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Gatewood: This is a tape in a series sponsored by the Kentucky Folklore Foundation, entitled “Healthcare in Rural Kentucky.” We’re in the home of Mrs. Stephens. We’ll be interviewing her. Interviewers will be, this is Kim Lady and Tom Gatewood. Sounds pretty official, doesn’t it? Could you tell us, first of all, why did you decide to embark on a career like this for forty or more years?

Stephens: Well, I never decided. I just kept getting into it. I helped a doctor in a long time. One day, he had two. And he put me on one, and he went on the other. And from then, I’d just get, you know, I’d get to where they couldn’t get to go to hospital. I’ve went and found them at the side of the road, had babies at the side of the road. Maybe have to walk a mile home after they had the baby.

Gatewood: Hmm. Just a tragic situation.

Lady: How did you get to ? Weren’t you born here in ?

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: Weren’t you born here in ? How did you get to ?

Stephens: I lived out there four years.

Gatewood: In ?

Stephens: Yes. My husband went up there and went to work in the mines. He worked four years. And then it went dead. We came back here.

Gatewood: And that’s where you first began to really practice with this doctor?

Stephens: And I kept, I don’t know why, I think it’s kind of crazy to try to start out with something like that. But still, you feel good if you can do something to help somebody. And I believe you live longer. Without any bad conscience.

Gatewood: But when you were a young girl, a teenager, did you have any inkling that you might be interested in something like that early?

Stephens: No, I didn’t. I was raised on a little baby farm on . Thirteen, I’m his oldest. And we had to work, too. Me and my oldest brother used to haul corn out of the fields with big steers, oxen wagon. Built the woods to help them make railroad ties. Work won’t kill you.

Gatewood: No, it’s good for you. Probably the most healthiest thing it is, then enjoying what you done together.

Stephens: It’s kept me here.

Gatewood: Well, were there any people in your family, either your main family or your in-laws, that were midwives, or had−

Stephens: Yes. Dad had two sisters, it was. And he had two aunts. And Mom’s mother did. She didn’t very much, but she did in case of emergencies. It was run through the generations back then. They might near had to, somebody had to do something like that.

Gatewood: In that regard, when you came back to , what was that, about 1930? Or a little later?

Stephens: 1931.

Gatewood: What was the situation there in terms of availability of doctors in the county? In .

Stephens: Well, we had one doctor. Sometimes he’d go take care of a labor case. But hardly ever. He got sick, then, old, and couldn’t. And our young doctors don’t do that. Period.

Gatewood: When you came, were they having hospital, had they changed the hospital deliveries in? Or were they making home calls? The MDs. When you came in ’31.

Stephens: They went to their homes. But there wasn’t many doctors do that.

Gatewood: I see. I get your point.

Stephens: And I done a lot of it. Back then, the Stearns Company mining company was going full blast. And I’d go over them hollers and up them hills, and wade snow and mud and ice, and wade on. Sometimes I’d get something out of it, and sometimes I wouldn’t. Take a pistol or peg or something like that.

Gatewood: Swap some. Labor for labor.

Stephens: I went to a colored family one time here in the mining camp. And the mine was on strike. They didn’t have a bite to eat. And made them twelve children. And I come, walk back up the top of the hill to a store and stayed there and made up, I got them a basket of groceries up to them. They didn’t have any sugar in the house to feed the baby sweetened water or nothing. I made, stayed up there about two hours, and made up enough to get them a bag of groceries. That man that owned the store took them a basket of groceries.

Lady: Were there any other midwives working in this area? Were there any other midwives working in this area?

Stephens: There was one real old one. But she didn’t, she didn’t go, she lived in the north end of the county, and she didn’t go back this way. She’d just go maybe to some special ones. She got a little nervous and couldn’t do much.

Gatewood: So you practiced, even though you were born and raised back to the northeast, you practiced more to the west.

Stephens: , yes.

Gatewood: Well, when there was a child to be born, did, did friends of the woman, female friends come as well as the midwife to help? In the early period? Did you have helpers? People would come that were friends of the woman that was having the baby? And maybe even just relatives?

Stephens: They helped me, yes.

Gatewood: Could you describe that type of situation? Where there would be a lot of people. Not a lot, but a number of people there to help. And that you’d be giving directions for them. In the early period.

Stephens: Oh, to help somebody, tell somebody else how to do?

Gatewood: To they’re working with you, helping you, when you were waiting on a person who was having a baby.

Stephens: Well, there wasn’t much any of us could do. Just wait. And they didn’t know, I didn’t find nobody that wanted to do something like that.

Lady: I was wondering, have you ever trained someone else to do this type of thing?

Stephens: No. Nobody wants to. There’s nothing in it. Just maybe it helps your feelings, and that’s about all. I waited on one a day or two before Thanksgiving, and he brought me a dressed possum. I got that out of it. [laughter] I had to haul it off. But I thanked him for it anyway. He thought he’d done something.

Gatewood: What is it, that it takes so much time and patience that people don’t have the time for the work? That they don’t have the skills, either, for it.

Stephens: No, they’ve not got the patience. You have to have patience for something like that. Because there are a lot of them that has them in the car, they have them on the road. Just anywhere, nearly.

Gatewood: I guess that kind of worries you, doesn’t it, when there’s no thinking ahead.

Stephens: Yes. But what can you do about it? Nothing.

Lady: Sometimes it just happens so quickly, they can’t get to you in time.

Stephens: Yes.

Lady: It’s just no one’s fault. Did you ever have, did you ever work with a doctor here in town? You were saying that you had worked in a doctor’s office?

Stephens: I worked in doctor’s office, Whitley, here for nineteen-and-a-half years.

Lady: As a midwife? Or did−

Stephens: No. I worked as office girl. But I’d take care of baby cases. One night I had three, and five the next day. But he let me off when I had them. And sometimes when he was off Saturday he’d go help me.

Lady: Who was this doctor?

Stephens: Dr. Simpson. He’s about 90. I guess he was about 96 when he died.

Gatewood: Was he also related to the coal company? Was he a company doctor earlier?

Stephens: Yes. Yes.

Gatewood: You began to work with him when he was a company doctor?

Stephens: Yes. No, after he quit. See, after the mines went dead, they automatically was out of a job. And he put up an office at Whitley. And I helped. Nineteen-and-a-half years.

Lady: What kind of a relationship did you have with the doctors here?

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: What kind of a relationship did you have with the doctors in this area? Did you find that any of them resented the work that you did? Or did you get along well with all the other doctors?

Stephens: Everything went smoothly with everything. Sometimes one of the other doctors come visiting, talk a while.

Lady: But they were content to let you be the midwife.

Stephens: Yes. Nobody had any trouble.

Gatewood: Back to kind of what the question Kim asked about the number of midwives in the early period. Now not now, but back in the thirties, when you first came here, were there a number of midwives at that time, relative to now?

Stephens: There were two, if I remember.

Gatewood: There was just two in the whole county?

Stephens: Yes. There was, yes, two. And then there was a man that did that.

Gatewood: That’s interesting. Was that fairly common for a man to be a midwife?

Stephens: I only knew of three that did. Then at , there was a midwife. Sometimes people would get her here. Come to wait on them.

Gatewood: Was that man Mr. Robert Jones? Was that the man’s name?

Stephens: No. His last name was Roberts.

Gatewood: Roberts.

Stephens: Joe Roberts.

