Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Daddy's Money: A Memoir of Farm and Family

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Daddy's Money: A Memoir of Farm and Family

Article excerpt

Daddy 's Money: A Memoir of Farm and Family. By Jo McDougall. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2011. Pp. xiii, 169. Foreword by Hilary Masters, acknowledgments, author's note, maps, illustrations, works cited. $19.95, paper.)

This many-splendored book should be interesting to anybody who can read.

On its primary level, this is a memoir of Jo Garot McDougall's growing up on a rice farm in Arkansas County and the effect ofthat background on her life. She wrote it, she says, to discover who she is through a careful analysis of her relationship to her family and their attachment to their land. But in the process of developing that narrative she tells much more that will be of interest to American historians, Arkansas historians, agricultural historians, and women's historians. It is an encyclopedia of information about what farm and small-town families in the delta ate, drank, read, thought, worked at, and did for entertainment between 1935 and 1960.

The grain of sand that worried itself into this pearl is the author's estrangement from her only sister, brought about, presumably, by disagreement over the disposition of their father's considerable estate. If the acquisition and disposition of Daddy's money is the central theme of this story, then the source ofthat wealth must be explained. And therein lies a tale in microcosm of the making of America through the story of the Garots, an immigrant Belgian family of cabinetmakers who came to Louisiana in 1 886 looking for a better life and went to work on a farm where they learned how to raise rice. In 1906, crop failure brought about by underground salt water drove them to investigate opportunities for rice farming in Arkansas County, advertised on a flier in a railroad station.

They bought land on the edge of DeWitt, moved there in 1909, and became one of the most successful pioneering rice-farming families in the state, building an operation sustained through three generations and ending with the death of "Daddy," Leon Joseph Garot, Jo McDougall's father. We are told how rice is raised and are allowed to see the hard work and worry that brought success and the pleasure derived from it. For example, after working hard all week in the fields and garden and kitchen, the family dresses up in very good clothes and goes to church on Sunday in a nice automobile. …

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