Verna Lucinda Bradsher Bullard 1981

 

Verna Lucinda Bradsher Bullard

1898 ~ 1982

 

 

 

In Little Rock in July 1981, Richard Bullard tape-recorded this conversation and his mother, Verna Lucinda Bradsher Bullard (b. 9 Jan 1898, Greene County; d. 10 Dec 1982, Wichita Falls, Texas).

In the interview, Verna describes family life in early Greene County, growing up as the youngest child of Greene County pioneers, J.A. (Jack) Bradsher and Lucinda Ross Bradsher.




"This is Richard Bullard and I’m talking to my mother, Verna Lucinda Bradsher Bullard, about her parents and other relatives as she remembers these things from her past."

 

RB: And your father was John Albert…

VB: Bradsher.

RB: …Bradsher, known as Jack Bradsher…

VB: Yes.

RB: …and your mother was Lucinda Ross Bradsher. And what I’d like to ask you first of all is about your parents. For instance, my dad was Clarence William Bullard, known as Jack Bullard, and he was five feet eight inches tall. I just wondered if your dad, John Albert Bradsher, was about that height or was he taller?

VB: He was about that height. He was a short man.

RB: And was he sort of a thin man or medium build or…?

VB: He was kindly—well, his weight was around a hundred and fifty, so I guess he would be just a medium…

RB: About my size…

VB: Yeah.

RB: …because that’s just about my size.

VB: Yeah.

RB: And was he sort of a dark complexion or a light complexion?

VB: Well, he was a medium.

RB: Of course, he was out in the weather a lot.

VB: Yes. But he wasn’t a real light complexion, and his hair was a medium brown with some gray. He hadn’t gotten real gray before he died.

RB: Yes. He was how old when he died?

VB: Fifty, uh, sixty-six.

RB: Sixty-six when he died, and he still wasn’t real gray?

VB: No.

RB: And, did he—he did have a moustache for a while…

VB: He did when I was young, but he had it cut off—uh, shaved off while I was still a young person because I objected to it so much.

RB: I see. But he had worn a moustache before that most of his life? Or most of his adult life?

VB: Yes, up until then and I complained so much about it when I was little that he shaved it off.

RB: I know one time that you told me that he sort of had a problem with his hair and he kept it cut short.

VB: Yeah, he did. It would have been kind of curly but he kept it cut short.

RB: It was sort of a cowlick and so forth.

VB: Yeah.

RB: One thing I wanted to talk to you about was, what his working life consisted of. Now I know he was a farmer but did he do other things besides farming?

VB: Well, when he and Mother was first married, they moved to this home where it was all in woods. And they cleared that up and at that time, the Cotton Belt Railroad was building a railroad through there, and he was in charge of the payroll and buying the supplies for the camp. And he would go to Paragould, which was about eleven or twelve miles, and he’d go by horseback and he’d bring back the payroll by himself. And he never was afraid. Mother said he never did carry a gun.

RB: Well, most of his life, though, was spent farming.

VB: Yes.

RB: And what kind of crops did he raise?

VB: Well, he raised corn and he raised hay, and he did raise wheat at some time, at one time, and he had a wheat thresher, an old-fashioned wheat thresher. And several of the neighbors at that time raised wheat and he would go around to different places and thresh their wheat. And it was always a day that the neighbors came in and they’d cook a big meal, you know, and entertain them, and then they’d go to the next place and they’d all do the same thing there. And in the fall he always had cotton because he said that was his “money crop.” The rest of it was just to sustain us but cotton was the money. And he always had some cows and he always had hogs and, of course, we had chickens and geese and all other kinds of small birds on the farm.

RB: Did the family, uh, the children help him a lot in the farming?

VB: Yes, they farmed with him until they got grown. Most of them went out on their own. There wasn’t but one of the boys that farmed, and he was kind of a gentleman farmer. That’s Jess, you know.

RB: Yes. Now, who were all of your brothers? You might just name…

VB: Well, the oldest brother, Tom, died when he was nineteen. Of course, he hadn’t done anything except work on the farm. My next brother was Ed—Edward—Robert Edward was his name. And he was a doctor.

RB: What can you remember about him, in particular?

VB: Well, he was—I remember—I was just a little girl and I’d go to their house to visit and I just was with their children. They had four children and I kinda grew up with the two oldest ones.

RB: Their ages weren’t too much different from yours.

VB: No, Omer was only two years younger than me.

RB: And then Don was younger than Omer.

VB: Yeah, he was about four or five years younger than I was. And then it was some time before Willard and Robelene were born. And then, uh, he and Amos had a drugstore together.

