Doretha Shipman

Ashley Davis: Descriptive Essay of Interview with Doretha Shipman

On February 16,1999, after weeks of planning I headed out to Leon and Doretha Shipman's house. I left Flippin at 4:30 with a tape recorder, a blank tape, typed questions, and courage. I took the road called South 14 through Yellville and out past the town of Caney. I headed in direction of the Buffalo River.

The trip out there took about 30 minutes because I was so familiar with the road. I had been Doretha's home before when I was about 10 years old. My parents knew Doretha and Leon and had shown me the outside of their home before. At 5:00 p.m I arrived at the residence. As I pulled into the driveway I noticed a large silo behind the house, a large duck pond in the field, and a car in the driveway. Obviously they had a visitor and had forgotten about me coming, perhaps. I hesitated before gathering my things. Apparently they had heard me because a light came on and out came Doretha. I was excited and ventured forth. From the outside I saw nothing wonderful. The house was being overrun by bushes and climbing vines had created a canopy which I had to go under before reaching the door.

Doretha was standing out of the doorway on a flat rock path. A huge yellow dog was accompanying her. She was wearing a white button-up shirt and green pants. Her head of black hair was moving slightly in the breeze and the moon caught the patches of silver. She told me the dog was harmless and invited me in. I went first in the door and she followed. To the left of me was a room where Leon sat in a wheelchair at a wooden table with their grandson discussing business. In front of me was a long room filled with books and other oddball items. There was a wood stove in the room with logs sitting beside it. In the back of the room I could see a wooden picnic-type table, a piano, and a couch. To the right of me there was a big wall of books, and two doors.They invited me to sit down with them in the room to the left. Their grandson left. They asked me where would be the best place be and I told them this would be fine. I plugged in the recorder and we all set down at the wooden table. Leon and Doretha were on one side of the table, while the tape recorder and I were on the other side.The evening passed pleasantly. The phone did ring twice and their grandson came by. Those were the only interruptions.

At about 7:00 p.m I ran out of tape. She then proceeded to take me through the house and to a closet that was full of folders that had old newspaper clippings in them. Doretha told me I could take the World War II folder with me. Doretha has collected all kinds of old family pictures. She showed me pictures of her parents and grandparents. Then Doretha showed me sheets of music that she listened to when she was young. Leon dragged out cheese puffs and soda and asked me to stay but I insisted that I leave. I said goodbye and headed for the door. Leon said goodbye and Doretha gave me a hug. Doretha followed me out the door and I got in my truck and left.


Ashlee: Okay so could you please state your full name?

Doretha: Doretha Fay June Dillard Shipman

Ashlee: Okay

Leon: Be sure you've got that written in there


Ashlee: Okay um what is your birth date?

Doretha: September the 15 and I was born in 1925

Ashlee: Okay you were born at home

Doretha: Yes I was born about 2 miles from where I live now.

Ashlee: urn was there a doctor present when you were born?

Doretha: There was a doctor present when I was born and that I was the only child that momma had that there was a doctor with and the reason why was 3 months before I was born my little brother died and a mother was in kind of a mourning state

Ashlee: Uh-huh

Doretha: And was not able to handle anything hardly at that time Aunt Marie Wheather

Ashlee: Okay

Doretha: That lived down around water creek at the time and she attended all the births and she was with everyone of them when we were born now there was a Dr. Roberts that was his name Dr. Roberts and he lived over at a Gilbert

Ashlee: Uh-huh

Leon: (Cough)

Doretha: And that's a wonderful story about Gilbert but we're not talking about Gilbert but he was he was really one of the most wonderful doctors that people of that time knew of and he was the one that performed the operation on my brother 3 months before there was no hospitals here and they had to do the surgery in his home ya

Ashlee: What was the surgery for?

Doretha: Appendicitis and infection set up and he just couldn't make it because it was at home (mumbling)

Ashlee: Yeah oh my urn so how many brothers and sisters did you have?

Doretha: Well, the one that died was 1. I would say 2 brothers.

Ashlee: Okay

Doretha: One brother and one sister and they're still living

Ashlee: Okay urn do you remember any games you played with them.

Doretha: Ha Ha we played a one of the games was Dominoes and Chinese checkers and we played marbles. Now marbles was a big thing and we played what you called knuckles. Did you ever do that? Well it's a (Ha) I wasn't any good at it but we'd divide up our marbles and my brother and I were the ones that played this and he'd sit at one end of the room and I'd sit in the other end of the room and rowed our marbles up in front of us and equal em out then we'd have what we called a tall that was a big marble.

