I had an old
cattleman who had about seven or eight horses, and we farmed, probably put
in six, or seven hundred acres. He said it would blow the land away, and
would kill the earth. He said the stump kept the land from blowing. Well,
a lot of people would think that stumps wouldn't be that thick. Well, the
stumps were fairly thick, but said a stump was setting here, but
you'd have to get back here say five feet, ten feet starting, you know, to
go around it, and coming back. Well, had come up there, and you had
that all over your field.
Hercules Power Company came in, and a local man got the contract to get
stumps, and ship them. He started off, and some farmers, they said, "Yeah,
they'd give it to him. I sort of laughed about it, because I wanted
them off. I wouldn't say nothing, because we had land in Santa Rosa County,
we got four dollars a ton for them. They started clearing the land and-
it took me ten years to get this old "buggar" to get the stumps out of his field.
There was a man who plowed up a field with a tractor next to him, and it
happened to be a dry time, and there came a big blowing March wind. It just
a-blowing, and dust a-flying, and one thing or another, and he said, "Yeah,
that's that tractor, he got them stumps out there." Well, the fella plowed
too deep, I think that was his trouble, it was dry times. Anyway, they got
all the stumps out. That's why it took me that long.
K; In all the time that you were associated with the extension service, what do
you think is the most valuable technique they developed for farming. What
technique which helped local farmers most?
M: There were several. Take tobacco farming and fumigating for nematodes for
example. About my time the weed-killers, herbicides, weren't coming in. I
forget how many million pine trees I planted over in Taylor County one year.
On that good flatland, some of those pine trees could be harvested within twelve
or fourteen years, and after about sixteen years, with the damp land they had
then, you could harvest those over there. It's just thousands and thousands
of acres in land you'd see. That used to be a farm and people wouldn't know
it today just passing through. That was a conservation measure that has paid
off. The terraces paid off, and then the crops.
When Dr. Hull was developing the corn he came to Holmes County, and wanted
some corn. I said, "Well, what kinds?" He said, "I just want the fellows
to grow good corn. I want to go through it to see that it is good." I
went with him and he got scared. I said, "Now, I haven't got time to go up to
all these houses." We'd just go from one farm to another, and from one district
to another, and jump over the fences--he was scared about doing that. We'd
look at a stalk, and get the ears he wanted. I imagine I got four or five
bushels that day. He was breeding up hybrid corn.
They developed the Dixie-18 and I'd have to look back now, but anyway the
hybrid corn, they helped out there. They said the yields of corn, a man
was tops at ten bushels, some of them made more than that. Well, it's the
yields of all crops, take the varieties, they change varieties, get the
most adaptive varieties, and then the thing about the cultural prices, and
the proper fertilization and the insect control. You could say that about
all crops. In other words, when I was in Holmes County I remember the
peanut. I've seen some yields as low as two, three and four hundred pounds.
Of course, the fella sold a little, but he wanted to get his seed. A man
made an eight hundred pounder, I think our average for the county was about
eight-hundred-twenty-five pounds per acre. Well, a man that made a thousand
pounds per acre was a good farmer. When I quit inspecting for the
department of agriculture, Mr. Fugit down here, he said he was making two-
K: That's pretty impressive.
M: In Levy County, their average, I just cut the thing out and told my wife
to put it in her purse, because I'm going to Franklin, Virginia, that's a
big peanut area. My son's father-in-law was a peanut grower, and I was
telling him about the yields. It was hard to believe when you're having
better than two tons an acre. Now,you can just check the county agent of
Levy County if you want to say that's the highest yield. Mr. Farb was the
county agent, they got a new one down there and they sent him to Jackson
County. He's been developing this yield business down here, Jackson County
was the biggest peanut county in Florida, and so they hired him, and they
were going to try to increase the yields over there--and he will do that.
It's just hard to believe.
