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Interview with Levi Dixon, November 7, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Levi Dixon, November 7, 2002
November 7, 2002
In his interview, 91-year-old Levi Dixon discusses his work in North Carolina's timber industry, beginning with cutting cross ties alongside his father at age 12 and continuing throughout his life. Dixon details the experience of living with his crew at a campsite, the switch from manual to power equipment, and the eventual reforestation of the cut areas.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Dixon, Levi Interviewer:  Keaton, Ernestine / Warren, Harry Date of Interview:  11/7/2002 Series:  Forestry Length  55 minutes


Dixon: My name is Levi Dixon and I live at 607 Dixon Road, Riegelwood, North Carolina.

[crew talk]

Warren: Our interviewer is?

Keaton: Ernestine Keaton.

Warren: From the Riegelwood area.

Keaton: Yes.

Warren: Regional historian. And today is November the 7th, 2002, I'm Harry Warren, your friendly cameraman here. Ernestine, please proceed.

Keaton: Okay now, we are so pleased to have Mr. Levi Dixon, I call him Mr. Levi, he's one of our treasures, and if there's anyone in this community that can talk about working in the woods and hard work it's him. So I'm going to get right to the heart of what I want to know. Now Mr. Levi, what is your earliest memory of the timber industry?

Dixon: Uh.. about 40, about 40 years ago, well let me say I was about 12 years old, about 12 years old.

Keaton: And you started working in the industry, were you working with your Daddy?

Dixon: Yeah, I used to-- my father, you know, uh.. and we- we cut cross ties, you'd take two working together, you know, because when you cut down a tree and you got it ready to saw, cut 'em up, you had to have somebody to help you. So the way we'd do it, the two would team together and my father when he- he usually cut more ties than the average man, and so that would make uh.. the other person have a- have them saw hold and then they would. So he decided he'd take one o' his sons along when they got old enough, so he could have somebody help him. And that's mostly what I started out doing, was helping him sawing on the trees, and then I was gonna do what you call- we called it hacking, with the- we called it a pitchin' axe.

Keaton: Pitchin' axe?

Dixon: Yeah, it had two axes, we called it one the pitchin' axe, and the other's a broad axe, and there's the broad axe, I remember I cut 'em many a time [laughs], I mean a million, I made a million dollars with this- with this broad axe, it's what you call a broad axe. And uh.. and- and when we would uh.. get of uh.. like I said, my father would cut more than the average person, so I'd go along and cut down two trees, it was out in the woods, we'd cut down two trees, he'd start hacking on them, I started, and what we call hacking on the other, and then by the time he got-- he has hacked and hewed- I got the hew, I was too young to get what we call a hew. So then he would- I'd go then and he'd saw up his tree, he'd come over then and uh.. hew my tree, and then when we sawed up his tree I'd stop hacking the other side so you could have a row, and do- you had to turn it over while you sawed it up, and do the other side, so I'd stop hacking the other side and then when they got that tree uh.. he hewed. He would saw that up and then that goes around the other tree, so we just went on that from day to day. And that's the way it was done, and uh.. we used to go off and uh.. camp out.

Keaton: Okay, tell us about that.

Dixon: Your granddaddy.

Keaton: Well which one?

Dixon: I remember going out with your granddaddy.

Keaton: But which one, which one, Grandpa George?

Dixon: Yeah, Grandpa George.

Keaton: Okay, George Dixon, okay.

Dixon: George Dixon, and uh.. we'd put up a tent [laughs], put up a tent, put straw under the tent and then we'd put our bed over that straw and we'd camp out weeks, still we didn't uh..

Keaton: Where are some of the places?

Dixon: Down in Rumford, we'd go down in Rumford County, that's where we'd cut- cut most of the cypress styles down in there.

Keaton: Who would go along, who were some of the men working with George?

Dixon: Uhm.. I- I remember Tilt McBoy [ph?], David Bright, and uh.. my Daddy, and uh..

Keaton: But he would have a regular crew?

Dixon: Yeah, and Moses Lucas went out, just a crew like that would go and- and we'd stay a week at a time and cut cross ties.

Keaton: And that was contracts?

Dixon: Well he was- he- he would uh.. he would get the contract for the ties, and he'd get us to go and- and cut 'em, and he was always asleep. And uh.. the guy over him I believe was named uh.. Glen Johnson.

Keaton: Ah-huh, Glen Johnson.

Dixon: I think he was named Glen Johnson, and uh.. then they would uh.. see- see that uh.. he- he would uh.. sell the ties to the Railroad Company, that this guy had the contract with road- the railroad company and he'd contracted to your granddaddy, and we cut cross ties.

Keaton: So how would the day start?

Dixon: Well, but we would leave home to go to go to work, as I said, uh.. most men would couple up. If I was about to saw with you then we both would buy the groceries together. [laughs]

Keaton: Oh that was?

