BOGATA — Mrs. Dixie Stringfellow probably has never heard Five For Fighting’s song that says, “15, there’s still time for you, Time to buy and time to lose, there’s never a wish better than this, When you’ve only got a hundred years to live.”

She may not be familiar with Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Blink,” which also has the theme of time going by faster than you think. Songs or not, it’s a concept “Miz Dixie,” as many call her, is very familiar with.

Miz Dixie knows how fast 100 years goes by — she’s heading for 101 on Dec. 26.

“I was almost a Christmas baby,” she said with a grin.

She arrived on Dec. 26, 1921. Her maiden name of York was changed at the age of 15 when she married William Stringfellow in 1936. William was 16.

They had four children, Ronnie, called Bill, Buddy, Jimmy and Wayne, nicknamed Will. She and William parted ways in 1954. Later she married G.M. Rector, and they had her only daughter, Vicki.

In addition to her five children, she basically raised two grandsons. She has 15 grandchildren and step-grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren, with another due in November.

Her family calls her “Mama Dixie,” and it’s obvious she is the rock the family knows is always solidly there.

Miz Dixie is amazing. She lives in her pleasant, comfortable home in Bogata. She takes care of herself. A broken hip a few years ago means she uses a cane now, a fact that may mildly irritate her but doesn’t slow her down. She fits very few of the preconceptions people tend to have about those who reach 100. Her mind is as sharp and active as a young person’s. In the living room where she spends a lot of time, there is a laptop and a printer. She loves photographs and can scan and print old photos if she’s in the mood.

The room is filled with framed photos of family. Bookshelves are filled with photo albums, too.

“I’ve always loved family trees and family history,” she said. “Even when I was a little thing.”

Her prodigious memory is put to good use as she posts happy birthdays, anniversaries or well wishes to family and friends on Facebook or comments on someone else’s post.

One of her great-granddaughters, her namesake Dixie Tabb, brought down the house at her first competition for Texas High School Rodeo Queen recently. In her speech, she mentioned one of her favorite things to do is play canasta with her 100-year-old great-grandmother.

To look at this small woman, it’s hard to believe she’s 100. Her ready smile lights up her face and a quick wit brings laughter to the conservation.

Sadly, her three oldest boys are all gone. Wayne, the remaining son, lives in Wyoming and is well known as a frequent star on the History Channel show “Mountain Men.” He often appears with Tom Orr or at his Willow Bend Trading Post. On the show, he goes by Will.

During her life, this strong-willed woman has lived in a variety of places. While most of them were in Texas, she and William lived 38 months in Baltimore, Maryland, during World War II.

When her husband was hurt on a west Texas Oil Rig, he became a grocer.

As she talks, it’s incredible to hear dates roll off her tongue as if they were yesterday. “Back in 1929” or “a while ago, in 1945” seem normal to her. Yet, these dates and events are quite literally in history books now.

When asked about the progress during her long lifespan, she lights up and talks animatedly about the marvels she’s seen. From mule-drawn plows to air conditioned tractors, Miz Dixie has seen all the changes. She recalls when electric lights replaced kerosene lamps, and when electric fans helped make Texas summers better.

But what does she think is the greatest invention? The washer and dryer.

“Before washers, you had to build a fire under the big cast iron wash pot in the yard,” she said. “The water had to be drawn up bucket by bucket to fill the pot and two tubs. You added soap and scrubbed the clothes on a washboard. Then you transferred them to the first rinse, wrung them out, put them in the second rinse and then had to wring them out again.”

Only then were they ready to be hung on a clothesline, where dust storms, sudden rain or high winds could make the whole cycle necessary to do over.

“I’ll never forget how proud I was with that first washer and dryer,” she said with a smile.

One point of pride in her life is that she served as an assistant or election judge for many, many years. She recalls the fun she had serving with Frances Rozell, John Mac Howison or Dude Lassiter. She began helping with elections in 1971 or 1972.

“Back when Ronald Reagan was elected, we didn’t get through until 3 in the morning,” she said laughing.

