Partial Transcript: This is Luther Mason being interviewed by Zack Lewton on 1/24/92 for the Kentucky Family Farms Oral History Project.
Segment Synopsis: Luther Mason shares some of his personal background including where he was born and his start into farming. Mason discusses sharecropping and farming as a young boy.
Keywords: Cattle; Children; Crops; Employment; Factories; Harvest; Livestock; Marriage; Sharecropping; Tobacco
Subjects: African American families; African American farmers; African Americans--Economic conditions
Partial Transcript: Ju, ju ,just tell me a little bit about your parents and where, where they live.
Segment Synopsis: Mason shares about his family's farm when he was young. He describes his family, marriage and his children. He discusses his children's education while living on the farm and their careers after graduating college.
Keywords: Ancestors; Ashland Oil; Careers; Children; College; Conservation; High school; Higher education; Majors; Money; Parents; Sharecropping; Siblings; Toyota
Subjects: African American farmers; African Americans--Education; Toyota Motor Manufacturing U.S.A.
Partial Transcript: Well, as I, uh--but first before I get too far, I need to know what year you were born.
Segment Synopsis: Mason shares a little about his personal background before recalling his time on Scott County's Education Board. He describes the need for small-time farmers to have part time jobs due to low profits from farming.
Keywords: Blacktop; Children; Crops; Double cropping; Education board; Elections; Food; Kentucky climate; Land usage; Local politics; Money; Profits; School board; Weather
Subjects: African American farmers; African Americans--Economic conditions; African Americans--Education
Partial Transcript: What year did you retire from the school board?
Segment Synopsis: Mason describes resigning from the school board to run for Scott County Commissioner. He recalls being on the Kentucky State Board of Directors and the change of education requirements in order to hold positions on school boards.
Keywords: Coal miners; County commission; Eastern Kentucky; Eighth grade; Elected offices; Elections; Guidelines; High school; Politics; Requirements; Resignations; State boards; Votes
Subjects: African American farmers; African Americans--Education; Rural African Americans
Partial Transcript: Tell, tell me a little bit--lets go back to your parents. If you would, tell me both their names and--
Segment Synopsis: Mason shares more about his parents' backgrounds including where they were born. He tells about his father's experiences as a sharecropper and his mother's role on the farm. He describes the oppression his grandfather faced as a farmer after being freed from slavery.
Keywords: 'Black-owned farms'; Children; Employment; Housewife; Land; Money; Oppression; Profit; Sharecropping; Slavery; Women's role
Subjects: African American families; African American farmers; African Americans--Economic conditions
Partial Transcript: What year did you go to work at the factory?
Segment Synopsis: Mason shares about working part time at a factory while still farming. He explains why he decided to work off the farm and have people sharecropping with him.
Keywords: Chemicals; College; Crops; Factories; Farming equipment; Planting; Pricing; Retirement; Seeds; Sharecropping; Social Security; Tobacco; Weeds
Subjects: African American farmers; African Americans--Economic conditions; African Americans--Employment
Partial Transcript: Where were your parents born at?
Segment Synopsis: Mason describes his grandparents' backgrounds and where they were from. He discusses his father's sharecropping again and how he purchased his own farm.
Keywords: County house farm; Debtors; Grandparents; Land; Poverty; Sharecropping; Slavery; Welfare
Subjects: African American families; African American farmers; African American parents
Partial Transcript: Can--just tell me some more about--I'm interested in this, the land prices, how that's gone up. How, how did Toyota affect your life when it came here?
Segment Synopsis: Mason explains changes of land practice in Scott County after the Toyota factory was opened. He discusses increased land costs and changes in city taxing.
Keywords: Acres; Building; Housing; Interviews; Investors; Land practices; Land prices; Laws; Real estate; Scott County Board of Adjustment; Taxes; Toyota factory
Subjects: Property; Rural African Americans; Toyota Motor Manufacturing U.S.A.; Zoning law
Partial Transcript: Were people real strongly behind--I mean did people want Toyota to come here?
Segment Synopsis: Mason explains how land zones were changed after Toyota was built outside Georgetown. He shares why this has happened, and receiving grants to get city utilities on his farm.
Keywords: City taxes; City water; Gas; Grants; Payroll taxes; Toyota factory; Utilities; Zoning changes
Subjects: Rural African Americans; Toyota Motor Manufacturing U.S.A.; Zoning law
Partial Transcript: Well maybe you could talk about a little bit about, just before I forget, about uh, what do you think about government policies?
Segment Synopsis: Mason describes effects of government farming policies on small farms. He explains the fluctuation of crop prices and how this affects farmers' profits.
Keywords: Acres; Big farms; Contacts; Crops; Family farms; Farming programs; Government policies; Grains; Hay; Land grants; Little farms; Livestock; Money; Prices; Programs; Shortage; Tobacco
Subjects: African American farmers; African Americans--Agriculture; African Americans--Economic conditions
Partial Transcript: It got to a place that uh, uh talking about little farmers like me. Which a whole lot of this is little farmin'.
Segment Synopsis: Mason shares about common difficulties faced by small farmers. He explains the importance of sharecropping or being employed outside of the farm.
Keywords: Acres; Children; Crops; Employment; Family; Farming equipment; Landlords; Mexican farm hands; Prices; Retirement; Sharecropping; Tobacco; Tractors; Vacations; Workers
Subjects: African American farmers; African Americans--Economic conditions; African Americans--Employment
Partial Transcript: That's some of the things why that farmin' done got to be uh, uh, uh, how I want to put that? A business.
Segment Synopsis: Mason highlights major changes he has seen in farming and its move toward becoming a business. He describes the effects of these changes on small farmers. He shares about 'farming signs' used to ensure the best crop or livestock, and even for the farmers' health.
Keywords: 'Farming signs'; Almanacs; Brains; Calves; Castration; Cattle; Crops; Farming equipment; Farming school; Gardens; Gasoline; Government policies; Heart; Horses; Literacy; Livestock; Plows; Tax breaks; Teeth; Tractors
Subjects: African American farmers; African Americans--Economic conditions; African Americans--Education; African Americans--Health and hygiene
LEWTON: This is Luther Mason being interviewed by Zack Lewton onJanuary 24, 1992 for the Kentucky Family Farm's Oral History Project.
[Pause in recording.]
LEWTON: All right, now if you would, just say your namefor me.
MASON: My name is, is Luther Mason, and I'm--live inScott County most of my life. Anything else? What you want?
LEWTON: Well, yeah, well tell me when and where you wereborn?
MASON: Oh, I was born here in Scott County, nottoo far. Around five miles from where I live now. A family of five children. My father was a farmer. And we was on the farm most of the life until I married in something like fifty--three or four. And anyhow, we--and I 00:01:00farmed for a few years after that. At that particular time, we started having a family. Have two sons. And farming kind of changed and I had to make a decision to try to support them and started buying' a farm which I live on. So I decided that I'd go to a factory to work and just farm part-time. I was sharecropping before then. Sharecropping is that the tender get half of whatever he raise and I sharecropped on two or three places. And the reason I chose to go to a factory and still continue sharecropping is because of the investment you had to put in. You had to either get big or get out, I thought. And so, almost out. So I went to the factory and I just took care of my little small farm with my sons, two sons. And worked in the factory about twenty-eight years. After we retiring twenty-eight years, I, I'm back on the farm. Well, I never did leave the farm. Going back to the factory, but--and I raised 00:02:00a few cattle. I don't raise my tobacco. Someone raise it for me. Fifty-fifty like I was doing. And I just kind of enjoy it. But I think it's a problem in farming if you not, don't keep up with it. What has happened here in our area, as I mentioned before, you either had to get big or get out. What I--help got to be a problem. And if you getting bigger and raise quite a big crop, you had to buy quite a bit machinery and that was very high. And so, I decided that I would just let the other man do the work. Which, the guy that raise my tobacco here, raise around a hundred acres of tobacco. And I only have two and a half or three. So he is cropping' about seventeen different places like I am. And we let him have the worry of that and we sharecrop fifty-fifty. But I do raise my own livestock and cattle. And this is--but I, as I was saying before--when you get back to 00:03:00the minority farmers, we don't have many in the county as we had at one time. And why we don't have 'em by the same reasons what I just spoke to. Whole lot of 'em went to factories. Their children grew up and they may not want to be farming. And sharecropping is getting to be complicated. Whole lot people doing it as a partner. Two or three people together, then hire this extra labor to do the work. I notice now--well, a whole lot of people have jobs. And back in the early years, didn't have nothing to do and look to the farm for income. They have to go and get different people from--around here, they use the Mexicans. Quite a few. With the heavy crops. Such as cutting tobacco or either housing tobacco. And up until that time, the family may could operate quite a bit of that crop. But when you get out you need extra labor and that's why they have to get the labor. I like farming. But if you 00:04:00gonna grow a family like I did, and pay for the farm, you might have to look for another source. That's why I chose another source. I don't know anything else you want me to--
LEWTON: Just, just tell me a little bit about your parentsand where, where they lived? You said they lived around here?