RB: In Marmaduke?

VB: Yes, and Dr. Bradsher’s office was at the back and the drugstore was in front for a long, long time. Then Amos sold his part of the drugstore and went to Little Rock. And, I don’t remember who bought…

RB: I see. Well, then, was that the same location where Omer and Don had their drugstore?

VB: Yes, it’s the same place. It used to—in the beginning it was across the street…

RB: Oh, I see…

VB: …and then Dr. Bradsher bought that block in there. And he put a drugstore in his office, in the back of it.

RB: And then the other brothers…

VB: Well, Al was the next brother after Dr. Bradsher, and I don’t remember too much about what he did. He taught school some and he was in different business projects but was just a little girl and I don’t know what they were. Then he went out West…

RB: He left when you were, well, maybe before you were born or when you were real young?

VB: No, I was still—I was, I guess I was about seven or eight years old. And, of course, he was gone for a long, long time because I was grown and had children…

RB: Yes, I remember, too, when he came back.

VB: And the next one was Amos; I already told you about him being a druggist. And he went to Little Rock and was there in the drugstore a while and he finally wound up over at Keiser. And the next son was Isreal, who became a minister. And he was—for a while he was a pastor at some of the churches in Arkansas, and then he went from there to Missouri and was in the St. Louis conference up until he had to retire. And then, Jess, who I said was a gentleman farmer, and he farmed. And then Claude was into banking and cotton business.

RB: Then your sisters. Was Aunt Jenny the oldest, I guess?

VB: Yes, she was the oldest. She was twenty years older than I was.

RB: And then, in relationship to the brothers, she was about the age…

VB: She was between Ed—Dr. Bradsher—and Al.

RB: I see, yes. And of course, she was a McBride after she married…

VB: She married…

RB: …Uncle Vess McBride.

VB: …Vess McBride.

RB: And then the other…

VB: …The other sister, Della, she was between Jess and Israel. And she married Gid Williams.

RB: Well, getting back to your father, did he have any hobbies, things that he liked to do, that took a lot of, maybe, his spare time that he had?

VB: Well, after he got older, because he was quite old when I was born, and my best remembering of him, he retired from farming but then he put his—he was interested in—he had a big garden and he just raised everything he could think of. And he got some guineas and he got some turkeys and he just entertained hisself. And then he had this special horse that he reared and spent a lot of times with, you know, riding him and fooling with him as a pet.

RB: And what was he called?

VB: Ol’ Ball.

RB: Ol’ Ball.

VB: Yeah, (laughing). And then, of course, my daddy was superintendent of the Sunday School at Harvey’s Chapel for twenty years. And he was on the board.

RB: And taught Sunday School, too, did he?

VB: Yes, and then he was District Lay Leader for several years with the District Conference.

RB: Well now, when you say “Lay Leader,” did he actually hold the services sometimes?

VB: Yeah. We’d go to—and I went with him when he’d—he’d organize Sunday Schools in small, outlying communities, and he’d always want me to go with him. And he’d start a Sunday School, then he’d go back occasionally to see how they were doing.

RB: Well now, when you’d go to one of those places, they were probably a real small church? Maybe…

VB: They were.

RB: …maybe they didn’t even have a church there sometimes.

VB: Yeah, sometimes they didn’t even—they’d meet in the schoolhouse.

RB: Oh, I see.

VB: …was just organizing, trying to get a—getting the community involved in Sunday School and church services.

RB: Well now, what other activities—for instance, you said he was a Sunday School teacher. What class did he teach?

VB: Well, he was mostly among the men.

RB: I see.

VB: Men usually got together in what we used to call the “Amen corner” in the church, you know. When I was growing up, the women sat on one side most of the time and the men on the other. And they had one place—oh, the choir would be on this side and on this side there was another group of benches and they called that the Amen corner.

RB: Well, when you say “Amen corner” did people…

VB: Well, they’d say “A…

RB: …they really did respond more then than they do now.

VB: Yeah, but when the preacher’d say something that pleased them, they’d say “Amen,” you know.

RB: I see. They ever say, “Nay,” or something else? (laughing)

VB: No, they never did say that. (laughing)

RB: They’d always say amen when they agreed.

VB They never did object to what he said. (laughing) They kept quiet if they didn’t like that.

RB: Well, what sorts of church activities do you recall that were, maybe, family-oriented that you enjoyed and so forth?

VB: Well, we had—we would meet lots of times and have singing. Just group singing.

RB: And people come from other places, too?

