Characters Speak: an Interview with John Hardin

Whenever I write a novel, there’s stuff that doesn’t get into the finished version. John Hardin, a minor but pivotal character in Slave and Sister, has an interior life that didn’t make it into the book. Today’s post is a glimpse into his mind and heart.

Today we’re talking with Mr. John Hardin, of Cass County, Georgia. Mr. Hardin, are you a native of the county?
Yes, ma’am, since I was raised here. I weren’t born here, but my daddy bought a farm as soon as the county opened up for settlers in 1832. Couldn’t get better land than up in the hills near the Tennessee border. Hog and hominy, all hundred acres.

What is your current occupation?
When my daddy died my brother Jim and I split his holdings. We were the lucky ones. The rest of the kids were left to fend for themselves. Bob and Bill went off to Mississippi and the gals married whoever they could. Jim and I still farm here. Hog and hominy, just like our daddy.

How are you doing?
Scraping by. Good years, a little to sell. Bad years, barely enough to eat.

Who works on the farm with you?
Jim and I help each other out. Our young’uns are too small to work in the field. Johnny’s frail. Not much use to me. Slaves? Ma’am, how could I afford to buy a slave? Who would lend me a dime to buy one?

Have you followed the debate over slavery?
Don’t matter much to me, do it? I ain’t likely to own a slave. I ain’t likely to become a cotton planter.

What if it comes to war, like the big planters say?
Wouldn’t be my war. Can’t see how my farm would fare if I went away to fight. My wife has all them babies clinging to her skirt, and my eldest boy is too young to plow. Without me, the place would go to ruin.

Could I speak to your wife?
Don’t bother her. She’s still broke up over losing that last baby. It sickened and died and there wasn’t a thing we could do. Didn’t even have money to send for the doctor.

I’m sorry to hear it.
Sorry is right. It’s all sorry. The baby, the farm, and whatever damn foolishness them planters and Yankees are arguing about. A sorry business, all of it.


Interested in Slave and Sister? Check out the book.