MASON: My--mother and father lived around three or four milesfrom here on a place called Allison Pike. This here where I live at is on the Delaplaine Road. And I think in--something when I was small child, I reckon around twelve or fifteen year--they were sharecropping first. He bought a farm. Was fifty acres, I believe they were. And he still sharecropped and use the sharecrop money to pay for his farm. And eventually he, he paid for the farm and then I think he got bigger and got to do some more things too. But then--after I married, I went on and went to school. I went to, 00:05:00through high school. I went to service for two years. After come back from service in a few years, I did marry and I worked on a farm and started sharecropping myself. And by doing that, I learned quite a bit about farming. So--I, I think my, all my ancestors I know anything about was, was connected to farms. And I'm the onliest one of the five children I think is on the farm now. That's quite a coincidence. Have two live in Ohio. One in Lexington. One in Versailles. Brothers and sister. And I'm the onliest one of this family on, on the farm. And after my time is out, I have two sons and I don't think they will be on the farm. Simply because--when I went to the work at a factory and had a small farm, my sons was a year apart. They finished high school and we had a talk whether we want to, he, they want to go to farm. 00:06:00They did, I felt that we might work together. Sharecropping. They felt that they want a better life. I don't know whether it is or not. So they decided that they wanted to go to college. We sacrificed with their help, and they was fortunate enough to go to college. Our oldest son finished college, I think, in early part of '70, '72 or something' like that. He was very fortunate ----------(??) and he majored in business and something'. But a year before he, when he was to go graduate, he come to tell me, say he need one more year of college. And I said well you got another son--brother, you have another brother and I wasn't able to finance you another year. And I told him, I said, he said I change my major. I said, well, I don't know where we can help you. I did tell him I'd introduce him to the banker, which I did business with. And he told me, well I need another year, I'll finance myself. And I was going 00:07:00down there to help him to finance himself and I set up something' but before he left, he said wait Daddy, one more thing I want to tell you. I'm getting married next month. I said, what? (laughs) I don't think I can co-sign you and he said to prove to me that he could make a better student by being married. He didn't have to--like these young fellows was. Have one or two or three girls somewhere else and doing that. So I said well, we went on and he did. See, he went on and did better the year after he married. Oh, then he did before. He was fortunate to get out with the--and he, he went into accounting. And he was fortunate to get out at the time that the country was in the condition that, I don't know how to put this, that he got a job three days after he got out. Simply because he was minority. He started workin' for Ashland Oil in Huntington, West Virginia and I think the quota wasn't there 00:08:00for minority, and that's--he was all right, but maybe his white--fellow that worked with him thought they might have got cheated. Which sometimes they do. And--but he went down and he worked nine years and he'll be here one day. He went back to school, got certified. He went to the bottom of the line, which you do in everything, then the system folded on him. He had a lay-off--(laughs)--and he was at the bottom. You know what happened. He was fortunate enough to--got laid off and couldn't find a job in his field, but he was looking' for a job somewhere else, and he finally got involved in a factory within two miles of where he lived. Toyota had come to Scott County and he was one of the first one to get a job. I think out of, he was about thirty-one out of thirty-six hundred people that got involved in that. But what I'm saying to this, I think he probably went his right way. Not farming 00:09:00where--and my other son he went on and he finished and he was majoring' in agriculture and he got out. I think about a year after he got out, he was--become a soil conservation in one of the surrounding counties, which is Montgomery County. Stayed for a few years and married. And these young people don't mind, make a decision, and I think under this soil conservation, you bids on jobs. He was, just started buying' a home and he bid on a job. Thinking about a home. I think he was just married. And he said he knew he wasn't gonna get it because the high class of what he were, but he figured several were gonna have the opportunity first. So they eliminate four, they eliminate theirself for someone who didn't want to move, and he was qualified to go on one of the highest district in Kentucky, which is Louisville in Jefferson County, in soil conservation. Sacrificed himself and worked four days a week and come back to Mt. Sterling where his wife was teaching school. To be with 00:10:00her. And this worked for awhile, and you don't want me to get in the details about what caused him to this, would you.
LEWTON: Well, let's see. At first, before we get toofar. I need to know what year you were born. Before I forget.
MASON: I was born in nineteen and twenty-seven.
LEWTON: Okay. And what years were your sons born?Do you remember? Or just something close.
MASON: '55 and '56.
LEWTON: Okay, that's good. That's good.
MASON: And he, this one went to Louisville here tobe soil conservation. I don't know. Should I tell anything that not related to farming?
LEWTON: Well anything--
MASON: But I was a--after my oldest son got outof college, I felt that we had--I didn't intend on going in politics. I'm not in politics and never will be. But anyhow, with some encouragement of the people in the community where I live and things like that, I was persuaded to run for school board in the county which I live in. And which I did and I ran against three other people and I happen was 00:11:00fortunate enough to defeat the other three, and I became a--on the school board. And the son that I was speaking of was in Montgomery County and had to go back and forth. And his wife was teaching in Montgomery County, and I think I had some help there to get her name in the, in another area so in a few years, they went to Louisville and she started teaching down there and they been down there. But what I'm trying to say, this might help them in this. But I think what I'm saying is I don't discourage someone for coming in farming. It's independent life and it, it's great to be outside, for me, all the time. But when you got start almost losing money, or either your program not so you could make money, I think you have to choose another field. And I like farming. I never would, I didn't like factory. That well. But I had a choice to make. This choice was take care of my family. Got a small farm here. About 00:12:00seventy acres, and we raise about--this year past, six thousand pounds tobacco, and I think I have about fifteen cows and calves. And I do my own little baling. Feed a little bit in the winter. And just now, it cost, take about ten minutes with the tractor with a boom on it. You might freeze ten or fifteen minutes, but you can take it out there in ten, and then come back and watch television if you want to. (laughs) But sometime that don't pay the bill. Farming is complicated. Land got high and I guess for what you get off from it, I don't know whether the profit is good for young people to invest it. 'Course some, I'm a little concerned too, 'cause we have to live off the farm. And I married, with the blacktop taking a part of the county and which they didn't have twenty years ago, more people is in the county. Somebody got to feed 'em. So we might be hurting down the way. Getting back to my son, in agriculture, I think he was in training, he told me that something happened here 00:13:00in Kentucky that--almost too cool to do this, but you're gonna have to have double crop. When you get acres in blacktop, you got to feed people or tobacco or whatever, well you have to do something. So now they're trying to train for double crop. Which is a little double cropping here. Which you cut your tobacco and see you sow a grain, which is rye. If you want to put that field in tobacco the next year, you go ahead and put the rye, let it seed itself or bale it for feed. Then plow that same material up and put in tobacco. Which that is double cropping. Two years, or one year getting two crops off it. Or hay or something of that sort. So I think this is something, something that the farmers gonna have to learn to do. But only thing that hurt him in Kentucky, in this part of Kentucky, is your weather. Further south you get, you can double crop easy. This is one of those things that gonna have to keep 00:14:00farmers alive, I think. If you don't, well, somebody gonna be hungry. (laughs) May be hungry now. But be hungry if it wasn't for that. So we, we like farming and we--I don't know--and I was on, as I say I was on the school board for awhile, for fourteen years. I resigned to run for another office in which I got beat in the primary. I was asked to give 'em the name of somebody to fill my term out after I resigned. And I'd been on the board that long. I knew a problem there could exist 'cause sometimes you give a name of somebody that don't do the job, they'll point the finger back at you. So I didn't choose to give them one name. I chose to give 'em about four names of people in my district, and which I did. And one of the four was my wife. And she was appointed. Whether a good apple or bad apple, I don't know. 00:15:00But still, after she been appointed to fill out that year, she ran the next term, and she got elected and she's still, she's still serving on the school board of this county at the present time. And I think she didn't like, she said she didn't want to do it at first. I think she did. She enjoyed it. But I think her time's almost out and I've been hearing her saying that she's planning on running again. So she must like it, and so I don't know. So this is what we did as a farm family. You know.
LEWTON: What year did you retire from the school board?Did you say--you didn't say the year. What year did you quit to run for--
MASON: Resign. I was on fourteen years. Igot elected in '76 and I think I--thirteen years. '88 or something like that. I resigned to run for county commission. And I lost in the primary. By very few votes, but still that's beside the point. Yeah, that's when I--first minority in Scott County elected to school board. I was on the state 00:16:00board of directors for seven years. First minority on that board and we learned quite a bit. Yeah. So this--by my life. (laughs)
LEWTON: What years were you on the state board?
