Rose Clark is 98 years old, but you wouldn’t know it by the way she bounded into the StoryCorps MobileBooth in Asheville, N.C., to record an interview with her son Gary. Rose is a true mountain woman, born on a farm in the middle of Blue Ridge Mountains. One of eleven children, she and her family ate off of the land. Rose began milking cows as soon as she could walk. “The only thing we bought was coffee and sugar,” she said.
Rose Clark and her son, Gary Clark
Rose met her husband at a revival at the Baptist church. Shortly after they married Rose moved with her husband to a logging camp where she cooked for the loggers near the Qualla Boundary. “I didn’t do nothing but cook for those men. All work and no play.”
She has been caring for people her entire life. She kept a garden for her family. “Hoed it and canned it myself.” Milked her own cows, churned her own butter, gathered her eggs, baked her biscuits and then she would go to her parents homestead and do the same for them. At one point she was tending three gardens — helping out her brother’s family, working her own kitchen garden, and still caring for her mother and father, while raising two of her grandchildren.
The secret to a long life according to Rose, is hard work. “Hard work never killed nobody, if it did, then I’d be dead a long time ago,” she said. But I think the secret is her giggle. A sweet little laugh punctuates the end of her sentences. She is all smiles. And her son is quick to point out, “those are all of her own teeth.”