By Rebecca R. Bibbs
For The Herald Bulletin
Clara Joan Swisher has spent a lifetime on this farm.
“We didn’t have electricity till 1936. We used to study by the oil lamp,” the 86-year-old said. “We farmed with horses. I don’t remember when we got our first tractor.”
Her dream was to be a regular on stage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. Though she actually did make it onto the stage of the original Opry, the Lyman Theater, and recorded a CD of “Amazing Grace” during a special trip for her 80th birthday, most of Swisher’s singing was done in the choir at the First Baptist Church of Alexandria.
“Honey, I swore that I wasn’t going to marry a farmer,” she said.
But that’s just what Swisher did less than six months after graduating from Alexandria High School in 1944 when she married David Swisher.
“I guess it was just in my blood, or this was the way that the Lord led me,” she said as she sighed.
In addition to the normal tasks of caring for her four daughters and three sons, keeping house, doing laundry and cooking meals, Swisher tended the 116-acre farm she and her husband owned while he went to work at the Delco Remy plant.
“I would rake hay so he could bale hay. I would milk the cows. I would transport hogs to the meatpacking company,” she said. “When we harvested soybeans, I took them to the elevator.”
For fun, Swisher baked her “pineanna nut cake,” which was similar to a Southern-style hummingbird cake. That effort won her a grand champion prize and $125 at auction at the Madison County Fair.
“It was just determination on my part that I would win a grand champion ribbon,” she said.
Now retired, the grandmother of 14 and great-grandmother of 17 awaits the birth of her first two great-great-grandchildren this summer. Though at times there has been talk about moving into town, Swisher and her husband insist on staying put on the 30 acres of farmland they haven’t yet sold off.
“Honey, I don’t know how I done it, but I done it and lived to tell the story,” she said. “It’s just a life I wouldn’t trade.”