MASON: Board of Directors. Not the state board.It's Kentucky State Board, Board of Directors. State--what that is, I don't what it is, it's--this state consists of eight regions I believe. Sixteen region. And, no eight regions. And they have somebody from every region which get together every so often and make some suggestions to the legislature what they need for school board. And I had, 'course that don't have too much to do with farming, but I was in a, in a bind on--I was--decision, two major decision come up there that we went to the, to the legislature with, and one of 'em come back and ----------(??) me. That's funny? I didn't know it until that time. (coughs) 00:17:00When I went to, got elected to the state board, the director's school board, the requirement of the State of Kentucky, you had to have a eight grade education to be on a school board. We had a director had a concern about that. Whether it's good or bad. And we had a meeting to try to find out what was the best for the school system. Which I thought it'd be a hour meeting. Frankfort where we have to go. Different part of the state. And we got there and we got to discussing, you see, the pro and con. And everybody--some of 'em thought that you should be a high school education to run for school board. Grandfather then if you didn't have it, you grandfather out, you know, like that. But I think most of 'em had high school, though. Which I did. It wouldn't affect me, but before then, you could have eight grade. That was a requirement that you raise up. 00:18:00So we decided that we'd discuss this, which I thought it would take about a hour, and this particular thing, we discussed this for I reckon seven, eight hours before we come up with a reason. 'Specially the part of, the eastern part of Kentucky. I remember a fellow saying, look. Coal miners in the eastern part of Kentucky has gotten rich with third grade education. How can you tell me that my county have to have somebody with a high school education to help to spend the taxpayer's money. That's what it is. And they, it wouldn't be fair. And this got into, be an issue that we need to understand. And they discussed this and--pro and con, and then we decided to get to the place we need to vote on it to whatever we do, we go to the legislature and we did vote on it and it was eight to go to twelfth grade. And seven says remain as it was. So we, we did that. Recommend through the legislature--that beginning that year, I don't know 00:19:00what year, the next year the school board run, he had, he or she had to be a high--twelfth grade graduate. So they won that. This other decision that--one reason there was a question about this, this were some of 'em said the county judge had the strongest money payroll come through them. It did. And he did not have no, didn't have to have no education and no county were. Even get down to your president. It's no line say how much education he have to have. We realize he have to have it. Why you've joined this on school board? This was the question. The judge, the mayor, everybody. ----------(??) win a whole lot of those races. But you ask some more out of the school board than you are someone else. But the obvious to this, some say that if you get to the other part of it, you involved with children. We trying to get them educate to do a better job. 00:20:00So therefore, you may have to use the guideline a little different. So that's why they went for twelve grade--but I thought it strange. I didn't even know. Some of 'em produce that from a county where they were that their judge didn't have that much education. But he has had, he's qualified. Extra training, but just as far as starting out with that, shouldn't be--a request. But anyhow, it was eight to seven that we went in and the legislation--accepted and they went. The other thing that was involved, what I say I got caught in--any office that you run in the state of Kentucky and most states, you don't have to resign until you elected to that office. A requirement of the school board, you have to resign to be legal before you file for that office. And I was in on this. And I think, I don't remember, I was the one, one of the sixteen or something voted to, to be removed. I didn't know I 00:21:00was gonna come in the future. And it probably wouldn't have made any difference no how. But I thought, and I think that I don't know whether that's right. You got a judge--or anybody can run for a high office and he still hold his office until he get elected and if he don't get elected he continue run his office. But a school board would have to resign before he can file. To be legal. After I'd got in the position, I, I did resign, then someone encouraged me to not resign. Go to court. I don't know whether it written law or what. And I understand if your opposition that running against you or somebody didn't file, it might have been different, but I didn't want to break the law. I didn't want to be--out here ----------(??) myself, and I did now just resign. And so then after I got defeated, I'm automatically out of the school board. And which I, I think fourteen years is long enough anyhow--(laughs)--as far as they're concerned. But I just mention those 00:22:00two things that happen in my time, that it, it--I don't know whether the decision right either way. That's not what I'm saying, but I was very interested in, in the way they come out there. But I am concerned about the guidelines on some of those things at the school. I don't know why I'm talking about school board. I supposed to be talking about farming (laughs).
MASON: Yeah and this is for some of the things--thisis a southern state and as I say, I was the first one to be elected to the school board from this county. Very discouraged with some of the statement I had about a minority. I ran against a--one of the leading lawyer in the city of Georgetown's son. And while the minority people told me here, you can't beat a lawyer's son--I had one parent say that I can't. I'm not gonna try to. But we are. ----------(??). 00:23:00I said do you know this school board. Listen to the minority. I don't know it. He's your representative. Still don't know it? Said, I tell you, I, I--you need to know him if you got children involved. If you have problems. And I said but anyhow, he's not doing, you know, good or you're not doing any--not his fault maybe. Because you don't know. And I said I ask you one thing. Give me a chance, four years. Don't do the job, remove me. You have that power. You can do it. And I did and I wasn't removed, so I must have did a decent job. But I'm getting back to say this, I think there wasn't no boundary in which the minority hadn't been going. And I don't know whether the grade or what. And I, and I was appreciate--and I wasn't elected by minorities because the district I live in now, we don't have many minority. I think in the district here, region I live here, where we vote at, and I kept up with that pretty much at that time, is about one minority out of every twenty. So, so--and I, in the, in 00:24:00the district I live in, the guy was running against me in this district and I got fifty-fifty of the vote. 'Course one of the--one of the precinct in this district was predominantly black and I did get my share of that. And I think that's why I was successful. And the other two, you run in three district here. And two of 'em predominantly white and one of 'em the bigger majority was--at that time, was black and I, that helped me too. But I think if I didn't get these white votes, though, I couldn't, I couldn't succeed either time as far as that. So it's no racial issue as far as that, but you need to, I think I helped to educate some people in this county to vote for what they think is right. That's what they, least they told me at the courthouse. I got some out that hadn't been voting at all. Because I ran. And I don't say everyone of 'em vote for me, now. (laughs) But they did go to the poll. This is some of the thing--so I don't know too much more I need to--
LEWTON: Tell me a little bit, let's go back to yourparents. If you would, just tell me both their names and--
MASON: Oh. My--father was named Remus Mason. He00:25:00died at a early age. I guess you call it early. I think he died at age fifty-eight. My mother was named Martha Sykes before she married my father, but she become a Mason. She, she lived 'til she was ninety-six I think. She--and she lived in, in Georgetown after--they lived on the farm when my father living. After that she went to Georgetown and she lived there the rest of her life. She never worked out. My father was a share-, was a sharecropper. She was a housewife and she never did work out any and grow up, raised the five children. 'Course she helped her husband, I mean, saying that--which a husband and wife did back in, more so that did, do now, as far as farming anyhow. We find now most husband and wife that work, they go to factory or someplace out. I don't see too many womens working on the farm. 00:26:00But I have run into a few of 'em who do. They, they pretty tough. I have seen a few around here. They're pretty tough if they like it. But most of 'em found a little job that wasn't quite as straining. And now, back in there, my mother and father living, it wasn't too much of a, two parties making a living. Most of it come from the man. But now we have economics getting in a position everybody got to work. To live. I think. And, and they do. And I guess this could be good and this could be bad. Sometime our children might not be getting some of the home training they did on account of both of them working, but still, this is a sacrifice we have to make. You know. To, with this economic like it is. So--I think--yeah, I don't know too much about--I do know my, heard of my grandfather and saw, remember one of 'em. And one of 'em was, I do know was, come out of slavery. And he was a farmer too. And I just 00:27:00barely remember, but I heard some of the stories he told, you know. But they was all farmers.
LEWTON: Do you remember any of those stories he told you?Does anything about his life, or any of your grandparents?
MASON: Well--these, some of the stories he told me by--farmingor even farming he sharecropped. A black, didn't too many black own farms. And he had to farm for the white person. And most time, if you don't have, if you do, you have to take what everybody else don't want. And some of the undesirable places, sometime you was in 'em. But you had to work. And, and you didn't have a chance to move up hardly. Well, that's one reason I went to a factory. I wanted to go bigger in farming. I, I had, I was farming a couple little farm. And the year that 00:28:00I went to the factory, I went to some farmers which I heard were gonna lose tenders, and I asked to become a tender and I was gonna buy more equipment and things. And I wasn't, seemed like, considered. So I decided that I'll go to a factory and one of the farmers out on here was a white man. And I told him I was gonna give up his crop, 'cause I wanted to do something else, and he said didn't think I should because--I was born a farmer and everything. And I was telling him about I need more, more crop. I only raise his tobacco. He had hogs and cows and I want to go in fifty-fifty on everything. Buy in, not give in. And he chose, that he didn't think he could let me buy in. He was raising that. But still after I raise my crop, I was helping to do some of that work, and the labor wasn't that much and I wanted to go in shares and he didn't feel I should. He wouldn't, he didn't want me to do--sacrifice that. So I told him I didn't want to, I wasn't gonna farm no more for him 00:29:00that year. So he give a chance to find somebody else before it was late. I didn't have my job at the factory at that time. So he wouldn't have to and he said well, he might change. We'll leave it open for awhile and he seen that I did, wasn't gonna move and I did go back to him and try to persuade him to let it go fifty-fifty for cattle and hay and everything, and he decided he couldn't and that's when I went direct looking for a factory, factory work or something. But if I had gotten the same opportunity that some of the people in my area was getting, and which wasn't minority, I'm not saying they don't count a minority, but those that's getting, I probably wouldn't have went to a factory. But after I couldn't get something to justify me staying on the farm, that's why I did. And I'm not talking about, I don't think it's a race issue. They just didn't have it out there, you know. And some of 'em did. If you had a farm and somebody in your family, you know you're gonna let your son, your cousin or somebody sharecrop with you before you let a outside person. So that made it difficult on the minority but they didn't have nobody to--had much to farm to, to--get 00:30:00somebody to sharecrop with. And you had to try to find something else. That's what my opinion was.
LEWTON: What year did you go to work at the factory?Do you remember what--
MASON: And the factory I went to work in waseight months old when I got that. You, you want to--this Trane in Lexington is where it were. And this, it come here from Wisconsin in '62, I think. And I went to work in '63. Went in kind of on the bottom floor you might say. And stayed there 'til--twenty-seven years 'til I retired at--we wasn't forced out but I come out at '62 which--draw a little Social Security and just a little retirement. Farm a little and I--hope I survive.
