Originally published in Arthur No. 9 (March, 2004)
T-Model Ford says a lot. He says he’s 79 years old. He says he’s “the Boss of the Blues! TheTaildragger! From Greenvillllllllle….Mississippi.“ He says he doesn’t need his cane anymore. And he says he can help us. So, every two months, Arthur calls up T-Model and asks him for some advice. T-Model gives his sage answers, then we transcribe the conversation with some interpreting help from Bruce Watson at Fat Possum, the Oxford, Mississippi record label that releases T-Model’s shit-hot, original bad-ass records (more info on ‘em at fatpossum.com). We love T-Model round here: his last album, the Jim Dickinson-produced Bad Man, is still on the office Arthur turntable, 16 months after its release. But whatever. If you’ve got some non-math questions for T-Model, and we know that you do, email ‘em to email@example.com and we’ll pass ‘em along. If they’re any good.
Arthur: What if you find out that an old friend of yours has been saying bad stuff about you around town. Telling people that you do business with, that you’re no good. What should you do?
T-Model: Just let him talk, don’t have nothing to do with him. They’ll find out! That’s the way I do. They talk about me, I just let ‘em talk. But when they need something, they gotta come to ME.
But what if you were a younger man? You know how younger men get upset: they wanna settle it with a fight. Is that a bad way to go?
Well, you got to study that yourself. Just don’t associate with ‘em, that’s the way I do. They talk about me, I don’t associate with ‘em. Then when they come running, want to talk, I say: “Well when you had a chance, you didn’t take it, so forget about it.” That’s the way I do.
Have you always been that way? Or did you handle stuff differently when you were younger?
No, I’ve been that way all my life. I go friendly with people if they friendly with me. If they ain’t friendly with me, I go my way and they go theirs. You take me, when I go to go somewhere around here, I get in my car by myself. I don’t be ridin’ with nobody. Can’t be nobody speaks… If they TELL somethin’, it won’t be me, it’ll be them, making up somethin’, to try to get up somethin’. That’s the way it do here.
You ever seen a fight in a bar?
Yeah, I have seen a fight in a bar. And I have fought in a bar.
You have? But you sound like a peaceful man.
Well, the man was pickin’ at ME! He about six foot tall, went snatching my cigarette — at that time I was smokin’ — snatched that cigarette out of my mouth, and come back to start it to me, and I met him. And I said, “Man, what you trying to do? Are you trying to start somethin’ with me?” He made a pistol break. That’s all he remember.
You didn’t walk away.
You stood up for yourself.
I thought he gonna get up but he couldn’t. It take a good-hearted person to stand up what I be standing up under, a good one. Yes indeed.
When two men don’t get along, do you think they should go to court to settle their differences then? Or should they just let it go.
I just let it go. Go on about my business, and tell ‘em, don’t follow me.