Dixon: Yeah we'd do it like that.

Keaton: Oh that's interesting.

Dixon: And uh.. and then uh.. when we cooked, you know, most couples would cook together.

Keaton: Well that was your partner?

Dixon: Yeah.

Keaton: Oh okay.

Dixon: And mostly we would eat with most of us, it was uh.. pork and beans [laughs], that was somethin' quick to cook.

Keaton: Oh yeah.

Dixon: Pork and beans, salad and rice, or somethin' like that, you know. And uh.. that's the way we'd do it, we'd get up in the morning 'bout daybreak and uh.. get our breakfast, we had to cook our breakfast.

Keaton: What would you have for breakfast?

Dixon: Yeah we would sometimes have pork and beans and sausage or somethin' like that, cook corn bread fritters.

Keaton: Oh, did you have somebody there that would cook, that could cook the fritters, or did everybody cook the fritters?

Dixon: Everybody had to cook for themselves, everybody cooked for themselves, my Daddy, for us uh.. when I was on camping with him he'd do the cooking, and see one reason why he would have me at times to go with him, he'd like start earlier than some people so you could go to the woods, walk through the woods where we was camping at that time.

Keaton: Okay, whenever you want.

Dixon: And uh.. he'd go more early so we'd get up and cook and we'd go up in the woods and work that day, we worked from morning 'til the night, come back to the camp. That was camping out, now round here as you can see, you know, about working round here, uh.. we used to cut cross ties here and haul them out to the- up the restock here to the railroad right up there and load them on, could load them on the boxcars.

Keaton: And then who would you, around here, who was the men that you would usually work for?

Dixon: Well, what she was saying her granddaddy--

Keaton: Jim?

Dixon: Yeah, he was a- a lot of it through here, and we'd cut cross ties and- and we could uh.. take 'em on our wagons and haul them to, we got a lot o' that, I know you know that we got a lot out of that, we'd cut 'em and get 'em out to the restock. And then the inspector would come and inspect 'em and load 'em on the boxcar.

Keaton: Now what about the sawmills, did you work at the sawmills and what were they like, the sawmills, how were they set up, were they big sawmills or small?

Dixon: Just small, ground sawmills, just small sawmills.

Keaton: Tell us what they were like.

Dixon: Well uh.. the only sawmill that I ever worked with was uh.. Eddie Daniels had a sawmill and [laughs] and you know I used to as- I remember it all ______________, with Eddie Daniels, before I bought the land that I live on now. And uh.. it was just- just-- he just had just a small sawmill, he'd work about, let's see, he'd work about 10, eight or 10 people, somethin' like that.

Keaton: And when you say a small sawmill, these were the type you could move around?

Dixon: Yeah, you'd go- you'd move it from one pile of tether to another, when you cut this pile of tether you'd take it somewhere like move it to another part and tether.

Keaton: What kind of saw, was it diesel or what kind of fuel?

Dixon: Yeah, it was a diesel engine, a diesel engine, for- for the power, you know, some sawmills, you know, I remember way back, I remember uh.. John Carter had a sawmill too, and he used steam.

Keaton: Did you know anything about that?

Dixon: I remember that.

Keaton: Tell us how that was, the steam.

Dixon: Well you'd find the wood and uh.. that's where you got the steam to get your power to- to saw it, of the sawmill, you know. I remember- you remember ______________?

Keaton: Oh yeah.

Dixon: He used to be a fireman for the- for the sawmill.

Keaton: Okay, the fireman was the one that put the wood in there?

Dixon: Put the wood in there, keep the steam up so you could have your power to- to do the sawing.

Keaton: Was he blind?

Dixon: Yeah, he went blind, but during that time he w- when he was doing the- the uh.. work he wasn't, uh.. but he totally uh.. later he went blind.

Keaton: Okay, who did he work for? Did he work for a big outfit or a small one?

Dixon: It was just a- well th- this one- this one wasn't being so big, this is uh.. what you probably call a ground sawmill.

Keaton: From Mr. John Carter?

Dixon: Yeah.

Keaton: Oh okay, did anybody else around here have a sawmill?

Dixon: Eddie Bigwood, he's a white guy, now then he had a sawmill.

Keaton: But what about the larger sawmills, did anybody ever work somewhere around here at the larger ones, did they have any big ones?

Dixon: They all- they all were just small sawmills, I used to be- my Daddy used to-- we have sawed logs for Eddie for the Bigwood sawmill, we just- we used to saw logs for him.

Keaton: And he would have a crew?

Dixon: To run the mill, and we- we'd cut- saw the logs in the woods.

Keaton: And then they would take them out of the woods to the sawmill?

Dixon: Yeah, they had built those log carts.