LEWTON: Was that hard? Doing the part-time farming and workingat the factory too?
MASON: Well, seemed like you could--I was on the farm,but on my place. Wasn't like fifty-fifty on somebody else. 00:31:00And I had two sons in school and they could help me some and so we, and they need money theirselves in place of going somewhere--like we got stores over here. Sack groceries while they in school or something. They just help me a little bit on the farm to make the ends meet, then when they got sixteen they need a little old car like most young people do. And by working for me, they was able to get that there--kind of--I could help 'em by them helping in the crops. So it wasn't too awful bad. But it would have been bad if I was sharecropping. Some of the things on the farm by myself that I need to do today, I might have to wait three days. But that was mine. But you couldn't done it for somebody and, and--somewhere else, you know, because you, you're, that person wanted it done when it should done. So it wasn't too bad. Until after they started to college and they left and I was getting one year older every year. That's when I let somebody sharecrop for me. And the person then 00:32:00been sharecropping for me fifty-fifty ever since then. And he's helping, they helping on the farm next to me too. You seen all that tobacco. I think they raise about a hundred acres, see, but they have all the tobacco right, it'll be right there and they just pull the plants and take 'em to these different farms and set 'em out you see. That's what all that over there--I know you seen it when you come in.
MASON: You didn't know, you know what it was?
LEWTON: Yeah, yeah.
MASON: See somebody tell me, said tobacco canvas. That'snot canvas. That's the plastic in there which kill the seed so you don't put your seed out for tobacco 'til last of February, first of March. They got a chemical under there kill all the, the weeds and stuff. And that, you take that off and put the seeds in and then put a canvas over. Just a little, that's plastic there. Plastic? This canvas is--I don't know, it's different there. The sun can go through and things. But that's what that is. It's not a seed. They got about a month before they start to seed. 00:33:00About a month and a half. Last of February, first of March. But see, back in the time I was farming, you didn't have chemical like that. You burn with, you burn. Wood. Pulled by horses or mules. In early--way back there. And then they started doing it by tractor. To burn the ground to keep the weeds from coming. So this modern thing, that's one of the things--you got a machine you put that on there and put the chemical on and things. That's what I say, you had to get big. I couldn't done that for an acre or two of this. They got that machine because they doing a hundred acres. That machine what put that on there, on that canvas and things should, could cost ten thousand dollars. Now with all that apparatus you have to have. But it's a long drawn-out thing. It could last thirty or forty years. But you got to farm. You can't have--only I, I have to have for my farm here, about--a hundred feet. Or hundred fifty. They got three thousand. Because they got--how you gonna buy a machine like that for a hundred feet. 00:34:00And leave it here 'til next year for another hundred. You got to get big or get out. (laughs) That's what I'm saying. So if they can buy that three thousand feet. It will set in the barn, and then they do custom work. Some other farmers don't have it, they might do their. But he, after they did that, you have to set in the barn until next year this time. But he don't, so for himself he done took care of three thousand feet, and maybe got three thousand from somebody else. But now, if I had to get that machine and didn't have but one acre, you can see what's going on over--a tractor back in--when I went to Trane did I get a, I got a tractor--3000 Ford tractor. I think I give--[dog barks] around five thousand dollars for. 3000 Ford tractor now would--[dog barks] with what it needs on it to operate cost you twenty thousand. So you got to go. Or give it up. (laughs) You see my point? You got to, you 00:35:00got to ----------(??). It's all right to keep a tractor up in a barn through the winter months and, and not have nothing to do. If you done use a whole lot last year. And plan on using it a whole lot next year. But if you gonna use it just a little and keep it up there, and don't have nothing to do, it's not gonna pay for his meal. And getting back to that, when I started farming, when you go to the tractor, you had a problem there. For people used to have horses. And when a horse don't have much to do after your crop is over, you got to feed him all that next year and hay was costing so much a ton and you had to do that. Where when you get to a tractor, after you do pay for a tractor, it's not working, you don't have to feed it. You don't use gas unless they working. So you had to keep them horses. So that's why you don't see no horses no more. You know, work horse I'm talking about. You had to feed him. So if he's done a hundred dollars worth of, say done five hundred dollars worth of work for you last summer. And, and ate eight hundred dollars worth of hay--(laughs)--you gonna go bankrupt 00:36:00if you got enough of 'em. So he would if he went, went along with enough you see. If you got a team of horses. So I don't know--don't want to go back to horses neither--(laughs)--but the modern, but it costs to keep modern, but you got to have it if you're gonna farm. Or what, any other thing. Not on the farm, anything. You got to have it. Got to have air conditioning if you gonna work in these places where you want production done too, so it's not only in farming. Everything. You got to have whatever the demand there for. So I don't--it's--but as I say, I like farming. And I, I might wish I had gone big later. Or--before I went to factory, but now it wouldn't help me any much. I'm getting too old now to do that much and I say I had two sons, they didn't choose farming--(laughs)--so, so I would have had some equipment that I have to rent out or sold or something, you know, if you got to a certain age if you don't--'course you can be, I can still farm at my age, sharecrop. But I don't think I would want to, 00:37:00you know, at this age. You got to have somebody--more than one involved to try to make it anyhow.
LEWTON: So where were your parents born at? I justwanted to get--
MASON: They was born here--let's see, Scott County I believeboth of them. Um-hm, Scott County. But my father was born in the area, but my mother was born on the western part of the county, I believe. Well it wasn't too--they was local. Both of 'em were. And getting back, this too far, I think I understand that my dad's parents, my father's parents came from Virginia. As a slave I'm talking about. Getting back to, that's where--we have a --some kind of tree kind of give us the idea, what went on later, on earlier in life and he's--they suppose--three brothers supposed to come from Virginia here. And one of those brothers was my grandfather. And I don't know what years they were, but it back--I would say--eighteen hundred. Something. 00:38:00That's when they come to Kentucky from Virginia. I can't go no deeper than that. (laughs) They come from somewhere else most the time. Everybody come from somewhere don't they. But that's about--that would be my grandfather that come in from Virginia I think. For my mother's parents, all I know all their life they were from Kentucky, there was something that I didn't get, haven't gone back that far to find nothing else.
LEWTON: Well, did your father inherit any land from his father?
MASON: No. I done understood he--he didn't--he just wassharecropping when he bought this forty-eight acres of land. And this is, I say, about three miles from here. And he decided that by sharecropping he paid for it. And I think after he got that paid for, he went and bought or sold it. And bought about a hundred fifty acres of land. And farmed that. And, and this is part of what he bought here. 00:39:00And what I, and he died in, I'd say in '60, with five children and my mother and they didn't want to sign it and I bought half of this farm from theirs. Well, didn't buy the half. Me and another guy bought the farm together. Whole farm at auction. And me and the guy that bought it together had it divided. Just to farm ----------(??). Those boys over there to raise a crop and my father and me bought this farm together. Hundred seventy-five acres. And we had it fenced--to buy it at auction. We--I wasn't able to buy it all, but--the heirs wanted more, we bought at auction didn't bring quite as much what they asking it for, and I wasn't able to buy it all no how at that time because I had two boys growing up and had to feed them, and therefore I wasn't 00:40:00able to go in debt that long. That much. And so I bought, me and this guy bought it together.
LEWTON: So was it divided up evenly between all your brothersand sisters and you? When you father, I mean when it was heired to you?
MASON: No. Well, we never did. After myfather died, my mother--he had another farm and my mother got it. And the five children got this. And we never did--and we had a choice. Buy together or what--everybody had a choice to get their percentage out of it, so I tried to buy it from them. I didn't and we just had a auction. And I got a fifth of the proceeds out of it to help me on mine. No we never did run it together. I think I did run this farm here for a couple years for my mother before she--well, she had interest in it until she remarried again. And after she remarried again, she lost her interest in it and it went directly to the five children. That's when they sold it. And that's when I bought half 00:41:00of it. With this neighbor of mine. Well, back in then, see, I don't know--I don't know what my father give for the farm then, but back in the time, you know how things change, we bought this farm, me and this guy together, I think we give five hundred dollars a acre, about coming across there, and everybody says that was high and everybody was crazy and everything. You know. And three years later, down the road, another farm this size went seven hundred dollars a acre. Toyota come here and sixteen, sixteen hundred acres, which it sold about--five years ago? Four years ago? They tell me they got six thousand dollars a acre, so--(laughs)--I don't know. I don't know what happen now, but it was a hot area though for--farm right down below here was, was sold about the time Toyota come here, and 'course the real estate people own that and this farmer got three thousand dollar a acre across the road from me. But I guess some real estate 00:42:00people own it and are gonna--every year I heard something gonna happen, but it's still setting there. But this guy got his money. For three thousand, so, but I don't know what that is now, around through here now though, but that's what everything, things change you know. So when we bought this in '63 I think or '62--talk around here, those--me and this guy crazy. Five hundred dollars! Whoooeee! Then three years later, right same thing. Two hundred more. Seven hundred. Just talk--over there at the county house. You know what a county house is? Whole lot of counties had a, county's had a farm for people wasn't able to take care of theirself. You know, welfare took care of that. And they had a building on here that, about-- ten or twelve room. People live in it and--the county sent 'em there, I don't know, to get their food and process and everything. And there's a county house farm. I think it's about two hundred fifty acres. So they decided that they didn't, wasn't gonna do it no more and they sold it to a farmer. That's the one that brought seven hundred dollars a acres. Think it's about two hundred acres. Right down over here.
