T-Model Knows Better: an advice column by life coach/musician T-Model Ford (Arthur, November 2003)

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 editorial@arthurmag.com

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. 

T-Model Knows Better: an advice column by life coach/musician T-Model Ford (Arthur, January 2004)

Originally published in Arthur No. 8 (Jan 2004):

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 one-of-a-kind blues albums (more info on ‘em at fatpossum.com). If you have any non-geography questions for T-Model, and we suspect that you do, email them to editorial@arthurmag.com

Arthur: T-Model one of our readers wrote in and said, “I’m worried about one of my longtime friends. He’s been hanging out with this woman who I know smokes crack. I’m afraid he’s going to start smoking crack too. What should I do?”

T-Model Ford: Well, be worried. If you like him, and he in it, best for you to stay away from him much as you can. Cuz you’ll get in trouble. You’ll be doin’ what he be doin’, or what the othern’ doin’. That crack helped cause a-many young people to mess up. I don’t know what it do, but some I hear say it mess the brains up. It must do somethin’ ‘cos they all want to fool with it. They wild, they don’t do right. They stay in trouble, meddlin’, breakin’ in, fightin’, do anything. I never seen none of it when [I was a young man], and I ain’t never smoked none of it. Now I done quit smokin’…quit about 20 years… I wouldn’t smoke another cigarette. Ain’t got no feeling for it. And I do good and I feeeel good. As old a man as I is, I’m still gettin’ up and goin’. 

How can you tell when someone is on crack?

I seen some of ‘em since they done got way in it. Everywhere that smokin’ that crack got a good thing going, it breaks it up. Greenville looks like a ghost town now. You don’t see nothin’ hanging around. That crack? I hate to even see anybody smoking that mess. They don’t look right, they don’t act right. They look wild and stupid. If anybody smoke it, you can tell it. In the way they acts. Get on away from ‘em. 

Is there anyway to get ‘em someone off of crack who‘s already in it?

Not hardly. Not ‘til they get in enough of a mess, then they have to get out of trouble. 

Okay. Next question. One of our older readers writes in to say, “Dear T-Model, I thought I was a good father, my wife and I have been very loving, we have a beautiful daughter, she’s 15 years old, but we’re worried that she’s started to have sex.”

Uh-ohhhhh. 

“She hasn’t admitted it to us, but we think it’s happening. We don’t know what to do. Should we leave her alone?”

Yes. Leave her alone. Cause next thing she’ll start sassin’ you, blessin’ YOU out, tellin’ you what you can’t do! What SHE can do! “I’m grown, I can do what I wanna do.” Blowin’ back. First thing you wanna hearin’. Seem you can’t raise your children now. You have to let ‘em go til they get their selves in trouble or mess up. Then they go to see anybody, but it be too late. They all do. 

Is there a way for these parents to tell if  their daughter is having sex? Can you tell? 

Yeah, you can tell. Watch the breasts. They get sassy and nasty and … Once it get started, then let ‘em get their own place to stay. That’ll whoop ‘em quicker than anything! That’s right. They’ll find out they can’t. That a home’s where they at. It’s somethin’ else. You wanna go and get out like that, remember one thing gets turned over to the Good Lord. Ever where she head, let her go. She get into somethin’, don’t get her out, let her get out the hard way. Once she get out, she’ll make something out of herself.

A reader in his late teens writes, “Dear T-Model, I gotta buy a new car. I’m just drivin’ around town. I don’t need a truck. What should I look for? You got any suggestions on what kind of car I should get?”

If you gon’ do that, just to ride around in, find you an old model. The Lincoln, if it’s in good shape when you get it, take care of it, keep the oil changed and filter changed, and it’ll last a loooong time. Or a good Chevrolet or a good Ford or a good Buick. 

You like those American cars.

Yes indeed. They all been good to me. They go longer. They last longer. And I had good safeties out of ‘em. I love ‘em. I got a ‘79 Lincoln here. It’s an antique, I want to buy an antique tag for it. It look good right now. Everybody’s trying to buy it. They want me to sell it. I told ‘em, It ain’t for sale. But still they want it. They like it. 

Now, you know how to fix cars, right?

Well I can but I’m not able now, I done got broke up that limb. Tree fell on me and I can’t get around. Before that tree fell on me, I’d work on and build motors and everything.

How did you learn how to do all that?

Go ‘round where people workin‘, and WATCH em . Watch em. I can’t read and write, can’t spell nothin’… but I never did carry my car to the shop. 

T-Model Knows Better: an advice column by life coach/musician T-Model Ford (Arthur, March 2004)

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 editor@arthurmag.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.

No.

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.