Now when I was a child, before I left, and got to Georgia and came down here
in 1921, Jack (Penzie) of the bank, I never will forget it, offered a thousand
dollars to any man who made a hundred bushels of corn to the acre. He had the
extension service, county agent and all of us checking for it.
Now that's for, I don't know when it was ever. Gus (Yalk) was the county
agent, and Gus was thirty-eight or thirty-nine. He was the county agent
over in Jackson County, and we were talking about it. Gus is probably dead
now. It's just hard to believe how it increased the yields. There's few
people on the farm, and they ain't farming the acreage like they used to.
And you take vegetables, the new varieties, and then they experiment with
the new insecticides and things. It's all kinds of things.
K: Do you think most farmers were willing to adopt these techniques?
M: Well, they were shy at first, and that's the reason why. You get to know
people, and you start working with the farmers. One of them had a little
prestige, they looked up to him, because he was above average. You get him
started and they see he's doing something, and they would follow suit. If
you hold these experiments out there on his farm, let him just plant a
little like you want him to plant, and then measure the yield.
M: In other words, you have to show him. It's not as bad now as it used to be,
it's just hard to get them away. They'd have a variety of corn. They would
say, "My grandfather had it, and my pa had it, this is the best, it'll keep."
Things like that. Instead of farmers raising seed, now mostly somebody else
is specializing in raising and they're buying them back.
K: In the last twenty years, what was the most important crop in Alachua County?
M: I don't know, you would have to ask Andrews, the county agent up here about
that. Corn has the biggest acreage increase here lately, they've grown soybeans.
K: What were they growing here when you started school here at the university?
M: Corn and peanuts.
K: But not many peanuts anymore?
M: No, chufas and watermelons. There are still watermelons around, but most
farmers have cattle. Farming has been on the decline since the 1930s, when
everybody went broke. They started a little vegetable growing around La Crosse,
with small crops of cucumbers, beans and later, potatoes. A:few years ago, I
used to check carloads of fertilizer for potato- seedlings; there was a terminal
at La Crosse and another at Hague.
K: I have something I wanted to ask you. Hog claims. What can you tell me about
hog claims? What is that and how does it work?
M: Over in Taylor County, that was a problem. A man didn't mind if you were
living in the woods, to kill a hog or two to survive with your family, but he
damn sure didn't want you stealing and hauling them off, selling them. In this
state you had a mark and brand law. I never did it. It wasn't passed until, I
think, around '49 or '48, somewhere along there. Because I helped the farmers,
I'd send off the marks and brands, and Mr. Scott here was with the milk inspection
of the Department of Agriculture. He handled the mark and brands recording. He
was probably the first teacher at the University of Florida, when he came way back
yonder. He was seventy-something, too, when he retired several years back.
I used to come down to the Seagle Building to get some of them straight. They
wouldn't have them overlapping, you know, in territories. It's all kind of
combinations, and I'd treat hogs for cholera, swine plague, immunize them,
as they say. I'd go over the whole swamp, we'd be in jeeps, sometimes we'd
ride horses, going out to the marshes. We call them wood hogs, range hogs,
probably the right definition. They were profitable, in other words, more
profitable than the cow, if you had a good range, and while you pay for the
horse, you can pay for the horse and the saddle with hogs, and some of them
were bred up, or what you would call bred up, it wasn't strictly. Most of them
were called piney wood rulers or old razorback. Some of them had long noses,
but they were mixed up, and it made a fair hog.
There was one year there I immunized over forty-eight thousand, and I betcha
I'd been on every forty acres in Taylor County. Every man had a marked brand,
and they had a claim. All right, if you had a hog on this territory with a
marked brand and you had a claim, you could have hogs on it. But you weren't
supposed to get the other man's hogs. When the pigs were in the farrow
it sometimes erased their markings. If you marked them in your brand mark
and in another man's style, something would be wrong.
They had killings and in fact they'd have killings about this hog steal-':
ing business. I learned a lot about them from when we had to record them.
