Volume I, No. 3, Spring 1974




A VISIT WITH MYRTLE & ELVIE

by Suzanne Carr

When we arrived at the home of Myrtle and Elva Hough, we were greeted enthusiastically at the gate and asked to "come on in the house." We entered through a side door, a habit common to country people. In fact, many folks only open their front doors to let the fresh air circulate in the spring.

Although the house was unfamiliar to us, it had a comfortable lived-in feeling about it. The furnishings gave us a familiar I-know-you look. The old-timey photographs on the wall and even the upright piano with its yellowed keys and opened hymnal seemed to echo the friendliness of our hosts. In such an atmosphere conversation always flourishes and certain obvious questions are bound to be asked. Like...

Mr. Hough, how did you and Mrs. Hough meet?

SHE TAUGHT SCHOOL HERE IN OUR DISTRICT.

And that's where you met her at?

YES.

How old were you?

OH, ABOUT FOURTEEN OR FIFTEEN.

Oh, Elvie, now this is going down on record. You tell the truth.

I WAS ABOUT TWENTY SOMETHING.

How old were you when you were married?

We dated about two years but I still taught school in this neighborhood. I was twenty when I met Elvie and he was about twenty-seven.

Did your parents like him?

Oh yes. My father said, well, he wished he had another girl if Elvie had another brother like him. That's a compliment.

Did they like Mrs. Hough?

MEAN MY FOLKS?

Yeah.

OH THEY THOUGHT THE WORLD OF HER.

I never heard you say that before. Learn something new everyday. I bet you told her ten times but she never listened.

YEAH!

Where did you live?

ABOUT ONE-HALF MILE NORTH OF HERE. I WAS RAISED THERE AND LIVED IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD ALL MY LIFE.

Where did you go to school at?

WE HAD SCHOOL THERE ABOUT A FOURTH MILE FROM US.

Hough School...Hough Church... Hough Cemetery. They got a place to bury us even.

Well, at least you know where you're going to be buried at.

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HOPE I'M BURIED THERE.

When you're on the farm do you ever feel like that you would like to move to the city?

The only time that I ever wanted to leave the farm was when our older children got ready to go to high school, and we didn't have very much of a high school. But I really did then. I wanted to move in town where the children could go to school, but outside of that, no. No, not as long as we can take care of ourselves.

Have your children ever tried to talk you into it?

Not anymore. They learned a long time ago.

How many children do you have?

Six. NOW don't let me go to bragging on our kids. I can talk all day on them. But the children have all done well. I mean, we are proud of them all.

Whenever your children all moved away, what did you do?

Then they thought we just couldn't make it. We just had to sell out. But goodness no! We won't ever move to town as long as we can take care of ourselves.

Do you ever get lonely on the farm?

No never. I've got too much to do. I have interesting things that I like to do. I like gardening and I like flowers and lots ....

Mr. Hough, do you ever get lonely?

NO. I SURE DON'T. YOU KNOW ON THE FARM YOU MAKE YOUR BUSINESS THERE AND IF YOU'LL MANAGE IT RIGHT, YOU'VE ALWAYS GOT SOMETHING TO DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME. YOU JUST HAVE TO BE ON THE FARM AWHILE JUST TO REALIZE WHAT IS THERE. THERE'S MORE AMUSEMENT AND FUN ON THE FARM THAN ANY PLACE ELSE. THERE'S MORE LIFE THERE THAN ANYWHERE. YOU TAKE THE BIRDS AND EVERYTHING THAT GROWS OUT THERE AND IT'S LIVELY.

"I have many interesting things that I like to do."

"They just know my voice and come a-running."

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You hear a lot of folks say that the farm is lonely, but we've lived here fifty-six years and I never have a single time that I could say that I was lonely.

And I bet a lot of times you've been here by yourself, too, haven't you?

Oh my gracious, yes. A lot of times.

I LOVE TO BE OUT IN THE OPEN AND WHERE I CAN SEE WILDLIFE. YOU CAN'T SEE IT IN TOWN.

Well, we have to have a city. And I guess for the people who like to live in the city, that's fine. But the country agrees with us, wouldn't you say?

I think it does. What are some of the things you especially like about the farm?

