Interview with Oscar Fendler
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QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

That's good. [laughs] Last time, you told me that it was nearly impossible for sharecroppers to get out of debt. How so?

OSCAR FENDLER:

Well, when you talk about the debt of, about people working on any of the plantations, you're, were faced with the fact that—I, that I have discussed that—of using, not currency, not money, not legal tender, but using those doodly books or the brozines or whatever. But even more so than then, everything that he obtained, the tenant or the sharecropper, everything, was on the books. It was charged to him. And, and, and, and that's his doctor, I told you about and everything else. So, at the end of the year comes after the crops were, in maybe November, December, something like that. And he'd come in there, they call him in there for settlement. And invariably when he settled he didn't have any money left over. It was always on the landlord, hundred dollars, two hundred dollars, three hundred dollars. And then so he started out the next year in debt. And so, unless—the law was he couldn't leave if he was in debt. It was sort of like a type of indentured servant is what these people were. Even the tenants in a sense were. They didn't have freedom of motion, of action and stuff. And, and it's the same old thing, an old saying around here is, you know, that, don't pour out the water, you know, until you know you got some fresh water, you better keep the water you've washed in, you know, and keep that same water. That was the old saying. Better keep it. And be careful if you did throw it out, you didn't throw out the baby with the tub, you know. Be careful with that you did. So, they, they were, they had to be real ticklish in, in looking after their own interest. And the one that had nobody to look after his interest was the sharecropper. He didn't have anybody, you know. He, he sort of, I was, I tried to, I've always tried to think, where did the sharecropper came from? Where did he ever come from? And so he had to have migrated to, to Arkansas from North Carolina, Georgia, you know, where they were raising cotton. And then the boll weevil run him out of there, so they moved over to Alabama and maybe Tennessee, down to Mississippi. The boll weevil will run them out of there. And so they came up north where there weren't many boll weevils in Arkansas, and a lot of them came in here because they had scouting troops that go down there. People go down there and pick up, ten families, blacks or whites, and bring them up there. And they'd get paid for it. And that's the way they came in here. Some of them just drifted and came in here as drifters.