At the time Jimmy was born (the first of four), James Sr. ran the town general store in Plains and had begun to invest in farmland. When Jimmy was 4, the family moved to a farm about 3 miles outside of Plains when young--an unincorporated area called Archery populated almost entirely of impoverished African American families. It was these families who would help work the farm and whose children Jimmy would work and play with as a boy.
"My black playmates were the ones who joined me in the field work that was suitable for young boys. We were the ones who toted water to the more adult workers in the field. We mopped the cotton, turned sweet potato and watermelon vines, . . . and did all thankless tasks. But we also rode mules and horses through the woods, jumped out of the barn loft onto huge piles of oat straw, wrestled and fought, fished, and swam."
This would be Carter's home until he left for college in 1941, having seen running water, electricity and all manner of mechanization come to the farm during that time. Ever the entrepreneur, James Sr. experimented with different cash crops and found success in peanuts. As a boy as young as 5 years old, President Carter recalled walking to town selling boiled peanuts to townspeople for 5 cents a bag.
"The early years of my life on the farm were full and enjoyable, isolated, but not lonely. We always had enough to eat, no economic hardship, but no money to waste. We felt close to nature, close to members of our family, and close to God."
The farm today has been restored to its pre-electricity condition of about 1938. It is an impressive site with a fully functioning farm surrounding the original home. With large vegetable plots, barns with blacksmithing equipment, a small general store for the community, pecan grove, and a menagerie of different animals one gets the sense of just how busy the days were growing up on the farm. There are audio recordings throughout the site where you can hear President Carter convey his recollections of different areas of the farm. The one that impressed me the most was his story about the day his father let him hitch up the plow all by himself. It was that day that he knew he had entered manhood. Another recording conveyed the effect that the New Deal policies had on the farm and the deep appreciation he has for the land. Photographing this site was such a pleasure for its abundant possibilities--a huge site, original buildings, and compelling stories. I looked for pictures that would convey the strong ties to the land, the hard work needed to run a farm, and some of the little innovations such as the shower made from a bucket.
This was actually my second visit to Plains for the project. Thanks to local historian Jan Williams (who also runs the Plains Historic Inn & Antique Mall - www.plainsgeorgia.com), I was able to find the site in Plains where the Carter family was living when Jimmy was born. My parents visited Plains to attend one of President Carter's Sunday School lessons and spoke with Jan about my project. She led them to the site of the home, since burned down. It was a good opportunity to re-visit the entire site and make a few more pictures in addition to the birth home site. I woke up early, leaving Jana and our three girls sleeping in the hotel to go out and make pictures. It was a foggy, humid morning--the humidity levels must have been over 100%--but great for some misty pictures of the farm. We returned with the kids later that day to walk around the site.