Vinzant, Willie G.

About | Abstract

About

The consultant details his experiences in using horse-drawn agricultural equipment. Also discussed was the consultant's role as the Roosevelt County Agent during World War II when he administered the prisoner of war (POW) labor program.

Interviewee Willie G. Vinzant, male, born in 1902
Date Range 1912-1946
Date & Location March 20, 2000, Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum
Project Farm and Ranch Folks
Region Southeast New Mexico
Number of Tapes 2
Transcribed June 6, 2000
Download Abstract

Abstract

Tape 1, Side A

Willie G. Vinzant was raised on a farm near Fort Worth, Texas. His parents raised small grains and cattle. From the time the consultant was in grade school he helped his father with farming using horse-drawn equipment. There are several horse-drawn implements in the NM Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum's permanent gallery, and the consultant described using several of these implements. In the category of haying equipment, he described the use of the mower, hayrake, and baler. Vinzant describes in greatest detail using a stationary baler, discussing all the steps in baling and the number of individuals it took to bale.

Tape 1, Side B

The consultant continues to discuss baling hay. It was important to produce uniform-sized bales in order to stack them easily. They tried to produce sixty-pound bales.

He briefly discusses his years at college, first at the state university in Austin, Texas, and then at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. He had $100.00 when he left home to attend college in Austin. That money didn't last long and he found a job where a one-room house was provided.

His last year of high school he rode a horse eighteen miles a day to attend an accredited high school in Fort Worth. During his school years he missed some days in the fall to assist his parents with harvesting.

The consultant then describes using horse-drawn farming equipment starting with the turning plow. He has broken sod with a turning plow on one of the farms his father rented.

After the land was turned over, it would be leveled with a harrow. The person would walk behind the harrow, so it was more tiring than some of the other equipment on which the operator could ride. Harrowing was easier after a rain

He began to discuss the planter; however, the planter on display at the Museum was not one he was accustomed to using, because they planted mostly small grains.

Tape 2, Side A

The consultant remembers using a single row, walking planter, but later they purchased a double row, riding planter. At some point, the family diversified and began raising maize, kafir corn, and hegari.

Alfalfa was the only crop available to them that was known to replenish nutrients in the soil. They were aware of information about improved farming methods through the state land grant colleges. Vinzant states sometimes his father thought the information was "a little off-base."

He discusses the use of a stalk cutter on "heavy forage" crops like maize, cane, and hegari. The stalks were plowed under for fertilizer.

His father's first tractor was a Ferguson, a not too dependable piece of equipment that was purchased before the consultant went to college. For a period of time the family used both the tractor and teams for farming. Some of their horse-drawn equipment was modified to pull behind the tractor, and "some commercial machinery" was purchased as well.

The focus of the interview was then changed to Vinzant's administration of the prisoner of war (POW) labor program in Roosevelt County during World War II. He served as the Roosevelt County Agent from 1934-1964. The main crop grown in Roosevelt County during the 1940s was grain sorghum, with some wheat and broomcorn also being produced.

Before the POWs were located in the county, women and school children assisted with the harvest. Then German POWs were brought in and housed in buildings at the fairgrounds. Vinzant felt that the POWs did not present an escape risk; they did not want to "leave."

The transportation of the POWs was a "problem." The farmers were responsible for providing transportation. POW labor was used mostly for harvesting, not planting. The POWs did not use any mechanized equipment.

He stated the farmers were "well-satisfied" with the work the POWs performed. Vinzant states that his major role was in acting as a contact point for the farmers; all the details concerning the number of laborers needed, for example, were worked out between the camp administration and the farmers.

Mr. Vinzant reiterated that the German POWs had no desire to leave the camp; "they'd rather be there pullin' broom corn than over there bein' shot at."