Gatewood: Joe Roberts! I’ve heard of him.

Stephens: Joe Roberts.

Gatewood: Yes. I wanted to ask you about him, and several other Roberts. And then there’s some other people, Dr. John Clark, way back, used to practice. It seemed like a lot of people came out of the Jones Holler area.

Stephens: Yes.

Gatewood: What can you tell me about, I want to talk with those people over there. I just wondered, it seemed like a number of health, helping type people came out of that community. Do you know any others besides this Joe Roberts?

Stephens: No, I don’t. Most of them old ones over in there are dead.

Gatewood: Yes.

Stephens: And I don’t guess these others would know anything to tell you. They might hide behind a tree, and look at you as you passed.

Gatewood: What kind of relationship did you have with the herb doctors? Or kind of doctors that could put herbs and things together?

Stephens: There was none here.

Gatewood: There wasn’t.

Stephens: If there was, I didn’t know them.

Gatewood: That may have been an earlier thing.

Stephens: Yes, there was. Years ago, back in ’26, ’28, there was. Because me and my mother-in-law made him medicine. We’d boil down a gallon of mullen tea. At , he had an office. And we’d boil down gallon of mullen tea. He used that for dropsy. We’d boil down a gallon of wild cherry bark. He’d fix that up in vitamins, tonic. And we’d boil boneset. And he’d make that dog fennel. Gallons of that. And he’d use that for pneumonia. And there was a dye flower. And we’d make a gallon of that, and he’d use it for yellow jaundice. And the pleurisy root, or butterfly root. We’d make a gallon of that, and he’d use it for side pleurisy, they’d call it.

Gatewood: Did they ever use poke root? Like poke−

Stephens: Yes. And he’d make a salve of that, rub on sores.

Lady: What was his name?

Stephens: Powell. Dr. Powell. God, he doctored till he was about 100. He last doctored at . He was over 100 when he died. And he had a young wife and a bunch of little kids when he died. [laughter] And they’re his, because they’re just exactly like him.

Lady: My gosh. You ever used any of those remedies that you might have learned from him? Do you ever use any of those remedies that you might have learned from him?

Stephens: Can’t find none of them now.

Gatewood: Did you, in an earlier period, though? Did you ever use catnip for tea for problems…

Stephens: Yes. They fixed that for babies. Or a laxative. Drink a glassful right before you go to bed.

Gatewood: How about good, pure whiskey?

Stephens: I mean, a sedative.

Gatewood: Was good, if you could find some good, pure whiskey, was that ever used sometimes? Mixed with things, with drugs?

Stephens: Yes, they’d use it with ginger in it for bad colds. But now there ain’t nothing like that grows. See everything’s sprayed, waterlines all sprayed, killed down there. You don’t find none of that stuff anymore. There’s a yellow root, grows around creeks. The doctor used that for stomach trouble. You could buy that at the drugstore, the yellow root.

Gatewood: Well, so many of these are used in medicines all over. But you think it’s the spraying that−

Stephens: I think it’s better, according to the medicine I got that doctor gave me at . [laughter]

Gatewood: That’s the truth.

Lady: I think so, too.

Stephens: Well I like going over to the old field… and that medicine only put out in April.

Gatewood: Did you do any doctoring of people besides waiting on babies? Did you do any?

Stephens: No.

Gatewood: You didn’t.

Stephens: Nothing. Only helped the doctor in the office. Take their blood pressure, and their temperature.

Lady: Did you usually go, back in the thirties, did you go to the woman? Or did you have them come to your house?

Stephens: Hmm?

Lady: When did you start having the women come to your house for the baby to be born?

Stephens: Well, I take arthritis in the back and leg and couldn’t drive. But they’d come anyway. I went to Pineville with my first cousin one time and come back, and a woman has come in here and had the baby. She’d had it about two o’clock that evening in the bed in there. And my aunt stayed with me, real old lady, was how they got in. And I got back at eight o’clock that night. Just laying in the bed in there with her big coat on. She hadn’t had time to pull her coat off.

Lady: My gosh.

Stephens: Went to one time. And a skeleton key would fit in my door then. My brother was having a birthday party. Me and my other brother went up there. Come back, I left a note on the door, “Be back eleven o’clock” that night. I got inside, my house lit up, come over here. She had a skeleton key. Her and her sister-in-law fit the door. They come in and have the bed fixed, sitting down there….Fixed the bed. Waiting to have her baby. And me gone that far.

Lady: My gosh.

Stephens: Well I could have been gone for, maybe till next day.

Lady: Really? They were going to hope.

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: They were going to hope that you got back. The paper here says…

Stephens: They just don’t have no other choice.

Lady: Yeah, what is the other choice? Did they have to go all the way to to have the babies?

Stephens: I had one, not too long ago. You take 95 percent of the people counted on food stamps. Welfare. Well, I told them, I believe the baby’s dead. And it was her first. And I’d rather they take it to the hospital. And he said, “I ain’t got no goddamn money.” I said, “It ain’t my bad luck.” There’s that (?). Well they just kept sitting around, and he was talking to his mama on the telephone. And he told her he wasn’t taking her nowhere. And I, her daddy come, and I got talking to him. And they finally went away in the night. They went out and stole gas to take her in. They didn’t have enough money to buy gas. And they drained somebody’s tank. I found out whose tank was drained that night. [laughter] To get her to the hospital. And they took her in at .

Lady: You still deliver quite a number of babies, don’t you?

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: You still deliver quite a large number.

Stephens: Yes. I had seven here one night. I had my house full.

Lady: My gosh! Seven?

Stephens: I did. Had seven babies one night. I put a folding bed in here. I had one in here, one on the couch, one there, two half mattress on the floor. Was five. Two in the back beds, was seven.

Lady: My gosh. Kept you busy.

Stephens: Yes. Lord, that woman stayed all night. Me and her looked like a cyclone hit us the next morning. Everybody else looked good, though.

Lady: Oh, dear.

Gatewood: Do you find it, when did that question, when did you, I understand you went to the homes earlier, didn’t you?

Stephens: Yes.

Gatewood: It’s just when you became incapacitated, feel like, when did you make the change?

Stephens: Once in a while I will if I feel like it.

Gatewood: But in the early period, in the thirties, you practically always went to the homes.

Stephens: Yes. And I had to walk a lot of places. I’ve walked, one come after me one morning at three o’clock. Snow was knee deep. And I put on overalls, grass sacks around my legs, feet, tied them up above my knees. And we left my house three o’clock, and we walked, got to his house at eleven that day. We were eight hours getting there. And it was her first baby. It had been born for about three or four hours before we got there. Took us eight hours to walk. And I got fifty cents out of it.

Lady: My gosh! Did you visit with the women before the baby was born, to find out how they were doing?

Stephens: I see them most of the time now. And they go to the health office a lot. I can get them to go somewhere. Once in a while you find one you can’t hardly get to go to a doctor. They’re afraid of them. You know, take these back in the country. Never seen anybody, hardly. It’s kindly hard to get them to do anything like that.

Gatewood: That’s the reason, it seems like hospitals make so little sense. If it’s something that’s going to frighten people, look like you should have money spent where people can feel comfortable. In familiar surroundings. Did most women really prefer, at least in the early period, the home delivery?

Stephens: Yes.

Gatewood: When did that change? And why do you think it changed? Why did people begin going to hospitals?

