Jimmy Carter remembered his rural Georgia childhood in his memoir, An Hour Before Daylight (Simon & Schuster, 2001), plowing the earth barefoot, playing with barrel hoops, operating the register at his Daddy's store....

Working on the Farm

Carrying Water

Carter carried water to the workers"I preferred to plow or hoe during cultivating time, but my job as a boy was often to provide drinking water for the dozens of workers in the field, almost always remote from any wells, with natural free-flowing springs the only source of water... Fetching water from these springs was hard work... I carried a two-and-a-half-gallon bucket in each hand. At least, that was the amount of water with which I would leave the spring." 


Carter would plow barefoot"As soon as I was able, I was eager to learn how to operate the implements on the farm. Each step was an indication of maturity... My big ambition was to plow a mule, but this task was usually reserved for full-grown men... After several years of begging, I finally had my first real lesson in solo plowing in our home garden." 

"I preferred to plow without wearing shoes, and I remember vividly the caress of the soft, damp, and cool freshly turned earth on my feet."


Sharecropper Tenants


Sharecropping"Those who did not own land, mules, equipment, or tools other than a hoe and an ax had almost the same lowly status as day laborers and usually worked 'on halves.' The landowner would allot the family as much land as they could work, and usually furnish two mules, a wagon, necessary equipment for plowing, fertilizer, and seed, plus a cabin and a garden plot... When the harvest came in, the owner received half of everything produced on the farm, and collected what the cropper had borrowed."

The Commissary Store

Tenants bought supplies at the commissary store"On Saturdays, Daddy always paid the field hands and gave credit or cash loans to tenants at the commissary store, where he kept careful records of all advances and sales. The poorer farmers who had minimum weekly draws never bought the more costly items. Instead of streak-of-lean bacon, they bought only fatback; instead of syrup, only molasses; instead of flour, only meal; and they bought no patent medicines except castor oil."


Leisure Time

"Child's Play"

Rolling hoops"Although I had a lot of work to do around our house and yard, at the barn and in the fields, my playmates and I found time to do other things... One of our favorites was a thick steel hoop from a wooden keg, ten to twelve inches in diameter. We rolled our hoops for miles, even hours at a time, propelling them with a strong, stiff wire that had a loop on one end to provide a handhold and a V-shaped notch on the other to fit behind the hoop."


Tennis lessons"One of the first things [Daddy] built when we moved out to our Archery home was a tennis court between our house and the commissary store."

"Daddy was impatient for me to grow up, and began giving me tennis lessons as soon as I was old enough to hold a racket. Although I eventually became the top player in high school, I could never beat him -- and he certainly never gave me a point." 

My American Experience

My American Experience photos

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