Archive for November, 2014


“You can take the boy out of the country,
but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”

–Anonymous saying

To mark my seventy-sixth birthday on November 23, I made up a couple of posts about my childhood in my birthplace of Selma, Arkansas. This first one has to do with the speech I heard and used in those early days of my life.

You Might Be from the Country, If . . . Part I

“An [American’s] way of speaking absolutely classifies him,
the moment he talks he makes some other [American] despise him.”
—Paraphrased from My Fair Lady

In an earlier post titled “Why Cain’t th’ Okies Teech Thur Childrun Howda Tawk Suthun,” I examined some of the differences between Arkie speech and Okie speech based on the thirty-seven years of what I call in biblical terms “My Oklahomian Exile by an Exiled Arkie of the Covenant.”

Continuing that same theme in this post I examine not just Arkie speech in general but some specific country words, phrases, and sayings I heard or used during my childhood in rural Southeast Arkansas, particularly in my birthplace of Selma, Arkansas.

My birthplace in Selma, Arkansas as it looked in the 1980s

My birthplace in Selma, Arkansas, as it looked in the 1980s, fifty years after I was born in the front room on the right (to magnify, click on the photo)

Samples of 1940s Southeast Arkansas Country Speech

“For all of my great love of the Delta, my wife says that my basic problem is that I have never left Selma.” (And it proudly shows in my Southern country speech!)
—Jimmy Peacock

“Home is where you don’t have an accent.”
—Jimmy Peacock

In an earlier post titled “The Way We Were,” I described my childhood in my birthplace of Selma, Arkansas. In that post I used a few country expressions of that era and area, such as the “wranger” on our new Sears and Roebuck “‘lectric” washing machine that we bought when we got electricity in 1947. (To read that post, click on the title above. To see two other posts on this subject titled, “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy” and “Selma Store Evokes Boyhood Memories,” click on their titles.)

Me about age nine

Me at about age nine while still living in Selma; I moved to McGehee the next year at age ten (to magnify, click on the photo)

Following is a sample list of some more of the gems of country speech that I heard during my formative childhood years of the 1940s, especially among the older, less educated, and less sophisticated generations.

This list is only partial since there are many more linguistic items that could have been added to it. The fact is that, despite my quote above about home being where you don’t have an accent, what I am presenting in this post is not just an example of a Southeast Arkansas country accent from the 1940s, but indeed a separate and distinct regional and social dialect—one that I sometimes still use myself when I consciously or unconsciously revert to my “native vernacular.”

A-comin’/a-goin’ (coming/going, as in, “I doan know if I’m a-comin’ or a-goin’!” This adding of “a-” in front of verb forms is an old country usage that goes all the way back to Old England.)

A-holt (hold of, in touch with, as in, “I ben tryin’ to git a-holt ‘a yew all day long!”)

Aint (aunt, as in, “Aint Ludie shure is a purdy wummun.” See the following entry for “ain’t.”)

Ain’t (is not, are not, etc., as when native Arkie baseball player and sports announcer Dizzy Dean once responded to an English teacher who criticized his ungrammatical speech during the Great Depression, “A lot of fokes who ain’t sayin’ ‘ain’t’ ain’t eatin’!”)

Aist (ask, as in, “I doan know, but I kin aist.”)

Awf (off, as in, “I thank ‘at guyz kinda awf in th’ hed!”)

Awl (all, oil, as in, “Awl th’ ole truck needs iz sum awl.”)

Me and my cousin Troy Gibson

Me, and my cousin Troy Gibson, a sailor in WWII  during the 1940s, sitting on our “ole truck” in Selma (to magnify, click on the photo)

Bad ta (bad to, i.e., has a bad habit of, as in, “‘At dawg iz bad ta bite!”)

Ban’ster (banister, see the entry for “yessur, nawsur, yes’m, nome.”)

Bawl (cry, ball, as in, “Don’t bawl jist ’cause yew lost yur bawl.”)

Bedder (better, as in, “Yew bedder look out now!”)

Behine (behind, see entry for “ignernt.”)

Big Daddy/Big Mama (Grandfather/Grandmother, pronounced “BIG Daddy” and “BIG Mama” and not “Big DADDY” and “Big MAMA,” which is Yankee)

Rev. Willis and Ola Barrett, Jimmy Peacock's maternal grandparents from Selma, Arkansas

My maternal grandparents Rev. Willis Barrett and Ola Barrett of Selma whom I called “Papa” and “Big Mama” (to magnify, click on the photo)

Biskits (bisquits, see entry for “boy hidy.”)

