April 20, 2006
Randolph Co.-- Most people hate to keep records for any reason, but, one lady doesn't mind at all. She loves to keep them, spending hours and hours each day to chronicle the trials, tribulations and good times on their family farm. She keeps a 25 year-old dream alive, well and documented in rather unusual containers.
A writer often works alone, and often uses a dining room table as a place to research historical records. "I write real big and need a lot of space," says Dania DeVane as she sits in one of the head table's seats. She will act as an accountant one minute and a historian the next, spending hours and hours a day collecting information about what happened on her family's four-thousand acre farm. "March the eighth," says Dania referring to one of her many entries in a legal pad with yellow sheets.
For 25 years she has recorded what some people might consider inconsequential. "Six-to-six-and-a-half inches apart," reads Dania about a planter's setting. To her, everything is important. "February 17, afternoon. It rained six-tenths of an inch," reads Dania. She becomes a reporter occasionally, going straight to the best source available, to Marvin, her husband of 43 years.
"Where are you going from here?" asks Dania. "I'm going to the Burroughs' place,"says Marvin who has about 15 more acres to plow before he starts planting this year's cotton crop. "When do you plan to plant peanuts, next week?" asks Dania.
When Marvin reflects on his wife's work, he knows what makes a profit and what doesn't. "Come back from one year to another and see which cotton did the best, what chemicals did the best. We put planter setting on there, as well as seed spacing. It gives us something to go by a good bit," says Marvin.
History they know to repeat and history to avoid. Dania had a computer at one time, but lightening knocked it out. She didn't mind returning to pen and paper. She prefers writing her records in long hand, mentally distilling the information to remain as close as she can to the savior the experiences over and over. "It's written in a book and that's the best way I can remember it," says Dania. It's one thing to keep meticulous notes and another thing to find them. She has a sure-fire way of preserving the history.
"I love a lard can," says Dania, as she lifts a shiny, new one from beside her chair at the dining room table. As far as she is concerned, it's the perfect container made of tin to store each of her 25 years of records safely. The tin cans cost about two dollar each when she started using them 25 years ago. Now, each one costs almost $11.
"Every lard can has a book, old receipts and the checks," says Dania. Some cans sit in a storage room in a shop ready to take the reader back in time. "I don't believe the rats can get in there. They seal tightly," says Dania.
If she could, Dania would turn back the hands of time to the year 2003. "Pretty good year. We had enough rain," says Dania referring to a pad of notes. More storage cans sit in a backroom where she pauses and makes time to reminisce. "February 28 it rained four-tents of an inch," says Dania.
Twenty-five years worth of tin cans hold the family's agronomic secrets for one reason. "For later generations what the land did for them and for us," says Dania. She wants to put all of her information into a book one day where memories of yesterday feel as fresh as today.