VB: Yeah. And then they would have what they’d call “Children’s Day.” Usually that was in May, and the children would have a program. And then they had what they called—In the summertime, they’d have revival. And that was a day and night service. Sometimes it’d go a week, sometimes two weeks, depending on how interested people were, you know. And it was—it was real good because it got the community together, you see. And lots of times they would have a picnic lunch on—maybe on a Sunday and that was the most of our activities around church and school because we didn’t have other things.

RB: Well, getting back to your family, now, we haven’t talked much about your mother. I think, didn’t most all the children call her Maw and all, as I recall?

VB: Yeah, they called her Maw.

RB: They called her Maw. I guess she had a pretty hard life, too, in a rural farm situation.

VB: Well, she did, because she had twelve children. Ten lived to be grown. And, of course, it was in rural—as I said, they started from scratch because they bought their land—wasn’t even cleared. And they would…

RB: Who did they buy it from, do you remember?

VB: I don’t remember. And he bought it—he didn’t buy it all at once. He bought it in about forty acres at a time.

RB: About what total amount of acreage did he…?

VB: About three hundred.

RB: When he finished, the amount of it was three hundred acres?

VB: When he finished. Yeah.

RB: And your mother, what would, say, a typical day in her life be like, you think, when you were at home there?

VB: Well, during the crop time, it was get up real early because the men—if the dew wasn’t on the ground, they liked to get into the field by daylight because it was cool, you know. And she always tried to prepare them a good, hearty breakfast.

RB: What would that consists of?

VB: Well, sometimes it’d be hot biscuits and butter, and sometimes she’d fry ham and eggs, and just, you know, jellies or whatever you…

RB: That means you had to get up and build a fire and all that before you could do it.

VB: Yes, in a wood stove. You had to get—build a big fire in a wood stove.

RB: You had a cast-iron wood stove.

VB: Yes, that’s right.

RB: Then, too, I guess the baking was done in the oven of the…

VB: …of that stove.

RB: …of the stove. Of course, you probably used, what? An old cast-iron skillet?

VB: Yeah. We had an old iron pot that had legs on it. And when it wasn’t used in front of the fireplace to cook in, you’d take the eye out of this old cast-iron stove and set it down—the legs’d go down and it’d set down around, you see.

RB: Oh, I see.

VB: And it’d cook vegetables in that, green beans…

RB: So you’d—it really set down in the hole there in the stove.

VB: It’d set down in the hole.

RB: So it would—it’d kinda heat in there, closer to the fire.

VB: Yeah. And she had a Dutch oven. And she’d bake sweet potatoes by the fireplace. You’d pull out coals and set this oven over it and put your potatoes in there and then put the lid on, put coals on top—Bake sweet potatoes that way.

RB: Probably be real good that way, too.

VB: Well, she used that a lot. And after—of course, I was the youngest and after all of them married and left home, it was just Mother and Dad and I, and we would cook our evening meals sometime in the winter time when it was cold, you know, ‘cause we didn’t have central heat. We just had the fireplace, and we would cook whatever we were going to have—maybe we’d make biscuits and cook ‘em in that Dutch oven.

RB: So really, a lot of the cooking was done in the fireplace?

VB: Yeah.

RB: What other things did she cook in the fireplace?

VB: Well, that’s all I know of.

RB: Did she have hooks that she’d hang pots on?

VB: No, we didn’t have that…

RB: Didn’t have that sort of thing…

VB: No, not after I came along. They might have had before that.

RB: …Earlier, before they had a wood, er, stove, a cast-iron stove.

VB: And then in the wintertime there was always a hog-killing day, you know. And we had great big wash kettles. We had two.

RB: About some particular time of year that this took place?

VB: Yeah, a real cold day. A cold time.

RB: Probably January, maybe? Or February?

VB: Well, it might have been—if it happened to be a cold time in October or November.

RB: So it just depended on the weather, really.

VB: We had to have cold weather. And they…

RB: And they figured it was going to be cold for several days.

VB: Yeah, that’s right. We figured that we had a cold spell that would last and they…

RB: And how did you arrive at that? Did you ever use an almanac maybe?

VB: Well, yes, they went with that some. But eventually…

RB: I imagine it was a matter of knowing the weather. Your dad tended to know the weather? He could judge the weather?

VB: They understood—they studied the weather better than people do now.

RB: They lived in it every day, and they’d tend to know it.

VB: Yeah, and they could tell by different things. Now, a lot of times I’ve heard them say, “We’re gonna have a cold spell.” The hogs would do certain things, you know. There’re certain things the animals did.

