I was born and raised up on the farm. Been a farmer all my life. I got married in 1950, the guy I married, he was a farmer and a rancher. He passed away in 2005, and I moved down to Nicodemus, been here ever since. We raised cattle, milo, and wheat. Our farm was twenty-five hundred acres, you know, and we had all type of different machinery to work with.
First we stopped in Bogue. The wide streets seemed like the set of a wholesome movie, with kids splashing away the 100 degree day in a kiddie pool in a front yard; the banker and the postmistress gave us helpful advice about who would be good to talk to for the project in this area. This former railroad town was struggling though, especially since the authorities took the train away a few years back. What is a rail town with no rail?
We went a few miles over to the next township, Nicodemus. It held memories of being a thriving community, though the population has steadily declined to less than 40. We stopped into the museum to check out displays regarding what Nicodemus was like when the first African Americans came here to settle in the mid 1800's (it was one of the homestead towns, to which emancipated slaves relocated). The display that I recall the best was about the first abodes in Nicodemus; there was a lack of wood and folks made there homes in caves and holes in the ground. There was a diary excerpt of a very disenchanted settler who was shocked to see the first settlers coming out of their caves to welcome the new folks.
Nicodemus grew fast in industry and soon the transplants were doing business on main street and the first farmers were trying to make sense of the plains. Every summer there is a big family reunion in Nicodemus for all the town residents (who are mostly related somehow) and their relatives who have since moved away. A man at the museum told us that it's a terrible place to try to score a date; he found out that a woman he had been pursuing all day was his cousin, a few times removed.
The volunteer at the historical society was most helpful in connecting us with the retired farmer, whom they called Miss Florence. After peering out the window at the other side of town (there are only three or four streets, with few trees) she ascertained by which cars were parked who was in, she picked up he phone to call Florence. Not getting any answer did not deter her in the least and she jumped in her car with promises to be right back and sped off to Miss Florence's house. Miss Florence was convinced to come in shortly thereafter and be interviewed by us, and we were grateful to have her unique perspective.
Miss Florence is a vital resident of Nicodemus who looks much younger than her physical years. She and her husband farmed until his death and her retirement about 6 years ago, and her son still farms in the area. She patiently answered all of our questions, and seemed too modest to talk much about any subject that she herself introduced. Discussing her farming life seemed to wear her out. She shone with energy and pleasure though when she talked about fishing in the nearby river. Her portrait is particularly eloquent and beautiful, and I think the look on her face betokens the hard work she's accomplished in her farming life.
When we asked her if she missed farm life, she said, "Oh, yeah. Mmm hmmm. I was lost when I moved back down here. Nothin' to do. Just sit around visiting, go fishin.' Quite a change."
On the biggest issue of being a farmer:
Money. Money to keep it going, you know. One bank we dealt with was real nice, and the other, they got kind of crazy. Found out they finally went under theyself. We had nice neighbors, one thing I was thankful for. There wasn't very many, at that time there wasn't very many black farmers south of here, and they was way older than what we were. Then they all died out and just left us there.