Taylor County always had a legal book in the courthouse marking brands,
and if you ever had a claim you had to go there, and you couldn't duplicate
nobody's brand recorded in a book. I guess it was the first county in the
state that had a marked brand inspector. You killed a hog, sold it and
carried it to the market. You come by the marked brand inspector and he
would record it in a book. He did the head, the ears, and the brand. He
recorded so many heads, by person and he presented to the county commissioners
once a month and went in the books. Now, you take a little, perhaps an
underbit or you had to swallow fork. You can have a split, an underbit,
a crop or upperbit, and in the right ear you can have combinations. You can
have a swallow fork, and crop the left ear, that may be the thing. They used
to tell over there, that one family, he was the hog thief. He had a sharp
in both ears, so he could alter any mark.
K: Yes. Pretty clever.
M: In fact, two of his brothers were killed at Mayo, Florida, that's the reason
why theywere over there in my county. The hogs stacked on top of them. It's
two or three killed while I was there. It never did disturb me when I'd
treat the hogs. One man would be cussing the feller, and said, "Oh, so-and-so.
Did you see an old white, listed sow with her upper bit in a swallow fork and
her right ear and a split, and a crop in her left ear? With three little
old pigs?" I said, "You ride with me when I'm treating and you can go by
and see." He said, "No, I won't go." Go on down next man there, he was
accusing this one, see. So I end up telling them I just treat hogs, keep
my mouth shut and go on. I said you just hold him up and I'll do the treating.
K: Did things calm down after the fencing law was passed?
M: Yes. You can hunt hogs, but if you had a claim,(I don't know how they adminis-
tered the law),and you were out hunting, you couldn't kill the hogs. I think
in certain areas and certain counties they declared it legal game. I know
down here in the scrub places it's that way. I have treated some that would
be fatter in the woods than they would in the peanut field. When it's dry,
a hog doesn't fatten very well in the peanut field. But you have a good
mat cabbage, berries, briar berries and other mat, it's fine.
Now, up in Taylor County they've got St. Pedra Base. That's from Mayo to
Perry, the highest land in that section of Florida, but it's a swamp. You'd
think it was lowest, but all the waters flow out of there to the coast, but
it never goes to the Suwannee River. It's a bowel, and the Suwannee River's
up high and coming around. You'd think the Suwannee River would come right
through there and go to the coast, but it's a high, high place there, and
the hogs don't have worms in them. They eat wild pea grass. Wild pea grass
turns the meat golden yellow.
K: Is it tasty?
M: It doesn't affect the taste. However, the Swift Company wrote back and said
they had yellow jaundice. They said they wouldn't buyany more of them,
they'd never seen yellow-meated hogs.
After he stays in there for about eight or ten years, and you got to eating
on his tongue, it's hot. I've seen hogs over there that looked terrible.
Some of them were old and didn't have teeth. I used to jump on a box and
K: You'd have to treat wild hogs, too?
M: Oh yes! One man down there had a place that ran into the river. They had
to catch them. A few of them kept hitting the water to slow them down.
We'd have about four hundred sitting there with him, with about four or
five men. You'll have one man marking, one breaking the teeth and tusks,
one castrating, one treating screwflies, and two holding or catching.
When we get through, we'd open up a couple of bottles of whiskey and have
Mulligan Stew. We'd kill a yearling, eat swamp cabbage, and have a good
meal after that. I treated one that they called Satan. A bear caught him,
and cut a big chunk out of his shoulder. But he whipped that bear by cutting
him down with his tusks.
K: Who was responsible for having that Range law or that Fence law passed under
M: Fuller Warren. They got the Triple A (AAA), and people started travelling
more then. Of course, the cows would come out on that warm road at night.
In the summertime mosquitoes would get out. It was open. They were out in
the open and flies wouldn't bother them. It was the right time as it was
fought for years.
K: Did the ranchers and farmers fight it?
M: Oh yes. I fought it.
K: Why? You didn't think it wasn't a good idea?
