Interviewed by Logan Wilson
February 5, 2014
[ed. note: A television is heard in the background throughout the interview.]
WILSON: My name is Logan Wilson. Today is the fifth of February, 2013. I’m interviewing Mr. Andrew Taulton. This interview is sponsored by the Limestone County Historical Commission and is part of the Footprints of Times Past project. We want to thank Mr. Taulton for contributing to this project. The next voice you will hear will be his. (moves microphone)
TAULTON: All right. Good afternoon. My name is Andrew William Taulton Sr. I am from the parentage of Miriam Amanda Foreman Taulton and W. T. Taulton Jr. They’re both Limestone County people. My father, he was from up around Coolidge—well, the Sandy community—and my mother was raised in Woodland community. The reason we came to know so much about Woodland is my family moved back from Fort Worth in about 1953. We’d been living in Fort Worth and my parents separated, so my mother moved back home in the Woodland community. Her father and mother was James and Lula Foreman. James Foreman, he was a pretty prominent farmer in the Woodland community. He mainly raised hogs. That was his forte. He showed them all over the state at all the major stock shows, won ribbons—I mean, grand—blue ribbons at all three of the major stock shows: Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. That’s how he really made his living. They had a pretty big family. There was thirteen members of the family. But he raised hogs, and then he also farmed watermelons and cucumbers. He was known for his cucumbers and his watermelons. And he’d always—every spring, you know, we’d go harvest them and load them up and bring them into the city of Mexia to be sold there.
Now, we had—all the neighbors around us, they were also farmers. The Reese [Smith] farm was just west of us there. Mr. Reese Smith, he owned the only blacksmith shop I knew of in the Woodland community. And his daddy, Mr. Oley Smith—we called him Papa Oley—but he ran the syrup mill. But the community itself, it was all farming. The whole community was farming. We had one school, the Woodland school. It was Woodland school. It went from first grade through the twelfth grade. It was, you know, one building—a nice brick building—and it was a pretty prosperous school because at that time (telephone rings; Taulton pauses to turn off ringer) they also—they had—during the oil boom, the school had property, had couple of oil wells that I know of, because we used to sit there in the classroom and watch them pump, and that’s how they financed that school. And also, my grandfather’s brother, Arthur Foreman, he was a superintendent at that school for a while.
It was a good community. Everybody knew everybody. All the families, we all got along. As a matter of fact, a lot of them intermarried or dated—kids dated and everything. I just kind of liked that because coming back from Fort Worth, it was something new to me: get out in the country and be able to walk around and you never had to worry about much. We’d walk across several miles, just going to the neighbor’s place. We never thought anything about it. We’d go hunting and nobody ever gave you any problems. You knew whose property that did not like strangers to go across, so we didn’t go across those. And there were several pieces of property out there where, you know, they weren’t too friendly, but most of the people, especially in the black community, they all knew each other and people got along and acted as if they were really family. We had several neighbors that we called uncles and aunts that really weren’t kin to us, but you grew up as relatives. They were close because they had known my parents all our lives, so that’s the way we did it.
It was also a real religious community out there. We had several churches. We had Baptist, Primitive Baptist, and Methodist churches out there. But the thing about the churches were everybody had church on a different Sunday. It wasn’t church every Sunday at the same church. Right next to my grandfather’s farm was Sardis Primitive Baptist Church. And Sardis’s church day was the fourth Sunday of every month, and that was the day you had church.
WILSON: Same building?
TAULTON: Same building. But you also had Bethlehem [Primitive Baptist Church], which was up by the Woodland school there, and you had Bethsaida [Baptist Church], which wasn’t that far. It was just kind of around the corner. But you couldn’t tell who belonged to what church because what would happen is on Sardis’s Sunday—the Sunday they had church, everybody—the Methodists and everybody else—would be at church at their church. And the next Sunday, whoever had church the next Sunday, then everybody would just go over there. They just moved around, and it was real difficult—as a matter of fact, you know, till I was about to graduate high school, I really didn’t know who belonged to what church. (Wilson laughs) I always thought that my grandmother belonged to Sardis because she was there every time they had it. But she really belonged to a church in Kirvin—Shiloh [Primitive Baptist Church]. That’s where she belonged, but she went to church at all of the different churches around there whatever day they had church, except on the Sunday for Shiloh she went to Shiloh. The other times, she would just visit around. And that’s the way all the people did around there, and that’s how we got to know everybody even before we got to school. You knew them all because we’d always see them at church. And that’s what you did. You either walked to church or rode in the wagons, and those that were fortunate enough to have vehicles, they came in the vehicles.
