Lots of history behind those shining bright blue eyes

Ruth Long, 96, shares favorite old-time mountain memories from nursing home room

Long: "It's about hog killing time"
By Julianne Kuykendall | Nov 23, 2012
Photo by: Julianne Kuykendall BRIGHT BLUE EYES: Ruth Long, 96, is pictured at the Autumn Care Nursing Home where she is a resident. Long’s family includes her husband, Robert Long (deceased), their three children, Becky, Nancy (deceased) and Peggy, and numerous grandchildren.  

Ruth Troutman Long, a 96-year-old Autumn Care Nursing Home resident, glanced out her room window on a recent November afternoon that carried a noticeable, winter-is-coming, chilly bite to it.

“Looks like it’s about hog killing time,” she simply stated.

Her bright blue eyes shined equal to her high-spirited personality as she excitedly shared her precious memories of old country times in the Saunook community and in Hazelwood, being raised by parents, Ivy and Annie Troutman.

“We raised one or two hogs every year and that’s what we ate. Mama and Daddy butchered hogs in the yard and then they cured the meat with salt and hung it in the smokehouse where there was lots of wind coming through and everything was cold to keep it good,” said Long.

Growing up, she remembers playing jacks, marbles and hide and seek with siblings Frank, Julia, Evelyn, Margaret, Harold and Lyneal who they called “Bug.” “Mama also had another baby she named Mary Louise who died as a baby from pneumonia I think,” Long recalled. “She was a real pretty baby and Mama about grieved herself to death over her.”

While her father worked at the Unagusta furniture company in Hazelwood, her mother took in laundry, much from golfers at the Waynesville Country Club, to make extra money. Long vividly remembers her mother making lye soap and washing those clothes on an old-fashioned washboard and then an old ringer washing machine.  

Once Long finished the sixth grade at Hazelwood School, she left school to help her mother at home, a typical move in that time period. Soon after she left school, the Great Depression hit America, but Long says her family was so poor anyway yet self-sufficient that they barely noticed the Depression.

She says her mother made ends meet the best she could.

“I remember Mama milking a cow every day for milk and she churned her own butter and canned everything she could out of the garden so we always had real good seasoned food and never went hungry a day in our life,” she said.

“Mama also made all of our school clothes and church clothes – our dresses, slips and underwear and everything – out of feed sacks on her old-fashioned pedal sewing machine,” added Long. “Sometimes when holes would show in the bottom of our school shoes, she just took a piece of cardboard and covered them and we went right on to school.”

Long likes to tell her grandchildren about living in a time without electricity and indoor plumbing – the days before refrigerators, electric stoves, televisions, indoor bathrooms, cell phones and texting. Those were the days when she used an oil lamp to walk out to the outhouse at night and when her mother kept things like butter and milk in an old-timey icebox.

“I never will forget later on in life when Daddy bought Mama her first refrigerator for a Mother’s Day gift from one of the stores in Hazelwood,” Long said. “She put her butter and milk in there and she was the happiest mother in the world that day.”

Although she and her siblings walked most of the time to places like Hazelwood School and Hazelwood First Baptist Church, she does recall when her brother Harold got his first T-Model Ford. “Oh, we thought we were something when he would haul us around to get groceries or go to the drug store,” Long remembered, noting that while gas was cheap at the time, her family still walked as much as possible to stretch money.

As her mind traveled back to Christmases of long ago, her bright blue eyes shined even brighter as she vividly reflected on her family’s old-fashioned holiday traditions that started with exploring the woods to fine the perfect pine Christmas tree. “When we got the tree in the house, we would string it with popcorn and make our own Christmas ornaments – we would wrap a box or a piece of wood or something in wrapping paper and tie a bow around it and hang it on the tree,” she recalled. 

Her Mama hung old cotton stockings by the fireplace which, on Christmas morning, were typically stuffed with apples, oranges and nuts, plus Long’s favorite once-a-year treat – a Baby Ruth candy bar. “Ummm, ummm I loved those Baby Ruth candy bars,” expressed Long with a big smile. “They were so good.”

All the children always received new socks each Christmas and, some years, the girls opened the gift of a doll while the boys opened a small toy truck. “We thought we were in heaven when we got those gifts,” she said.

The Christmas meal consisted of chicken and dumplings made from chickens the family raised, and canned garden vegetables from their summer garden like green beans, corn, cabbage and turnips.

As Long daily glances out her window during this “hog killing” time as colder weather inevitably comes, she looks forward to Christmastime and reflecting on those holiday mountain memories of long ago.

However, she secretly hopes she will see the first mountain snow falling outside her window before Christmas because that is her very favorite old-time memory of all as she reflects on her 96 years. “I used to love it when it snowed because Mama would make snow cream with vanilla and real cream from cow’s milk,” recalled Long.

“We used to sit and watch it snow and eat snow cream and, boy, it was so good,” she added.