Stephens: I wouldn’t know. I wouldn’t have any idea.

Gatewood: Maybe it’s not a question that can really be answered.

Lady: Well it sounds like you still do quite a bit of the delivering for . They don’t go.

Stephens: Yes, I known one woman come, and lord, I couldn’t walk, my back hardly, every time I get a long breath, I’d holler. And I said, “I don’t believe I can lay down to save my life.” She said, it was her first. She said, “I wish you would.” Said, “I’ll stay up until the last minute.” She said they told her to bring 1500 dollars down to . And she said, “I ain’t got it.” You know, that’s a whole lot of money.

Lady: That’s a whole lot of money, yes.

Stephens: It sure is. A lot of money.

Lady: Did you ever have any difficult births? Where there was a problem. Like breach births? Did you run into that a lot?

Stephens: Yes, I’ve had, I guess in my time, I’ve had five or six or seven that I’ve sent to the hospital. And some of them have to have Caesarian. One, two women I’ve seen that have had syphilis, and it left them all scarred up. And I was afraid to fool with that and sent them.

Lady: But most of the cases were normal births?

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: Most of your cases were very normal births? Most of the women that you delivered had normal births?

Stephens: Have I had several of them?

Lady: The majority of the women whom you waited on, there were no complications?

Stephens: No.

Gatewood: When there is one, you’re alert to it immediately and try to get a doctor.

Stephens: Yes.

Gatewood: When they need, yes.

Stephens: Yes. And it’s hard to get them to even, go to the doctor, if they ain’t got a dollar to pay.

Lady: It would be.

Stephens: It’s made it hard on them for a medical card. There’s a lot of them now that’s got medical cards, and a lot of them ain’t. That helps them out some. But they go to extreme, a lot of these people that’s got medical cards, they’ll go to extreme. Maybe go to the doctor every day. And somebody bad off sit there all day before they’ll get in. I’ve been in houses where they had the fridge, one woman had the refrigerator door full of bottles of liquid penicillin. About 24 bottles. Just go every day. Well that don’t last, only two or three weeks. They’d just go because they got a card. And that makes it hard on people.

Lady: Oh, yes.

Stephens: That’s the way that the mining company doctors was. They run to death. I know that doctor I worked for one time, he called a patient, and he went and she was in another house, to go get her, bring her home, before he could see her. [laughter] That makes it hard on people that’s really sick.

Gatewood: Sounds like your sickness. You told me, I thought you was about in bed and I come down here and you’re in . [~36 second tape glitch, no sound]

Lady: It sounds to me like you have really had some unusual experiences. Like we were talking about having seven women here at one time.

Stephens: That lady stayed all night with me. She was washing dishes. And we’d sleep, and throw a plate across the kitchen and broke it. Sit down on the floor and laugh said she’d go crazy if she had to put up with that. [laughter]

Lady: You’ve never turned anyone away?

Stephens: Never turn them away. Oh, I’ve had them, I took them in there and give them a bath, though. One of them told her neighbor I done made her take a bath before she had her baby. I wouldn’t have told her, if I’d have been her. I had a little retarded girl, her mother left her here and got out and got in jail. And she just twelve years old, never been to school in her life, had a baby. I give her a bath. Her hair was hanging down like Boomer on TV. (laying her head?) see, I gave her a bath going and coming. I told her she’d burn up if I didn’t. It was hot. My little dog just go sniffing everywhere. Of course, my house real dirty. But I swear, I just, I’m like a WPA worker. I only had a lick or two here and quit. Have to. But there ain’t no cause for stuff like that. I went to a place one time the night before Easter. And I kept hearing rackets under the bed. And something was just eating me up. And I said, “What in the world do you got under that bed?” And she said, “I’ve got five hens sitting.” Well they sit three weeks before they hatch. And I had chicken mites all over me. Oh, I was covered up. They’re like little old seed tics. Did you ever see any of them?

Lady: Uh uh. My gosh.

Stephens: Come back home that night, went around to the back, pulling my clothes off, and left them out there on the grass. And went in the basement, took a shower with dog shampoo. [laughs] I ain’t had to do that in a long time. I seen one woman while she was having a baby, she’d lay there and scratch. And I’d see her catch lice. Flip it away from her head. Scratch here, she’d flip it away from her head. And bedbugs crawl out from under her pillow, and I’d brush them off and stomp them. And I done had the little old devils all over me. And I said, “Why ain’t you had these things killed?” Said, “Honey, I didn’t know I had any until tonight.” And she knew better than that. Because everything was loaded. They was two students one time, a boy and his wife come down here. And they come to Dr. Winchester, and want to go over the county, make points, you know, visit people. And he sent them over to me. And I went with them. They give me a hundred dollars a week to go with them. We went over the county. And the last place we stopped, I was sitting on the porch, looking at a−

Gatewood: Let us change this, if you will. And then go−

[30 minutes]

[End Tape 1, Side A. Begin Side B.]

Stephens: And they, our last place we stopped, they was quitting. They got their week up. I bought a crib off of a boy. And I was sitting on a porch in an old stuffed chair, reading it. And I got some bedbugs on me. And I caught one and I put it in my magazine and closed up. And after they got ready to go, I said, “Let’s go over to the house and go in the basement and take a shower.” And she said, “What for?” And I said, “We’ve got bedbugs on us.” And she said, “Lord, I’ve never seen one in my life.” And I said, “Well, I saved one.” And I showed it to them. We come took a shower in dog shampoo. [laughs]

Gatewood: Well now, in the earlier period, do you think there was many people unable to take care of their own health cleanliness as there are today? As you think back in the thirties, were most people able, better able, to take care of themselves?

Stephens: They really doctored their selves.

Lady: Did they not really know that much about sanitation? Or that’s just simply the way they live?

Stephens: No, and there are a lot of them right now that don’t.

Gatewood: So the point I’m trying to establish, were they actually able to keep a more sanitary and hygienic environment earlier, than they are today? Because they had some way their parents taught them or something.

Stephens: No, they didn’t have nothing to do with it back in the early days. You take it they had bedbugs or anything like that, they had to heat water and scald their beds and stuff like that. Now they have sprays. But there’s just a lot of them things yet. There are people that don’t look at stuff like that.

Lady: They just don’t think it’s important?

Stephens: They won’t have it no other way. It don’t matter what you tell them or what you give them. It don’t do a bit of good. There are a lot of families yet, you could put them in a nice home. And in a month’s time, you couldn’t get through it. You couldn’t walk around it.

Gatewood: Does the public, you mentioned the public health department, the health department. Do they have prenatal care? Can you send a person there to get some kind of−

Stephens: Yes. Yes, they have that. Yes.

Gatewood: And so as long as these people would go, if you tell them they need to go−

Stephens: Yes.

Gatewood: They can go. And then they can get that. And then you deliver the child.

Stephens: Yes. That helps out. Some of them, you know, don’t want to go. But you can persuade them to, most of them.

Gatewood: Do you do any, with private doctors, like they would go and−

Stephens: Yes, if they prefer a private doctors.

Gatewood: But you would still deliver it? Would a doctor allow−

Stephens: Yes.

Gatewood: He would do the prenatal, but then you would deliver the child.

Stephens: Yes. Yes. I like for him to do that.

Gatewood: What doctors do you have that do that for you now? With you?

Stephens: Well, these two, these here at Whitley does. (?) They do that. If one prefers it. If the patient would rather go with them.