Biscuits with fig preserves

Biscuits and fig preserves with lemon slices (photo provided by Pat Scavo who prepared and photographed them, to magnify, click on the photo)

Bizness (business, see my earlier post in which I quoted one of my father’s sayings: “Any man who’s gotta consult his wife about his bizness ain’t got no bizness bein’ in bizness.”)

B’lieve (believe, see entry for “cain’t.”)

Bob war (barbed wire, see entry for “yessur, nawsur, yes’m, nome.”)

Boy hidy (boy howdy, as in, “Boy hidy, I jist luv biskits ‘n fig perserves!” See photo and entry for “perserves.”)

Brekfust (breakfast, see entries for “dinner” and “supper.”)

Brickbat (brick, see entry for “thow/thoo.”)

Bubba (brother, as in “Bubba iz a rite smort yung’un.” See entries for “rite smort” and “yung’un.”)

Burnt (burned, as in, “Dang it, yew dun burnt th’ biskits!”)

Bush hawg (brush hog, pronounced by Yankees as “brush hahg”)

Butterbeans (lima beans, see entry for “chainct.” For Trisha Yearwood’s recipe for butterbeans, click here.)

By dawgies (by doggies, expression of awe)

By-oh or bow (pronounced like the bow of a ship) for bayou (by-you)

Bayou Bartholomew, "longest bayou in the world," which passes between Selma and McGehee, Arkansas

Bayou Bartholomew, “longest bayou in the world,” which passes between my birthplace of Selma, Arkansas, and my hometown of McGehee, Arkansas (to magnify, click on the photo)

Cain’t (can’t, as in, “I cain’t b’lieve yew sed dat!”)

Car shed (detached garage)

Chainct (chance, as in, “I ain’t got a chainct ‘a gittin’ me a mess ‘a butterbeans.”)

Chaw (chew or bite, as in, “Gimme a chaw off ‘at plug ‘a tabakka.”)

Chillun (children, see entry for “razed.”)

Chimley (chimney)

Chittlins (chitterlings, “usually the small intestines of pigs”; for more information, click here.)

Churchhouse/schoolhouse (church/school)

Selma Methodist Church Kay 1

The Selma Methodist Church, located “right across the branch” from my birthplace, as it looked in the 1980s (to magnify, click on the photo)

Selma elementary school that I attended as a boy

Selma elementary school that I attended as a boy in the 1940s (to magnify, click on the photo)

Co-Cola (Coca-Cola, term used for all soft drinks)

Collerds (collard greens, somewhat like spinach or turnip greens; for more information, click here.)

Could (cud, what a cow chews, as in, “Yew look dummer’n a cow chawin’ her could.”)

Cudd’n (cousin, as in, “Cudd’n Minnie Pearl wuz a funny wummun!”)

Daince (dance, see entry for “mite.”)

Dangdist/durndest (most unbelievable)

Dawg/hawg/lawg, etc. (dog, hog, log, etc.)

DEE-pole (railroad depot, as in, “We goan go down to th’ DEE-pole and watch awl ’em tranes kum in!”)

Dinner (lunch, see entry for “supper.”)

Drank/thank/blank, etc. (drink, think, blink, etc.)

Dr’eckly (directly, in a short time, as in, “Tell ‘em I’ll be there dr’eckly.”)

Dude (nickname for an outsider, especially a city dweller; also used as a nickname for a beloved relative, such as “Uncle Dude.”)

Dun (done, as in, “I dun dun awl I kin ta hep’ ‘at boy.”)

Eb’n (even, as in, “I doan eb’n care no more!”)

Evenin’ (evening, but referring not to night but to the afternoon)

Fambly (family)

Fanger (finger)

Far (fire, as when my grandmother said to me about her bowl of steaming soup, “This soup tastes like somethin’ not good ta eat . . . far!”)

Father/futher (farther/further, as I say, “We Southern Baptists knew nothing about Catholicism, but we did sing a lot about ‘Father A-Long'”! That’s a pun based on the words of an old Gospel song titled “Farther Along.” If you didn’t recognize it, either you weren’t country or you weren’t Baptist! To hear this song sung by Elvis with Spanish subtitles, click here.)

Fillin’ stayshun (filling station/gas station, see entries for “fixin’ to” and “Iry.”)

