Farm life still suits Wood, 97

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May 28, 2015 - 12:00 AM

MORAN — At 97, it’s a safe bet Ruth Wood is the sole survivor of the 1936 graduating class of Elsmore High School.
After all, there were only a dozen in her class.
She fondly remembers walking the three miles to school and back each day. And though she wanted to take bookkeeping and typing courses, lack of equipment prevented more than two students at a time to take the popular classes.
The school closed about 50 years ago.
As a youngster, Ruth remembers an Elsmore of a different era. She grew up on a farm, the daughter of Elmer and Hanna Mattson.
In its heyday, Elsmore had three grocery stores, a hardware store, bank, doctor’s office, hotel and restaurant. Three of Ruth’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from Sweden. Both Elsmore and its neighbor, Savonburg, were early Swedish colonies. The iconic Swedish symbol, a decoratively painted red horse hangs on the kitchen wall.
At age 18, Ruth married Paul Wood, a farmer. They were married 65 years up until his death in 2002.
As a farmer’s wife, Ruth worked, and worked and worked. Perhaps it’s that active lifestyle that has afforded Ruth such a strong constitution. Even today, her handshake is firm.
When she wasn’t tending to two gardens, she raised chickens, both fryers and laying hens. Or she was sewing clothes for her four children.
“Mom made all my dresses for school,” said her daughter, Susan Haddan, 62, who lives about 15 miles away in rural Stark.
Ruth canned and pickled their garden produce. She sold eggs in Gas City. She baked bread.
And when it came time to slaughter one of their hogs or cows, she was right in the mix, telling her husband which parts she wanted to can.
That’s right, canned meat.
Ruth would take prize sections and put them in a jar to cook in a pressure cooker.
“It was darned good,” she said.
Susan remembers another delicacy from the butchering process. Fried brains.
“They were breaded and tasted like fish,” she said.
The Wood family ate what they grew.
Sundays, especially, was a day to remember.
“After church we’d always have a big meal,” Susan said. Mother would have peeled the potatoes and dressed the chicken before the family set off for services at Golden Valley Church. A typical menu included fried chicken, mashed potatoes, tomatoes, corn on the cob and a fresh berry pie.
From sunup to way past sundown, Ruth worked on the farm, until one day she took a job “in town.”
For 15 years she worked as a cook at McAtee Nursing Home, which was the former St. John’s Hospital, and then at Moran Manor.
That changed the dynamics at home, forcing Susan and her siblings, Gary, Glenda and Paula, to pick up the slack at home, “Though we never came close to matching mom,” Susan, 62, said.

GARY WOOD, 73, tends to his mother on a daily basis. Living “across the section,” where he also farms, Gary comes to have coffee with his mother every morning at 5:30.
Gary also tends his mother’s farm and with Susan sees that their mother attends doctor’s appointments.
Ruth accepts this business of growing old with grace.
On her motorized scooter she  can go out on the deck of her home and tend to her two tomato plants and look across the expanse of her farm.
The crickets and dragonflies zoom by, disturbing a sleepy afternoon.
“I hope I die out here,” Ruth said with an unsurpassed peacefulness in her voice.

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