Gatewood: Do they have a doctor over there on the staff, too, that’s sort of pediatric? That could take care of childcare, too, later?

Stephens: I think the one comes over there about once a week or something like that.

Gatewood: You sound like you’ve got a pretty good working relationship with them.

Stephens: I don’t know him. Never did see him. Some of them don’t like him, but I don’t even know him. And one woman’s got him sued, said he killed her two last babies. I don’t know. They said he drinks a lot, but I don’t, I don’t know that. Cause I don’t even know him. Cause the lady called me and was talking to me. I waited on her two first and he did the last ones. And she said he broke its arm and leg, and it was paralyzed. And then the next one, fractured its skull. But I don’t know him. I don’t know. But she called me and told me, I guess her lawyers from had come down here and asked me about how she got along with the others. And I told her all I could tell them, she gotten along all right.

Gatewood: Well in your, in your opinion, not talking about any individual doctor, but do you think doctors use too much intervention in deliveries? Tools? And forceps?

Stephens: Well, I don’t know. I think they do too much. Seem like all we got now is experimenting, more than anything else.

Gatewood: What do you mean by that?

Stephens: Well, just learning more, I guess, is all I know.

Gatewood: You mean learning more how to use different tools?

Lady: Different techniques, instead of just waiting for the baby?

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: Instead of just waiting for the baby, they try to figure out a better way to do it?

Stephens: Yes. Quicker.

Lady: Who do you think, what’s going to happen when you feel that you are unable to continue delivering? Who would take, who would take your place?

Stephens: I don’t know that. Nobody that does that.

Lady: Then the people here would have no choice but to go to ?

Stephens: That’s all they could do, if they’d take them.

Gatewood: What do they do when they don’t have a car?

Stephens: Sometimes they can get these ambulance to take them. But some of them has medical cards. Especially a girl that ain’t married. She can get that medical card. She can get it, but a lot of these married can’t. and they don’t, they don’t have to worry. They get food vouchers for the babies. So they, I think they’ve got it made. Of course, babies has to eat. But it’s awful to keep having them. One girl I was waiting on, she’s got five. And there’s three of them in diapers. Four. She’s still got four on bottles.

Lady: Oh, lord.

Stephens: The four year old’s on bottles.

Gatewood: What do you think about that? Is that good? Is that healthy for the woman to have some so quick?

Stephens: I wouldn’t think so, but what could you do about it? Nothing. She finally married before she had this last one. And then they got him on welfare. He didn’t work. They get $52 food stamps for him. All of them together gets $1110, because I took them to the store, and I’d keep putting down what they drunk. $1110 a month. Let’s see, it’s her mother and her two brothers and her and this man and five children. $1110 a month. One of the boys got drowned, and they took $52 off the food stamps. And she gets, her husband’s dead, the old lady. Well, she’s 51, she’s not old. And she gets $127 social security for herself, $127 for the boy, the seventeen year-old. And she thinks that’s for him to spend anyway he wants to. Well, he gets drunk. He pays fines and he does everything. She pays him, pays the light bill, water bill, and everything. She thinks, she’s dumb enough to think that that’s for him to spend. It’s to feed and clothe him. But when he’s eighteen, they’ll be both cut out.

Gatewood: That’s the horrible thing. These people…that’s ignorant. They don’t realize that that’s going when he goes. What are they going to do then?

Stephens: That’s what I try to tell her. She said she’d get SSI. And she’d have a heck of a time getting that. You’ve got to have one foot in the grave to get that.

Gatewood: Especially with the administration we’ve got in now.

Stephens: Yes.

Gatewood: Hate to see what she’ll get in the future.

Lady: How do people pay you now?

Stephens: They don’t.

Lady: Just whatever they want to.

Stephens: If they want to.

Gatewood: If they’re able to pay, how much do you charge them?

Stephens: Twenty-five. You never find any of them that has that much.

Lady: Really?

Gatewood: I don’t think we realize the depth of the poverty.

Lady: I don’t think so either.

Stephens: I got a jar of coffee out of one I waited on. They called for coffee when they come, and I told them I didn’t have any. And they went and bought two jars and gave me one big jar, and I got that. [laughter]

Lady: When you had your children, who helped you?

Stephens: I had a midwife with the two first ones. And then I lived in a mining camp with the last one. Mining doctor waited on.

Lady: Your first two, were they born here, in this county? Or in Whitley?

Stephens: Yes.

Gatewood: You had a baby before you left for with your husband.

Stephens: Yes. I had two here. And then I had the other one in .

Lady: Who was the midwife who helped you? Do you remember?

Stephens: My dad’s mother.

Gatewood: What was her name?

Stephens: Jane Vanover. I found her book where she filled out birth certificates.

Gatewood: You did! Do you still have it? I’d like to see it. Could photograph that. [pause] Yes, it is too. I’d like to look at it a little closer. We want to take a few pictures. We’re going to try to make a little slide show.

Stephens: Of who? [laughter]

Gatewood: You.

Stephens: I’ll shoot you all like something dead here.

Lady: Oh, come on.

Stephens: Ain’t that something.

Gatewood: It really is.

Lady: Do you have a license? Do you have to be licensed by the state?

Stephens: Registered.

Lady: Do you have to take a test or anything?

Stephens: No. See, that’s all they had then. They didn’t have no such thing as health offices.

Lady: Yes.

Stephens: And that man, that’s just a neighbor of hers that registered and ordered them−

Lady: R.A. Perry is the person?

Stephens: R. A. Perry. And her name, it was mailed to him and her, wasn’t it?

Lady: Mm hmm. So we drove out around that neighborhood today, around . We saw Honey Bee where that area was. Is that still a community there? Or is that just−

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: Is there still a Honey Bee community?

Stephens: No. They’ve cut that post office out. Parker’s , now.

Lady: Oh, okay. I imagine you know this county pretty well.

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: I imagine you know this county pretty well.

Stephens: Yes, I can go all over it. I’ve been about every place that’s in it.

Lady: Did you ever go to deliver babies like in or Pulaski?

Stephens: Yes. . .

Lady: And down in ?

Stephens: and Corbin, I went clear to, no, no, no.

Lady: That’s a long way.

Stephens: Yes, it’s a long way. I got a shotgun out of that one.

Lady: A shotgun! [laughs]

Stephens: That’s all I got.

Lady: They would give you anything that they could, wouldn’t they?

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: They gave you just about anything that they could. Was that it, just a−

Stephens: They was going to have the money, and when I got there, they spent it. And I said, “What are you going to do with that shotgun sitting over there?” I know I’m never getting nothing out of them. And he said, “Keep it.” And I said, “I need it awful bad.” And I talked him out of it. Then I sold it to a highway patrol for thirty-five dollars.

Lady: [laughs] Well, you got something out of it, then.

Stephens: Got a little something.

Lady: Yes.

Stephens: It’s a long way up to .

Lady: Really. You had to pay for your own transportation? I mean, you had to−

Stephens: I drove up there and back.

Lady: That’s an awful lot.

Stephens: That’s one reason I quit going, too. Buy your own gas, and then not get nothing when you get there.

Lady: Did you ever ride a horse anyplace?

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: Did you ever ride a horse to get to somebody? Or did you just− you said that you would walk to some of these places.

Stephens: Oh, I’d walk. Used to, you just had to walk nearly everywhere you went.

