Friday, December 19, 2008

Sharecropping and a WTF?

First, the WTF. What are these weird tracks? Right now I'm thinking ... deer, but somehow they're hitting with two feet in almost exactly the same spot.

Mystery tracks 1 Mystery tracks 2

But the actual indentations don't show two cloven hooves! Or pad/claw indentations, like a canid. Way too small to be horse prints. Very deeply indented into the ground.

Ok, sharecroppers. Wikipedia has a typically dry explanation. Sharecropping was our very own rigid class system. Some families owned a lot of land, but didn't have enough cash to pay people to farm it for them. Instead they'd sublease plots of land and collect rent as a percentage of the crops grown, usually dictating what crops and how many acres had to be truck crops. Back then (both before and after the Civil War, up to about WWII), the cash crop was mostly cotton but could've been soybeans.

It's not like anybody had a really easy life back then, but being a sharecropper was a particularly shitty life. They lived in truly terrible houses - best they could build, and better than a lot of the world lives in today, but MAN. We're talking 50 or 60 years ago people lived in tarpaper shacks, drank from cisterns, used outhouses.

I've seen quite a few of them. My dad makes birdhouses from their old wood (from houses, barns, corncribs, whatever) and I've helped him tear down a few. I think the birdhouse thing is cool; at least the wood is getting re-used and remembered.

Anyway, here's the remains of someone's home. It was used til pretty recently; they had electricity!

View approaching it.
Little shack in the woods

Power box outside, and the exterior of the house. The wood is almost certainly cypress, 1 inch thick by however wide the log was, fairly rough-hewn.
They had lights!

Here's the inside view of the fuse box. They had TWO 15 amp circuits! Livin' large.
They covered up the cracks in the boards with a couple layers of cardboard, then put some wallpaper on top of that to make it look prettier. For some reason the little "pretty" touches just break my heart. Every woman wants her house to look pretty.
Not one but TWO 15 amp circuits!

Something made a cozy den under the floor. Look at that heinous linoleum! I bet this room was the kitchen - easy enough to sweep an unfinished wood floor clean, but you can't keep a kitchen clean with just a broom.
A den under the floor

This is a pretty cool shot if I do say so myself. :) It's pretty obviously the bedroom.
Artsy shot

This kind of stuff really moves me in a lot of different ways. Somebody really lived there. Kids grew up in that house who are near retirement age, but they're still alive. It's surreal to me that the world has changed so much in their lifetimes, but it's also surreal to me that 20th century Americans lived like that!

I haven't mentioned race. Most sharecroppers were black, but not all of them. It's much more of a class thing than a race thing.

That's all the pictures I had time for. I'd left T to hold both the horses while I went in to take pictures, and she was a little "oh god where'd you go" freaked out. I'm planning on going back with a halter on under Champ's bridle and tying him to a tree and getting all the cool pics of that house that I could ever want.

Oh, housekeeping. I dewormed with pyrantel today!


  1. I caught the pictures on Flickr earlier and was inspired enough to check the Wikipedia entry. Wow. There's lots of interesting social histories in the world, and the saga of the American South is definitely amongst them.

    Thought of you today when I was listening to Christmas in Carolina by the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Will you be chillin' in your underwear?

    stapplic: a stapler that also has one of those damp sponges for moistening stamps

  2. nonsi: the result of a french speaker trying to communicate with a spanish speaker

  3. wow, interesting. i love abandoned house archaeology :-) i knew about sharecroppers, but i guess i never realized they existed up into modern times. that is disturbing. it seems so primitive a way to live that, if it were not for the electric, the cardboard and linoleum, i would have thought it hundreds of years old...


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