Chahta Elder Stories: Israel Richard Adams

Published January 30, 2008

I am going to ask Richard Adams something. First of all tell us your name. Also your father and your mother’s name too. My name is Richard Adams. My mother’s was Myrtle. And my father was Leo Adams.

When you were a child living at home, you must have played something. What did you play?
I didn’t play very much. We were working. And so, after they had planted the big corn fields, I worked with them there. And, I was just about six years old. I used to work there. And there were fields and gardens. I used to live there with my grandfather. When he was working, I worked with him. As for playing, I made the play area and toys myself. When I was a child, I used to make wagons. And I played with those. And when we were chopping wood, I carried it home. I was sort of playing but working, too. (Eveline: mmhuh/acknowledgment)

And that’s the way it used to be. In addition, I went to school. When I started going, I always used to play ball. That was how I went through.

Mmhuh (acknowledgment) Where did you live?
The town is LeFlore, and the bigger town is Talihina. Talihina is toward the south, about fifteen miles. The nearest town is Chisha Homma, as the Choctaws say. But the Caucasians say Red Oak, I live near there. That was what the government alloted us.

The bigger town is Talihina, you said; doesn’t Talihina mean something? What does it mean?
The railroad used to go through the town of LeFlore. There were two itinerant trains. It passed through in the morning; and then again, at nightfall it returned going toward Ft. Smith. And so Talihina, the Caucasians say iron, tυli. Hina is road. And so railroad, they used to call it Tυli∙hina (iron road).

When you were a child and what you see today, what do you think is so different?
What I see now is the Choctaw children now do not work outside. But rather inside; they work inside and so that is different. As for us, we used to always work. Everything– whatever we would eat and if the room was to be warm then we chopped the wood ourselves. And kill the hogs, too. If it was to be killed, then they killed it. And after it was prepared, it was canned.

They used to can corn and beans and whatever was produced. They finished canning them and we ate them in the winter. And so we used to work all the time. Those of us in the household all worked. Although the children today do not. Because they just watch television, they don’t know how to work very well. And so when they’re going to work they don’t know how to work very well. And some of them don’t want to work. And that was what I saw. And I used to tell my children. They used to lie around saying “I want a car.” (laughs) And so, I used to tell them if you want a car then you go to work and then get whatever you want. And so they know that.

Although sometimes he does need help. And so I help him, sometimes. And when he married, he doesn’t ask me for things now. If they want anything, they just work for it themselves.

And so some of them do that too. But some of them even when they finish college they don’t get good paying jobs. They just give them something. They work hard at anything even when it doesn’t pay well, they keep working. What I see is that some of them even when they finish college, they want to keep going. Therefore they get good jobs. Also, I see that it seems the pay is good. And so that is different, too. However, at one time there weren’t any of those things.

And so, we worked for it ourselves, I used to see that.

Mmhuh. One more thing I ask is did you speak Choctaw when you were a child?
Choctaw was all I spoke. Since they spoke only Choctaw. My grandfather, my grandmother, my uncle, and aunt we all lived near one another. And so when we went visiting whoever’s home we went to, they spoke only Choctaw. And so I knew Choctaw when I started school then I began to learn English from then on. And you said you were going to talk about hunting, tell us.

We used to go to school. Monday through Friday, then Saturday we didn’t do anything and so we used to want to hunt. By then I was older. And my cousins were married and they had young boys. Because they were children, they wanted to hunt with us. And so one time there were camp houses at the Thessalonian Church. And so we arrived there and on to the river nearby.

And there were a lot of rabbits and squirrels there. And so that was where we went hunting.

And we went around there. And when we started back we had about sixteen squirrels and rabbits we had killed; and we brought them back to camp, and then skinned, prepared and fried them.

My nephew liked to fry them. And so he finished frying them. And when we were about to eat, our cousin was coming down the road driving a car and then he flipped it over. And so, we went there and turned it back over for him and he left. And then we returned to camp. When we returned we were going to eat but there were dogs and they had eaten it all up. My nephew got mad and took the gun and was shooting them. And sometimes we would tell that and laugh.

That’s all.

And then you said you used to skin squirrels. Since there are different ways to clean squirrels, tell those (skinning squirrels).

I used to know the Choctaw word but I forget.


“Okshunnulih, okshunohchi, okshunnulih, mako.”


Yes, I was trying to think of that.

They used to singe it. Some of them skin it. As for skinning…(Rebecca interjects, burn) what is that?
Burn. Yes.