Lady: You never used a horse?

Stephens: Except the main roads. Huh?

Lady: You never used a horse?

Stephens: Never what?

Lady: A horse? Or a mule or something?

Stephens: Yes. Yes. [laughter]

Lady: Okay.

Stephens: I’m going to shoot him in a minute.

Gatewood: I’m going to shoot you.

Stephens: Boy, that thing will break all to pieces. Yes, I rode a horse about four miles one time. When I got off, I couldn’t walk. They had to help me to get in the house. And I had to sit there and rub my legs. It felt like I was still on that thing. I walked back out of there, too.

Lady: You weren’t going to get back on the horse?

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: You weren’t, no?

Stephens: I walked out. Next day, I couldn’t move, my legs hurt so bad.

Lady: He’d like to take pictures.

Stephens: Yeah, he’s going to get shot directly.

Gatewood: Go on about your work.

Stephens: I take bad pictures. I always did.

Gatewood: Oh, I don’t think you take bad pictures. You take the best pictures.

Stephens: Yes, no telling how old that book is. I don’t know when they started putting that out.

Lady: Must have been an awful long time ago. She must have done it, was she considered the midwife for that area?

Stephens: Yes.

Gatewood: That’s right about the turn of the century.

Stephens: They was, let’s see, her and her sister in that territory. And her sister-in-law, two of her sister-in-laws in that territory. And then mom’s mother. She was at Parker’s . About four miles from here, no, five miles from here.

Lady: So when you were a child, there were a lot more of them in this area that would be, that were midwives.

Stephens: That were there when I started. And they was getting so old, they couldn’t do nothing hardly.

Lady: Do you ever regret having made this your life’s work?

Stephens: No. I’ve had a, I’ve had an interesting life. But it’s been hard.

Lady: Yes. It sounds like it. How did your husband feel about your being a midwife?

Stephens: It didn’t bother him.

Gatewood: What type of work did he do?

Lady: What type of work did your husband do?

Stephens: In the mines. Ain’t you going to quit in a minute?

Gatewood: I will in a minute

Stephens: Lord have mercy.

Lady: When women come here, do they usually use this room to have the baby?

Stephens: Yes. Wherever I can fix the bed the quickest. One come in, they carried her in, and I just throwed a pad on the couch, and she had it on the couch. Just wherever I can grab some. People here give me old sheets and things I use. And then I can take, I don’t to wash much anymore. That helps out a whole lot.

Lady: Do they stay with you very long after they have the baby?

Stephens: Overnight. They won’t stay in the bed, they want to sit and watch TV. Just as well go home to do that.

Lady: True.

Stephens: I have fixed them up that have an ambulance fix them up and take them back home.

Lady: Have you had very many like premature births?

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: Have you had very many premature, babies that were born too early?

Stephens: I ain’t had none in a long time. I just had a few.

Lady: I see where you’ve had some twins delivered.

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: I see where you delivered twins before.

Stephens: Yes. Twins.

Lady: Got your picture in the paper.

Stephens: Yes. I’ve delivered a lot of twins. One set of triplets.

Lady: Oh, really?

Stephens: And it was seventeen below zero that time. They was all born before I got there. Had to go in a log truck. Oh, about twenty miles.

Lady: Did they all survive?

Stephens: And they weighed five something apiece. The first one chilled to death. It died, and the other two lived. They named them Norris, and Jorris.

Lady: [laughs] Cute names.

Stephens: Yes. That’s a dirty old thing. My aunt is in a rest home in . And I went down there and found her place and found that. Found some old books that she used when she went to school. She’s 93 years old.

Gatewood: I’d like to get a close up of this with the camera.

Lady: Sure.

Stephens: Here’s some old books.

Gatewood: Put it on− what kind of books are they?

Lady: McGuffey’s Readers. October 15, 1900, Francis Fanover.

Stephens: That’s what they used when they went to school.

Lady: Oh, gosh. It’s still in good shape.

Stephens: Can you see that?

Gatewood: Can’t see it too well. If I take it out here.

Stephens: Oh, them books is old, ain’t they? I’ve got a fly in here.

Lady: Oh, it comes in and out. I’m curious−

Stephens: I had some blue back spellers, they called it. And my grandson, I let him have those. They’re worth a whole lot of money, them blue back spellers.

Lady: Yes, they would be. Did you go to school here in ? Did you attend school here in ?

Stephens: Yes. [pause] That’s on past .

Lady: Yes. You were there for four years?

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: You were there for four years, you said?

Stephens: Four.

Lady: In ? How long were you there?

Stephens: About four years. Four-and-a-half.

Lady: And then the mine wore out?

Stephens: Yes. The mines went dead. This is across mountain from . In a holler down in there. They was bears that tried to, them bears tried to pull a motorman off the side of the train when they’d take the camp cars up in the coal grounds in the holler.

Lady: Oh, really? Were there very many midwives up in that area?

Stephens: They wouldn’t marry one.

Lady: Had you already done some deliveries before you’d been up there?

Stephens: Yes, a few had. I had a few. And then one night I was with a woman, doctor’s there. And then another place, the doctor’s there. And he said, “You’re the best person I ever seen.” And he got to coming by, and getting me every time. And then when he had two of them, he put me on one and he took the other. I just kept getting into it, and I didn’t mean to. [pause]

Lady: He’ll get it. [pause]

Gatewood: −out. No problem with that.

Lady: Now you were saying that you didn’t mean to get into, you hadn’t intended to be a midwife. Have you enjoyed it that much over the years? Or did you just feel that somebody had to do it?

Stephens: I don’t know. You can do a lot of things before you get to where you have to, can’t you?

Lady: Yes. I guess that’s true.

Stephens: Or at least you can be found trying to do what you can. You’d hate to let somebody lay out there beside the road and die if they’d had one, wouldn’t you?

Lady: Yes. You couldn’t do that. You couldn’t do that.

Gatewood: Hey, it happens, though.

Stephens: You’d do what you could.

Gatewood: It happens in . Just was a case there. , turned her away. Did you read about that?

Stephens: Oh, yes. Was she from ?

Gatewood: I forgot. But she was sort of retarded.

Stephens: Yes. Not too, yes. , wasn’t it? It was where she lived, I believe. I (?) a baby it was bad off a way one time from the eastern part, wasn’t it, and it died? was the only place they could take care of it, this kid, whatever was wrong with it.

Lady: When you help women, it’s the first child, do you try to explain to them what’s happening? Or are they frightened?

Stephens: Well, I’ll tell you, about all of them knows. They know more than you do, probably.

Lady: Probably. Probably.

Stephens: More than I know, probably.

Lady: So there’s nothing really special that you do to try and calm them. They know what’s happening.

Stephens: If they’re really good, sometimes they get along better than the ones that’s already had babies. Them that’s already had them, they work themselves to death trying to tend to the babies they’ve got. They don’t get no rest. Taking care of the first one, they ain’t got a thing to do. They will get out and walk once in a while.

Lady: You have any, any kind of special, I don’t want to use the term equipment−

Stephens: Well, people give me old sheets and things, and I wash them and fix them up and have them ready. And I can throw them in the garbage. I couldn’t wash after all of them. Because I couldn’t hold out. But people’s good. Dr. Virgus was here a while back brought me a load of stuff. Pads and things.

Lady: That’s the pharmacist?