LEWTON: Hold on a second. Let me--
[Pause in recording.]
LEWTON: Okay, we're going again.
LEWTON: Could you just tell me some more about it.I'm interested in this. The land prices. How they've gone up. How did Toyota affect your, your life when it came here?
MASON: My wife was interviewed by those people. (laughs) Itwas kind of strange the way she, you know, it's in a little paper the week--I think she has the paper now. And it got, it went to Dayton, Ohio. This paper where--her picture is in it and another person. Picture's in it and we have a cousin that's in Dayton, and they send this paper back, what they had, but this man did come by, ask for an interview like, everything. It was something in the Georgetown paper. She was--they was interviewing her and they asked that, they asked her--us, not around here, we gonna come. We don't, they didn't come then. They want to be good neighbors. They talked to us and they, we went to Georgetown College to have a meal and tell about we're gonna affect all of it. They did that in the process and everything. And, and I think they have been good neighbors, but what happened I think--what I can get, that they said that Uncle Sam or your tax paper put too much money over there. That's what they telling me, and which they might have. Incentive. That the state did. Well, if you--and they come here and those people that live there on the sixteen hundred acre, they supposedly got six thousand dollars a acre. How is anybody else gonna compete? You know, if they want to sell. If you was in that stream, you all right, if you want to say--but it did make the land around it, that was selling at that time, get some higher. But most of that was bought by real estate people. Not farmers. You can't make no, you can't, you can't live in no five, three thousand acre on this farm. You can't grow enough to do that. But it went to real estate. That's what I'm talking about up in here, these places. The real estate own. And I think they might be hurting because they have set there for five years. 'Course they got money anyhow. Some of 'em not real estate. Investors. Stronger than real estate. I think somebody from Florida own part of this over here. Investors. But I understood--they thought by Toyota come here, everybody else want to build some kind of factory of something. Scott--I'm on the Scott County Zoning Board, not zoning board, Board of Directors here. We have some problem here. Not board, board of adjustment. Scott County is zoned that you got to have five acres to build a house. Did you know that? My son that come from West Virginia want to build a house here and I could give him a half acre right over there to build one. But the law--zone, you got to have five acres. On account of your septic tank. You cannot give your son or nobody half acre to build. Now you can give it to him, but he's just having that. So he chose to went to Lexington somewhere because I wasn't able to give him five. I can give him enough to build a house, and so they, they got this zoning law here. You got to have five acres to get, to build. Toyota come here--we're not getting the people around here as we think we would have got. Whole lot of 'em come from Owen County. Harrison County. Around the county which they're not zoned. They can take, if they want to buy. They can take a acre and build a house. And drive eighteen mile. Fifteen mile. They sold here for the less--stuff didn't move. Why you have to have five acres? Five acres now, some of 'em saying that, have been, have sold for five thousand dollar a acre. Five acres is twenty-five thousand dollar a acre. And you can pay five, you can pay--say if you pay a thousand dollars for a half acre and you pay twenty-five--or five--whatever you pay there, you can take some of that money and be putting it on your house. And you don't need it no how. You know. You get a little tobacco--if I could have sold my son five acres. If I did, he would got one-fifth of my tobacco base, he wouldn't need it. He don't have no barn to put it in. He want just a place to--and so this is what hurt, hurt this area. Another thing, by me being on the board of directors, I seen the real estate people got hungry. They gonna get rich overnight. You see, from Lexington. This is not gonna be, you gonna re-word this and things, and that's what I'm saying--just like I'm saying? Oh, all right. Well, when my son come here, I say he--whyn't you go somewhere else? Georgetown to be close to his work. Every house with the same price in Scott County or in the subdivision, anywhere from five to eight thousand more than they were in Lexington. Well, those people are not gonna give that. Five, eight thousand dollars. And ----------(??) come here, there was little choice. So they hold on, bought in Lexington. Drive fourteen mile. Interstate. 'Course see, we would, if he was here, he wouldn't have but two mile, that's lucky. But he live on right close to the interstate up there. Ten minutes he here. And I'm just using him as a example. Whole lot of 'em did that. So what happened, they didn't sell here. They have realized it now. They have a meeting now too. Said people are not gonna come 'cause we done overpriced ourself. Now they have coming down, I understand, on the level. Whole lot of 'em bought. Have a break now. They say it take about four, five years for a factory worker that come in from Louisville a long way, know you got a job. They might go bang you see. But now, they went too high for a small town. And now they didn't say all of that--for they just froze. Everybody gonna get rich overnight. You know, you don't do that. laughs) I mean, they have learned you can't do that. And, and this is how--happened to them. And then another thing, I think they gonna try to appeal the zoning. To get you down to a smaller area. But there's a whole lot of people like this big place over here, they want to keep it five acres. If they can get zoned under, get sewer, you don't have to worry about it. You can have half acres or anything. You just--place to build a house. But you be zoned different. You wouldn't be zoned where, where we are. We was involved, I was talking about, on the school board and we went to Tennessee--where Nissan I believe it was. To see what happened with the school system. I went--Chamber of Commerce. Two busloads went. Stayed two, three days. When they was coming here. I went for two things. I went to see, as a representative of the school board and to see what happened with the surrounding people, small farm work. I was showed a place where, on a side of a hill, just growed up in weeds. And I was asking ----------(??) close to, I ask her what happened. They said, well they started zoning different. Try to sell out. Some of 'em bought some land and stuff under some zoning. And this lady I talked--they said it was, got a good price. But she want a dollar more. Or two dollar more. Don't know what it was. Little more. Went on and she got it zoned and another zoning area. Had to pay that big tax. 'Course she won, and still she said I can't sell now. All the other factory, no place around to get what they want. So sometime you can stay too long. We, we was afraid of this. I don't, I think they selling now. If they was enough of 'em come around, then you got a little strip and don't move, you're in trouble. You can't move, maybe later on, they don't want no more, see, and you get zoned in a different--you take an old cow, what we got here, calf--what you make a little tobacco, and you got, you get a tax like you would a factory, it's not gonna take care of that. So you have to make a decision. So that--thing what I was telling her--everybody else leave, you better leave too. (laughs) But if everybody else stay, you all right. You know, they don't want no more. So we learned that from going down through there. That's one of the things I learned. So I don't know, we in a kind of hot area. I think with the economic change or something, it be more building around through here by being this close maybe. But see, then I look at it the other way. They got the little ----------(??)to get a lot of outside people. They got some come from Versailles. Elizabethtown. Georgetown. Paris. Frankfort. ----------(??). They got 'em set up. Transportation. I think they got rail. They bring them in here. So they might have what they want, you know. 'Course they expanding again there you know. But they might have, I'm talking about substation you might call it. Sub---supply. They might have all they want. And if they got sixteen hundred acres, they don't have to worry about building for a long time. (laughs) I don't know. They tell me they got a whole lot on the ground--that they got a building under control, but still they got a whole lot more land. They can expand from now on, and won't have to buy no more I don't think. Versailles. So I don't know.
LEWTON: Were people real strongly behind--I mean, did people want Toyotato come here? I understand--what did the farmers think about when they heard Toyota was coming in?
MASON: Just like I was saying, they was afraid that--everythinggonna get too high and they, they would have to move. Some of those that did sell. And they found out that they didn't, after they did it, though, but they were a little concerned about the zoning part that might change. And, and I am still concerned about that in a few years. You know, Toyota's five miles from Georgetown. But what Toyota is in the city. Controlled by the city. Even police. And on that road come up, it's the city. It's zoned just that strip there and my property. You know why that is, don't you? Hmm?
LEWTON: Why is that? Why is that?
MASON: Get city taxes.
LEWTON: Oh, yeah.
MASON: You see, get city taxes, get water and allthat there. Payroll tax. For your city. See, they--and that's why they want it. They don't want me. Particular right now, 'cause ain't nobody leave. You know. If I had a hundred people working for me on this farm, and didn't have to pay city tax, they would be------------(??) city tax. That's what I'm saying, you know. That's where they get that big money from. City tax. Payroll tax. And that might be--and the inner city ----------(??) zone ----------(??) city. Annexes they call it. You know, most of 'em. Any place where you control. 'Course you got ----------(??). Have to got and get fire stations for that you know. But that tax is what they do that for. Yeah you come out of Georgetown, it's almost five mile. Almost ----------(??). They control the city. 'Cause my son worked there. Dad, I don't live in no city, but look at this money. More city--you know, not on him, but everybody else. So that's why they did. Um-hm.
LEWTON: Are they on city water? You know?
MASON: Yeah. 'Course I'm on city water. Iget my water where you at. Lexington.
LEWTON: Huh. That's interesting. Did that come with Toyota?