Yeah, and there were some people that I could remember never owned a vehicle. From the time that I got to the Woodland community, which was in about 1953, when we moved back and I was seven years old, till I left at seventeen, there were some families that never even had a car, and they walked everywhere they went. We had one lady; we called her Mrs. Nancy. Her name was Nancy Smith. She was the wife of Oley Smith, the guy that ran the syrup mill. She was about the second or third wife, but she was the later wife of him. And she walked everywhere. That lady walked all the way—she’d walk all the way from Rocky [Crossing] to Woodland, and just everywhere—because she walked everywhere she went. She walked day and night. It didn’t make any difference to Mrs.
Nancy. And if somebody caught her and come along in a wagon she’d ride with them, with certain people. Surprisingly, nothing ever happened to her, even with the miscreants that we knew that was in the area. They never bothered Mrs. Nancy. I don’t know. I think people was kind of afraid of her because she was rumored to be somewhat of a character. You know, people were afraid of her. People used to say she was a witch and everything like that, but nobody bothered Mrs. Nancy—one of the nicest ladies in the world. But that’s what it was. She went everywhere, and we did that. It was—I guess, in the time— like I say, I lived there in the fifties, but then when we moved into town, I would still go back out there because I had 4-H projects and I had animals out there that I’d have to feed every evening, so I’d have to ride my bicycle and go out there every evening to my grandfather’s and feed those animals.
But I attended Woodland school first, and I guess I just never got the Woodland school out of my blood because even when we moved into town and started going to Dunbar [High School] in Mexia, all of my friends and everything were still at Woodland. And Woodland and Dunbar were really rivals because the city kids considered Woodland a country school and all them old country folks out there, but I never did because, like I say, they were my friends. As a matter of fact, my wife went to school out there. Her senior year, she moved to Mexia High School.
My wife was the first black person to graduate from Mexia High School. Yes, so that was new. She came to Mexia High her senior year because that’s when they integrated. That was the first year that they integrated the high school, and she was given a choice of staying at Woodland or coming to Dunbar in Mexia or going to Mexia High School. But they lived in Tehuacana and so she just decided nope, she was going to come to Mexia [High School]. It was volunteer because she didn’t have to. Her brother stayed at Woodland, but she decided she’d come to Mexia High School, and she was the first one.
WILSON: That took some courage, didn’t it?
TAULTON: Yes, it did. But she said it never bothered her because she lived in Tehuacana and she’d been around the—you know, there weren’t that many black families in Tehuacana. And Tehuacana was an area where everybody knew everybody. It was extremely small, so she grew up with a lot of those kids there in Tehuacana, so it was just a matter of riding a different bus. So she just came on into Mexia and she—as far as I knew, she never had any serious problems. They accepted her and she went to school there. Even when we moved back, you could tell that because all the old friends, they started to get in contact with her that graduated with her at Mexia High School, so.
WILSON: You were telling me that your family is some of the first folks to have lights and water and—what about that?
TAULTON: Yes, they were. The Jim Foreman family—they would call him Jim. His name was James, but they called him Jim. But they were the first family to have indoor plumbing and electricity in the Woodland community. It was a big deal. Matter of fact, everybody in the state made a big deal about it because A&M University came up and took pictures and everything else, of the house with the electricity and the indoor plumbing because that was a big deal. And the indoor plumbing was one of the best upgrades. They could have that because they had an electrical pump on the well that pumped the water into the house. Never had to carry any more water. That’s right, no more well. The well—my grandfather put an electric pump on that well, and so they had indoor plumbing with a septic tank. I had never heard of that before until I saw that. And that used to be a big deal because I guess at that time they didn’t know the efficiency of it, but like once a year they’d have to take the top off of that tank and pump it out and clean it. It wasn’t like it is now. They didn’t have a truck pulling up there. What they did is they had a guy would come out there, they’d load those barrels or whatever it was on the back of that wagon, and they would dip with the honey buckets. They’d get in there and they would physically clean that septic tank out and all that off. That was something unusual, boy. We’d stand around and it’d be like a big deal when they’d come do it because a lot of the neighbors would come by just to see it—just to see them do it. (Wilson laughs) I thought, Well, okay. And that cover over the—
WILSON: But that was better than an outhouse, wasn’t it?