Fine (find, see entry for “ignernt.”)

Fixin’ to (going to, as in, “I’m fixin’ to go down to th’ fillin’ stayshun and git me a Co-Cola!”)

Fly’rs (flowers, see entry for “putt.”)

Fo-teen (fourteen, see entry for “razed.”)

Fryin’ (frying, see entry for “greezy.”)

Gahd (God, see entry for “kuntry.”)

Gal (girl, see entry for “play purty.”)

Git (get, see entry for “fixin’ to.”)

Goan/doan (going/don’t, to rhyme with “moan,” as in, “I’m goan whup ‘at boy if he doan straiten up and fly rite!”)

Gran’maw/Gran’paw (Grandmother/Grandfather, see entry for “razed.”)

Greezy (greasy, as in, “Han’ me ‘at greezy fryin’ pan!”)

Grocer’ store or gen’rul store (supermarket, which didn’t exist in rural Arkansas of the 1940s)

Selma general store as it looked in the 1980s

Selma general store as it looked in the 1980s, forty years after my childhood days in Selma in the 1940s (to magnify, click on the photo)

Hans (hands, see entry for “ignernt.”)

Hed (head, as in, “Boy hidy, yew jist hit th’ nail on th’ hed!”)

Hep (help, see entry for “dun.”)

Honey chile (a term of endearment, especially for young females)

Hushpuppies (defined by Wikipedia as “a savory food made from cornmeal batter that is deep fried or baked rolled as a small ball or occasionally other shapes.” For Paula Dean’s recipe for hushpuppies, click here.)

Huzbun (husband. One of my wife’s third-grade students once sent me a get-well card addressed to “Miz Pecokes has-ben.” Out of the mouths of babes and children.)

Ice creem (ice cream, pronounced “ice CREAM” and not “ICE cream,” which is Yankee)

I declare/I swan (expressions of surprise or awe)

Idy (idea or Ida, as in, “Beat’s me, I ain’t got no idy; go aist Aint Idy.” See entry for “whut.”)

Ignernt (ignorant, as in, “At boy’s so ignernt he cain’t fine his behine with both hans.”)

IN-shurnce (insurance, pronounced “in-SHUR-ance” by Yankees)

Iry (Ira, as in, “Mr. Iry runs th’ fillin’ stayshun.”)

Gas pump like the one in front of the Selma general store and the Selma filling station

Gas pump like the one that stood in front of the Selma general store and the Selma filling station

Iz (is, as in, “It shure iz hot today!”)

Jist/plum (just/plumb, as in, “I’m tellin’ yew, I’m jist plum wore out!”)

Kerry (transport a person, as in, “Kin yew kerry me down to th’ fillin’ stayshun?” For the term “carry” in regard to a thing, see the entry for “tote.”)

Kin (can, see entry for “aist.”)

Kinely/kinda (kindly, kind of, as in, “Wood yew kinely han’ me ‘at fryin’ pan ’cause I kinda wonta use it.”)

Kinfokes (relatives)

Kodak (camera)

Kum/kums (come/comes, see entry for “yonder.”)

Kum nex’ sprang, summer, etc. (come next spring, summer, etc., as in, “I’m goan be eighty years ole kum nex’ sprang.”)

Kuntry (country, as in, “Thank Gahd, I’m a kuntry boy!”)

Lack (like/lack, as when I was translating for a French preacher in a Denver church in the 1980s and was laughed at for allegedly saying “lack” for “like.”)

Lack ta (like to, i.e., almost, as in, “Them kids lack ta drove me outta my mine!”)

Laist/paist (last/past, as in, “I git so tard of a evenin’ I jist cain’t hardly laist paist suppertime.”)

Li’ble (liable, see entry for “waws ness.”)

Luv (love, as in, “I jist luv a good mess ‘a poke salat.” See entry for “mess.”)

Makin’s (makings of a “roll yur own” cigarette; see entry for “reddy rolls.”)

Mash (press or push, as in, “To git yursef a Co-Cola you got ta mash ‘at button!” Also used in the expression “mash’d ‘taters” for “mashed potatoes.”)

Meri (Merry, Mary, Mari, the last of which I call my wife Marion whose parents and grandparents called her “MAY-urn”)

Marion at her sixth-grade piano recital

Marion, whom I call “Mari” (Meri), and whose parents and grandparents called her “MAY-urn,” at the time of her sixth-grade piano recital (to magnify, click on the photo)

Mess (serving or bunch, as in, “I jist picked me a mess ‘a collerd greens.”)