Ashlee: Oh

Doretha: That was our tall I don't know why they called it a tall.


Doretha: But that was the one we shot back and forth and the one that that got all the other marbles we'd get to shoot at their fists

Ashlee: (Laughter)

Doretha: And I couldn't hardly stand holding my fists still for my brother to shoot that marble at it and I was generally the one that did it I couldn't have shot his very hard anyway but that was one of the games and another game with marbles uh a game we sit on the floor and we would roll our marbles up right on the center and each one of us shoot that tall and see who could win the most and there was also another game that I wo~ld play with marbles. You dug holes outside and then you tried to like a (ha~Rboting urn you know kind of like golf you know and you had a starting point and then you'd shoot it and it would go in a hole maybe you would have a can in a even with the ground for those marbles to run in most of the time it was just a dugout and you would make a circle on the ground like a (mumbling) and when you would get close to that hole it didn't go in of course. The other had to take over but then you would do what you'd call expand you'd take your thumb and put it where that marble how close it was to that hole in the ground and to see how far you could reach and if you could reach to that hole and then go on and try to hit the next hole. It was a neat game.

Ashlee: Sounds like it.

Leon: And when you would expand you could move up to that span

Doretha: Right you'd move up to where as far as you could and then you'd try to shoot on another was a jacks that was a real good game and a jump the rope and of course we told him about the pick up sticks game now uh the boy the school which this place was known as the Old Dillard Settlement and a Marian Bums I also told him about that she taught the first school Mary Bob Dillard (mumbling) they built the school house and everything but they had a good basketball team and they had this they didn't have any gym and most of it was cousins it was like a Ules and Lee Davenport and Carmen Davenport and a Ed Dillard and I guess Bass and a Frank Dillard they were mostly cousins that made up the whole school anyway Doc Dillard kids if I was (mumbling) and they were one of the top around and they would go to like Bruno.

Ashlee: Did they play like competitions?

Doretha: They did play competitions I don't know them all but they would play ball but it was out on the ground

Ashlee: On the dirt?

Doretha: Yep in the dirt.

Ashlee: Oh um what did your parents do for a job?

Doretha: Well the only outside work I guess that mother I mean outside the home near the home mother taught school 1 semester then she got married.

Ashlee: At the Old Dillard School?

Doretha: Well no this was at (smack) I think it was Maumee

Ashlee: uh-huh

Doretha: But she went through several ya know she went to school at Maumee which was about what how many miles from here? About 10 miles from here? Maumee

Leon: No no no no

Doretha: Well depends on how the crow flies


Leon: Yep

Doretha: But anyway it's not too far

Ashlee: Yeah

Doretha: I think its in a then she went over to Marshall and got a little more a education that was just like going to college at best and she passed what you call a teachers exam

Ashlee: Uh-huh

Doretha: And um when she got through with that she (mumbling) for a little while I don't know how long and then she came back and taught one semester (mumbling) that was it.


Ashlee: Did ya'll have a farm?

Doretha: We lived on a farm and yes um my dad did a lot of a sawmill work, and planer work. Working in the timber that was one of the main occupations

Leon: Her dad was

Doretha: And a farmer

Leon: Also a miner

Doretha: Miner a lot of mining and a helped to construct um the mills mining the mills and a also someone to gather brush

Ashlee: So did he build your house (mumbling)

Doretha: Yes, he built the first house we called it the old house (ha) and he built that and a (sigh) I think it was I don't know if it was over 4 rooms maybe 5 with the kitchen there was a living room and it had a porch you know all the way across and it had a living room and then I a believe 2 bedrooms and a kitchen because I used to play with my cats I made a (ha ha) I made a little sled well it wasn't exactly a sled I took a shoe I took a shoe box and punched the holes in the ends of it and tied a string in it and I remember I could go round in circles all through the house and from on room to the other just circling and the cat would jump out and then wait for me to come around


Doretha: And then it would jump back in and that was one of my a I guess you could call it a game and also my paper dolls which I still have that I cut out of Sears Robuck catalogues and um so that was another play game

Ashlee: (mumbling)

Doretha: (mumbling)

Ashlee: Okay um let's see um fishing hunting stories um do you have any stories about hunting fishing other

Leon: Welcome

(Grandson enters. Shut off tape)