Keaton: Oh and cart them out, what did the log carts look like?

Dixon: Well a log cart, it has uh.. what we called a- the cart part of it had high wheels, and what we called the bulk was low wheels, and it had a tongue and uh.. when- when the man in the wood was snaking logs, he'd make the load up in a pile.

Keaton: That's snaking when you--

Dixon: You're snaking logs, snake 'em in a pile, the man come in the woods with the log cart, he would back the- he- he would back the cart over the logs, the tongue- or loose the tongue from the bulk, and the tongue would go up in the air, and it went up in the air and then the- the one that was uh.. loadin' it would run the chain under the logs and hook it, and we hooked it, the man would make his mules go up, drive the mules up there and bring the tongue down, that would hoist the load off the ground, then he could fasten his tongue back down to the bulk, and then he's- then he's ready to go to the mill with that load of logs.

Keaton: I guess that was the forerunner, they weren't using cranes or anything, so that was how they got, you know, I always wondered how they got the logs on that high pile.

Dixon: Well that's the way to get the- the-- how to cut the cart- cut the log with a crosscut saw back then, way back, had a crew there, cut the logs. A man to snake them and put 'em in a pile, and uh..

Keaton: Did George Dixon have a log cart that first?

Dixon: Well uh.. the tie business uh.. but he would do- but to go through the woods when he'd cut the ties or take 'em up, there was three- three sizes of a tie, a 7 by 9, a 7 by 8, and a 6 by 8, and uh.. you'd get more for the 7 by 9 than you would for the- for the s- 7 by 8 and 6 by 8. So when he'd go through the woods he would uh.. go to the tree and each- each man would have a number, I might have number one, the next man number two, this other three, and when you cut a tie you'd put your number on there, and then when he'd come through the woods when we'd cut them and he'd take them up, give you some 7 by 9's, some 7 by 8's or whatever, and then when he- when the man would take 'em up the stump of that tree where he took up that tree he couldn't bulk it, and he'd know that tree was- had already been taken up to go because-- do you understand what I'm saying?

Keaton: Yes Sir, I do.

Dixon: Yeah [laughs], and that's why- that's what the- the foreman that was over us would do, he would take up the ties and carry 'em in at the end of the week, that's- that's how we'd get our pay.

Keaton: Okay, so George Dixon, Grandpa George was the foreman.

Dixon: Over there, uh.. over where he'd- and we'd go off like that, he was the one. I've been so many places where, you know, with ties with everything.

Keaton: What about did his sons work with you too during that time or were you just working with your Daddy?

Dixon: My- my brother John, my br- my brother John, ______________ he worked with his son.

Keaton: Did James Dixon or any of those work with Grandpa John? Did his sons work with him?

Dixon: Yeah, Tito, we called him Tito.

Keaton: Okay.

Dixon: Yeah, he was the big-- he was the- the foreman on the camp. [laughs]

Keaton: He was?

Dixon: CQ.

Keaton: He was the one that made the ______________.

Dixon: Yes, yes he had something with him, yeah, they went up there for workers.

Keaton: Just Tito and Jay and?

Dixon: And Gee.

Keaton: And Uncle Gee, oh okay.

Dixon: Yeah. Now, I remember and they had a car ya know, had this uh.. a Dodge car [laughs], and I still remember, we-- if they want to come home. [laughs]

Keaton: They got special treatment?

Dixon: Yeah, come back there.

Keaton: And they would drive the car?

Dixon: Yeah drive the car.

Keaton: Oh, I thought at that time nobody had any cars.

Dixon: Well--

Keaton: They would drive down to the camps?

Dixon: Yeah, that was later, that- that was later- later on.

Keaton: As far as getting paid, how much did you get paid for the time?

Dixon: The highest I would get paid for a tie for cutting was about 50 cents, for the logs, and another one what you call a 6 by 8, you'd get about 25 cents.

Keaton: Okay, now the one you got the most money for came from a certain part of the tree.

Dixon: The butt of the tree, the largest part of the tree, and, you know, a lot of timber was thrown away because, you know, when you got up to the top of the tree, when it got too small to make a 6 by 8 all the rest of that tree was thrown away. And uh.. and to all them it was out in the woods where nobody used it, all that you'd cut off of it, all that was thrown away.

Keaton: But if it was around home, if it was around here.

Dixon: Yeah, people could probably get it.

People would use it for heater or things like that.

Yeah. Yeah, and I was talking about uh.. the times that uh.. that uh.. that was later on right I was a- I'll say I started working timber when I was about 12 or 14, but I was at the time ______________ drive 'em down, that was later on.

Keaton: That was probably in the 40's.

Dixon: Yeah.

Keaton: Mr. Levi, do you know anything about when they were making turpentine and tar and stuff, do you remember anything about that?