Mine (mind, see entry for “lack ta.”)

Mite (might, as when we Southern Baptist kids would reply when someone suggested some wholesome activity, “Mite as well, cain’t daince.”)

Miz (Miss, and also Mrs., as in, “Miz Ledbetter wuz my third-grade teecher fur sev’ral years.” See entry for “widder wummun.”)

Much obliged (thank you, as in, “Much obliged fur kerryin’ me to town”; see entry for “kerry.”)

Nair (nary, none, as in, “I ain’t got nair chainct ‘a gittin’ rich.”)

Nanner puddin’ (banana pudding, my favorite dessert as a boy)

Naw (no, as in, “Naw, I doan ‘no nuthin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!” See entry for “yeah.”)

‘N ‘nem (and them, used as plural of two or more people, as in, “Bubba Joe ‘n ‘nem iz comin’ over for supper tonite.”)

Nubbin (corn cob, often used as nickname for a beloved relative such as “Uncle Nubbin”)

Of a mornin’, evenin’, etc. (in the/every morning, afternoon, etc., as in, “In th’ kuntry, fokes git up reel early of a mornin’.”)

Okry (okra)

Ole (old, see entry for “kum/kums.”)

Oughta or orta (ought to or should, as in, “I reckin I orta go, but I jist doan wonta.”)

Overhauls (overalls, see entry for “warsh.”)

Own (on, as in, “Yeah, I heard dat own th’ radio.” See entry for “putt.”)

Perserves (preserves, see entry for “biscuits” and photo of bisquits and fig preseves.)

Pert near (pretty near or pretty close, as in, “I pert near starved ta death!”)

Pitcher show (movie/theater)

The Malco Theater in McGehee, Arkansas

The Malco Theater, one of two “pitcher shows'” in McGehee that I attended every Saturday when I was young (to magnify, click on the photo)

Play purty (play pretty, i.e., toy, as in, “Little gals lack play purties.”)

Poke salat (poke salad, defined by Wikipedia as “a dish prepared using American pokeweed,” for more information, click here.)

Pore (poor, as in, “He’s as pore as a churchmouse!”)

Post (supposed, as in, “I’m post to go to th’ churchhouse this Sundy, but I ain’t goin’.”)

Pray’r meetin’ (prayer meeting, a regular Wednesday night ritual among Southern Baptists)

Selma Baptist Church as co-founded by Vivian Barrett Peacock, her father, and several others with Rev. Willis Barrett as pastor

Selma Baptist Church which was co-founded in the 1940s by my mother, her father, and several others with my grandfather Rev. Willis Barrett, as pastor (as magnify, click on the photo)

Purdy (pretty, see entry for “play purty.”)

Putt (put, as in, “Jist putt them fly’rs over yonder own th’ table.”)

Rainch (rinse, as in, “Yew bedder rainch out them thangs ‘fore they mildew.”)

Razed (raised, as in, “Me’n yur gran’maw razed up fo-teen chillun.”)

Reckin (reckon, as in, “I reckin them two thangs is ‘bout like awl and warder; they doan mix none too good.” See entry for “warder.”)

Reddy rolls (ready rolls, commercial cigarettes like Lucky Strike brand rather than those self-rolled from a packet of papers and a small can or bag of tobacco, usually Prince Albert or Bull Durham brands pronounced “Bull Durm.”)

Lucky Strike cigarettes

“Ready rolled” Lucky Strike cigarettes from the 1940s

Prince Albert tobacco used in "roll yur own" cigarettes

Can of Prince Albert tobacco used to make “roll yur own” cigarettes in the 1940s

Bag of Bull Durham smoking tobacco

Bag of Bull Durham (pronounced “Bull Durm”) brand of “roll yur own” cigarette smoking tobacco

Rilly (really, as in, “I rilly lack nanner puddin!” See entry for “lack.”)

Rite (right)

Rite smort (rite smart, a goodly amount)

Road (used instead of street)

Saive (salve, as in, “I dun burnt mah fangers, so I need ta putt me some saive on ‘em.”)

Sam Hill (mild expletive, as in, “Whut in th’ Sam Hill are yew doin’?”)

Screeceport/Tex’akana (Shreveport, a city in northwest Louisiana not far from Texarkana, which sits astride the Texas/Arkansas state lines, as in, “Uncle Dude iz a-movin’ his fambly frum Sreeceport ta Tex’akana.”)