Stephens: Yes. He’s doctor over here at Dr. Winchester’s office.

Gatewood: He’s a young doctor at the group practice.

Lady: Oh.

Gatewood: I want to meet him. He sounds like an interesting character. Somebody was telling me, telling us that he was an amateur−

Lady: Magician.

Stephens: He puts on these magician shows. He’s liable to hit hypnotize you and make you think you’re sick. [laughter]

Lady: Or think you’re better. One or the other. There is, someone was telling us, there is another woman here who is a midwife. Primrose, somebody named Primrose Bowling, or something like that? She’s a nurse? Do you know her?

Stephens: She don’t wait on none of them.

Lady: She doesn’t?

Stephens: I think she works up there in the health office, checks their blood pressure and stuff like that – is all I ever know her doing. I never did see her but one time, to know her.

Lady: Hmm. I’m surprised that after all this time, someone hasn’t come to you and wanted to learn what you know.

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: I’m surprised that someone hasn’t come and wanted to learn from you.

Stephens: Well, some of them talked about wanting to learn, but said they couldn’t afford to stay up for the night. But when Dr. Perry first come here, set up office and went to doctoring, he took them in his office and waited on them a while. Well I had my dad here. He was paralyzed. For six-and-a-half years, he couldn’t raise up and turn over. And Dr. Perry just, he just doctored a few months, and he quit taking baby case. And so I had him down here to see my dad one night. And I asked him why he quit. He said he couldn’t afford to stay up all night and then work in the office all day, and getting nothing out of it. He just quit. You don’t get nothing out of them. They’ll tell you they’ll have it when they get sick, and then maybe somebody got sick, or something they had to spend it for. So that’s it. I had one come here from one morning. And I told her, I believed, I didn’t know for sure whether it was real labor or not, that if she got worse that evening, she could come back. So her mother-in-law called me that evening, about one o’clock, and said that her pain was getting worse. I said, “Well, you can bring her back.” Well, they didn’t come back. So that night, just before Peggy went to work at 9:30, well, Peggy went to work, the way it was. No, she didn’t went to work. And they come with her. And her mother-in-law was drunk. And she kept her there at the beer joint. And when the finally got her, they come, the baby’s born before they got to . And her mother-in-law cut the cord and never tied it. When they come, the blood had squirted all over− the man, he’s taking my picture and my dress unbuttoned and everything. I’m going to shoot him yet.

[End Tape 1, Side B. Begin Tape 2, Side A.]

Stephens: −baby that night, I was afraid to take it to the hospital, because it bled so much.

Lady: Really.

Stephens: But it made it all right. They had to take it to the hospital later. And I told her, I said, “Why in the world didn’t you tie that cord?” She said, “I didn’t know you had to.” I said, “You don’t have to cut them, either, unless you want to.” You know, they cut them to get them away from that afterbirth. Cause a book I read said you can leave them on that cord on there until it come off, it wouldn’t hurt it. But they cut them loose to get them away from the afterbirth. Just and she cut it, and didn’t even tie it. And that, when she cut it, that blood setting at her feet, and that blood just spattered all over him. I got one of my grandson’s shirts, and made him pull that bloody shirt off. I told her, I said, “I thought everybody had heard the old saying, anybody could tie the cord and cut it.”

Lady: Yes, really.

Stephens: And she cut it out. After they all left, that girl said she believed her mother-in-law wanted them both to die, because she didn’t like her no way. Well, the mother-in-law called me here about a week ago, and said she had both the kids, she’d took them away from her. The girl said they took that first one away from her, and she had to go to court to get it back.

Lady: Have you done, you said that you had read about that. Have you done much reading?

Stephens: Hmm?

Lady: Have you done very much reading on childbirth?

Stephens: Yes. I’ve read a whole lot. I’ve got a very big old book doctor give me, and I read in it a lot. It shows the babies being born every way, and how they’re laying.

Lady: Did you learn a lot from the books? Or did you learn a lot more just from delivering?

Stephens: My experience. You can learn a lot in a book. It’s a big old thick book. He gave it to me.

Lady: How long ago was that?

Stephens: Hmm?

Lady: How long ago was that?

Stephens: How long what?

Lady: How long ago did you get the book?

Stephens: Did he give me? I don’t know, but it’s real old. He started doctoring in 1905. You going to keep on and break it.

Gatewood: No. It’s just out of film.

Stephens: I told you I’d break it.

Lady: Already?

Stephens: I told you it would.

Lady: We’ve been taking pictures out around the falls this morning.

Stephens: Hmm?

Lady: We took some pictures out around the falls this morning.

Stephens: I told you I’d break it, but you just kept on.

Gatewood: The thing that I don’t understand is that doctoring is supposed to be, the people who are in it together ought to be instructing each other. And why is it, like Kim said, why is it that it seems like the midwives haven’t, they either haven’t been listened to, or they’re too ornery to−

Stephens: Too ornery, I guess. [laughter] I went one place and waited on one one time. After it was all over, she said, “Lord,” said, “I’m so surprised.” She said, “You’re a good looking woman. I thought all midwives looked like witches.” [laughter]

Lady: It seems a shame there’s not more of you.

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: It seems such a shame that there’s just not more of you.

Stephens: What?

Lady: A shame that there’s not more midwives around.

Stephens: Yes. But most of them that started out, started out when they got so old they couldn’t hold out, didn’t they?

Lady: Yes.

Stephens: Sure did. Most of them are so old that they couldn’t get around, hardly.

Gatewood: Well, why is it that you laughed about the stereotype of a midwife looking like a witch? Was there, way back−

Stephens: I don’t now.

Gatewood: You certainly don’t. But way back yonder, was there, was there a connection between a lot of folk beliefs about omens and things−

Stephens: Believed in magic, yes.

Gatewood: Did some of the midwives kind of carry that on to make people feel a little more relaxed or something?

Stephens: I don’t know. They felt more like they was home. Back then, lord, they wouldn’t let a sixteen year-old girl stay where their mother’s having a baby.

Lady: Why was that?

Stephens: Because it was funny times.

Lady: Superstition. Do you ever run into people who still feel kind of superstitious about childbirth?

Stephens: Well, you find some of them that way. But it’s not as bad as it used to be. There are more people, and they, you know, they see more people. Back then, if a woman had a baby, well, when mine was little, there wasn’t no such thing as baby bottles. There wasn’t no such thing as diapers. No baby powders. We’d take dirt dauber nests or dirt out of a chimney, and beat it up and tie it in a rag and use it for baby powders. They’d never get irritated or raw or nothing. And if a woman had a baby and their neighbor five miles from there had a young baby and this woman didn’t give enough milk, she’d walk over that five miles and let their baby nurse one time a day. And when Mom had, Mom had twins, I had my first one, and that twenty-ninth of December. Mom had twins twelfth of January. Well, they didn’t have no cow giving milk. And she didn’t give enough milk. They come and got me, and I stayed there and nursed all three of them for over three months, till they had a cow come in fresh and got the milk for the babies. I nursed all three of them.

Lady: My gosh.

Stephens: Had milk for all of them. And one of them was so weak, you couldn’t hear him cry unless you was right close to it.

Lady: Was there a lot of that then? That women would help each other?

Stephens: Everybody helped one another. But they don’t do that no more.

Lady: Why not?