Or begin toward the tail?
…some start at the tail. Some in the center; they cut it in the center and…;

In the stomach?
No, yeah.

The back?

They do the back and then finish skinning and cutting it. They cut it up and rub some things on it and fry it. And if it was going to be singed, my mother used to do that on the stove. She cooked there on the stove. Or she cooked in the kitchen.

Mmhuh. (acknowledge)

She built a fire in the stove and singed it there and used to boil it. When she finished boiling it, we all ate the juice together. The corn bread mixed with (together with, together with…how do you say that?) not poured in, just eaten together. And that used to taste good. And sometimes it was skinned and boiled. Fry it.

Dumplings too.

She used to do the dumplings, too. Then mush, if you know that she fixed that together and we all ate it together.

It seems like it would be tasty. (laughter)

It tasted good.

Did you eat it together with corn bread and sour corn bread?

Yeah, yes, she fixed that too; anything. If there were going to be meat, they used to kill rabbits and deer. Hog too, if they were going to kill a hog.

Is there anything you want to ask him?
I can ask something. Bob Ludlow is my name. You said you worked in a field, which did you work with a mule or a horse? Or both, a mule?

My father used to work with mules. Two of them. He worked them and they pulled the wagons, too.
I used to know this but I have forgotten and I’m going to ask you. They used to say “Gee!” “Haw!”

Which way would he go on “Gee?” Left or right? Have you forgotten too? (laughs)
To say “Gee!” is right.

Right? Okay.

Yeah. As for “Haw!” it’s left. And, they say “Whoa!” They say stop.
I never knew.

Sometimes I have thought about it and so I asked. I had forgotten it, too.
Yeah the mules are hooked up to the wagon. And some harness it up and wherever we were going, if we were going to church, they put in all the quilts then we used to go. We would go and stay there sometimes two or three days. We used to go even if it was a great distance. We would go in the morning and all day, arriving in the evening. When that happens the campers are there cooking so they provide all the food. And they provided everything. Even so we also helped and worked. I used to work with them. Whenever they arrived at different churches, they helped one another and they had church. When they had church, there was no English. It was always just Choctaw. The preacher spoke only Choctaw. They did all the hymns and prayers in Choctaw only. And so sometimes the church participants want to do that. And so they are learning Choctaw. While we are learning the language, they also want to do that. And so some of them don’t understand the difference, how the language is different. And so they ask about that.

And so that is usually what I explain, how the language is different.

I am Paula Wilson Carney. The car you mentioned, what model car was your cousin driving when that happened? There used to be a lot of Model T Ford’s. What was he driving, the one he turned over?
Oh. That one was new, too, but small. Some of the cars were small. It was like that, he was driving. He was my brother’s step child. Her son was just now beginning to learn and he was looking in the mirror. And so (group laughter) he forgot and it went off the road into the ditch and turned over, but no one got hurt.

Any others?
I am Rhoda Anderson. When you camped at the church, did they smoke the beef at the camp house? When it was to be dried, they put it on top of the camp house to dry. Did you used to do that?

What I saw was when they were going to camp, they killed it first. They used to kill the cow and prepare it at home and then took it there. And so what I saw, too, was the smokehouse.
Mmhuh (acknowledgment)

There they finished rubbing it with salt and they hung it up. It was there, the smoke house that it was smoked. I was small then and so I don’t know how they did it. But I used to see it standing there as they worked. And so the cow, perhaps, they did that too. When they were camping, they laid them on top that way. But I have not seen it.

As for us, we did see that. Although, when they did that, when they were going to dry meat; however, how did the flies (what is it?) not eat on it? They didn’t touch any of those meats?

Spoil it?
That is what I think.

That was what we used to do.

Salt, it was salt they rubbed. Don’t you say roast? When you finish preparing it the flies and such won’t bother it.

That is why there was a lot of salt.

A lot of salt. Then, even the bugs won’t get near it.

I have learned something new. (laughs)

Also, I am Henry Willis. Sometimes when they were preserving something it was smoked dry. The same, it’s the same. When it is set upon the house top, it is the same. It is rubbed with salt and placed on top. When you eat it, some of them are pretty salty. And so when you boil it again it turns…
Yes, remove it.

Yeah, the Caucasians call the drying, dehydration. In place of that, some also can (or preserve) it.

That is different, preserving it. You didn’t pay close attention to how they canned it?

Perhaps, from what you were saying. Just like anything different, you don’t pay attention to, it’s the same. Sometimes they just boil it. They boil something and put it into a jar and tightened it and put it inside hot water and cover it and. Today it’s the same way, I believe. And so, that is what I usually see them do.