Sed (said)

Seeve (sieve, but pronounced to rhyme with “sleeve”)

Shoot ’em up (Western movie, as in, “On Sairdy evenin’ we always go to th’ pitcher show to watch a shoot ’em up.”)

Shuck/shucks (husk/husks, as in, “We need ta shuck ‘at corn to git some shucks to putt in th’ mattress!”)

Shure (sure)

Sigh-REEN (siren, as in, “Th’ laist time we went to town to th’ pitcher show, we heard a bunch ‘a sigh-REENS!”)

Slop jar (chamber pot)

A slop jar (chamber pot) found in most country Southern homes in the 1940s

A slop jar (chamber pot) found in most Southern country homes in the 1940s

Stang (stung, see entry for “whelp.”)

Stout (strong, as in, “Boy hidy, yew shure are stout, ain’t cha?”)

Stud’n’ ‘bout it (considering it, thinking about it, as in, “I ain’t eb’n stud’n’ ‘bout it!”)

Supper (dinner, the evening meal, as in, “Ever’ day I eat three meals: brekfust, dinner, ‘n’ supper.”)

Suthun Babdis (Southern Baptist, the Catholic church of the South in the 1940s)

McGehee First Baptist Church

The First Baptist Church of McGehee which I attended as a youth after my family moved to town in 1948 when I was ten years old (to magnify, click on the photo)

Tabakka (tobacco)

Taken (past tense of the verb “take,” as when U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn out of Fort Smith said in True Grit, written by Charles Portis, an Arkie, “I turned [my horse] Bo around and taken the reins in my teeth and rode right at them boys.” My father, with an eighth-grade education, always said “taken” for “took.” See my next post on Daddy’s cattle business.)

Tard (tired, as in, “Shuckin’ awl ‘at corn made me tard!”)

Tawk (talk, as in, “Yankees shure do tawk funny.”)

Teecher/preecher (teacher/preacher)

Teech’rige (teacherage, i.e, , a teacher’s home)

Selma school teacherage

Selma school teacherage which was located right across the road from the Selma elementary school I attended as a boy (to magnify, click on the photo)

Side view of Selma elementary school

Side view of the Selma elementary school right across the gravel road from the Selma teacherage (to magnify, click on the photo)

Th’/thang (the/thing, as in, “It wuz th’ dangdist thang I ever seen!”)

Thow/thoo (throw, through, as in, “I’m goan thow a brickbat thoo ‘at winderpane!”)

Toilet (outhouse or privy and not the indoor bathroom, commode, stool, or potty)

Tote (carry a thing, as in, “Yew kin tote dat catfish home in a tow sack.” See the next entry on the term “tow sack.”)

Tow sack (gunny sack, croker sack, burlap bag, etc. For an interesting discussion of the regional differences in this term, click here.)

Tump over (tip over, as in, “Yew bedder look out, you goan tump over ‘at wheelbar.”)

Warder (water, as in, “I’m goin’ to th’ well ta git me a big drank ‘a warder!”)

Warsh (wash, as in, “I need to warsh them overhauls, but I’m jist too tard.”)

Waws ness (wasp nest, as when we kids warned one another about shooting rubber band guns at red wasps, “Yew bedder look out, yew li’ble to git waws ness stung!”)

Wheelbar (wheelbarrow, see entry for “tump over.”)

Whelp (welt, as in, “That waws ness stang razed a whelp on my hed.”)

Whur (where. I was terribly embarrassed after we moved from Selma to McGehee and my elementary teacher corrected me in front of the whole class for saying “whur” for “where.”)

Whut (what, as in, “Whut’s ‘at fly’r you got own, honey chile?”)

Widder wummun (widow, as in, “Miz Ledbetter wuz a widder wummun after her huzbun died.”)

Winderpane (windowpane, see entry for “thow/thoo.”)

Winsdy/Sairdy/Sundy (Wednesday/Saturday/Sunday, as in, “We always go to church on Sundy mornin’, pray’r meetin’ on Winsdy nite, and th’ pitcher show on Sairdy evenin’.”)

Wont (want, as in, “I won’t do it ‘cause I doan wont to!”)

Wood’n’ (wouldn’t, as in, “I wood’n’ do ‘at if I wuz yew.”)

Wore out (worn out, see entry for “tard.”)