Ashlee: Um hunting fishing

Doretha: Oh fishing

Ashlee: Yeah

Doretha: Oh there's just too many of them to tell you

Ashlee: Oh come on

(Ha ha)

Ashlee: There's got to be some you fell in got a big fish

Doretha: Well (Ha ha) Well the way we usta fish it was just really exciting they don't know how to fish now

(Ha ha)

Doretha: But what we would do we'd get a find a real ya know lazy spring in the morning its that's ya know its really nice and warm and ya don't want to do anything else so ya just gottago fishing and we'd get first we'd cut us a fishing pole now most of the time you can't do it down there since the government owns it but there was a lot of a cane down there and we'd use a cane pole and maybe oh mainly we'd go down and we'd sit on the bank and had worms or maybe you would seine minnows now minnows that huh?

Ashlee: What?

Doretha: Oh yeah the minnows you would seine

Ashlee: Seine? What does that mean

Leon: For bait

Doretha: For bait. Well you don't know what a seine is? Leon explain to her

Leon: Okay

Doretha: What a seine is.


(Doretha and Leon talking at same time)

Leon: There's lots of types of different kind of seines but the minnow seine usually (mumbling) needs to be at least a 12 to 16 foot long and it was probably it was mesh was probably big enough the hole the size of minnow you'd want to keep it would miss some of the small minnows to it was approximately 3 foot high and then a 16 to 12 to 16 foot 10ng

Doretha: It had a stick on each end

Leon: Well yeah a you'd bought the seine from a hardware store and you'd just carry it to the river and in the evening but when you got there you would roll it out cut a stick or a branch

Ashlee: Uh-huh

Leon: Approximately an inch in diameter and it would need to be about 5 foot long because your seine was you'd want at least 6 to 8 inches sticking through the lower sane on the bottom and you'd need to a have at least 12 inches and a 18 from 12 to 18 inches sticking out above up top and 2 men cause there's 2. One on each end if the seine for instance was 12 foot long you would probably get within a 8 feet of each other that was cause as you would pull the seine through the water then you would have a bow in the seine like this.

Ashlee: Uh-huh

Leon: One there over here and one here then 8 foot apart (mumbling) like this and a (mumbling) the seine is from usually either in the main sometimes in the mainstream or quite often you would go to if you had one what you would call a screw in the river see if you could get them there pretty easy of course they would be on the level side of the river not in the deep level and you would just start turning this and usually schools of fish have a tendency to swim on the to swim upstream so you would stretch your seine and a try the seine going downstream but in other words you'd need the third person to get below or downstream from your seine and they would start toward your seine as you pulled the seine to it and that would scare the minnows into the seine and you would get so full you'd think you'd got a hundred and you'd pull up the seine keep the top of it above just above (mumbling) that's the water level and as you'd come up then that way still in the hole and pull it out of the level and all these fish are in this seine then you'd get what you'd call crowded up the seine just each man would pick up the seine and start to towards each other

Ashlee: uh-huh

Leon: You'd get where you'd meet you've gotta sometimes you've like a bucket of minnows in there you'd just scoop urn up and put urn in your minnow bucket and later you'd usually had a regular minnow bucket but for all the times you didn't own a minnow bucket.

Doretha: No you didn't have a minnow bucket but you usually had a seine

Leon: To hold water in that's the way you'd excuse me bait your hook that's basically most of what she was talking about not all of the time quite often maybe use a minnow but most of the time when they used a pole they'd use worms

Doretha: Grub worms or red worms

Doretha: You'd get out of in the probably mainly the barn 10t

Ashlee: Uh-huh

Doretha: And we got

Leon: (mumbling)

Doretha: Flatworms

Leon: In the moist places (mumbling) we'd go from bass fishing to cat fishing

Doretha: Uh-huh at night

Leon: That's when you'd use minnows or crawdads and in seining these you don't understand you'd get some crawdads which made excellent bait for catfish

Doretha: And then at night a lots of times ya know the men or the family up in

Leon: (mumbling)

Doretha: The children in there lots of times we'd go down and fish and you'd stay all night and you'd have all these minnows the good bait and a then you'd set out trout lines

Leon: Now this if you had the boat

Doretha: Well yeah you'd have to have the boat

Leon: You could use a line there's 22 methods one is across the river uh with a trout line and you run that with a boat you have to have a boat if your going to get in another way is for instance if you were down the river you don't have a boat then you'd make what you'd call a throw lunge