TAULTON: It was! It was great, but it was—something else is, that top on that septic tank, it was made out of iron. As it got older it started to deteriorate a little bit, and that was a big deal that us kids were always warned: you don’t go over there where that septic tank is. And I thought, Well, ain’t nothing over there but grass. You can see the grass. But nope, we were told—and you’d get some serious shellackings if you got caught playing over there around that septic tank. (Wilson laughs) But the danger was that we could have; we could have fell inside. If that lid had deteriorated, we could have fell inside and been in trouble. And the way we played—you know, kids played outside—you fall in, people might couldn’t hear you, because they may be on the other side of the house or everybody be somewhere else. But that was the good thing about it, was—I like that freedom and openness that we had and the trust that we had in the neighbors and the people of the community. That was great.
Loved sitting out on the porch. And even though we had electricity, we were very frugal with it. In other words, we sat outside until the last minute, and when you went in the house you cut them lights on. And we—the boys of the family—we all slept in one room. The male members, we had about two rooms in the back of that house where the male members slept. And we didn’t get a light. We did not turn that light on to go in the room. We got ready to go to bed. If it was dark, you walked on back there and you got in the bed. You had to know how to do that. Now, the girls were allowed to cut the lights on. They could go back there and cut the lights on when they went to bed, but not the boys. (Wilson laughs) So I learned that at an early age: nope, you’re a boy. You got to go in there—so if you was afraid of the dark, you were in trouble.
WILSON: Boys shouldn’t be afraid of the dark.
TAULTON: That’s right. Boys wasn’t supposed to be afraid of the dark. (Wilson laughs) You went back there and that was it.
But everything—you know, we were pretty much—in the community was self-contained. We had a milk cow. Like I say, my grandfather, he was a hog raiser, but he had his milk cows because my grandmother, she sold eggs and sold butter and baked and did things like that. And me myself, I hated—the one chore I hated as a child was churning butter. I hated that. I didn’t like the smell of the milk and buttermilk; I just couldn’t stand that. And I used to get smacked behind the head a lot of times because I wouldn’t churn right because I didn’t want to sit right there by that churn. We had a churn with the paddle and the stick, and you had to sit right there and develop the right rhythm and motion because if you took too long to churn it, the milk would go bad. It would go sour. So you had to churn it, keep that motion going. So when it was my turn to churn, oh man, I stayed in trouble because I could not—I didn’t like that buttermilk splashing on my hands and everything, (both laugh) so I stayed in trouble.
I didn’t like milk, period, and that was somewhat of a problem because I had a bone deficiency when I was little and I needed to drink—I really needed to drink milk. And my—
WILSON: But you didn’t like it.
TAULTON: Nope, I did not like it, and my mother would force me to drink milk every morning. I remember before going to school, I would sit there and I would just handle that milk long enough so much till I’d heat that milk up until it was sour. I’d sit there— because my hand was on it. But I just hated—I just didn’t like to drink milk. The only way I could drink milk was if it was straight and strained from the cow. Freshly milked, while it was still warm, and my grandmother would strain it, and then I could drink it. I could drink my glass of milk then. That’s what I’d do. I’d run in there. When my grandmother strained it, I’d drink my milk and get it over with. (Wilson laughs) Because if it had been in the refrigerator the night before and I had to drink it after that, I just couldn’t do that. My mother would make me drink it, and I’d be late getting on the bus. She’d have to hold the bus for me in the morning because I had to drink my milk. And Mr. Crawford Smith, he’d come by there driving that bus, and then he’d fuss at me when I got on the bus because I was holding up his bus because I had to drink that milk. But that was something I had to do. I had to drink that milk every morning because of that condition I had.