MASON: No. I got water here. I gotcity water, not Lexington water. In 1964. Place called Sadieville. Fifteen miles from here. Went through. With some kind of grant. And got the county for water. I, I'm not, I don't know whether that's the right year or not. But the city water from there. In '78 or '79, they wasn't able to pump for all the customers. So they had a contract to get us water. So they didn't have it. They run out. They had--try to works a deal either Georgetown or Kentucky--what's that Lexington Kentucky American?
LEWTON: Kentucky, yeah that's right.
MASON: Kentucky America. For the contract and which theycouldn't serve. We had a meeting and people from Lexington said what they could do a better job than people from Georgetown. That's in this area. Northern part of the county. There's a meeting at the school. And we had a judge was running for--judge at that particular year when this happened. He talked for Georgetown. Come up and talked to Georgetown and they said and that's just what I heard, that he might be gonna get a little money out of there if this part of the county went. So the people of the county chose the best deal. Thought it was gonna be Lexington. We had a meeting, but it had to go through some kind of county approval. And the judge was against it. In the meantime, while they're working for that, for that water, election time comes. He, he had won all the county and the district and these peoples is better about it and everybody voted against him. He lost the election. See, election--they say on account of he was pushing for Georgetown water. So we got Lexington water. They bought this place out for Sadieville, which the water was--come from here to a place up here where you talking about the ----------(??). He's almost to the Fayette line up there. And so after--Kentucky American they had it to the ----------(??), pretty close there. So they just connect in on over there and they pumping thisaway now. Which was coming that away. They bought them out. So we get our water out of Lexington. Yeah, that's why we got it and so--Toy, Toyota hooked to it too, you see. They get, they don't get Georgetown water. They got Lexington water. And I got two things across my farm that, that--well Toyota done caused one of 'em. I already had water, but they had to change the line after Toyota come here. I had a six, six inch line. Now we got a twenty-four inch line. Just on my property. The line. Before it come to Sadieville. The smaller one was on the other side. I had to go underground to get it. Now it's on my property. Then we got, we got gas through my, our property here. To go to Toyota. Come from other there and we got gas. I don't have gas now. I, I have no connect on it. But I can if I just hook onto city gas. It come through. Both of 'em within about twelve foot of each other. Down across--well, they got a easement ----------(??) people on this side. And we got gas and also water too. 'Course we had water before Toyota come. Only thing, we went from a twenty-one--[telephone rings] from an eight inch pipe to a twenty-four inch pipe. Twenty-four inch pipe down there. Produce the water.
LEWTON: Do you need to get that or--
MASON: She got it.
MASON: Yeah, yeah, she got it. Yeah we gotgas. I, I do, I plan on going, connecting to the gas in the next year. Only reason I didn't connect when it went through, I just bought a furnace for this. We got a furnace. Oil furnace. I just got a new furnace and they say hard to convert a oil furnace over into a gas furnace, but it's a whole lot cheaper because fuel oil is higher than natural gas. But I know several on this road from here to Toyota have got city gas. Natural gas. But we got, we use fuel oil.
LEWTON: Well maybe you can talk a little bit about--before Iforget, about--what do you think about government policies. Like, how they, you know, dealt with minority farmers and do you think that program, those programs worked good or do you think they should improve them?
MASON: Well, for government projects as far as farming isconcerned, not necessarily minority--and I might get shot for saying this--but this is what I believe and I think most of us--it's for the big farmer. Not for the little farm. I, I don't say it's not for it. You can survive. I, I fool with ----------(??) government. And I'll show you my plan if I--I got seventy-five acres. Uncle Sam or the governor will say, well--I, I'll pay you so much money to take this ten acres and don't grow nothing on it. Don't grow nothing. Well if I got seventy-five, they cut me down to sixty-five. Well, I did that once, and I had ten acres of something here didn't look like gonna have no hay on or nothing there or anything. And I went in the government office. You had to go in there a certain time and draw a little piece of money out of it. Draw some money. I thought a pretty good set aside. Even build it up. I ----------(??) cattle that year, and it was set aside and that was the only place I had hay. The other's was weed. Now that, I can't do that. Because I done sign a contract with the government. Well, what I got out of the government for that ten acres and didn't have hay, it cost me more to get hay to run my cattle this year. What I'm saying now, I'm too small. You got a person over here got fifteen hundred acres of land. He can take five hundred acres on the side and don't do nothing. Go to the government ----------(??). He's not hurting. He gots a thousand more. And he not as, he not as apt like me. Only hay he's got is in the five hundred acres. So it, it has to be, looked like everything is big. And, and I don't think they doing it on account of big, but--and I never want it no more. For that. Because I really lost money that year. See, in other words, I don't know what was the figure, but if five acres wasn't that much, say if I got--I might have got--I don't think I got that much--five hundred dollars. If I did. And had to buy eight hundred dollars of hay. (laughs)Which I might would have it if I didn't go in there. And I had to look at it. But in some projects, it helped. I have, I have felt--I went through some of the projects and I got a, I had water trouble a few years ago on ponds. That's what you used to have. And I had to sell my cattle one year when all the ponds went bad. Dry. We had a bad year. So I have got city water for fifteen hundred feet in back of my farm. Through the help of some government. Going through some kind of--got some help on it. Not full help. Got some help on it. And which that is good. Now I got it anyhow. And ever since I had it, about four years, had water every year since. But still, we gonna get a drought one of these years. Might be coming tomorrow. But I got it back out, what I'm saying. But I took some pond that I had and what I got from the government that helped me quite a bit. You know. But every program--and I think this is good for small farmers, but I said, I don't like this land grants and not raising corn or something like that. If you're not big, there is no use to fooling with it. You, you got a good chance to get hung. (laughs) And could lose money. You know how government is. If you, if I even put my cattle there one day, that would jeopardize that money I got. I would have had to pay that back, you see. And so therefore, like that hay, I said I can slip in here and cut it. The day I would cut the man would be there. You done sign that contract said you wouldn't cut no hay, you'd just leave it there. And so anyhow--and I, and you can't do what you do. You in trouble. And it, it's some--it almost have to be for the big man the way it looked like to me. Most or the programs--'course getting back to this water, that go to anybody if you're qualified. And I, I appreciate it. Be able to do that and did qualify. But, but I couldn't have water come from my house. It have to be livestock. But if it come from a gate to my house, I ----------(??) to my house or any other way, it's for farm. I put a tank out there and that helped you some money, but they just be, it have to be for farm. Not for living quarters and things like that. And I helped to sow some grains here on some kind of fertilize and alfalfa that the--it's a restriction to everything. I couldn't even sell a bale of hay if I wanted to. Until so many years. But I wouldn't want to sell it no how. You know. It'd just be for my livestock. If you got some help doing that you see. It's complicated, but if you understand it and got a program that you can adjust to it all right, but I'm talking about this hay or stuff, you have to be big almost. And that's who mostly get that too. And most time big, you might not be the one who need it. (laughs) You already paid. But I still--they want better too I guess. They the one look like profit more than--and the farmer done got to the place where I'll tell you what happened. Guy raised my tobacco. Stripped it early. One of the earliest--earliest ones they strip. That's a hundred acres. They stripping today. Suppose to get through today. They got to take, let me see, they got to take, they taking about eight or ten cents loss on the pound. Now. Than what the day------------(??) strip. I was over there. I told it to him yesterday. High as tobacco now is selling, back then was a dollar eighty-four. High as one seventy-nine, dollar seventy-six. Now what is seventy-six from eighty-four. Seventy-two--something like that. Ain't that ten or twelve cents? Call you later. It's no fair. Not every year it done like that. But they say they're short. Still this--you, you's ----------(??). Tobacco's dollar--same one. And we sold the first, second, third day. I think we averaged dollar eighty-one. 'Course we had some went to dollar eighty-four, but average dollar eighty-one. And they said now, they's averaging about a dollar--if they lucky about a dollar seventy or dollar seventy-one. That's ten cents. So, that's what farming is. I, I think Uncle Sam or somebody say he looking out for you, but that can be--This is the same tobacco I'm talking about. I can see the difference. Just couldn't strip it. Can't strip if you got a hundred acres, you got to start somewhere. You can't strip all of it and so this is, it's a gamble. And, and I think they're very disappointed. 'Cause they felt this year was gonna be such a short crop. Not only me, everybody. I could have been the one last. And I had to take a ten cents loss where they thought it gonna be level all the way. They thought ----------(??) because they said they're gonna be so many million pounds short. I don't know whether they're short or not, but they're not paying for it. I think some of the foreign markets have all they want, so therefore, that's what hurt it. So you--that's what, that's what I'm talking about would discourage people farming so much. Sometime when you see those things and it's no guarantee. You go to Kroger's tomorrow, get a loaf of bread, who put that price on? Who put that price on?
LEWTON: Yeah, that's Kroger's business, right? That's--
LEWTON: Not a farmer, right?