Doretha: A throw lunge

Leon: And you'd tie one end to the bank and take a rock that's large enough to hold the depending on the swiftness of the river and then a the rock spread across the river and it'll wash the rest of your throw line till it'll pull the bow in it and a that was a good one way of night fishing cat fishing another way (sigh)
(Ha ha)

Leon: I try to keep my mouth clean as possible

Doretha: Well I'd certainly hope so

Leon: (laughter) That's what ya was thinking about I was thinking about the time that this guy was he was just by himself and he would go down to Buffalo River- Rush and fish and he'd walk was about one and a halt: two miles from the old store down to the river and a so he'd put everything out and push some bait on em then he'd use just a single a branch line what they call a branch line you'd tie it onto. a small branch at the edge of the in the deep water and this just get one line out of bait

Doretha: Tie it to a willow

Leon: Yeah just tie it to a willow branch or anything to a

Doretha: Hold it

Leon: To hold it and a then you'd walk back and forth up and down the river checking those lines

Ashlee: Oh

Doretha: And I've got to put this in this is the most the best thing about fishing you'd tie a cowbell on the a willow that you had your trout line on a throw line on you tied a cowbell on it and when a fish would get on your trout line made it on your trout line why it would start jerking ya know

Ashlee: Uh-huh

Doretha: And it would start ringing that bell

(Ha ha)

Doretha: And then you know to get to the boat and go and run your line yeah now you can go ahead with your story

Leon: Well (cough) and well now a willow lines or trout lines (cough) then you get a time to go to bed and so this particular person he would bait all the lines with a half then walk back home for a 1 - a 1 - , 2 miles and the next morning at 8 , 9 get up in there pretty early probably about just about daylight and walk back down to the river well this particular morning he'd gone down and checked his bait and came back he came to the person that ran the store old (mumbling) a it was a out noon time when the man came back and a couple of people in there was a lady and woman and her son now her son was crippled and a had a hump on his back had infantile paralisim probably when he was little a little boy and his mother pretty bad approached his mother would say anything that came to her mind made no difference what it was she said it so it was pretty cool that morning down on the rush creek

Doretha: It was there at the store at Rush

Leon: Yeah a there was a store

Doretha: And a post office

Leon: (cough) And they were sitting around the stove

Ashlee: Uh-huh

Leon: And a waiting to get the mail that's and this man came 'in the owner says well says how'd you get along fishing last night man said didn't do know good all I got was this as he walked in and a great big ole bullfrog


Leon: About 18 inches long and a that's all I got that lady was sitting there said lord God almighty I wouldn't want to eat one of them damn things for nothing


Leon: Then the man said well why? Well her son was sitting over there with the lump on his back and everything said the blue-blooded devil son of a bitch sitting over there and it was her son


Ashlee: Golly



Ashlee: That was mean


Leon: Well anyhow that was the way just sink a line and in this particular place they was here of course they usta all the way up and down through (mumbling) her dad father dad told me one of the pretty sure on of the biggest catch he ever caught was someone stole it off his line

Doretha: (mumbling) but I can remember one fishing story we usta go down on the river on the ferry boat

Ashlee: Uh-huh

Doretha: Highway 14 ferry boat which was the Old Dillard Ferry and down to the park that's there now and we lived across the river from the park and a my uncle Whit and his family lived on the south side and we lived on the north side and a (sigh) the river came up and there was some people on the that lived on toward Marshall and they left their trout lines there and that was a good time fishing but they had to go home and they said now ya'll can have whatever is on the trout lines (mumbling) they had huge there was 2 I mean huge catfish and I remember we had a oh wooden steps on the back of that old a cabin that we lived in and they drew around these great big catfish on that step

Ashlee: Oh neat

Doretha: So we had a big fish fry

(Ha ha)

Doretha: All the Smith family which the wife was a Dillard and the Davenport family and I don't know just gobs of us all got together.

Ashlee: Ate fish

Doretha: Had a big fish fry a (sigh) and then there's lots fish tales but you've not got enough tape


Doretha: But it was that was one of the pastimes and a the good times that people had while they were fishing

Ashlee: Fishing yeah

Doretha: And another way they fished they gigged they had gigs


Doretha: The gig had big ole long poles

Leon: It was legal it was legal

Doretha: Yeah it was legal then it I don't believe it is now

Leon: It's not now remember that


Doretha: It had the prongs ya know on the what it would be about like that about like that

Ashlee: Yeah

Doretha: Ah I did have one up there

Ashlee: Did you like stab em?