Dixon: I don't really remember about that only what you- that's like your granddaddy used to do, he used to go down in Georgia to them places and work in turpentine.

Keaton: Yeah, I guess by that time there was nobody around here doing that.

Dixon: Yeah, they- they'd cut a chip in a tree, cut a in the side of a tree, and the turpentine would drain down in that hole in the tree, and then they'd get it out of there some way but I- I don't know much about it.

Keaton: A bucket or something.

Dixon: Yeah, to catch it.

Keaton: To catch it and put it in the barrels. Now I know you had a good many years in the woods like my Daddy did, now was there anything that ever happened in the woods that was dangerous?

Dixon: No, I don't remember if ever there was anything dangerous, actually now nothing, no accidents, at least that I can think of.

Keaton: Now what about changing from your different tools you used in the woods, starting from the now the broad axe wasn't used after the cross time, was the broad axe only used for cross ties?

Dixon: That's all it was used for, cross ties.

Keaton: So after they weren't sawing cross ties anymore, you were just logging, just using the crosscut saw and the regular axe?

Dixon: Well, see you have to ______________ again, the stockpiles ______________ cross ties started gettin' wood, pulp wood, a- and uh.. that stopped it, I guess the cross ties then was cut at the sawmills, by sawmills I think then, because they- they uh.. when they're cutting it with this paper plants started to getting pulp wood, just started cutting all the time and we used to cut cross ties, I don't know if they cut any pulp then.

Keaton: So people started going into the pulp wood then?

Dixon: That's right, and the- the tie business went there.

Keaton: Okay, now who were some of the first ones to go to hire people or have a business around here, the pulping business?

Dixon: You said pulp wood?

Keaton: Uh-huh.

Dixon: Uh.. Bernette [ph?] Palmer was uh.. Bernette Palmer was one of the big people that really worked in pulp wood.

Keaton: I guess that was in the 50's and the 60's?

Dixon: Yeah.

Keaton: They started in the pulp wood, I know it was not something that you could make a lot of money, or was it?

Dixon: Well that was hard work back then, you know, you didn't make a lot of money but, you know, later on when they got wheels and loading it with a ______________, back when you started it though you used to have to cut it short and load it by hand, and that was the hard times. But, you know, when people had to get loaders to load everything, now they cut- people had to cut it down, you know, the load, to get it to the mill to be sawed up to the mill. But when it started out you cut it in a pile, and loaded it on by hand, you know, that's the way it started off.

Keaton: Now since I know you I know that you did have an accident one time.

Dixon: Oh, you- I said that, I said I didn't remember? [laughs]

Keaton: I remember because I was there, I remember when you--

Dixon: Now I had forgot that, you're ______________ my memory. I was right up there, right up 'til the late load, what we called the late load, between here and there, it's you know the church up there where the Indian lived, and I was in the woods by myself, me and Bernette Palmer's son was in the woods, and the- then we had started the hewing an hour so, and I had forgot all o' this, and I was stumping, and uh.. Bernette Palmer's son was over in the woods, and I went to cut down a tree, and when I went to cut the tree down there were some bushes around it, and this power saw caught in that bush and flew it right back in my face and knocked all that side of my face, and I had forgotten that. [laughs] And I hollered and Bernette Palmer's son come over there and take me to Riegelwood and uh.. I stayed in the hospital 16 days, for my- my face. But now I had forgotten that, I'm glad you mentioned it, but I had forgotten.

Warren: They had to put some stitches in your face.

Dixon: Yeah I stayed in the hospital 16 days.

Warren: And did the power saw hit something or?

Dixon: I went to cut down a tree and there was a bush around the tree, and when I put the saw down there it cut that wood and threw it back up in my face, and knocked the side of my face off, and I was standing up there with the power saw in my hand and it right on running. And I stood it down and that guy come over there and carried me through the woods. But I- I stayed in the hospital 16 days.

Keaton: The work was hard.

Dixon: Yeah.

Keaton: The work was hard, I know it was hard.

Dixon: Now- now, like I said, uh.. this was- we started off when I was younger though, but I was old and had children and all of that but uh.. when that- when that happened I had three or four children.

Keaton: You had more than that I believe.

Dixon: Yeah.

Keaton: Is there anything you'd like to ask Mr. Levi?

Warren: A couple of things. Mr. Levi, you have a very interesting career, you said you started when you were 13 or 14 years old?

Dixon: Yeah, when I started to work.

Warren: What's your birthdate, if you don't mind me asking?

Dixon: June the 25th, 1911.

Warren: 1911?

Dixon: 1911.

Warren: Well you're coming up on-- well you just turned 90 years old.

Dixon: 91, this past June.

Warren: You mentioned just a second ago about this power saw business, now probably a lot of your career you just used the crosscut saws.

Dixon: Right, we started uh..

