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‘You may never have the opportunity again’

Cortez resident offers a little advice and shares memories as his 100th birthday approaches
Lewis Hurst, who will turn 100 years old on Sunday, talks on Feb. 7 about growing up on a farm when manual labor was the only way to do the job.

Lewis Hurst grew up in a different time, one of horse-drawn carriages and one-room schoolhouses.

“When you got old enough to do anything, you were up at four in the morning feeding the chickens or slopping the hogs. And when you got big enough to milk, you would be milking cows and in the field by the time the sun came up,” Hurst said.

He will celebrate his 100th birthday Sunday at Madison House Assisted Living in Cortez.

He was born on a farm in Woodward County, Oklahoma, on Feb. 18, 1918.

All the work done on his family’s farm was with manual tools because there was no such thing as “automatic.”

“Kids today do not know what work is, they just do not realize. They think mowing the lawn is really hard work, but everything was manual then,” Hurst said. “You had to have a weak mind and a strong back.”

Hurst attended a one-room schoolhouse that taught first through eighth grades.

He and his siblings would walk the 3¼ miles to school every morning and night until their parents bought a farm closer to the schoolhouse.

“Then I got to ride a horse, and I started a fire for the schoolteacher every morning so it would be warm when she got there,” Hurst said.

Hurst and his late wife, Marie, were married on a “bluff” made by friends in an ice cream parlor.

This was after he had courted Marie’s friend to get to spend time with her. Marie was only allowed to visit that friend in the evenings, so Hurst courted her to spend time with Marie.

The night they were married, Lewis and Marie and another couple woke the clerk up in the middle of the night.

The preacher tried to marry them from memory and kept forgetting what to say, so he had to get his Bible out and “do it up proper,” Hurst said.

The couples witnessed each other’s nuptials.

Hurst started out at a job at the highway department for 35 cents an hour, a good wage for the era.

He worked in the oil industry in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico for 36½ years.

Lewis and Marie had three children and a “multitude” of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.

Marie passed away after having two strokes. The couple was married for 58 years, 10 days and about three hours, according to Hurst.

Hurst moved to Cortez in 1998 to his daughter’s property after his wife passed away.

He moved into Madison House Assisted Living when his daughter and son-in-law decided they wanted to travel and were afraid to leave him alone.

“If you can’t be at home, this is the next best place,” Hurst said.

Hurst said if he had it to do over again, he would have taken the time to stop along the highway on his travels.

“If you travel, and you see something you want to see, pull off and see it because you may never have the opportunity again,” he said.