Wrop (wrap, see entry for “yessur, nawsur, yes’m, nome.”)

Wummun/wimmin (woman/women, as in, “More’n wun wummum iz wimmin.”)

Wun (one, see entry for “wummun/wimmim.”)

Wusht (wish, as in, “I wusht I had me a big mess ‘a fried catfish ‘n’ hushpuppies!”)

Wuz (was, as in, “Wuz yew th’ wun that got waws ness stung?”)

‘Y (why, as in, “‘Y shure, I kin tawk kuntry!”)

Yawl (y’all, used for plural of “you” rather than the Yankee “you guys”)

“Yawl ben ta dinner?” (“Have you all had lunch?” Probably used because farm folks often went back to the house at noon for their “dinner,” their largest meal of the day.)

Yeah (yes, see entry for “naw.”)

Yessur, nawsur, yes’m, nome (yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am, as when the little country boy told his teacher, “Papa wropped bob war ’round th’ ban’ster ta keep gran’maw frum slidin’ down it.” “Oh my, did it stop her?” “Nome . . . slowed ‘er dow-yun.”)

Y’heah (do you hear; see entry for “yung’un.”)

Yonder (there or over there, as in, “Look, yawl, yonder kums ole man Johnson!”)

Yung’un (young one, as when my grandmother used to tell us kids, “Yew yung’uns, yawl doan never git ole, now y’heah.” Too late, Gran’maw, dun dun it! Also see entry for “Bubba.”)

My grandmother Simmie Peacock and my grandfather Tom

My grandmother Simmie with my grandfather Tom Peacock, both of whom were born and lived in Selma all their lives (to magnify,click on the photo)

As noted above, this is only a sample of Southeast Arkansas country speech from the 1940s. In the following post I will continue this subject by examining some terms used in my father’s livestock business in the Ark-La-Miss area of that period. I will then conclude the subject with some French sayings I picked up in my career as a French teacher, translator, and interpreter.

Other Sources of Southern Speech and Culture

For a quiz on Southern/Country words and phrases titled “How Many Southern Words and Phrases Do You Know?” sent to me by my longtime friend and high school classmate Pat Scavo, click here. There are fifteen entries. To take the quiz, click on your choice in each entry. If you are right your answer will turn green. (I scored fourteen out of fifteen because there was one saying that I had never heard.)

For more interesting information and another quiz on Southern/Country speech, visit my earlier post titled “Some Southern Stuff IV: Do You Speak Southern?” click here.

To view a map of the most commonly spoken languages other than English in each of the fifty states, click here.

Are you rural or urban? To view a map from the U.S. Census Bureau showing whether each of the states is primarily rural or urban, click here. (You can guess which category includes Arkansas!)

As an update on my previous posts about the Arkansas Delta, to view a three-and-a-half minute video of the exterior of the Pickens Plantation home with the traditional white columns, click here. Then stay linked to watch (and listen to) two or three videos with examples of SEARK speech: one of a fisherman showing off his catch and the others of former Desha County Judge Mark McElroy auctioning off Arkansas items at a sale.

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“Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay,
Gone are my friends from the cotton fields away . . .”
(And now even the cotton fields are disappearing!)
—Stephen Foster, “Old Black Joe”
To hear this song sung by Paul Robeson, click here.)

In my last post I discussed four subjects: the sale of the McGehee Estate mansion, an alligator in the McGehee city park pond, my wife Marion’s brown cotton plant and harvest, and the passing of two members of the cast of the 1980’s TV show “Designing Women.”

In this post I would like to provide an update on three of those subjects: the McGehee Estate sale, the decline of cotton production and the changes in modern cotton harvesting, and “Designing Women.” I will also include another related subject I have discussed recently, the dogtrot houses that were once so numerous in the Arkansas Delta and surrounding areas.

Update on the Sale of the McGehee Estate

“But though we are what we do, what we do is not all of what we are. We are also products of place. Where we grew up and how we experienced the physical environment of our formation are also a part of who we are.”
—Kathleen Parker, “The nominee’s gender, geography,”
Tulsa World, May 13, 2010

In a recent email, Barbara McClendon Barnes, a native of Southeast Arkansas, sent me an update on the sale of the McGehee Estate, called in the realtor’s ad “A true Southern plantation mansion.”