Warren: Now what did you think when somebody put the first power saw in your hand, did you think that this was a miracle or did you look at this as a contraption the devil had put together or what?

Dixon: I thought it was a miracle.

Warren: Did it take you long to adjust it, about what time, do you remember when you used the first power saw, when it was?

Dixon: Uh.. I used the first power saw, it was probably the 1970's I believe, probably the 70's, when I first started using power saws.

Warren: In the 1970's?

Dixon: I believe it was.

Warren: That's incredible. Now I want to revisit the camp site with you again real quick. First I want to ask you, I think you said this sort of piecemeal, but what would be the average number of men that would be living at that campsite over the course of a week, what would be a crew?

Dixon: About 10 or 12 head.

Warren: And they would all have specific jobs, is that right, or did everybody do a little bit of the same thing?

Dixon: Everybody was cuttin' cross ties, everybody was cuttin' cross ties, only the ones that were maybe uh.. pullin', gettin' 'em out of the woods, the rest some- some would probably ______________ together and get 'em out of the woods, but e- everybody else would be cuttin'.

Warren: Now you worked from sun up pretty much to sun down, by the end of the day were you just so beat that you'd just eat a little something and went to bed, did you all sit around a camp fire and tell stories or did somebody bring a guitar, or how did you pass the time?

Dixon: Sittin' around the camp fire and tellin' stories. And her granddaddy used to come in and he would- the young men, you know, got in a tussle, what I call a tussle, grapple him and just tickle him to death [laughs], he just- he just laughed and [laughs] he'd love to see 'em, you know, they'd get out there and get in a wrestle and tumblin' and he just had a laugh.

Keaton: And that was entertainment?

Dixon: Yeah.

Warren: Well they were just wrestling just to do something.

Dixon: Yeah.

Warren: Nobody was mad at anybody, it was something to do. What was it like living in the woods, and you'd be like maybe in the green swamp or somewhere, in the deep green swamp, what would it be like living out there during that time period, would wildlife come up to the camp, it must've been a great experience?

Dixon: Raccoons and things would come around the camp, but we'd be so tired, uh.. there was no uh.. like no bears or nothin' coming around, no cougars would come around there.

Warren: You never saw any cougars or you never had a rattlesnake or anything crawl up in the bed with you?

Dixon: I never known to.

Warren: It must've been just really beautiful and quiet out there, I bet it was just dark and quiet.

Dixon: Right.

Warren: Was the forest different then than it is today, as far as the woods, the trees itself, were there more of them, were they bigger?

Dixon: Yeah there were more of 'em, there's more of 'em, you know, if uh.. if the- these couple like in Riegelwood, if they hadn't started planting trees, there would not have been a forest around here, you know, but we- well we cut it down, you know, but they started cuttin' it they'd replant it, you know, and that's what kept the trees', you know, location. But uh.. if up on trees if they hadn't started plantin' it back here some of them were never ______________.

Keaton: I'm sure we wouldn't have them. Well that's good though, that, you know, the paper company did start reforestation otherwise we would all be-- if you didn't replant them then that means you wouldn't have any new trees to cut any time after that.

Dixon: That's right.

Warren: So they were just cutting them down back when you started out, just a man would contract a piece of property and send a crew out that you would be on and you'd just clear it?

Dixon: Right, right.

Keaton: Well they cut timber, around here, I know they cut timber to sell, but they also cut timber to farm, did that make a difference in terms of people farming more, did that happen, they cut the timber that people cleared stock from or anything?

Dixon: You say cut timber to farm?

Keaton: Yeah the farm, did they clear the land to farm?

Dixon: Yes, I think, you know, cut it off and cleared it and make it up. And you take the farm over there where so and so had to build, during the years I was over there he cleared up- he cleared up a piece of that farm.

Keaton: Then?

Dixon: You know, and another thing, I bought the land that I live on now from your granddaddy.

Keaton: Okay, my great-granddaddy.

Dixon: Your great-granddaddy.

Keaton: Yeah, and did he have any feeling about the land, that what maybe says something about him as a man, he had this land and he sold it to certain people, did he ever say anything about the land and what he wanted you to do with it, or what you really wanted?

Dixon: Yeah, uh.. yes he, you know, he was all the, you know, the spor- he told me all about we call the Houghton Road and Dixon Road, he owned all that property. And during the time Hoover died he had to keep it for that, had this road put through there.

Keaton: He cut the road huh?

Dixon: Yeah, he had to open it, and uh.. and uh.. whenever he went to salvage he told me he says so many people wants to buy lots of it, I ain't let nobody have but 10 acres. And he said let me know when you're-- it seemed like him and my Daddy, we claim no relations, but they were real close, they were close.

Keaton: Oh yeah, I think they were kin.