Her granddaughter, Dee Tabb’s, three girls, Maggie Dee, Dixie and Ronica, have been involved in rodeo. One of their biggest supporters is their great-grandmother. And support doesn’t mean just pride, it often means being there. Her longest trip was in 2017 when she traveled with family to Wyoming to watch Maggie compete in Nationals.

Her last trip was this year, to see Dixie turn over her crown as Texas Junior High Rodeo Queen. That trip was only to Gonzales.

It’s no surprise that Miz Dixie’s female descendants are all smart, strong, independent women. They’ve had a tremendous role model.

“I’ve done a little bit of a whole lot of things over the years,” Miz Dixie said. “I was 42 when I first worked in a cafe.”

Working at Bogey’s Cafe in Bogata turned out to be a longtime job. She started about 1965 and continued well into her 70s when she retired. She said working with Bogey’s was like being with family. She handled the tables and Lorraine handled the kitchen.

Bogey’s was locally famous for their delicious, mountain high meringue topped pies.

“I never baked them,” she said with a twinkle, “but I still get credit for them from some folks. I guess because I served them.”

At one time, she and her sister owned a little drive-in.

She grew up in the cotton fields and loved farming with her daddy. She could hook up a team as fast as her daddy.

Not so long ago, Lewis Home Health had a phone problem. She lives across from the office. They asked if they could run the phones through her for an hour or two.

“I only got one call. I told them about that call. Told them (who it was) and that he still thought he lived in Bogata, but I knew good and well he lived in Paris now.”

She wrote local news for the Bogata News for many, many years, helped carry mail a bit and did all sorts of jobs.

Her son, Buddy, began having sales in 1974, and she wound up helping him. At first, they were at the flea market in Cunningham but eventually the sales resolved to being at her home.

Her home right now has her roomy porches, the garage, a store room and a room full of her rummage sale items. They range from clothes to knives, glassware and dishes, toys and bicycles to books and tools.

She keeps the items and sale areas clean, and locals know they can use the honor system if Miz Dixie isn’t home or doesn’t quite feel up to answering her door. A small box is provided and people will buy what they want and leave the money in the box. Sometimes they just leave a note telling what they took and that they will catch her later.

Often, when a family loses everything in a fire or falls upon hard times, this woman invites them to come and take what they need, from bedding, clothes and kitchen goods to some toys and decorative items, they are welcome to them. And she will take no payment.

She was looking forward to the Bogata City Wide sale that happened Oct. 2. She said she thinks she may sell all she can, get rid of the rest and retire from the sale business.

“I had banisters put up a while back, but then Vicki and I covered them up with plastic to have more sale area. I want to take that plastic down and just enjoy my porch for once,” she said.

Whether she really does “retire” after nearly 50 years of rummage or garage sales remains to be seen.

She is the last of nine brothers and sisters. She’s lost three of her five children. She’s known tragedy and loss over the course of her long, long life. But she doesn’t dwell on the bad times. Instead she laughs while recounting happy stories. She remembers when she lived in nearby Johntown that the women of the community put on a play called “Twelve Old Maids.” It was such a hit that they put on performances at Bogata School and Sugar Hill. That was in 1958.

“We had so much fun. It was a comedy and it got people to laughing,” she recalled. “That was so popular, we did another one later.”

Her pride in her family knows no bounds. Her interest in friends and neighbors doesn’t either. Miz Dixie loves to visit and to learn new things like the computer or social media.

Through her century of life, she has seen wars, tragedies, progress and invention. Nineteen U.S. presidents have served during her lifetime. Medical advances such as antibiotics, minimally invasive surgeries, life support and vaccines have come into being.

She has watched this area, which used to be devoted to farming cotton and little else, diversify. And she has seen small town business districts wither and die.

When asked what advice she would give some young person starting out today, she didn’t rush her answer. Her soft, pleasant face grows still and those eyes that have witnessed so much look inward. Then she speaks.

“Just try to do something they like. Don’t spend your life doing work that makes you miserable. That’s no way to spend your life,” she said.

Yes, this strong, funny lady knows a bit about how fast time goes. And upon reflection, it wouldn’t be a bit surprising if Dixie York Stringfellow had heard Five for Fighting’s “Fifteen” or Chesney’s “Don’t Blink.” After all, she’s pretty up on things.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.