But, like I say, I didn’t know of any serious things. The only thing that I can think of now that was really tough back then was the heaters. Everything was wood heaters. Even though we had electricity, we still had a woodstove for heating—for just heating the house. Now, my grandmother had an electric stove for cooking. Now, she cooked with electricity, but we still had the woodstove. I think that caused a lot of fires and that’s the reason why—because we lost—so many neighbors lost their houses. And then you have the ones that would still have kerosene lamps and things like that, and those were fire hazards. Because I think there wasn’t—you know, now that I think of it, almost every family in that community got touched by fire at some time.
WILSON: So fire was a hazard in those days.
TAULTON: Fire was a serious hazard in those days. Everybody—like I say, neighbors— I know all three of the neighbors that were right there by us, all of their houses burned down from fires, every one of them. They had electricity, but they still heated with woodstoves. Some of them even heated and cooked still with woodstoves. But those woodstoves was an extreme hazard, and that was a big danger—big danger—because a lot of times the houses would burn in the middle of the night. People would wake up and maybe you built a fire too big in that woodstove before you went to bed because that was a big thing. I know with my grandfather it was. You built a fire. After a certain point in time, you didn’t enhance that fire anymore. You didn’t put anymore wood on there because when you went to bed, that fire had to be down enough to where it wouldn’t be hazardous. And I guess a lot of people didn’t pay attention to that or mistakenly did it. You know, you’d be cold—because my grandfather would say, “Okay. If you’re cold, go to bed.” If you started to get too cold, you went to bed, get up under them old big heavy quilts. I guarantee you you’d be warm then. But that’s the way that was. But that was probably the biggest hazard that we had.
And having farm accidents, I guess, that was a big hazard. But we had a lady in the neighborhood that everybody depended on to pray, I know, for the animals and things when they got sick and cut and they would have worms in there: Mrs. Pearl Payne. I remember many a time that I’d have to go over there, take a note—because we didn’t have telephones. Now, we had no telephones. But I’d have to go over to her house with a note from my grandmother or grand[father]—well, my grandmother would write her most the time. But what—the note said that they wanted her to pray the sickness out of an animal or out of some member of the house. And she did that, Mrs. Pearl Payne. I know several times—you know, when somebody would get sick—I’d know if one of my grandfather’s hogs got cut or got a wire cut or something, and if it got worms in it, I guarantee you, you knew that you was going to have to go talk to Mrs. Pearl and have Mrs. Pearl pray the worms out of them.
WILSON: Well, that’s most interesting. Curiosity requires me ask: there must have been some reason that those people had a faith in that lady.
WILSON: Why? What was it? Was she pious? Was she just a super good person? Was she—
TAULTON: She was a super nice lady, and I guess they thought that she had a special gift. And word of that gift was known throughout the neighborhood because, you know, it wasn’t just my family that did it. I know other families, they did it. They’d have to go, and they knew you go to Aunt Pearl and Aunt Pearl would pray those worms—they’d say “talk” them worms out of them hogs. If you had a horse that had a scar and he got cut, or somebody got real sick in the house, you’d go ask Aunt Pearl to come pray for them.
WILSON: Well, apparently it had been successful enough times that—or people wouldn’t do it.
TAULTON: I guess. Because my grandfather, he totally believed in it. Like I say, if one of his hogs got cut, that was it. You had to go to Aunt Pearl and have her pray for healing for that animal. I did that several times.
WILSON: Speaking of hogs, you mentioned to me while ago something about the whole community going together and bringing their hogs over, and you kids would provide all the wood and everything for it. Tell us about the community hog-butchering. How did that work?
TAULTON: Well, that was something that happened every year, and I guess it had been happening before that I became aware of it—before we moved back here. But there was. There was a certain time—it was like after the first frost in the fall or whatever. Them old men, they—you know, because they always sat around and talked. The old men, they get together and they talk and they decide when it was a good time to kill a hog. And I guess they came over because my grandfather, by him being—raising hogs and everything and that butchered them so long until he—he was the expert, I guess. Everybody would bring their hogs on whatever day that they decided to. The neighbors, they would come over in their trailers and bring their hogs that day, and they would butcher hogs from sunup until it got so late at night, until everybody’s hogs were killed. The men would kill the hogs and butcher them outside.
