August 22, 2018
Even at 90, she might be independent for a lot more years because she’s staying active and fit, riding an exercise bike in her living room as she watches TV
As Fay Newton rode gracefully atop a mule at the mule derby Saturday at the Hancock County Fair, the 90-year-old relied on a lifetime of riding experience and a regiment of exercise to glide effortlessly past onlookers less than half her age.
Newton has grown comfortable on horses, having owned several in her life, starting with a quarter horse and ending with a Tennessee walker, which she had to sell after her second husband had to go into a nursing home.
She’s outlived her two husbands, and lives by herself in her home which is exactly how she wants it.
“I like living by myself,” she said. “I’m going to as long as they’ll let me.”
Even at 90, she might be independent for a lot more years because she’s staying active and fit, riding an exercise bike in her living room as she watches TV.
“Back in the winter sometimes I’d ride 10 miles a day, but now I’ve ben riding five or six miles a day,” she said. “I think my legs are strong because of riding horses so much.”
She’s been riding since she was just a young teenager helping her parents on the farm.
“Only time I rode anything then was mules, rode them to the field,” she said. “We rented tobacco two or three miles away from us and Daddy would put me on the mules and then he’d bring the truck and the plows and everything.”
After she married in 1950, she still farmed but sometimes had to do without the help of her husband, who would be off running heavy equipment for his job.
“A lot of times he’d leave and I’d have to take care of the crop,” she said.
They raised tobacco, which had to be put up in the barn, handed up from worker to worker before it reached the highest points.
“I always went to the top of the barn,” she said, laughing.
Hard work has kept her healthy, she guesses, and it has often dictated the events of her life, like how her parents’ store set the schedule for her schooling growing up.
“I got out of the eighth grade and Daddy wouldn’t let me go to high school because I would’ve had to walk two miles to catch a bus,” she said.
When her parents bought a store in Chambers when she was 16, she finally had the chance to continue her education.
“I was 17 years old when I started high school,” she said.
She graduated, but the store also became the scene of the birth of her first child.
“We lived in half of the store at the time,” she said, so the doctor came and delivered it there. She eventually went on to have a total of five children.
Later in life she worked at places like GE and Premium Allied Tool, but she maintained healthy habits that have contributed to her longevity.
“I’ve never smoked and I’ve never drank any alcohol,” she said.
It worked even better than she’d imagined.
“I never dreamed I’ve live this long,” she said.
Her love of horses and riding continues even today, where she’s planning an upcoming horse camping trip with some of her family, where they’ll ride on trails during the day and sleep in a horse trailer at night.
They’ve been on so many trips like this with family and friends like Martha Mason that she’s earned two belt buckles for taking week-long trips for five years in a row in places like Bucksnort, Tennessee.
She still drives and her family has spawned eight grandchildren and untold numbers of great-grandchildren. Her hobbies have slowly dwindled as the years progress.
“I used to like to piece quilts, but my fingers just don’t work very well any more,” she said. “I still crochet rugs, something big. I don’t crochet little stuff.
But she still feels pretty good, so she hops on her stationary bike each day and pedals away, knowing that she’s still got more to do.
Until the next ride, be it on the bike or on a horse, she spends her time in a pretty easy way.
“Just doing mostly whatever I want to do,” she said.
By Dave Taylor
The Hancock Clarion