Any others?
I am Rebecca Nahwooksy. When you were a child and you were going to eat, did you have a certain time? Did you have it in the morning, noon and all? If so then, what I will ask is when the children were going to eat (what is it?) were they happy? For eating breakfast (what is it?) today the Caucasians say pancake. A long time ago they used to say hot cake.

Did you eat that, when your Mama fixed it?
Yeah, sometimes, when we were going to eat we all came and sat at the table. And then, Grandfather would have to finish praying before we would eat. And he did it for breakfast.

And he did that for lunch. And then he did that for dinner when we all sat down.

We used to eat when he finished praying. They would cook in the morning and at noon and in the evening, too. They used to cook three times daily. And when I was at home, there would be workers as well as visitors around. And sometimes there would be about six visitors staying at the house. The workers stayed there working in the field and chopping wood. They cooked for all of them. And Grandfather let stay whoever arrived there. As for them we would eat together.

When it was time to sleep, they put their bedding under the tree and slept there.

And so, I have seen that. That continued until I was ten years old, when I went away. That was ’62. That was when I finished school and left. And so I returned and — then to the home place. It was then that eating habits began to change. Eating together was gone because some of them worked. Also they left early in the morning. And my grandfather was gone, possibly. And the traditional families were gone. It was disappearing, now, it’s gone now.

It’s true.

Any others?
I want to ask you one more time. I am Henry Willis. Sometime, when camping they bake bread differently. Sometimes they fried some of it. They make unleavened bread and flattened it…

Mmhuh. (acknowledgement) …bake it. And sometimes, if they had a cook stove, they placed it on top and baked it. And so sometimes the younger ones aren’t interested in that. That was a long time ago, they say. And so I guess we are traditionally removed from each other. Historically, have you sometimes thought back to when the old ones baked bread? And they wrapped it around a stick and hung it above a fire and cooked it. Another way was to place them on top of coals and bake it. They did the meat the same way.

As for me, I’m Abe Frazier. I am going to ask you something. You said you made things yourself to play with. Do you think you could teach it to the young ones today?
Yeah, I still remember how I used to make them. So, if they wanted to learn I can teach them.

I use to have a lot of little horses (laughter/meaning wooden horses).

What you were talking about…wagons… is very close to me. Even us, we used to do that when we went to church. If not, we walked. Sometimes two mules were harnessed to the wagon and we would get in and go about one mile. Mmhuh (acknowledgement) And so I know what you’re saying, what you’re talking about.

You envision it?
It seems like I can see it. (group laughter) And so it’s good that I hear that. That’s all.

Anyone else? If not…
I am Rebecca Nahwooksy. What he just asked you – when we were going to eat sweet bread (what is it?) we used to look for lion oil. Did you used to do that?

Lion oil? I haven’t heard that.

No, what is it?

The white people say honey.
Bee? (group laughter)

Me too, I heard lion. Bee. I was wondering what she was saying. (laughter)

How do you say it? (laughter)
Bee. Bee. (laughter)
Honey, you know. (laughter)

I thought she was saying lion oil.

Talking about a lion.

She said lion, I thought she said lion, too.

Yeah. They used to look for honey. I don’t know how they searched for it.

But they used to say they were stealing it.

The honey you mentioned, wherever a tree was standing that had some inside it they chopped it down and split it open to steal it, some say. Mmhuh. (acknowledgement) They used to take it from there.

In the summer – I am Bob Ludlow. When it’s summer, you said honey, what is a bee?
(Group answers) “Foi.” Foi, okay. The bees look for water. When there is water if you watch it they will come and drink and return to its hive. If you had seen that you would learn where they lived. Then, they used to down that tree and get it.

Mmhuh. (acknowledgement)

Sometimes, they would be eating in a field…eating I say…where they are collecting something, follow them. Wherever it goes, the tree is in that direction.
Mmhuh. (acknowledgement)

Hunting, when you went hunting did you look for possums too?
Mmhuh. When my uncle and others went night hunting they would hunt for it.

Possums and skunks. (laughs) Raccoons, yeah. Those I do not eat. (laughter)

I didn’t ask that. (laughter)

They sold the hides didn’t they?
Yeah. Mmhuh. (acknowledgement)

What hides?
Raccoons, foxes.

You do not eat raccoons?
Possum. If the raccoon is prepared well, it is tasty.

Mmhuh. (acknowledgement) As for me, I can eat it. Any others? If not, that’s all. Thank you, we thank you.