We’d take that meat inside, and my grandmother and the other ladies of the neighboring community, they were in there. They were making sausage and they were preparing that meat and wrapping that meat, and that’s what they did. But it wasn’t much wrapping done. What we’d do, is we had—everybody had smokehouses and I know we had one. We had big boxes in there to cure meat, and you had three ways to cure it: you either salt- cured it, sugar-cured it, or smoked it. And that’s the way you did it. My grandfather, he had a big smokehouse and that’s what we did. You’d go in there and we’d haul that salt in there ahead of time. You’d put a layer of salt and then you’d layer it with meat, whatever meat you were going to salt-cure, whether it was jowl or bacon or just pork meat period. If you’re going to salt-cure it, you lay it in there and then you cover it up with another layer of salt until that box—and I guess that box was probably about six to eight feet long and probably about, you know, two and a half, three feet deep. And you just layered it all the way through. Had another box over there that was salt and sugar. You put a little bit of salt in there but a lot of brown sugar, and you cured it out in there. Those you smoked and then you put them in there, and then you sugar-cured them. But then had some they’d just hang them hams and shoulders up on those rafters in there and you’d have to build a fire in there. They had a little fire door in the back of that smokehouse where they’d build that fire, and you’d close that up—they closed them doors and chinched them cracks in that smokehouse. They had one place they let the smoke come out to regulate the smoke. And what we’d do is we’d have to open that little fire door back there, have access to that door, where you’d put in new wood in there every once in a while and keep that fire going.
WILSON: Well, it wasn’t cooking the meat.
TAULTON: No, it was just smoking it. Curing it out. You just had—the smoke actually cured that meat and preserved it. And that you didn’t even have to put in the refrigerator.
WILSON: Of the three methods, which did you like the taste of best?
TAULTON: I liked the taste of the—I guess of the sugar-cured meat. I liked that better because they would sugar-cure some hams, he would smoke some hams. Just hang the hams and shoulders up and bacon. They rubbed that meat down and then smoke it, and then—like I say, and then they’d have to salt-cure it. Now, that salt jowl, I loved that salt jowl. I loved to eat that and I still like it now, but it don’t like me and the doctors don’t like for me to like it. So I can’t do that anymore. But I loved it. I loved that.
WILSON: Would you call that a lost art?
TAULTON: I think so.
WILSON: (speaking at same time) Not many people—
TAULTON: I think that smoking and curing of that meat—I don’t know of nobody that I know of now that really still knows how to cure that meat and cure that sausage because, like I say, when they’d have them hog-killings, everybody brought everything there. We’d be—we had two or three big old iron washpots there. You’d have to keep them fires going because them washpots were used for two things: they were used for boiling that water so you could dip them hogs—and you’d pour that water in the barrel and then dip the hogs in there so you scrape the hair off of them. Then also, when you butchered it out and you was cutting up that meat and cooking that meat, then you started to cook cracklings: take that skin and that fat off the skin of that hog, and you’d make cracklings. Cracklings were just right up under the skin of the meat where that fat was. You’d boil them cracklings in that grease—in grease—and it would cook them cracklings out. Cracklings was used for crackling bread and just eating them. We just ate cracklings. We’d eat them.
WILSON: Well, there wasn’t much left of that hog, was it?
TAULTON: Oh no. Everything on that hog was used because the hair, when they’d scrape that hair off, you’d collect that hair off and you’d make padding for the chairs. (Wilson laughs) You’d make padding for chairs out of that hog hair. That’s what we padded our chairs with.
WILSON: Those people didn’t waste anything.
TAULTON: They didn’t waste anything. And they had the hooves; they took those and they cooked them, and they used them for like medicinal—like hog-hoof tea. When you got sick, you’d boil them hooves and things and they’d do it, and that was the thing about it. You didn’t want to get sick because you were going to get fed some of that stuff. I guarantee you, you’d hate that. Boy, I would hold a sneeze. I wouldn’t sneeze for nothing in the world because if you sneeze too many times, that was it. You going to get some of that old-timey medicine, and it’d be horsemint tea or some kind of salve or something rubbed all over you that smelled god-awful and get them poultices on you and man. (laughs) But nope, nope, didn’t want to get caught—don’t get to coughing and doing whatever because—and we’d even have to go up in the pasture to get those plants. I went up in the pasture so many times to get horsemint, what they called horsemint to make tea and stuff out of. And all—different kind of plants, we learned how to collect them and bring them back and they’d cook them for medicine or just use them dried.