WELL, YOU CAN GET OUT AND GO AND DO AS YOU PLEASE.

I think peace of mind is what I say.

If you could go back in time and change...like anything that you've done in your lifetime, what would you do?

If I had to go back?

Yeah, if you had to go back and change something.

And I had the opportunity of changing?

Is there anything you'd like to change or would you like to live it just as you do?

Just the Same, I'd say. We had fun then the same as we do today but you can accomplish more things today. For instance, I can go in the kitchen and I can fix a meal in fifteen or twenty minutes when otherwise I didn't help on the farm one bit. I spent all of my time cooking and washing and taking care of the children.

What are some of the most important changes that you've seen over the years?

I think the biggest change is the way of doing things. Like washing. Now I washed on a wash board, and a tub and then I bought a little machine that was turned by a crank...hand turned with a crank. Now I have an automatic, and I'd rather have that automatic than anything else. The electricity is marvelous. I'd hate to do without electricity. I could, of course, but I'd hate to. All of you children are fortunate. You don't know how fortunate you are. I can remember the time it really hurt me to have a tin can on the place. We canned everything and about the only thing we bought was sugar and spices. I remember I had an herb garden one time. I'd can twelve to fourteen quarts of everything you could think of and we just didn't need to buy anything. Our orchards are gone, though. We used to have all kinds of fruit and berries and grapes, so we'd make all kinds of jellies and jams and pickles. But I can tell you it's easier, though, now to do it the other way.

Would you go back?

If I had to I would.

Would you like to?

NO, no. I can't say "the good ole days." We had fun in those days, but I think opportunities are greater now than they were.

How come?

Well, it's so much easier to make a living. The prices of the things we have to sell are more in line...meet the things we buy. You can buy more things now than you could when Mr. Hough and I were first married. Also when I grew up there weren't very many young people got the privilege of going to high school. Now we have many who go to high school if their parents back them up. But some of the parents fail.

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Do you think we will see as many things change as you saw in your lifetime?

YOU don't hardly dare draw a breath! But I can't see why the next generation shouldn't be more advanced than we are today.

YOU KIDS HAVEN'T EVER EXPERIENCED WHAT WE HAVE.

That's what I mean. You grew up when there were no motors. You took a horse if you wanted to go somewhere.

NOW IN THIS GENERATION THERE IS SUCH FEW HORSES. VERY FEW OF THEM RIDE HORSES.

Not the way you did at any rate.

NO, THEY JUST ENJOY THEM. THERE'S A FEW KIDS THAT COME FROM THOSE BIG TOWNS AND GO OUT THERE AND LOOK AT THAT COW AND DON'T KNOW WHAT IT WAS.

Yeah?

THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT A CHICKEN WAS.

Well, I think most of the people in Lebanon know what that was.

Elvie's talking about the larger cities like L.A.

What other animals do you have?

Oh, we have ducks and geese.

Do you have to go feed them every night?

NIGHT AND MORNING.

He'll feed them if you want to see them.

Swell. Do they come right to you when you go out there?

OH, THEY JUST COME A-RUNNING.

Do you talk to them?

SURE. THEY JUST KNOW MY VOICE AS QUICK AS I'LL SPEAK.

And they try to run me out.

Do they?

I put a pair of red slacks on one day and they sure tried to run me out of the lot.

What other animals do you have? Do you have any cattle?

OH, WE HAVE CATTLE AND THEY'RE ALL JUST LIKE KIDS.

You can just go out there and they'll just come up.

What do you think about kids today?

Oh, I just think the world of them.

Well, we just think the world of the Houghs, too. We really appreciate their showing us how they used to live, as well as their good Ozark hospitality. When we were working on the molasses story, in addition to all the effort they had gone to, Myrtle frankly told us that we were going to eat dinner with them. Even though we had brought our own lunches, the same went for the day we spent with them learning to tack a comfort. They have spent days helping us to gather material for several of the features on the following pages. (See Sorghum Molasses - Bittersweet Style, page 18; Using the Grain Cradle, page 30; Using Lye - Ash Hopper, Hominy, Making Soap, page 36; and Tacking for Comfort, page 43.)

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Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.


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