Kansas 4

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BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

AGE: 60s

DATE OF BIRTH (DD/MM/YYYY): 1930s

PLACE OF BIRTH: northeast Kansas

GENDER: male

ETHNICITY: Caucasian

OCCUPATION: gravedigger, water-witcher

EDUCATION: N/A

AREA(S) OF RESIDENCE OUTSIDE REPRESENTATIVE REGION FOR LONGER THAN SIX MONTHS:

Subject has never lived outside northeast Kansas.

OTHER INFLUENCES ON SPEECH:

Living in rural northeast Kansas his entire life, subject has a strong vernacular dialect, evident in the unscripted recording, in which he tells colorful stories of Indian burials, exhumations and how water divining or witching (and grave witching) is done “with a fork-ed peach-tree stick.”

The text used in our recordings of scripted speech can be found by clicking here.

RECORDED BY: Paul Meier

DATE OF RECORDING (DD/MM/YYYY): 10/09/1999

PHONETIC TRANSCRIPTION OF SCRIPTED SPEECH: N/A

TRANSCRIBED BY: N/A

DATE OF TRANSCRIPTION (DD/MM/YYYY): N/A

ORTHOGRAPHIC TRANSCRIPTION OF UNSCRIPTED SPEECH:

My dad used to dig graves b’ hand, and then, uh, when I got in the excavatin’ business, why, uh, that wa– that been in, uh, 1970, and, uh, they, uh, the old-timers just didn’t want dig ’em b’ hand any more. So, funeral home here at Oskaloosa called me, and I dug over to Ozawkie, and the first thing y’know, I was diggin’ Perry, an’ McLouth, an’ all around, an’, an’ now we were up to fifty-s– … we’ve dug 56 different cemeteries. An’ we dig for five different undertakers. Well, it’s a bus’n’. My dad always said, “If you, uh, do people a good job, an’, an’ do an hones’ day’s work, why, you’ll never be out of work.” An’ he’s sure right. I’ve never been out o’ work [laughs] since I went in business. But I’ve dug up — I dug one up over in McLouth that the, the guy’s wife died, an’ he’d been buried 19 years. And, uh, his wife died, an’ the kids decided that they wanted to put dad in a sealed vault. An’ he was buried in the ‘60s, when they still used some wooden boxes. Well, he was in a wooden casket. The wood in the casket was good. But the glue on i’ wasn’t. So, when we opened up and we took the boards — an’ I dug her grave first, an’ ’en put a vault down in there. And then we was to take him out an’ put him over there, an’ then we had to move the vault over. And, uh, the wood had all giveaway, so we — only thing we could do was take a scoop shovel and shovel ’im over. But when they opened him up, why, you could see his hand bones, an’ if you watched, pretty soon them hand bones, they’d jus’ — they would jus’ sh– little brown-lookin’ dust. An’ he had a three-piece suit on, and, uh, his chest even stood up. But then, my wife was there to watch it. That was her first experience, an’ you could see that chest falling flat down. An’ the bones that was covered up with dirt, which’d sifted through the — this wooden box, through the gasket, they were still good, but the ones that was still out in the open, they was — they jus’ turned to dust. They … you’ve heard of witching, for water? Your waterline? Well, they even have me come and witch for graves. I can — I can witch a grave an’ — and, uh, I don’t know why it works and how it works, but my mother could do it, and, uh, 1955 was my first experience. My dad, uh, got me up one Saturday mornin’, and he’d loaded the wagon up. We had a farm, uh, northwest o’ Oskie, and it was might dry in ’55, an’ he said, “C’mon.” He had shovels and picks and stuff in ’ere, and we went down in the timber, an’ he’d cut a … he used peach-tree — fork of peach-tree stick. He showed me how to hold it, an’ he said, “Now walk right over to that tower.” There’s an old tower layin’ there, and I walked over, an’ that stick — an’ he said, “Now, hang on to it.” An’ it’d peel the hide right off your hands, and the bark off the stick if you could hang on to it. And it pulled down right there by that tower. “Well, now,” he said, “go over there, an’ walk across there.” So I walk across there, and I’d get back a certain place and that thing’d start pullin’, and it’d pull down, an’ you could hang onto it, an’ my hands’d get red, raw an’ sore. …

TRANSCRIBED BY: Jacqueline Baker

DATE OF TRANSCRIPTION (DD/MM/YYYY): 10/03/2008

PHONETIC TRANSCRIPTION OF UNSCRIPTED SPEECH: N/A

TRANSCRIBED BY: N/A

DATE OF TRANSCRIPTION (DD/MM/YYYY): N/A

SCHOLARLY COMMENTARY: N/A

COMMENTARY BY: N/A

DATE OF COMMENTARY (DD/MM/YYYY): N/A

The archive provides:

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  • Text of the speakers’ biographical details.
  • Scholarly commentary and analysis in some cases.
  • In most cases, an orthographic transcription of the speakers’ unscripted speech.  In a small number of cases, you will also find a narrow phonetic transcription of the sample (see Phonetic Transcriptions for a complete list).  The recordings average four minutes in length and feature both the reading of one of two standard passages, and some unscripted speech. The two passages are Comma Gets a Cure (currently our standard passage) and The Rainbow Passage (used in our earliest recordings).

 

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