During the hog-killing time—now, my grandfather, he liked them hog brains. We knew that he was going to have hog brains and eggs that next morning after a hog-killing. That was it, and it was there. We’d be looking at them and my mother would tell me, “Boy, you don’t want none of that. You don’t want none of that, them hog brains.” I’d want to taste it because he’d mix it with eggs and it looked good! He loved it. But I guarantee you that was going to be it. You would have had(??) that and—well, they wasn’t called calf fries because they were hogs, but eat them(??). But my mother didn’t like for me to eat them. I don’t know why she didn’t. She didn’t like for me to eat them fries.
WILSON: Well, did you ever get a chance to taste any of those hog brains?
WILSON: What’d you think about them?
TAULTON: Well, it didn’t really taste—they just taste kind of like eggs with something in them. You know, it didn’t have a bad taste. But, like I say, wasn’t going to be a whole lot of them, so you didn’t get to eat a lot of them because those belonged to my grandfather. Them hog brains was his, now. (Wilson laughs) If he gave you some of them they was good. But if he didn’t, you just wasn’t going to get none. But that was it. It was things like that.
I loved them hog-killings. Oh man, I loved that day. We’d know the day before because we’d have to start gathering wood and make sure there’s enough wood there for them to start in the morning before we went to school. And then when we got out of school, we knew we was going to be back there and all them old men would be there, and they’d be telling stories and fibs (laughs) and everything else. But that’d be the time that we could stand around there and hear them old men talk, and they’d be telling ghost stories and all that kind of stuff and treasure-hunting stories, and we’d get to hear all of that. We’d sit there and we could hear them old men talk and tell about their adventures and stuff like that, so that was great.
WILSON: Life must have been really good in those days.
TAULTON: Well, it was for me. It was for me. It was good. Like I say, it wasn’t—the only thing bad about it was drinking milk. That was the only thing that was bad for me was having to drink milk. Everything else was good. We had our chores to do. My grandfather was so crazy about his hogs until you couldn’t upset him, but he had a special breed of hogs that he raised and bred. He started off with Poland Chinas, and those were the black hogs: black, big, and fat. They were full of fat. Then as I come up, he had started to transition to the Duroc-Jerseys, which were a red hog. It was a red hog. And that one—you know, the reason why he said he went to those—because I was talking to him because I was in 4-H projects and things with them—it was because they grew fast. They grew, but they were a little bit—they were leaner than the Poland Chinas, and so you had better—more marbling of the meat, when you say it now. It was a better grade of meat without so much fat on it. You didn’t lose so much fat because those Poland Chinas, they’d get big. They was huge, but they had a lot of fat on them. And he kind of got away from those.
WILSON: Well, people’s diet changed, so I guess the market for the leaner hogs was better than—
TAULTON: I guess that’s what was happening then. At that time, I didn’t know the market, but—
WILSON: Your grandfather did.
TAULTON: —but it was—my grandfather did. He knew it and so he started crossing his Poland Chinas with the Durocs so that he would get a little leaner meat. I could physically look at them and tell they were different. So yeah. He kept that going.
And like I say, he grew watermelons. He was famous for his watermelons in Mexia. And he had special clients—you know, the rich clients in Mexia—
WILSON: Wanted their watermelons.
TAULTON: —[wanted] their watermelon and cucumbers, because he was good with the cucumbers. He had special cucumbers. He’d always tell us—and we’d sit there and we’d be sorting them out—because we picked them early in the morning, and then we’d have to sort them out. He would have special ones that he’d give to special clients.
WILSON: Because that’s what they wanted.
TAULTON: Because that’s what they wanted, and he grew them just like that.
WILSON: Well, that’s why he had good clients, too.