Dixon: And when-- [laughs] and when like he's saying "You let me know when you get down to where you want," and we- when we got to where I want and told him to "Dad this is where I want," he'd say "Well it seems like you want a house son, and I ain't been letting people have but 10 acres, I'm gonna let you have 20 acres." [laughs]

Keaton: But all that was when there was timber on it, at that time?

Dixon: Yeah, there was no large stuff on it, but there was stuff on it.

Keaton: Pastures and stuff like that, so.

Dixon: Yeah.

Keaton: When he cut that road he cut it himself?

Dixon: Well, it was done like people was getting 50 cents a day I think to use shovels and things just to have a job. Now I uh.. during that uh.. and he told me, he said, when I went and bought the land he said uh.. "You go ahead and buy this land, I may not live to see it, but one day a hard surface will go right by your door." [all laugh] He told me that and sure enough it happened.

Keaton: Yeah it did, it did happen.

Warren: Mr. Levi, you mentioned Hoover times, do you remember much about Hoover times? My mother-in-law, she was born in 1920 and to her it's just as clear as it was yesterday and I know that she will never vote for a Republican because she will always accuse Republicans for the Depression. Do you remember anything about the Hoover times?

Dixon: I remember a whole lot about Hoover time. [laughs]

Warren: A pretty tough time, were you logging all during that time?

Dixon: I tell you what, uh.. I got married in the Hoover time.

Keaton: Oh okay, right.

Dixon: But what happened, I left for Browning here right even at the Depression, and I was working down in Felmar [ph?], and I went up there and I stayed with a man on a farm, I- I stayed up there two years, that's the only two years I've ever been away from these folk here, and I met my wife up there. And I know-- but, you know, the- the only way people survived in the Hoover time was on the farms, they raised their hogs and cows and chickens and all the vegetables, and that's the way they got by. Yeah I know that uh.. we used to raise hogs and we'd uh.. and we'd uh.. try for lard, you know, and get three or four stands o' lard, put the meat in the smokehouse like this other girl were talking and we had a cow, we got milk and then we'd take the eggs and buy a little coffee and- and rice and stuff and that's the way we lived.

Keaton: You used the eggs to trade?

Dixon: Yeah trade 'em to go- take eggs and go to the store and- and trade 'em for sugar and- and uh.. coffee and stuff like that, so. And that's the way we got by, you know.

Keaton: Was there any jobs, what about the jobs, were they the same, you know, working in the woods during that time, did that stop?

Dixon: It was probably the-- yeah, pretty well slowin' up, there weren't much of that going on.

Keaton: There was no way to sell anything.

Dixon: Right.

Keaton: But things picked up, I guess during the war years.

Dixon: No, it wasn't going that much.

Warren: What were the best times for logging in your life? What was it like during World War Two, was there a big demand and a lot of work or was there one period about the same as the other or did you have any kind of boom times in the logging industry?

Dixon: Uh.. I- I can't remember now just to see when the- the most uh.. prosperous time, I don't remember now exactly 'cause uh.. it probably was in the 1960's I'd imagine.

Keaton: When the paper mill came?

Dixon: Uh.. I don't remember exactly, I don't remember exactly when that come in.

Keaton: Well it was prosperous for us but.

Dixon: When that log-- when- when the mill come in it made things change up.

Keaton: For some people, families that didn't work that mill, pretty much we farmed like we'd always done and Daddy worked on it and he worked with a job in that season and he got signed up and farmed and went in the woods with local people, so it was just a time I guess when generally people prospered. They didn't have a job in International because you had more time for the farming and the gardens and planting and canning and all that stuff. I think the people that didn't rely on International Paper they just had a more supplementary things, you know, that other people may have just stopped doing and relied solely on the paper mill.

Dixon: Yeah. Yes, you could work down to the paper mill and do your little farming, none of us had those big farms.

Keaton: No.

Dixon: So our family there we could uh.. they-- the other part of the family could be doing what they could and then when we'd come in we could- we could help out and uh.. we'd done both up there, worked at the paper, I worked down there some a little in the construction, I never did work for the company, but I worked in uh.. this building and somethin' but I still farmed some too.

Keaton: There's something I want to ask you about Mr. Stewart. Now, before he had a son big enough to go into the woods to work with him, did he really want you to do that, did he want you to follow him and work with him in that kind of work?

Dixon: Yes, I think so, well he- he would uh.. this would be during the time that- there were certain times, you know, there wouldn't be no school going on.

Keaton: You went to seventh grade didn't you?

Dixon: Yeah, I finished seventh grade like over there where that building is there, it was the old two-story building right there.

Keaton: Yeah, I went to second grade or third grade in this one.

Warren: This was a school, this was a former school then?

Dixon: Yeah, it was a two-story building right over that gym is where I went to school, where we all went to school back in my childhood.

