At 102 years old, Tommie Burroughs has better vision than a good number of people in their 30s and 40s.
He is able to read the Statesboro Herald every day without the help of eyeglasses. It’s part of his daily routine, in which he wakes up at 7 a.m., sits on the porch for a few hours and reads.
“I enjoy reading it because I need to find out what’s going on,” he said.
Burroughs celebrated his 102nd birthday with family and friends at a Statesboro nursing home on Oct. 23. And on Thursday evening, his family celebrated an early Thanksgiving meal with him at the nursing home.
A lifelong resident of Bulloch County, Burroughs grew up near the Banks Creek Church community outside Portal and lived most of his life on a farm a few miles away from his childhood home.
His parents, Spencer and Laura Anderson Burroughs, had 10 children. He is the second youngest and the only surviving sibling among his six sisters and three brothers. His wife, Lula Mae Burroughs, died in 2001, and they have three children.
For many years, Tommie Burroughs farmed cotton, tobacco and corn. But he said he enjoyed “growing peanuts the most because he could produce as much as a ton an acre.”
He remembers what he calls the “tight times” of the Great Depression, when he was in his 20s, and doing plumbing work for 50 cents an hour. He says as a single man, $5 would buy him enough groceries to last for a month.
His daughter Catherine Williams, who lives in Indiana, says he was a tough but good father who did not hesitate to spank his children.
“I got plenty of them, more than my sister and brother,” she said. “We didn’t talk back, and we did what he told us to do. In no way were we spoiled, but I tell him today how much I appreciate the way he raised me. I am so happy for him that he could celebrate this birthday, and I hope he continues to live many more years as long as his health continues the way it is now.”
Burroughs’ hearing is fading but his memory is strong. He attended the one-room schoolhouses of Johnson Grove and Free Chapel.
On his birthday, he recited a poem he says he learned in seventh grade:
I work for Pat McMigney
He never let me shirk;
He is a farmer by profession
His middle name is work.
He gets me up at 4 a.m.
To milk a hundred cows,
And gather up the chicken eggs
And feed his broken sows.
So when I sit down to breakfast
You ought to see his spread
My inside must be made of steel,
Or else I’d soon be dead.
I got hold of a piece of chicken
Had been dead for twenty or long years
Before my teeth got through it
I had pain behind my ears.
So I made up in my mind
To gather up my kit
I asked him for my fifty-cent
And told him that I quit.
When I get my fifty cent
I’ll save another ten
I’ll either buy me a Cadillac
Or else a Hudson six.