101-Year-Old RV Park Owner Reflects on Life
Late afternoons, when Ray Crawford eases his 101-year-old body down the steps from his room to the market at Crawford's Market Campground, a 300-site RV park near Springfield, Ohio, life seems good.
Its rules are straightforward, its workings no more complex than the old wooden cash register used for sales of pop, produce, propane, candy and the necessities kept on hand for his campers and neighbors, the Springfield News-Sun reported.
“I’m going along, trying to get my bills paid, doing what I’m supposed to do,” Crawford said.
Crawford was farming and feeding cattle and hogs 50 years ago when he bought the place on U.S. 40 east of Springfield.
“He’ll sit and talk to you for hours about when the kids used to come out and pick beans,” said Pam Chenoweth, one of the “brats” that used to pick and who now works at the store.
“He was always so nice, and his wife (Ruth Ann) loved the kids,” Chenoweth said. “I took piano lessons from her” — in the barn.
Ruth Ann is gone, and in a voice nearly as thin as his body, Crawford remembers her telling him to divorce her because she couldn’t have children, a reason she loved teaching at Highlands Elementary and at the piano in the barn.
To deal with that passel of emotion, Crawford half joked that he’d married her to be a workhorse instead of a brood mare, anyway, and they stuck together.
“Everybody, when I was farming and renting, everybody asked, ‘How much money you got?’ They all wanted to get into my pocket,” Crawford said.
Ruth Ann “didn’t give a damn how many acres I had, how many hogs I had, how many cattle I had. She didn’t care for nothing.” Except maybe for him.
“She was a good woman,” Crawford said. “I should introduce her in a much better manner.”
As he stops in to pick up something and to give Crawford the required abuse, neighbor Mark Terrell Sr. suggests asking about Crawford’s trip at age 14 to Key West in the days before highways or rails connected the Keys.
Cheryl Cornett, who also helps at the store, warns not to ask about Crawford’s days as an athlete at the University of Tennessee.
Crawford talks instead about his dad, who was raised along the Ohio River by an uncle after losing both parents by age 10.
“He was a go-getter,” Crawford said, and honest enough that the mention of Samuel Crawford’s name opened doors for the boy.
Crawford’s mother was a good cook and “a pistol,” who made birthday cakes for all seven kids and could shoehorn 17 hunted quails into a pan at Christmas.
In contrast to those two upright folks Crawford recalls people who stumbled in life because of what he calls “wants.”
“I never was jealous about what anybody else had, and I didn’t envy anybody, so I had a pretty clean sheet of memory.”
And, following his father’s advice, he never bought anything until he had the money for it.
One other thing he was lucky about was friends.
When the preacher that married them refused payment, Crawford planted a penny in his palm and harvested a smile and a friend for life. He ticks off the names and stories of half a dozen other close companions — including one who could tell any hog’s weight within 10 pounds.
All are gone now, friends and hogs. But Crawford still finds much to enjoy: The weather, the paper, milk or juice to drink, McDonald’s pancakes and the folks at the market.
Neither needing nor wanting more, each afternoon when Ray Crawford eases his 101-year-old body down the steps and into his market, life seems good.