Keaton: That was the first one, the first school was over there, where the gym is? I don't remember that. I guess that was before my time, but it was a two-story?

Dixon: Yeah, it was a two-story and I went to school upstairs.

Keaton: Yeah, there were two rooms, two teachers.

Dixon: Or I believe there was three teachers, that-- yeah, it was three teachers.

Keaton: And it went through the seventh grade. Now when everybody graduated from there they just automatically went to work.

Dixon: Well, my brother- my old- my sister, she went to Burgaw, the high school there. She went to Burgaw, and she got- well she finished high school in Burgaw. She back down and back then you could start teaching when you finished high school if you would keep on- keep on uh.. studying, you know, and advancing your education, you-- so she started teaching, taught school in the Baptist church over there [laughs] uh.. a while.

Keaton: Oh she did?

Dixon: Yeah. And then my brother John, she would be mad, and my brother John, he went to Burgaw, and see then my older sister, she got sick, and she died. And I- I was supposed to go there, and we would educate one another there, that's what we had planned, and she got sick and she died and- and seemed like I couldn't take it. That's when I went to up here I had a friend and I stayed there two years. [laughs]

Keaton: When you left home?

Dixon: Yeah, uh.. I- see I was here and I was uh.. I would care-- we had- Papa had bought a car and my Daddy had bought a car ______________. And after she died, see like uh.. I just went away for that little while, and then when I come back in fact I was married. [laughs]

Keaton: Okay, you had moved up.

Dixon: Yeah. [laughs]

Warren: How many brothers and sisters do you have, Mr. Levi?

Dixon: Livin'?

Warren: Everybody living and passed.

Dixon: There was fif- there was 15 of us.

Warren: 15?

Dixon: You know. [laughs]

Warren: Evenly divided between men and women, about?

Dixon: Yes, there's uh.. it was-- then they- they're equal, and I don't- I believe there's about seven and eight, I believe.

Warren: How many of your siblings are still alive?

Dixon: I have three sisters and one brother that's uh.. two years older than I am, lives in Greensboro.

Warren: And is he in good physical condition too?

Dixon: Good, yeah.

Warren: Your brothers, were they involved in the logging business, did they get out and work in the woods?

Dixon: My brother- my brother that I say is still living, he had worked in the loggin'-- had worked with my Daddy, so. But uh.. the rest of 'em, uh.. they didn't do much of it.

Warren: What was your father's name?

Dixon: James Stewart Dixon.

Warren: Jim Stewart Dixon.

Dixon: He was- he was named after James Stewart Devon, that run- that was the Devon plantation over here from the locks, because we would've been Devons had, you know how that goes, don't you?

Keaton: Oh yeah, I think if she hadn't have--

Dixon: It was a Dixon, the Dixon family up here on Cows Creek. Uh.. the Dixon family was uh.. they owned slaves up here up in Dixon, up here on our street. The Devons, below the locks, they married e- each other's family and then needed somebody on this farm down here to the locks, and the Devons got the Dixon family up here, Grandma and Granddaddy were--

Keaton: Mr. Kemp.

Dixon: Yeah, he ______________ coming down here and work for Devon. Now see, if he had ______ as a slave we'd have been Devons.

Keaton: Devons instead of Dixons.

Dixon: He took the name Devon.

Keaton: He just came to work.

Dixon: Yeah.

Keaton: There was no transaction, no sale or anything.

Dixon: You could say he come down to work and to Devon, but they let him sharecrop and he got a chance to buy some land and then we started.

Keaton: I think that was the story of a lot of people around here, they got land as soon as they could, they didn't wait, they didn't stay, people sharecropped when they had to.

Dixon: Yeah.

Keaton: But they were always working towards the time they were going to own their own land, and there was a lot of slaves who were hired out instead of just working on plantations. They were hired from this plantation over to other plantations, and you may even get to keep a dime or 25 cents or 50 cents of what you made and you could use that to keep. As opposed to a lot of areas that had agriculture, we didn't have a great deal of that until I think after the 1920's, that we began to farm. I looked through some of Grandpa George's papers and I can see how he had a large farm and a lot of people worked for him, and I think the same thing with Mr. ______________ and then other people learned to farm.

Dixon: Uh.. well I did work for your granddaddy, do what he'd tell me and go in the fields to work, just keep up with Tito. [laughs]

Keaton: That was it, that he'd tell you to do?

Dixon: [laughs] Yeah, just keep up with Tito.

Keaton: Is there anything else, Harry?

Warren: That's all I have on my mind this morning, Ernestine. Mr. Levi, would you like to add anything?

Dixon: Oh I- I talked about a lot of things, but uh.. I talked about a lot of places that I worked, you- you tell them about all of that. But I remember, and I was young then when I was 14 I reckon, but I went with my Dad and we went down to a place called Society Hill, South Carolina.

