Mrs. Riddle raises and sells vegetables, and keeps bees, but the real business of the family is raising beef cattle. Jim rents 120 acres from the Middletons and pays them a flat sum of $300 a year for the house and lot and the farm land. Jane seems to think this a profitable bargain and, while noncommital about gains, intimates they are prospering. They have 25 full-blooded Herefords, several full-blooded Jerseys, and other cattle of mixed breed. Those lying in the shade of the trees adjoining the lot looked rather gaunt. There were no stalls for them. Evidently they sleep in the grove.
Part of the land is wooded, part is pasturage, and about half of it is arable bottom land, already green with springing grain. They also raise corn, peas, beans, and hay, and although Jim, 55 years old, is small and thin, and does not appear to have much strength, he can plow all day without excessive fatigue.
“All our folks was farmers,” said Mrs. Riddle, “back up in the mountains. No, I don’t know when they settled there, or where they come from. Jim’s people and my people lived in the same cove. I’ve known him all my life. His brothers and my brothers all farm. Most of ‘em are back up there where we come from. I’ve got one married sister living in Fielding.”
“Did you and Jim go to school?”
“Yes & I finished the school – went through the seventh grade – but Jim dropped out. They was only one teacher – it was a little log school – and we didn’t have grades like they got now, but they told me I went through the seventh grade. I don’t know how far Jim got – he’s older’n me, and dropped out before I started.”
Jim owns 102 acres of land back in the mountains, but, “It’s so steep,” he said, “it ain’t fit for farmin’.” He raises apples on this land, and pastures cattle on the hillsides. He tried renting the place, “But the tenants,” Jane put in, “let the cows get into the orchard and break limbs offen the apple trees. They run down the property, so we just locked up the house and let it stand.”
“We’ve lived here about three year,” Jim added, “but we ain’t brought our best things here. We sort of feel like we’re camping out.”
Anne Winn Stevens interviews Jane & Jim Riddle
for the Federal Writer’s Project 1936-1940
March 27, 1939 in Fletcher, NC