Originally published in Arthur No. 7 (Nov. 2003)
T-Model Ford says a lot. He says he’s 79 years old. He says he’s “the Boss of the Blues! The Taildragger! From Greenvillllllllle….Mississippi!“ He says he doesn’t need his cane anymore. And he says he can help us. So, every two months, an Arthur staffer calls T-Model and asks him about certain topics of the day. T-Model gives his answers over the phone, then we transcribe the conversation, with some help from Bruce Watson at Fat Possum, the Oxford, Mississippi record label that releases T-Model’s amazing albums. If you have any non-math questions for T-Model, and we suspect that you do, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Public school or private school? What about home schooling? Are the schools good enough for the kids these days?
Well, regular schools is good enough for ‘em. I wouldn’t put ’em in no private school. Nuh unh. It cause a whole lot of problems. But just regular school, that’d be the best, cuz it give ‘em a whole chance to meet one another and get trained with one another, get used to one another. You put ‘em in a private school, then when they get up a little higher, they don’t wanna act right.
You take me, I never been to school a day in my life. I ain’t never been to school. I had a mean daddy, he didn’t let me go to school. He started me to plowin’ a mule when I got to six years old. And I worked all of my life since then up until say somewhere about 10 years ago. I fell and hurt myself, knocked my hip out of place on a job I was workin’ for Greenville Head & Block… I didn’t tell nobody and I just kept on workin’. Finally though it overtook me.
You wanted to go to school?
He wouldn’t let me go to school. I had to do what he said to do or else get a beating. After he was so tough and mean to me, I just forgot about going to school. I didn’t think I’d ever learn anything, not in school. But he did learn me how to work and provide for myself. He learnt me that! But as far as readin’ and writin’, I can’t do it.
You’ve done pretty good for someone who didn’t go to school, don’t you think?
I don’t know. I can’t tell that cuz I never had a chance to read or be in nothin’ in the schools, or be around children going to school, so… I don’t know what I lost. But I lost something. So far, as far as I done, as old as I done got, I know a heap but I just can’t read and write.
Why wouldn’t you put a child in a private school?
Well when you get where you wouldn’t be around to carry them to private school, or for them to be in school…? I just think, really, the public school—he can go with anybody. He can visit anybody. With that private school, he can’t be with everybody cuz he don’t know if his parents are gonna have a ride for him to go, or if he’ll be where he can catch the bus to go. And he gon’ miss some. And he ain’t gonna get all what he needs to get.
What about these people who want to teach reading and writing themselves? Teach their kids at home?
Welllllll… I was at home but I didn’t have anybody teach me nothin’! So, it’s pretty hard for me to say about that, cuz’n I don’t know.
Okay. Here’s the other question. A lot of our readers are pretty unhappy with living in the United States. They don’t like the politics. The economy is bad. It’s hard to find a job. Some of them are thinking about leaving. Where should they go? If you had to live somewhere besides the United States, where would you live?
Well, I would like Switzerland. And I would like France. Over there it look like the people are more friendly to one another than they do here. They’re not friendly [here]. It’s done got really rough. Peoples live here, they’re not friendly with one another. I don’t know what’s the causin’ of it, but they really ain’t friendly. All they know is go to somebody’s house and talk about somebody, low-rate somebody, mis-use people’s who try to help you. You don’t want that! They wanna do’s it… You helping them, they wanna be against you, do you wrong and all like that. You’ve got to have a heart to stand up to all to that kind of mess. Now I’ve got a heart to stand up and…. They do me like they wanna! And I still try to help ‘em. I’m in a situation right now, I help the woman I’ve been with six years, and it’s the other way now. They’s stealing from one another… It’s rough.
But it seems different in Switzerland and France, they treat each other different?
There, everybody’s happy. As far as I can see, they friendly, they stick together. But here they don’t. Yeah, if I was gonna go somewhere to stay as long as I live, I’d go to either one of them places…or I would go to Sweden.