Exterior of the McGehee Estate mansion

Exterior of the McGehee Estate mansion (to magnify, click on the photo)

Here is what Barbara had to say on 10/26/14 about that sale:

 “This is what I’ve found out about the McGehee Estate. A man from Monticello, Michael Berry, has supposedly bought it . . . for the sum of $110,000. That is for the house and property including the chandeliers and things attached to the house . . . but not including the furniture and such. . . . I’ll keep you informed.”

McGehee Estate chandelier

McGehee Estate chandelier (to magnify, click on the photo)

And I will keep you informed as I learn more about the fate of this icon of our hometown and home country.

Update on Cotton Production
and Picking in Arkansas

“A recent Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article states that
Arkansas planted ten times as many acres in soybeans as in cotton.”
–Taylor Prewitt

On October 21, Pat Scavo sent me a link to an amazing 4.42-minute You Tube video titled “Cotton Harvest, Pickens, Arkansas,” featuring a mammoth new John Deere cotton picker in action. To view that incredible video, click on the title. You will see that it is a far cry from the old days in which cotton had to be picked by hand—and even from the early days of primitive mechanical cotton pickers!

Obsolete 1950's single-row mechanical cotton picker

Obsolete 1950’s single-row mechanical cotton picker (to magnify, click on the photo)

New John Deere 7770 cotton picker

New John Deere 7770 six-row cotton picker as seen in operation in the video (to magnify, click on the video)

On October 23, Taylor Prewitt, a native of Southeast Arkansas, shared with me his views on the subject of declining cotton production in Arkansas in general and this video in particular:

“A recent Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article indicates that this year Arkansas planted ten times as many acres in soybeans as in cotton, almost five times as much in rice, and nearly twice as much in corn.”

Here Taylor inserted a chart showing that while Arkansas grew 335,000 acres of cotton, at the same time it grew 3,300,000 acres of soybeans, 1,500,000 acres of rice, and 560,000 acres of corn.

“Also, a number of gins in the Arkansas Delta have not even been operating in the last couple of years. I didn’t see much cotton between Pine Bluff and McGehee, except for the Pickens and Tillar Estates, both very large operations, but I don’t know how much cotton they’re planting. The McGehee co-op gin is still operating, and farmers from Mississippi bring their cotton across the river to have it ginned in McGehee because the McGehee co-op gin gives cotton seed rebates. Rebates are a pretty big deal for the farmer. Rebates weren’t given until the co-ops started giving them, and some but not all other gins now give them.

“I had never seen one of these [huge modern cotton pickers] in operation. I think they cost about $800,000. [The actual list price for a John Deere 7760 6313N self-propelled cotton picker is $810,244.00. To learn more about it, click here.] I learned from the video that the farmer also has to buy a machine to go out into the field and pick up the round bales. The new picker is really an amazing machine.

The new John Deere 7770 cotton picker in operation

The new John Deere 7770 six-row cotton picker in operation

“When all the old pickers are worn out, I guess the new ones are the only ones that will be available. A six-row picker could take the place of three two-row pickers. Lower labor costs. But the farmer has to be able to afford to save that much money.”

A rear view of the new John Deere 7770 cotton picker dropping of the new round bales of cotton

A rear view of the new John Deere 7760 six-row  cotton picker dropping off the new huge round bales of cotton

Update on Arkansas Delta Dogtrot Houses

 “It’s a different [world] down there [in the Delta]. . . .There are little communities of gray, weathered shotgun shacks [and dogtrot houses] tenanted by people living off of the cotton as much the same way as people have done down here for nearly two hundred years.”
—Conrad Vollersten, “The colors of the Arkansas,”
in 1980s column titled “Along the Arkansas”
in unknown Oklahoma newspaper

Obviously, this quote about the Arkansas Delta is no longer entirely true. One apparent reason is the fact that due to the development of mechanical cotton pickers and other technological changes in farming over the past few decades, the need for farm laborers has been drastically reduced. As a result, the once ubiquitous sharecropper and tenant farmers and their shacks are fast becoming things of the past.

In evidence, here is another report from Joe Dempsey’s “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind” on 10/12/14 about one of these fast disappearing relics of an earlier time and lifestyle. 

Side view of the old dogtrot house

Side view of an old dogtrot house (to magnify, click on the photo)

“Well over 100 years old, this old dogtrot house in Cleveland, Arkansas, sits right bedside Highway 95 for all to see. Since time is taking its toll, get a good look. A few more ill winds and it could become kindling.