Stephens: I don’t know. If somebody got sick and had a field of corn to work, or gardens to work, the all neighbors would take their meals, hoes, go in there and work out everything they had. And now they wouldn’t come and sweep the floor for you if you was sick. They had a program here several years ago, one worked two or three hours at a place, go clean up their house or iron for them. And by golly, it would be them that had babies that wasn’t married. It wouldn’t be somebody that was married. I know one (?) had eight kids and never was married. And they went to her house and cleaned her house up. She didn’t do nothing. Big old fat woman, just sit there, waiting for her paycheck and go up to the state line and get beer.

Lady: There’s a lot more of that than we like to think.

Stephens: I worked here on that old (?) with old people. I went around to their homes, and if they’re sick, I give them a bath, I cut their fingernails, their toenails. And wash their hair, clean them up.

Lady: When was this?

Stephens: Oh, about ’65, ’66.

Lady: What other, you said you worked for the doctor’s office and you’ve done some other things. What have you done in addition to being a midwife?

Stephens: I went to , worked through World War II.

Lady: Oh, really? In the factories?

Stephens: I worked in a defense plant.

Lady: Did your husband, also?

Stephens: No, I didn’t have (?) then. I just took three kids with me. Do you know, they was begging for work back then. There was women working on the railroad, clamping ties. Back in World War II. I worked in a defense plant, run a punch press. I loved it.

Lady: Did you ever deliver children when you were up in ?

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: Did you ever deliver children while you were gone?

Stephens: While I was in ?

Lady: Mm hmm.

Stephens: Had to. [laughter] Had to.

Lady: Who were they?

Stephens: One of them was my daughter, and one of them was another woman that had come down here. It’s been a long time ago. My daughter’s boy weighs 352 pounds. He works at a filling station right down the road here, across, in front of Whitley Motel.

Lady: Do the rest of your family, your children, live around here?

Stephens: My daughter does. They live down here at (?) And I’ve got two boys and a daughter, and they’re all over 200 pounds apiece. And Peggy that stays here part of the time, she’s over two. Her brother’s three-something. I don’t know where they get it at. Of course, my baby one had to go to the Korean War. He weighed 163 when he went in. Stayed four year and come out 215. And now he’s two-fifty-something.

Lady: Do you ever have women who come here for you, that are overweight? And does that cause problems?

Stephens: No, I waited on one that weighed four hundred and something pounds.

Lady: My gosh!

Stephens: She’s had thirteen kids. Her son-in-law was here from the other day, stopped to see me.

Lady: Thirteen, gee!

Stephens: Said she’s still big and fat.

Lady: I think that would be difficult.

Stephens: She had a company doctor with most of hers. And then, next two last ones, she went to Somerset with one. And her water broke without her having any pains. Well, sometimes you’ll go four or five days or a week after it breaks. And she, that scared her out. A doctor got on each side of her, and they gave her shots, and got on her stomach with her knees, trying to press that baby out. And it scared her out. And I waited on the last one. She, I begged her to go with the last of them, she went to crying and telling me about what they done to her up there. And she said she kept begging them to let her alone and she’d have it. Get in labor and have it. And she said they finally gave up and let her alone. She laid there three days, and got in labor and had a few pains and had it. But they just had more than they could handle, they didn’t know what to do with her, she’s so dang big.

Gatewood: When the company doctors first came here, came in here, and say the people worked in the mines, so they could go to the company doctor and be delivered in the clinic. Did many women still prefer home?

Stephens: Yes. They didn’t, none of them hardly back then go to the hospital at all. Even when they had Blue Shield insurance, they wouldn’t. I went and took care of them in the mining camps and they had Blue Shield. It paid me fifty dollars. I’d give them twenty-five for the woman to hire a girl to stay with her, and I’d keep twenty-five. They’d still have insurance, and they wouldn’t go. Hospitals then didn’t cost too much. Now it costs a fortune. And them company doctors went and waited on them that didn’t even work in the mines, same as if they worked in the mines, and never asked them. They just call a doctor, and he’d go doctor them, back home. He never asked if the husband worked in the mines. Of course, that was nice.

Lady: Yes. Very.

Gatewood: During the Depression, did they have, what were you doing during the Depression? WPA work? Did you?

Stephens: I delivered a baby once in a while. I worked four years on a WPA sewing, too. I worked on it, too.

Lady: Sewing?

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: Did you say sewing?

Stephens: Uh huh. Got ten dollars a week. Two dollars a day.

Gatewood: That’s good.

Stephens: And lord, back then, you could buy a 25-pound bag of flour for a quarter.

Gatewood: That’s good money.

Stephens: Now it’s about six or seven dollars.

Gatewood: What did you all do? Make clothes and things, and−

Stephens: Yes. Made relief clothing. Made blanket-lined jackets. And dresses. Overalls. Shirts.

Gatewood: How many, how many women worked in the little factory?

Stephens: The sewing?

Gatewood: Yes.

Stephens: Let’s see, we had one sewing club at Carter’s , one in Stearns. I guess it would be fifteen or twenty working.

Gatewood: Did you use sewing machines?

Stephens: Yes. We had one woman who never could put blanket lining in an overall jacket. And she’d make button holes for mine. I never could make a button hole worth a dime. She’d make my button holes, and I’d put the linings in her jackets. [laughter] I never will forget. She never could put one in.

Lady: There was something I was wanting, curious about. Did you ever instruct the women? Or did they ever practice any method of birth control? Was that very common back like in the thirties? Did they have any idea about birth control?

Stephens: Well, they’d have smacked both jaws. Yes. I waited on one several years ago that come here from . She was having a few labor pains, and she couldn’t get in the hospital. She come like yesterday and had it today. Well, she told me she had a coil in her. And I took her up to Dr. Perry’s, and he said, “Well, just leave it alone. It will probably come out with the baby.” It did come out with it. But I was afraid that maybe it growed in its hand or somewhere, but it wasn’t. But it come out. Most of them miscarried, where they got something like that in them. But she had, she carried that baby nine months, and that thing come out with it.

Lady: Wasn’t very effective, then.

Stephens: No, it wasn’t.

Gatewood: Now what do you mean, they would have slapped your face? You mean, the community, there was such a value against using birth controls? What did you mean that they would have slapped your face if you had suggested−

Stephens: They didn’t believe in stuff like that back then.

Lady: You just had children.

Stephens: But you know, back when mine was little, and earlier days, they nursed them all on the breast. And they’d generally go maybe two or three years, four, before they had babies. But if you don’t put one on the breast, you can get caught up again, any time.

Gatewood: That is very, very interesting. I was talking to my wife the other day about that, and I figured that was−

Stephens: A breast fed baby, sometimes a mother don’t menstruate for twelve months, if the baby’s breast fed. But if it’s on a bottle, she will every month, right on.

Gatewood: That’s what modernity does. It breaks down those traditional, natural ways of limiting births. What do you think of baby formulas?

Stephens: Huh?

Gatewood: What do you think of baby formulas? As opposed to the mother’s milk?

Stephens: Well, I don’t know. I got some letters from them baby’s up, some of them, five or six, the milk didn’t have something in it it was supposed to have. And they had to have them checked for these doctors, give something. I forget what it was that wasn’t in the formula. There’s four or five of them. And they had to go to the doctors. But I don’t remember now what it was. But one of them was real sick when I found that. And they took it to Dr. Winchester, I don’t know how long. But I’ve forgotten what it was that wasn’t in the milk.