Doretha: Huh? Yeah you stood up in the boat you had a big tub a washtub and you gotta lot of kindlin and stuff to make a fire in that

Leon: Pitch pine

Doretha: Yeah pitch pine and then as you get out in the boat in that you could see the fish at night and you had a string a big string to that pole and you had it on your wrist ya know and you'd throw that and gig those fish whatever kind a lot of those was suckers I think

Ashlee: (Ha ha)

Doretha: And then

Leon: A majority of them was suckers

Doretha: Well that's true

Leon: A occasional though quite often

Doretha: Well catfish after a sundown they would go up to a now I'm not a speaking on experience of what I usta put em in and pick em up

Doretha: See they went on floats

Ashlee: Oh

Doretha: They'd float

Ashlee: In groups

Doretha: Yeah to 3 about 3 men to the boat they had the

Leon: Depending on the size of the boat a (cough) always a be almost every time it would be a 3 men in a boat you've got a man in the front that's the shortest space the a man in the back

Doretha: Had to do the paddling direct

Leon: One operating the boat and a of course the person in the front of the boat would get choice of most because he'd see it right he'd see it first and a so he would get it and so the man in the back he had to take what was left


Leon: Okay

Ashlee: Yeah

Leon: And a that's what that's what I used to take neighbors along of course sometimes her father had a boat that he had gone together with her uncle and built a boat 32 foot 10ng

Ashlee: Gosh

Leon: And they'd take several though it was quite narrow but a it took at least 2 people to operate that

Doretha: And there was no motor on it

Ashlee: No motor

Doretha: No motor

Leon: Now they didn't have to paddle as a matter of fact I don't really come to think about it most of the time the guys that operated they used a pole maybe the pole was part of the gig or something like I said I never went

Doretha: Well it depends

Leon: Gigging in my life

Doretha: It depends on what they needed if the a water was low enough a lot of times they'd just

Leon: They had a pole

Doretha: They'd just take a pole or they'd use that gig ya know

(Leon and Doretha talk over each other can't understand)

Ashlee: Oh

Doretha: Hold themselves down push themselves down and a it was lots of sport I know

Leon: But anyhow one of the managers they went to that used to take along with them naturally everybody liked the catfish better than they did the suckers

Ashlee: Right

Leon: The suckers got real full of bones and everything hard to eat

Doretha: (mumbling)

Leon: Especially they're very hard to eat and a they just get gigging along everybody just nice succulent fish biggin here won't last long and a he was just getting excited about that corne out corne in with a big ole catfish over there he'd get excited jumping up

(Ha ha)

Leon: And a (cough) he'd said what he'd say getting excited enough that's just kind of living with your life


Leon: So he liked that

Doretha: That was always the saying

Leon: When they put in here with the truck and they would have a washtub plum full of fish

(Tape recorder stopped)

Doretha: Okay urn did you get the rest of that

Leon: Huge fish

(Ha ha)

Ashlee: Okay um

Doretha: Do you want me to tell you how you cooked urn them?

Ashlee: Sure yeah!

Doretha: Well now morn would she'd have a big iron skillet and a put hog lard now this was ya know you didn't have these

Leon: Saturated fat

Doretha: The best of fat that you had rendered out during the winter ya know you killed your own hog and you rendered the lard out

Ashlee: Uh-huh

Doretha: And it was just so good

(Phone rings)

Doretha: And

(Stop recording)

Doretha: Okay we rendered out our lard and you put quite a bit of of a maybe half your skillet your iron skillet half full of the shortening

Ashlee: Uh-huh

Doretha: Which was your lard and then mom would salt and pepper this fish and then you rolled it in meal and a now the saying goes you have that hot enough to a if you drop a match in the skillet ya know I mean in the hot grease and if it would flame well it was hot enough and you let it just brown and that's the way she cooked it with the fish and you had cornbread with it


skillet ya know I mean in the hot grease and if it would flame well it was hot enough and you let it just brown and that's the way she cooked it with the fish and you had cornbread with it


Ashlee: um you cooked the fish whole or you cut it up

Doretha: We sliced it

Leon: Depending on what size it was

Doretha: Yeah now the little perch the sun perch why ya just

(Tape messed up and stopped recording)

Written and Interviewed by Ashlee M. Davis on Febraury 16, 1999.