North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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October 14, 2013

More than a century, and counting: Gardendale's Ethel Pitts is a piece of living history

GARDENDALE — A Gardendale woman who is more than a century old is the delight of her family and her church.

Ethel Pitts was born Aug. 27, 1912, in the Oklahoma panhandle. She was born in Optima, Okla., in a rock house alongside a river. Not much later, her parents bought a farm 10 miles from Guymon, Okla., where she grew up.

Her brother, the oldest sibling, had already married and moved from home, leaving Pitts and her two sisters to work on the farm with their parents. Pitts’ father died when she was 13, the sisters and their mother were left behind to make a living off the land.

“I’m a farm girl,” Pitts said with a laugh. “I worked like a boy on the farm.” She worked a lister (type of plow) and cultivator, each pulled by four horses. She also milked cows and did all of the other necessary farm work.

The family’s main source of income was from selling cream, which they separated from milk and sold in five-gallon jugs.

Families who farmed in the midwest during that time did not have an easy life, but Pitts and her family always made the best of what they had.

She recalls making dolls out of corn by peeling the shucks off most of the way and leaving part of the silk for make-believe hair.

“We never thought anything about it,” she said.

The family got water from the ground by using a windmill-powered pump, then carried water to the house in buckets.

Pitts remembers one day when she went to check on the cows, and she saw a coyote. Her two dogs “ran him until he couldn’t run anymore.”

Pitts knew that she could get a bounty of $1 for killing a coyote, so she found an old fence post, and the coyote “didn’t last anymore.”

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