Warren: Society Hill?

Dixon: Society Hill.

Warren: It sounds like a pretty high-falluting place.

Dixon: Not much, because I-- and- and if you had to leave from down there, we stayed down there a month, and when I went- we went to leave, my Daddy went in the store there named Coco's Hardware Store. He bought me my first brown suit, and I come back with that on a Saturday night, gettin' my mother tucked up in bed and him to plant so I could wear it to church that Sunday. And I-- [laughs] I thought I was dressed up, and why I mention that, seems like I always wanted to go back down to- to Society Hill for some reason. And uh.. my birthday, just my past birthday, my children did, my son' children carried me back down there just to look at it.

Keaton: That was wonderful.

Dixon: And- and I looked at the old store where my Daddy bought my--

Keaton: It was there?

Warren: The store's still there?

Dixon: The old store was still standing there, and me and my grandson had a picture being stand up beside o' that old store.

Keaton: Isn't that something, that's wonderful.

Dixon: Now this, I said to some years ago.

Warren: Is the building that's there, is it still operating?

Dixon: It ain't operating, it's going out of business.

Keaton: Is the store associated with the job?

Dixon: Yeah, we- we were cutting cross ties, went down there, stayed a month, still cutting cross ties. [laughs]

Keaton: And when you cut your cross ties did you have a bill with the store, was the store part of it?

Dixon: We stayed in a house down there now, but uh.. I- I can't remember the- I can't remember the people who was over there.

Keaton: But could you buy stuff and get stuff at the store and have the bill?

Dixon: Yeah, that's the--

Keaton: They would write it down and you would pay for it?

Dixon: Yeah.

Keaton: So it was like a company store?

Dixon: Yeah.

Keaton: But it was a real community of people, or just a store there?

Dixon: Uh.. there was just a store there, and we stayed uh.. in a building, I don't recall that old house where we stayed, it was still standing there, but we just can't be--

Keaton: And you were 14?

Dixon: About 14 years old.

Keaton: Usually things are gone.

Dixon: Yeah, but the old store was there, but then it was named Coco's Hardware Store. You could get anything- he had anything that-- I talked to some people when we went out there for my birthday, and he's saying "Yes, the old store is right down the road there," we couldn't even tell now. [laughs]

Keaton: You were able to tell Joe where to go?

Dixon: Well he got- he got on the computer and found out how many miles it was and exactly where to go and everything. [laughs]

Keaton: That was wonderful. I can imagine it was like stepping back in time, it probably brought back memories.

Dixon: Yeah, it did bring back a lot of the memories.

Keaton: A time when you was close to your Daddy. I think that was one of the things that a lot of men did in the past, I know my Daddy did it. The first person he went and worked with was his Daddy and he went and cut cross ties when he was 12, I think he said he was 12 or 13 when he went with his Daddy. So I can remember him talking, he'd get a special tone when he'd talk about working with his Daddy. So I knew that was a special thing for you and then for you to have it, to revisit it on how many, it was your 90th birthday? How old were you, your birthday, when you went back?

Dixon: I was 91.

Keaton: Okay.

Dixon: 91.

Warren: Just this past summer you went back there?

Dixon: Back for my 91st birthday, we drove down there Saturday.

Keaton: Okay, Mr. Levi.

Warren: Just one more kind of general- When did your father pass, do you remember the year that he passed?

Dixon: He lived 84 years, he lived 84 years.

Warren: 84. Do you remember the year he died?

Dixon: Uh.. I'd have to go across the street there to give you that. [laughs]

Warren: Oh really.

Dixon: I gotta go across the street to get it. I don't know exactly, but I thought he was 84 when he died.

Warren: As Ernestine just pointed out, you were very close to your father, and as Miss Johnson, she said that the happiest days that she ever had was riding around with her grandfather. When you think about those times going out there with your Daddy doing this logging, what kind of emotions and what kind of feelings do you have? Were those the happiest days of your time or are you glad you're not doing them anymore or what?

Dixon: I'm glad I'm not doing it anymore, but I got a lot of-- it was a lot o' enjoyment to me, to go round with him and uh.. we would uh.. you know.. When people would come in in the evening and talk about how many ties they'd cut, "I cut so and so many, I cut so and so many," we would be cutting more than the average person. [laughs] They were disappointed, you know, it was gonna be that way, you know. But I enjoyed it.

Warren: There was a lot of pride in the work that the people were doing.

Dixon: There was.

Warren: Well, we certainly do appreciate you taking this time to sit down and talk to us today. Thank you very much for it, and I hope you'll come see us at the North Carolina Museum on Forest Street.

Dixon: Oh that's wonderful, and I hope to do that.

Keaton: Thank you, Sir.

Warren: Thank you, Sir.

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