Lady: A lot of the women are breastfeeding now?

Stephens: Yes. There are more now than there was two years ago. But if a baby’s breastfed, that mother, she’s probably safe from getting pregnant again for twelve months or longer.

Gatewood: Did you say sometimes they would breastfeed as much as three or four years?

Stephens: Yes.

Lady: Is that healthy?

Gatewood: Sure.

Lady: Is that healthy?

Stephens: Is it what?

Lady: Healthy? For the mother? Does that harm the mother at all, to breastfeed for that long?

Stephens: No.

Gatewood: It’s nature’s way.

Stephens: Just think about it. If you don’t breastfeed them, you’re going to menstruate every month. You’re going to lose blood every month. And if you go on twelve months where you build up automatically, be building up for that baby getting its nourishment.

Lady: It’s true. It’s true. Did women ever come to you for advice on problems that they might be having with their babies? Health problems? Or is it just simply to deliver them?

Stephens: No. I don’t think so.

Gatewood: They didn’t ever come to you asking about what kind of medicine would be good for, say, a colicky baby or something?

Stephens: No. They go to doctors, or health office ones. But I think, I think the baby’s healthier, and the mother’s healthier, when they’re breastfeeding. And the baby thinks more of its mother, and the mother thinks more of the baby. Because if they’re on a bottle, anyone that gives the baby the bottle is its mother. And there’s more love there if the baby nurse the breast. They’re a lot closer to each other.

Lady: That would.

Stephens: Now, don’t you think so?

Lady: Mm hmm.

Stephens: And that baby’s milk is better, the mother’s milk is better for the baby anyway. If they can nurse them at all.

Gatewood: Of course, they have to be well fed themselves, though. Good, nutritious food. Or it would hurt the mother, wouldn’t it?

Stephens: They grew up better.

Gatewood: But I mean if the mother didn’t have proper food, and didn’t have good food to eat, she would be hurt by that.

Stephens: Yes. I nursed Mom’s twins and mine for over three months. And I’d eat like a horse. Eat me a big dish of oatmeal in the morning and everything. And I had milk leak out. Fed three babies over three months. Saved their life.

Gatewood: Was there any period back, either when you were a teenager, of course, you didn’t call it teenagers then. But did, and even in the thirties, what did people do for dental care with the teeth, if they needed?

Stephens: They pulled them with homemade pullers.

Gatewood: Is that right? And were there specialists that did that?

Stephens: No. Just anybody that had one. [laughter]

Gatewood: Must have been painful.

Stephens: I pulled one of mine myself with wire pliers.

Lady: Ooh.

Stephens: I was pregnant with my last baby. And every time I got pregnant, my teeth nearly killed me. Well, I had one that was kind of rotten there. Every time I opened my mouth the wind it just nearly killed me. Drink water, it hurt. Be up walking the floor and my head just as tight as it can be. And I done that for a week. I got the wire pliers and got in front of a glass, and I fed it on that thing. I give it a shake, I felt it come loose, I like to faint. I thought, too late to faint now. I got that thing out. Lord, I was mad at it. It hurt me. I went, I already went to a company doctor and he wouldn’t pull it, because I was pregnant. I was about seven months along. I pulled that thing myself. And he said that medicine might affect baby cause me to get in labor. Buddy, I pulled it just like it was. My dad had a pair of homemade pullers, and he’d pull teeth for everybody. And I never did know, he’d have you rinse your mouth with salt water. And I never did know anybody having any trouble. I think one of my brothers got them old pullers he had. My dad would try anything in the world. It didn’t matter what it was. Every Sunday, he went and worked on male hogs, male cattle, bulls, and horses. Stayed busy every day like that. And I’ve seen him spay hounds. How he ever had sense enough to know what to get, I don’t know. But he’d tie them up to their hind legs, hang them up, and spay them. Sew them up, and turn them loose.

Gatewood: Did he doctor on animals, too?

Stephens: Huh?

Gatewood: Did he do any doctoring, besides?

Stephens: Yes.

Gatewood: Like what?

Stephens: He’d change those bulls. You know, make steers out of them.

Gatewood: Yes, castrate. But I mean, did he give them medicines and things when they got sick? Did he know anything about that?

Stephens: He’d have something to give them. Something he made out of the woods. He cut his foot open one time clear across here. Laid that thing up that way, and took the needle and thread and sewed it up with about five or six stitches in it. Put sugar and turpentine on it, and tied it up. You know, I was reading the other day where sugar and turpentine was good. Heal bedsores. And that’s what Dad put on the sore cut, was sugar and turpentine. And I was reading in a magazine the other day where sugar would help cure bedsores. And them’s something hard to cure.

Gatewood: It’s a real problem in the hospitals. And you, you really believe that the herbs and the barks and things these people used just are not around anymore?

Stephens: It ain’t around there anymore. Uh uh.

Gatewood: What about way back up in the forest, though? Around some of these old buildings where people used to live?

Stephens: Well, they might be there. I know I had a brother-in-law worked, at , worked in an old age home. , they called it. And those bedfast people had bedsores, they had like a trough made for a bed, and it full of sawdust. They’d let them lay in that sawdust. And they’d turn them over, and clean sawdust out. They said the acid healed their bedsores up. Then when they got them healed up, they’d take them out and put them in the real bed. I was at that home, and seen them in those beds. With sawdust. Said the acid in that sawdust healed the bedsores.

Lady: I never heard that. Did your father ever deliver children?

Stephens: Huh?

Lady: Did your father ever deliver children?

Stephens: No, he worked with stock all the time. That was his interest. That was the most interesting thing he had. And he’d breed horses. He kept a big stallion. These kind that had big old feet. Norman horse, they called it, wasn’t it.

Lady: Clydesdale?

Gatewood: , yes.

Stephens: Norman horse, I believe. Like them that you see in Budweiser.

Lady: Yes.

Stephens: He had a big one like that. Huh?

Lady: Big old horses.

Stephens: Yes. Pretty horses, wasn’t they? They used to haul beer with four of them there at , on a wagon on a street, in World War II. Sometimes there would be six of them there. Pulling that wagon. You’d hear them feet hitting that concrete. There he’s going to tear it up again. Done done her.

Gatewood: Did you do the picture back there?

Lady: Painting?

Stephens: My boy did.

Gatewood: He did?

Stephens: And old man stayed with my brother done that one over there.

Gatewood: It’s really detailed.

Lady: It’s nice. It’s good.

Gatewood: Mm hmm. It is.

Lady: It’s like that picture, isn’t it? Like that one? It looks kind of, well, I guess not.

Stephens: I don’t know who made that one.

Lady: How long have you lived here in this house?

Stephens: Hmm?

Lady: How long have you lived here in this house?

Stephens: January, ’51.

Lady: It’s really a nice spot.

Stephens: Oh, it could stand a lot of work. But I swear, I can’t do that.

Gatewood: I like your bedroom. That is just really pretty bed.

Stephens: I hate to see the dirt.

Gatewood: Oh my goodness.

Stephens: I give fifty-five dollars at the auction sale for everything in that room – except that chest of drawers right before the bed. It’s over a hundred years old.

Lady: That’s a good buy.

Gatewood: Is this where you, is this where you deliver babies here?

Stephens: Yes, and in yonder, in the floor here. Wherever it comes handy.

Gatewood: I wonder if I could get a picture of you with−

[End Side B. End Interview.]