M: Not at that time. Because they were the only men, I knew that could write a
check during the Depression, and they had built Florida. They even started
the citrus industry. In other words, they come down here, built a shack,
and opened up the range, with a little money. They bore the burden of taxes
in those days. They started a little business in town for the folks that
didn't like to work. I mean physical work.
You take Lykes Brothers, that's where they started off, in livestock. They
are the richest cracker people that came out of the south. They started off
by buying cows at five dollars a head, and started from Quincy with a drive.
They came to the next county, picked up a drove, came on down to the Suwannee
River, and would have five thousand head when they got to Tampa. They put
them on the boats to Cuba.
On the east coasts they do the same thing. They had cattle on Paynes's Prairie:
I don't guess they have any on there now. They'd rent the pasture, but they
had cattle further on down to Okeechobee where they had big ranches themselves.
K: They practically own Okeechobee County.
M: They started off with that, and then they got in the shipping business. One
of the girls married an old Yankee who was hiding in the mangroves down
there during the Civil War, and he could out-maneuver them and to get
Yankee boats coming in on him. He was captured when he was slipping in
there around. He knew in and out, one thing or another, and that's one
reason why they talked him into shipping in cattle. That's where they
got in that boat business. That was the backbone, the cow, the cowman,
that was money.
M: It was something else, I tell you. Now,over in Taylor County, I'll tell you
what Mr. Spencer, head of the extension service, told me. He said, "We met
over in the theatre." There were hookworms and malaria. Perry, in Taylor
County, was the first county that ever had a health unit. People used to
think that at a certain time of year it'd kill some people. They used to
log over there, and send it to East Port in Jacksonville and mill it, but
they moved the mill to Perry between '28 and '39. The big logging
camp down at Carver had three thousand men on the payroll, but there weren't
fifteen hundred of them working at one time.
K: Were they all sick?
M: Yeah, puny, and one thing and another. So they established a health unit.
Go over there today and go through the graveyard. If a family raised one
child out of five back there, it was doing good. If it had raised two, now
that was something. You ought to go over there and see the infants laying
by the people. There were hookworms and malaria.
K: Did the extension service have anything to do with migrant workers?
Were they responsible for anything?
M: In its infancy it probably was, but I don't know who handles that now. I've
been reading Anderson, and he's given it a gloomy picture.
K: Yeah, it's pretty bad all right.
M: Well, I've seen it when I worked in Lake County. A. Doodles & Sons, the
same ones that we were talking about, put in to abolish Chase and Company
one time, because it wouldn't finance him. They went broke, went back north,
and came back again. I talked to the farmers and gave them plants, and told
them to wait until the crop was made, but they got on their feet. When I was
down there, I thought they were wonderful people to the extent that I knew
them. See, they had a farm at Lake _. I knew the ex-county agent that
operated it, and I'd take the samples, fertilizer and all. They had one at
Lake Hart and at Avida. I knew that operation was headquarters, but I never
did go down to the Everglades or Cocoa. They had a big ranch, but I admire
them putting in the church and community house. At that time it was a co-op.
I guess it still is, too.
The old folks'home, and that church were all obtained by (Doodles?), orphanage
and everything. I guess it's still operating the same way. I thought that was
K: Obviously, since you've been working as an agricultural extension agent,
the number of farms have decreased. People are apparently moving off the
farms, and moving into the city and so on. Are the farms growing larger,
the ones that remain?
K: Do you think this is a trend that is going to continue on into the future,
bigger and bigger farms, but fewer and fewer of them? Have you seen any
return to small farming recently?
M: Yes. I wouldn't consider it exactly small farming, but people are going
back individually. There are a lot of them living on farms, and those farms
have been subdivided down to families that keep breaking it down, and they
are living out there. Well, they started growing vegetables and things,
more gardens and things like that. And growing a little home-grown stuff.
Economics causes them to do that. Now, I don't know how long it is going to
last, but I know that in World War I the same thing happened. You go back
and get the old economics books and look at them sometime.