DICKSON - On Nov. 6, 1910, The Ardmoreite was reporting the hurried construction on the Carter County Courthouse and preparing voters for local elections. William Howard Taft was president, the RMS Titanic was still under construction, and Dr. Higgins delivered a baby for ranch owners near Sulphur.
“I still got my baby cap, too,” said Ruby Beasley. “When I was born, Dr. Higgins didn’t have his scales with him, so he couldn’t weigh me until momma went to visit.” She said she weighed about six pounds at that doctor’s visit, when she was six weeks old.
Over 100 years later she is still a cowboy, through and through. Her recollection of growing up on an active ranch is first-hand knowledge of Oklahoma life a century ago, and is also the roots of a family stretching six generations across multiple states. A party for her 109th birthday was held at the Dickson Community Center on Saturday and drew guests from across the country.
Granddaughters and nephews remembered her as tough when they were growing up, but Beasley’s soft side could be sensed when she spoke about her father, sisters, and a blanket her late daughter made 60 years ago. That blanket still sits on her chair. She has lost three children over the years, most recently in 2018.
Beasley’s birthday party has become an annual event since she turned 100. Family from across Oklahoma, Texas, and even as far away as Colorado make the trek to Dickson, a place family said is a good central location that can be rented around her birthday each year. Even former neighbors that now live out-of-state make the journey.
As friends and family streamed by to give hugs and happy birthday wishes, Beasley talked about saddling mules and feeding cows in her youth. While it was not a line of work carried on by later generations, her long history of agricultural work is evident in the stories she shares--something familiar to many Oklahoma families with ties to ranches or farms.
“I used to have to get up at 4 o’clock every morning, go in there and build a fire in the heater, get my clothes on, build a fire in the kitchen, and get breakfast,” she said. “Me and dad would eat, and then we’d get out and go feed them cattle.”
Family members reminisced during the party about visiting her Texas dairy farm while growing up in the 1970s or visiting her and other family in Oklahoma for holidays in the 1980s. Beasley, however, is one of the few who can still remember working the ranch with her father in the 1920s or the economic effects of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In 2015, Beasley took part in The Oklahoma 100 Year Life Collection. Her 90-minute interview was part of an effort to record an oral history from Oklahoma centenarians and make the information available to scholars and researchers. Many of the stories she shared at 105 years old were easily remembered on Saturday.
Even at the close of the 2010s, family said she remains mostly independent. She can’t see well enough to read anymore but still receives phone calls and visitors. Nearby family and friends stop by to help with meals or simply check in, but Beasley had no problem venting frustrations about her inability to mow the lawn. “I’d mow my yard if Tommy would ever get up there and see to my lawnmower,” she said.
She associates her long life to hard work. “All I’ve ever done is work, ever since I was big enough to reach up...and hold up a one-row planter,” she said.