MASON: Farmer go and put his price here. (laughs) Hedon't put no price. You take what they want to give you. You don't have no control, see. Everybody. You go to the doctor tomorrow, the doctor tell you how much his call is. But a farmer take his in turn, and I got to take what you give me. See, I mean it's--sometime it can be pretty fair, but ----------(??). You know. (laughs)You don't know. If they don't want, if you get that day and he feel bad, I ain't going ----------(??). You know. After you ----------(??). Doctor say, well, said I charge you fifteen dollars for this call. You got a choice. Go or don't. You got a choice. (laughs) But when you got a whole lot of tobacco here, and he don't want to buy, can you chew it? Smoke it? So you, you got to, you got to you know--that's what I'm--my point is not to be hard on nobody, but it's not, it's not, 'course everything else is not safe no more too, but ----------(??) first one factory ----------(??) no more. It's twenty years. They laying off things. People got twenty years. Back in there a long time ago, twenty years, you got life. You know, you should. You think you should. My son, when he went to Ashland Oil, he was there nine years. He was saying, I think I'm gonna be there. But economic come in, got to lay--well he changed jobs too. Change job. He at the bottom. Even when you had nine years there, you didn't have a half year in this area. Well he wanted to go back. You know. No, we won't send you back. So it's the same way with farming. In a way. It's no security at all. And then I think it's the first one that loses security. But these others lose them now. It's bad. You know. Places that--twenty years ----------(??). You start when you're twenty, twenty-five. Twenty-five. And twenty onto that. Thirty-five, forty-five. And they lay you off. Nothing open up. He don't want you, you're too old. You see? They want you eighteen. So it's, it's hurting all the things too. But look like they got the farmer's first, you know. To lose out ----------(??)--'course, 'course I don't have to tell you that. You know that now with the economic done change. So many people--if you get some age on, get laid off. It's not much for you to go hardly. They want you from eighteen to life. Not forty-five to life. It's the thing, you don't give too much of it away. (laughs) So, so I don't know. It's complicated. I don't know if I told you much. You understood some things I told. Which I was talking about. But that's about some of the things that happen to farmers around here I think. You got to a place--talking about little farmers like me. And which a whole lot of this is little farms. Farming. Fifty to a hundred acres. These guys I'm talking about that crop for me. I think the last--they had seventeen places I think. Everybody on the place just like me. Working somewhere else. I'm talking about the landlord. I work at Trane. This man up here, across the road, they crop for him. I think he retired somewhere, but he was working in the ----------(??) anyhow. And all those round there is doing--or either maybe somebody done got old. Man and woman are seventy-five years old. Not raising tobacco. Can't raise tobacco. Eighty years old. Want somebody to raise it. Well, what it, what it is, and they either retired or doing something else. And these guys here, which I was talking about --the father and I bought the farm here. Got two sons. That's, that's a business for them. That's a business and they got it set up like--they, they make money too. I'll tell you why. They got level heads. They don't buy too many of these twenty thousand dollar tractors. Three of 'em, they got three. And maybe have a little ----------(??) (coughs) who lot of these farmers like a car. Change every three years. They, they got a tractor, Ford tractor. I don't know how old it is, but something--but he got it going good, doing the job. And they didn't get it to--and, and they, they, they do that. But if you got to change every year like you do a car and things, and they works, there's three of them. And I'm talking about Mexicans. I'm gonna show you how they work. If they get twenty Mexicans here to cut tobacco and there's three of them. Maybe three of them and--they might have somebody help them or something. If they get twenty men--four here with one of 'em. Four here with one of 'em. Four here for another. Four, eight, twelve. That's the three involved in it. Twelve. And then they got a regular guy. He got four. So those guys gonna get something out of them. But if you got one many twenty years and you over here with four. Got eighteen over there, it have to be organized. And not that it had to--trying to put--you got to push and get something out of 'em. You can't hardly farm hardly, be successful by yourself no more. Just like I was telling you my, my son, two sons stayed and want farming, we might try to rent more, but it be a grub--they even take their vacation. There's three of 'em there. They getting, they getting through stripping tomorrow they said. If one of 'em wants to take a vacation, for February or March or ----------(??) space. Then when they get through cutting tobacco, you got a vacation. Before you house it. There's a space. Then you get through housing, you got a week period before stripping. They got it set up you take it out. You don't take no vacation when you got tobacco to strip. (laughs) You, you don't take none when you got something to cut. So that's the way farming is. And therefore, by being two or three together, you can manage that. And my wife told me sometimes they work late at night. Or sometime tobacco come in case and you got lights in the barn. Might go to eleven o'clock putting it down. But tomorrow, those guys don't have work to fool with. (laughs) ----------(??) coming it don't know if it's the right time. But you have to. When the guy want to work, they strip--I tell you how they strip tobacco. I help them a little bit. They strip tobacco from seven o'clock I think--to nine if, if you want it though. Everyone of them don't go to nine every night. They go at the regular time. Eight hour. Four or 'em. Just the outside help. School boys, they use school boys some. But if, if they gonna get eight school boys strip tobacco, one of them guys got to be there. Tonight. Next day, next day, he might go on home and the other one be there. If there's three of four of 'em, you have to work twice a week, wouldn't you? But you got to be there when them people want to come. You can't hardly set here and let you go here and strip. Got to be somebody interested in it. And if you're like on a team, like--and let those guys, these are Mexicans I'm talking about, they work by theirself. But they might sit on the bench if you don't------------(??) that's some of the things that--oh.
LEWTON: Let's see. Let me put that back in there.
MASON: Oh I, I didn't know I was getting thatexcited. That's some of the things why the farmer done got to be--how I want to put that? A business. When I was a little--boy. I'm talking about farming. You had a horse, you had a plow, you done everything. Show you what change from the--you didn't have to read and write. And which they say is not that important, but you better--what happen when the tractor first come out or some of these things from the tractor come out, they come in a box. From Michigan. These big tall things. Manure spreader. Or fertilizer. They come in a box. Ship in a box. Come here to your gate. You bought it and he put it out there. You got a little diagram, A go to B. B go to C. You didn't know what A and B, how you gonna get it together? You have to call that man back out to town. So much a hour to put your equipment together. So if, if--the B not that big, but if you don't know what a B is, it ain't gonna--so from then on, it got so you had to know a little something. You got to know--so then--a horse is born to work. But this, some of these machinery is born, not born, come to you in parts, you got to get it together. If you can't get it together, in your spare day like now, you call the man in from the machine shop or thing, and he gonna charge you at today's time thirty-five dollar a hour to come here to get it together and which it ought to take him a hour, he'll go ahead and take two hour. You got to pay him seventy dollars that you had, ought to have yourself to do that. So that's what I'm saying that--you can't, it's a business now. It, it's and it have to be to support the family and everybody else who's got to live. Pretty big business. Lot of paperwork to farming now. If you don't do it--gasoline. Stuff on the farm. You can get a tax break on it if you handle it right. But you cannot put it in your car. Well you, of course I got a tank out here. When I farm, when I put a tank in for gas, they put some kind of peel in it. 'Cause that's changing different color and the carburetor on the tractor and things can take it, but I put it in my car, I'm in trouble. The government's got to have guidelines to do those things. So it's got to be a business. And which a long time ago, it just a--they say just a dummy can, can plow. But it's more than plowing now. And it's another thing is when to plow too. You say--(laughs)--what to do. I, I spent something and this might--I went to farming school for the money. That's before I was married. Just, I got out of service, you had so much time to--you draw a little money from Uncle Sam. My father, his father, everybody went by signs. And you don't know about signs, do you?
LEWTON: I heard about it. Tell me. Tell mewhat you remember about what they did.
MASON: Well, I'll tell you something I experienced. Igot calves come here sometimes, my father used to, and they come--in the winter time. March or February on, where you get the bull come anytime. But that's when they try to put--and this calf come in here and you get a bull. You castrate. You know why you castrate 'em. And so they be big and won't have intercourse and ruin all that--my father, like if the calves come in, I say January, February, March and April, go getting a little warm. Castrate all his bulls. Before it gets too hot and put a disinfect on 'em when you cut 'em. Castrate. That's the way, with a ----------(??) knife, that's the way they were--I went to this training and this is several years ago. And they told us, you know, castrate whenever you feel like it. And get it done. The signs! People saying oh, signs don't mean nothing. I remember my teacher told me, said I tell you what the sign is, a good knife and a good disinfect. That's the sign. Any day, hire somebody gonna control the sign. My father had a kind of almanac. If it wasn't in, if it in the heart, I don't care when it's ready, they would not castrate back then. So I said to myself, he's dumb. My father is, you know, when you are young. I'm like the schoolman. I caught the razorblade and castrate 'em. Put a little disinfect on it and doing all right. So I castrate this one at this particular time back in the back. And I could do it by myself because about three days old a calf is, and you just cut his seeds out is what you do. And I have some in my truck, old truck, disinfection and a cow be over there and I'd grab him and I had my razor blade in my pocket, put disinfect on it, I know I'm gonna do it and a tobacco stick. That cow, when you ----------(??) her little calf, you come to get it, and if you hit her on the nose or something, you scare here. And she see as you come get--hit her on the nose, she'll run out there. Well you run out there and you're through when you come back. You know, so I did that. This particular day, going--just training this guy done told us said nothing to it. I went to work that day, or something, didn't go back. And I come back the next day and about three, four, five foot from where I castrated that calf it was dead--laying right there beside the fence. I lost two like that. Now I goes back and got my almanac. See what happened at that. One day it was in the heart. The sign. By the sign. On this, this calendar there and the other day was in the ground. And I told him, said oh, you nothing to it. Your razor blade, your knife wasn't dull. You didn't put your--but I know. I wasn't signing at all. That's what I'm saying. Well I, I say if you're on the farm, I raise a garden. I got my son, just like this. I have trained him. He say, plow a garden, you know, just a garden. You be here in town anyway, but he wanted one out here and everything. I said all right. He come up and he work at ----------(??) over here. They don't plant some beans today. I said well okay. He said, I said well you know your daddy kind of go by sign. He said "I'm ain't fooling with no signs." Well, he plants potatoes. He plants his potatoes, just the day when he comes. You know, plowing right--I planted mine, I got ready to plant it. I look at the calendar and it say dark of moon. That's when you plant. Did you know that?