TAULTON: That’s right. And he did—
WILSON: He sold them what they wanted. (laughs)
TAULTON: Absolutely, and he did that with his melons also. Now, he had regular melons he’d just put on a truck and he brought—but some he picked special for special clients because that’s what they wanted and they’d pay premium prices for them. That’s it. And there again, just like he was with his hogs, with his melons and cucumbers—you didn’t handle them right. You didn’t bruise his cucumbers and you didn’t bruise his melons. And he’d tell you, “No, you don’t handle them rough.” You didn’t sit there and pitch them and throw them—his cucumbers. When you picked them, you picked them and you gently put them in the basket. You didn’t throw them in the baskets and bruise them up. You didn’t do that. If he caught you doing it, you was in trouble.
WILSON: Undoubtedly, he was as much of a businessman as he was anything else.
TAULTON: Absolutely, he was a businessman. As a matter of fact, before he left Kirvin and moved here from Freestone County, he owned a store there in Kirvin. He owned a dry goods store in Kirvin, so he was a businessman. He took care of it because, like I say, whatever he did, it had to be right. It wasn’t going to be—you know, you wasn’t going to mess it up. I didn’t care what, whether he—and he grew crops. He didn’t do much cotton farming. He wasn’t much for cotton. I think a couple of years there, I remember, he had cotton fields and he did that. But primarily, he raised his hogs, had his truck farming patches, and he raised feed for his hogs.
WILSON: And wasn’t that pretty typical of most of the people in Woodland?
TAULTON: Most of the people in Woodland—a lot of them, now, some of them were specialized. Now, you take like the Anglins, old man John Anglin, now, he raised a lot of cotton. He raised a lot of cotton, and he also had cows. He raised cows. See, my grandfather—like I say, the only cows we had were milk cows. He didn’t raise cows. But Mr. John Anglin, you know, he had a very diversified farm, and he owned a lot of land. He had tractors and things like that. My grandfather, he had mules and horses all the time. Matter of fact, he never bought a tractor. He never bought a tractor, but he had a good truck so he could haul his produce and his hogs around—because them hogs is going in a stall, I guarantee you. They wasn’t going to be bouncing around.
And he used to build his own trailers. He built his own trailers, you know, him and my uncles. I’d sit out there and watch them. He designed and build those trailers hisself. He built them to where when he put his animals in there—when he put his hogs in his hog trailer, I guarantee you there wasn’t going to be a sharp edge or nothing nowhere that could damage his animal or cause his animal any kind of harm. That was the first time I—and I remembered that because I remembered how he’d get those smooth bolts, round head bolts, and he’d always turn them to the inside. That went to where he could not harm his hog. You wasn’t going to have that bolt in inside of that trailer where it could hurt his animals. And he always raised his animals for temperament.
Now, he had certain breeding stock. He had certain stock just for breeding. Some of it was for breeding for other breeders; some of it was breeding for commercial sale. He had a big hog pen. I mean, he’d have maybe a hundred head of commercial stock just running free out there in the tank(??), but then he had his special breeders that he bred, and he sold those as a breed to other farmers. As a matter of fact, I had a gentleman from out on Sandy tell me—told me that that’s how he got started in the hog business was buying it from my grandfather. He say, “Because he always had good stock.” And my grandfather, I remember one time that he would buy his stock from like up in Kansas because he had a guy that met him at the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show from Kansas to bring him a brood sow one time.
WILSON: That’s where he got started.
TAULTON: That’s—well, he got part of his start there. I know he got his Durocs from Kansas, when he got his first Duroc. He bought those from a guy in Kansas. He met him up at the fat stock show and hauled them down here.
WILSON: What about the schools? Was there a school in Woodland or did y’all go to there? Did—you were telling me while ago about your sister and you going to Mexia?
TAULTON: Well, my wife went to Mexia High, but we went to school in Woodland when we lived out there. Now, see, later on we moved into town. But that Woodland school, it had been there for many years before as—and, matter of fact, my grandfather’s brother was the superintendent there. He had been the superintendent of that school back years before. Uncle Arthur had retired by the time that I came there, but he was superintendent during the time that my mother and her brothers and sisters went to school there. But after that generation, he was gone. But it was a primary school. I mean, like I say, it went from the first grade all the way up to the twelfth grade, was all in one building. I remember going to school there, and really that was the only school I knew until we moved into Mexia and I started to go to Dunbar. But, you know, we had what I thought was excellent teachers. They had a blacksmith shop out there. They had—and they were—all of them was in the ag projects. We always had ag projects out there because it was a farming community.
