He urged some of his old friends to follow his example, and was quite disgusted at the answer of one, that he had no "turn" for working; in a garden. "No turn!" he repeated, indignantly, in speaking of it to his children. "I hear that he allows the ladies to do all this work. I wonder what turn for it they have! I have no toleration for such big Indian talk."
His hands were much bent with age and gout. No glove could be drawn over them. They had been so soft that a bridle-rein, unless he had his gloves on, chafed them unpleasantly. He expressed thankfulness that the bent fingers and palms did not interfere with his holding either his hoe-handle or his pen. He wrote as man of letters as ever, and an article for a State newspaper or a Virginia or New Orleans paper occasionally, if interested in anything that was going on. But he said that politics were getting to the state that only disgusted him, and he took no active part or interest even in State government till he saw a hope of throwing off "carpet-bag" rule. When he spoke of the expense of the postage on his correspondence, he said that he could not maintain himself in his station if he wrote fewer letters.
He tried hard to learn to plough, but he could not do it. It was a real disappointment. He tried to learn to cut wood, but complained that he could not strike twice in the same spot. It was with great labor that he got a stick cut in two. His failure in this filled him with a dogged determination to succeed, and he persisted in cutting wood in the most painful manner, often till he was exhausted. Some one told him of a hand-saw for sawing wood, and he was delighted and felt independent when he got one. He enjoyed it like a new toy, it was so much better in his hands than the axe. He sawed wood by the hour in the cold and in the heat. It seemed to be his rule never to stop any work till he was exhausted.
His son Edward lived with him during these years. He tried to lessen his father's labors. But Thomas Dabney was not a man to sit down while his children worked. Besides, there was work enough for these