LEWTON: I've heard that yeah. But you tell me.I, I--
MASON: I'll tell you why you do that. I,I--my--dark of moon, it's simple. Anything that mature under the ground, you, you plant it in the dark of moon. That's an old people saying. Anything that mature on top of the ground, you plant it in the light of the moon. Well, potatoes mature under the ground. Dark of moon. Beans, well they mature--
LEWTON: Above ground, yeah.
MASON: Light of moon. Well, that's a few yearsago. And I'm still, I don't fight it much either way. I went to dark of moon. Got ready to dig potato, I had some pretty good potatoes. Better than his and dark of the moon. And he had some potatoes, it was fair. But they--before you get to dig 'em, there's only, dirt done come off and the sun done made 'em green. No dirt on 'em. Dark of moon, they grow down. Light of moon, they come up. Daddy, my potatoes' green. You know, on top. Sunshine, everything. You remember that day you told me-- plant 'em. I said I told you it wasn't right. I think I did look at 'em. I said I don't think it right. But they're your potatoes--and I'm not fighting you that much. I said, but I wait three days. I ain't fooling with no three days. It's raining. And it, I said, so I, I--and then even though I'm not as bad as the old people, I'm kind of half-way signing now. 'Cause I, I experienced this. But like I'm talking about these potatoes. Beans come up. Sometimes dark of the moon. I plant sometimes dark of the moon with them. But see, I look at it and sometime I wrote down fifteen of May. And I just put 'em on out there. Don't even look at 'em. You know, they come up beans, they--don't look good and something wrong. Real short beans. Then I have another one over here I might put down just for something--or some other thing. Well no, go back and look at the calendar, them that done good was the ones that was in the light of the moon and bad is that. Well, and I can't swear that it is, but I have most success, you see. Just like a calf I'm talking about. I never did, I look for the sign later on, never did lose another calf. That I know of. But the man tell me that something was wrong--disinfect--may be. I'm not saying--but people got away from that now. But I think there's something in it. You, I don't know, you too young, but--my mother and father back then, you don't pull no teeth any day you want to. You pull teeth by sign. But we don't do that now. And they had success. You pull a tooth by a sign, you don't sign, you see them on the counter--sign in the heart. That's your--heart is a delicate place. Or even the teeth. You say, mostly when you castrate something, you supposed to, after you lose it, in the head and--the face. Now from here down to right here when the sign. Lose this place whether woman or man, and go from here down. That's when--do it. And the ----------(??). You know. ----------(??) right here. Get right here quick. And your sign going above you 'til you get up to here and then here ain't too bad to your neck. But your head, you know, you got your brains up here. (laughs) Sound logical don't it? (laughs) And you don't want to do nothing like that. And in the old days you had to get a teeth pulled, these old people look at that calendar. If it in the heart that the dentist tell you come in, I don't care how a good a dentist he is, they ain't going in this day. So but, you know, ----------(??). And that's where they come from. Farm most time. Tell time by farm. Tell time by sign. You ever heard of that?
LEWTON: Tell me about it. Tell me about the way yourpeople did it.
MASON: Oh back in the stripping room. Stripping tobacco.That's the winter time thing. Twelve o'clock, back in then people didn't have a watch. Put a stick--'course this'll get you. Put a stick out here and stick got a shadow. When that, if you can put a stick out here in the ground. Out here in the open field, and it got a --sun make you have a shadow, don't it? East and west, they said, now I'm gonna get this right. Sun come up over here. And it go down over there. When that shadow, you can't see nothing, that's the middle of the day. When it, when the shadow's this away, you know from wherever you come up, where the stick is, well, this is seven o'clock up to right, where you get to, right to the thing, it be twelve. When in between that, nine. On the shadow there. Ten. Eleven. Twelve o'clock is straight up. Same way going back over that way. (laughs) That's right now. And didn't it make sense? It does. When the sun stopped down at seven o'clock, your shadow clean over there. So what they do, one day when they get it, they kind of watch, if somebody bought a watch or he'll come down to the house and look at one. And then everyday they don't have to do it. When they get, get right here, 'cause the stick is right here, it's three o'clock. Or in that area. (laughs) And you have to go to town, didn't have no watch at five o'clock, when that shadow get to three, you better be getting kind of ready. You know--(laughs)--and though, it sounds silly, but it's, it kind of makes sense isn't it. If you don't have it. Now we just look at the watch, don't we? Back when I, I was a little boy, didn't anybody have no watch. Something else. Talking about--my father--hired help. And they paid by check then. In a house, like I am. His checkbook laying right here. You don't move that aside. After you done. If that ain't gonna work, it's done. You didn't move. Nobody get no pay. Monday. Monday ----------(??). When I got through farming and went to a factory, I paid one guy five times in one day. See, he was just--five times in one day. 'Course my checkbook wouldn't have done no good would it? If I--and then same as cash. I think most paying with cash. They got to the place--they just didn't do that back in there. I ----------(??) that sounds silly. Paying somebody five times in one day, don't it?
LEWTON: Why'd you do that? Why'd that--
MASON: Well I was farming. Raising tobacco right smart.Guy's was helping me. And most time, whole lot of those guys would--didn't have a regular job. But what happened this time, this, this sounds silly but--Monday morning come and I was gonna have to buy fencing. This guy got locked up for drinking or something. And went to jail. And he called me this--he's dead anyhow now. It wouldn't make any-- And say you want me to help with tobacco? I got locked up or something drinking or something. Said get me out of jail. I said okay. I'll be there in the morning, seven o'clock. I went down and got him out in the morning at seven o'clock. The way it was then, that was several years ago, I paid half his fine. And set up, I paid the rest when you make it. And we, and was cutting tobacco. We got out--and it was wet. You couldn't cut tobacco--nine or ten o'clock. I'm trying to get my help together. He went in a bootleg joint, you know, what that is.
LEWTON: Tell me about that. Tell me--
MASON: Well, I'm talking about, well that got 'em inall towns. You know, like whiskey. Somebody illegal selling it. Bootleg joint where they buy--he went in there and they raided that place. Got him again. The same guy. I said--When I go back and got to jail, and then it was time to cut tobacco got done dried out, and I got him out again. Paid half his fine again. That's two times. That's his money now, but I paid it. Goes here. Dinner time come. He called me Brother Mason. You know how it get. Said, you know I ain't got nothing to eat. What I give him a dollar, dollar and a half. That's three times he done got paid. So I had trouble a couple ----------(??) keeping money anyhow. Okay. We were going from one place to another and he smokes cigarettes. Didn't have no cigarettes. We went by a little store and he said, you know sir I sure do need a cigarette. Said, you got a dollar in your pocket? You know, a dollar a whole lot back then. I give him a dollar. Put that in the book. I done put it in four times. You know, I said I got him out of jail the first time. Then he got back again the second time. Then that dinner's the third time. Then he got cigarettes the fourth time. Got ready to quit at five o'clock and--six, seven, whatever time we worked. Said Brother Mason, "Do you want me tomorrow?" I said, "Yeah. Yeah, you tied up my money I got here." (laughs) He said, "You know, sir I am no account if I can't eat." Said, "I ain't got nothing in my house." Said, "Give me five dollars. Give him five dollars." That's five times I done pay him. I'm talking about where these old people, they ain't gonna pay you but one--(laughs)-- and I--and that's not every day. But you find five times. People didn't care. Five times one day and he still--he didn't pay all his money. Didn't make all his money back, but he didn't, didn't get in jail no more that week or something. I got my money. I'm not saying that, but I'm talking about you had to, you had to do it--time just change. Now. With these people now. Like these boys I'm talking that crop for me. They got some of 'em you pay 'em on Saturday night, you know you ought to have enough make a week, they go--everybody eat at stores now. Nobody eats at your house no more. Like they used to do. Well, I ain't got no money. Yeah, buy all he did. ----------(??). Well, that's a whole lot of work. You got twelve people, you got all of 'em named. But they, you can't remember this if you gonna work on Saturday. A guy get a dollar from you, you got to have more in your head, 'cause you--if two of you kind of look alike, you got a choice--John--Bob. So you just put his name down. John--get ready to write his check or pay him Saturday, if he done got twenty dollars out, whatever he had, you owe him twenty dollars less or something like that. It's just something that you have to do, you know. But back in there, my father and old people around here, shoot! I don't know what he do, but he, he ain't got no money--I don't know what they done, but they didn't do it. This was, this what they do now. Farm--people to the bank is farmers. You go to the factory, anywhere to work. Next week. They tell you your payday is two days, two weeks. They don't worry that you eat every day. Nowadays. But you ain't gonna get paid in between. Farmers has--I guess they might ----------(??) the thing, but still, people use farmers. In those words. You know, like that there.
LEWTON: This concludes the interview of Luther Mason on January 24,'92.
[End of interview.]