WILSON: It was.
TAULTON: And so everybody around there was into farming. Agriculture was the business at that time, although—
WILSON: It’s the way you made your living.
TAULTON: Yes. But I did have some relatives, some of my grandfather’s relatives, that were businessmen, and they had businesses going on. Thornton Carter. Because my grandfather, he was related to the Carter family. So Thornton Carter, he was a big businessman, and he had a lot of inventions and things. He had ice cream parlors and everything else. And so I guess entrepreneurship just kind of run in his family as far as that was concerned because they did that and they did do their own. Because, like I say, my grandfather never sharecropped; he always owned his own farms. Although some other people that I knew of, they did some sharecropping, and then later on they got their own farms. They stepped off and got their own, so. But, now, there were some people—
I remember one thing that I always liked every year when I lived out there was [they] had a cattle drive. There was a man—and I think his name was Sullivan. I can’t be sure. Fletcher. There was a—Mr. Fletcher had a dairy up there, I know. But there was a guy that ran a beef ranching operation, and every winter and every summer, he was moving his cows from winter pasture to summer pasture. And that was a big deal for me because I would hope that he would do it on a day I was out of school so I could watch that cattle drive because they actually drove the cattle down the road. He had cowboys, a horseman on each side, and they would drive them cows from one pasture to another, from somewhere up there on the Navasota River to another pasture he had down off in the area there. But they did it every year, and then I remember when they stopped doing it. I don’t know from then if they was trucking them or just had improved the pastures to where they didn’t have to do that or whatever. But I kind of hated to see that go because that was a big deal. Because for about ten, fifteen minutes, you’d see them cows coming through there and them guys. They’d be trying to—you know, the guys would station theirselves to keep them out of the yard and stuff like that, and that was great.
WILSON: That’s pretty cool.
TAULTON: It was! (Wilson laughs) It was cool. I liked that. I liked that. Learned a lot. I learned a lot living in that community. Matter of fact, I learned the basics of everything: of growing stuff and—
WILSON: How to live.
TAULTON: —raising stuff and—how to live. That’s right. How to live. I learned that in that community at that time. However, when I got older, I didn’t want to have nothing to do with it. I can tell you that. I wanted to get so far away from dirt and farming and everything, so I left here and I went off to supposedly seek my fortune elsewhere. I did it but I came back to it because—you know.
WILSON: It was in you.
WILSON: It was in you.
TAULTON: I liked that and I come back and that was one thing I wanted to do, was get me some land back here. And so, you know, we did that.
WILSON: Well, that brings me to the question I always ask: if you had one bit of advice to give the young people of today, from your experiences and what you learned as a young man about how to live at Woodland community—if you could give them one piece of advice, sir, what would it be?
TAULTON: It would be learn how to take care of yourself. Learn how to be independent, I guess, because a lot of people—even my family members tell me sometimes I’m too independent because I know how to do things for myself and know how to do that, but that would be one thing I would tell you. Makes no difference what you’re going to do.
You can—you know, I was an engineer. I was an electronics engineer, retired as the engineering manager from a Fortune 500 company, from Lockheed Martin. But I still— the best thing that I had in me was, if all of that collapsed, I could still come down here and I could take care of myself. I would not be in a position to where I’d be helpless, or feeling helpless. Because, like I say, I learned everything. When we were on the farm, we learned how to do everything. It wasn’t there for you—you couldn’t run into town. You couldn’t take stuff all the time. Only the extreme stuff that you have somebody else do. You learned how to do things on your own, and I learned that. I learned that on the farm. Learned how to fix implements, learned how to handle a team of horses. Never use it. Didn’t like it because after I got older, I didn’t want to do anything like that, but I was glad I learned it. And that is, learn some independence. Learn how to do things. Learn to be not so dependent on somebody else for everything that you’ve got to have in life. Learn that.
WILSON: That’s some mighty good advice. And I’d like to say that I really do appreciate this opportunity, and I appreciate you telling us about the Woodland community and the things that you learned and the people that you knew. I can tell that it’s—it is very important to you.
TAULTON: Yes, it was.
WILSON: And I thank you very much.
TAULTON: Oh, you’re welcome. Like I say, if you really want to learn some more—
end of interview