Front view of the old dogtrot house showing the renovated dogtrot breezeway

Front view of the old dogtrot house showing the renovated dogtrot breezeway (to magnify, click on the photo)

“The left (north) side of the front porch will be the first to go. You can easily see where the dogtrot was closed in the center. The ‘home-place-tree’ in the background is a healthy walnut, which will probably long outlive the house. 

The back side of the old dogtrot house

The back side of the old dogtrot house (to magnify, click on the photo)

“The back of the house shows evidence of additions made after the original structure was completed. The missing roof segment lies in the foreground of the picture.”

In Joe’s “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind” post published on November 2, he featured photos of old abandoned and decaying barns, houses, stores, etc. in the Arkansas Ozarks. Here is his answer to the question of why people leave such old structures to fall into disrepair rather just tearing them down:

My thinking is that these old structures give us a glimpse into our immediate past, a privilege that, since the old structures are falling, will not necessarily be available to succeeding generations. If they are to know, the onus is on us to record them while they are still standing.”

Amen, Brother Joe!

Update on the Cast of “Designing Women” 

“So many thanks for all of your hard work on behalf of ‘Designing Women.’ I was surprised, after all this time, there are people out there that are still such fans of DW. Really, we are most indebted to you and want you to know how very grateful we are to all of you for your enduring interest and appreciation.”
—Linda Bloodworth-Thomason,
writer-creator of “Designing Women” TV show

The cast of "Designing Women" in the first five seasons

The cast of “Designing Women” in Season 1–5 (1986–91): Dixie Carter, Delta Burke, Alice Ghostley, Jean Smart, Annie Potts, and Meshach Taylor

As noted, the last section of my latest post was about the passing of two of the cast members of the 1980s TV show “Designing Women.”

On the Web site for “Designing Women,” Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, the show’s writer and creator, had this to say about that show and its Web site:

“The ‘80s gave us many classic sitcoms, but the brassy and sassy Designing Women was in a class all its own. . . . Each character carried a different ‘voice’ which set the stage for many humorous and often heartwarming debates, complimented by sharp dialogue and the charm and chemistry of the ensemble cast. And though it’s been over 25 years since it first aired, the series continues to grow in popularity as it touches new generations of viewers.

"Designing Women" Web site photo of four of the Southern ladies

“Designing Women” Web site photo of four of the original Southern ladies

“This is the fourth incarnation of this website— now officially Designing Women Online. Since the site debuted in 1998 as a tribute to the series, features and layouts have evolved, relationships with the series cast and creators have blossomed, and an incredibly loyal fan base has shared what the show has meant to them.”

As noted in my previous blog post, Dixie Carter passed away on April 10, 2010, in Houston, Texas, and Jan Hooks passed away on October 9, 2014, after a long battle with an undisclosed illness.

A reader of my post wrote to call attention to the fact that another member of that cast, Meshach Taylor who played the young black male, also died recently, on June 28, 2014, at his family’s home after a long battle with cancer. According to the DW Web site another member of the original cast, Alice Ghostley, who had ties to both Arkansas and Oklahoma, passed away on September 21, 2007, at her home in Studio City, California.

Another photo of four of the ladies from "Designing Women"

Another view of four of the original ladies from “Designing Women”

To learn more about the other members of the DW cast and much more about the show itself, go to the beautifully designed “Designing Women” Web site and click on your favorite cast member or subject.


The quote from the song “Old Black Joe” was taken from:

The You Tube video of Paul Robeson singing “Old Black Joe” was taken from:

The update on the sale of the McGehee Estate was taken from a personal email from Barbara Barnes on 10/26/14.

The photos of the McGehee Estate were taken from:

The information on which Taylor Prewitt based his remarks and estimates of cotton production versus that of soybeans, rice, and corn was taken from an Arkansas Online entry for 10/15/14 titled “Storms hamper farmers’ harvests, Growers waiting on fields to dry,” written by Glen Chase.

The video of the John Deere cotton picker in action was taken from:

The photo of the 1950’s single-row mechanical cotton picker was taken from a book titled McGehee Centennial 1906-2006 published by the McGehee Centennial Committee.

The three photos of the modern John Deere 7760 six-row cotton picker were taken from:



The photos of the dogtrot house were taken from Joe Dempsey’s “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind” on 10/12/14 at:

The photo of the original cast of “Designing Women” was taken from:

The quotes and photo about the show and its Web site and cast were taken from the official “Designing Women” Web site at:

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