RB: Do you remember what the hogs did?

VB: Well, they’d squeal and get together, and kinda...

RB: Kinda huddle up?

VB: …huddle up and you’d know that it was turning cold.

RB: Were there other things like that you remember that they talked about?

VB: Well, I can’t…

RB: I know, seems to me like when it’s going to rain, the flies would come in or something. Do you remember something…

VB: Yeah, you could always tell that. It would be sticky—humid, we call it now.

RB: But getting back to the hog-killing, kinda how did that take place?

VB: Well, usually, sometimes your neighbors would help you and sometimes you just did it yourself. We never—after I was grown up, we never killed a lot of them because it just wasn’t that big of a family. But they killed the hogs and they’d have a big barrel and they’d have that full—they’d heat up water, have it boiling, and they’d kill the hogs and then they scalded them in those barrels of hot water. And then they’d scrape ‘em—scrape the hair off. And then they’d cut ‘em up and hang ‘em up and let ‘em cool and cut ‘em up. And they’d let the meat lay out and they put salt on ‘em to cure it out. And I don’t know—they’d leave it out a few days and then they’d put it down in salt for so long and then they’d take it out and wash it off and hang it. And then they’d build—We had a dirt…

RB: Floor? In the smokehouse? A dirt floor?

VB: …smokehouse. And we’d make a big fire under it and smoke that meat. And I think it’s hickory hardwood that they used to smoke with.

RB: And they’d kinda keep it smoldering some, I guess. Did they cover it up with something?

VB: Yeah, yeah. They didn’t want it to—they kept it a-smoking. I don’t know how they did that.

RB: And then they’d render down the fat and…

VB: In these big wash kettles.

RB: …in the big wash kettles and they’d make soap and…

VB: Yeah, and…

RB: …cracklings?

VB: I’ve seen Mother—We’d have a big gang and I’ve seen her—whenever those cracklings would get nearly done and it’d be nearly mealtime, she’d take a whole side of ribs and just put ‘em down in there and they’d cook in just a little while in that hot grease.

RB: It’s just real hot grease—cook real fast.

VB: And they’d just come out just as crisp—and drain ‘em, you know. And they were delicious.

RB: So, probably on hog-killing time, you’d cook the ribs that same day, maybe…

VB: Yeah…

RB: …or when you rendered down that fat, one of the…

VB: Yeah, lot of times, one of the things that we’d…

RB: One of the good parts about it was getting to have those ribs, I guess.

VB: (laughing) And then the backbone—that was different than what backbones you see nowadays. There was a lot of good meat on it. I know we’d come in from school sometimes and Mother’d have a big pot of stew—backbone—and that was so good with some cold biscuits or cornbread, you know, you’d be—after walking from a country school home, you’d be hungry and tired. And that’d always give you a little lift. Then, when you got rested you had to change your clothes. Now, you couldn’t—because we had chores to do: bring in wood, go get the cows, and help milk. So we didn’t—And we’d get that all done and help prepare the evening meal. We tried to cook enough of a morning—Mother did—to have something left towards the evening meal. And of course…

RB: Well, that kept from having to have a lot of..

VB: Hot…

RB: …hot night and hot house, too.

VB: And then, after that time, Dad and Mama—well, we called him Papa, then—and I always said “Mama.” I never did say “Maw.” They had to kinda stay on a strict diet so we didn’t cook like we did when all of them were at home.

RB: Now, why—what kind of diet were they on?

VB: Well, they had to stay off of salt—they both had high blood pressure—and they had to stay off of fat meats, which we used to have a lot of, you know, with those hogs. And that was the main thing, to stay away from…

RB: And they knew to do that then? I didn’t know they…

VB: Yes, well, my brother, being a doctor…

RB: …had advised them…

VB: …had advised them about what to eat. He didn’t give them any real diet to stay on, but he told them the things to stay away from—that wasn’t good for them.

RB: Well, I didn’t realize they knew that then.

VB: Yeah, he did. And that’s been a long time, but yes, they knew then that they had to…

RB: Well, what other interests did your Mother have, maybe if she had some spare time, what did she like to do?

VB: (laughing) Well, Mother was a great hand to—she loved to quilt. She loved to make quilts. Of course, it was a necessity, too, because we didn’t have blankets and we didn’t have things that you can buy now. So she would make quilts. And I remember when I was little, and they’d put in a quilt, I’d cry because it would be up above me and I couldn’t see her. You know, she’d be sitting at the quilt and I couldn’t see her, and I’d cry. I remember that.

 

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