About 75 friends and family members of Audie Wilson gathered last weekend to celebrate her 100th birthday.
Audie was born Feb. 7, 1915, in Garber, Missouri, and stayed in Taney County nearly all her life. While the little town of Garber eventually fell off the map, Audie attended the community’s school for about two years, beginning at age 4.
“I remember going down and we’d take a bath in (Roark) Creek,” Audie said. “And that’s what we done of an evening. We had our gowns with us and we’d change right there.”
Audie said there was a room upstairs where she slept.
“I remember one night my sister came back down and was scared because there was a black thing up there with its tail up and she didn’t want to go up there — it was coat over the back of a chair,” she laughed. “We grew tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, onions, beans, peas — a whole bunch of stuff.”
Audie’s youngest son, Jim Wilson, said his mother and her family moved from Garber when she was 5 or 6 years old.
“Her mother died (in childbirth) when (Audie) was 10,” he said. “Her mother died in June, and in December, her house burned down. She attended Boston Center School — it’s still a community building. When she was a little girl, she worked at a tomato canning factory in Reeds Spring and she had to stand on a box to be tall enough to peel tomatoes. This was before child labor laws.”
Jim Wilson said Audie was barely 16 when she got married.
“She turned 16 in February 1931, and then got married in April,” he said. “She had children from 1935-1949; six total ...
“She can talk your ear off about the old days.”
“What wild story do you want me to tell you?” Audie asked.
Audie said she was born and raised in Taney County.
“I (lived) in California ... for three months ... we picked peaches for awhile but I didn’t want to stay out there,” she said. “I like the hometown feel.
“We picked apricots in Washington,” she continued. “We bought a little house out there for awhile but I decided I didn’t want to stay out there. I wanted to come back to good, old Taney County ... We got a place out on Bee Creek Road (in the early 1950s).”
Audie’s granddaughter Carolyn Flanagan said Audie became a single mother fairly early in her life.
“(Her husband) would go out and drink some and she got mad at him once and had his bag packed when he got home and she said, ‘You’re on your way,’” Flanagan said. “She became a single mom. She was a workaholic and she never had a driver’s license, so she walked everywhere unless she could get a ride, but she never asked for a ride ... Living where she did on Bee Creek Road, it really was uphill both ways. She planted her own garden; she always had a wood-burning stove.”
Flanagan said Audie was extremely protective.
“When the sun goes down, you go inside and lock your doors and you don’t come out until the sun comes up,” Flanagan said of her grandmother’s actions. “Every time a car would go by the road, she would grab her gun or baseball bat and we’d have to run and hide. She would not let anything happen to her babies. That was one of my first memories of her. She was just old-fashioned, and I’m sure her stubbornness and feistiness has kept her going all these years. What a role model.”