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story.lead_photo.caption Katie Evalee Clayton poses with her five sons, from left, Gary, Larry, Ronnie, Carroll and Maurice Clayton during her 101st birthday celebration Sunday in Queen City, Texas. Staff photo by Neil Abeles

Katie Evalee Clayton may be 101, but her five boys still mind.

Could it be they recall the peach tree switches? Katie does.

"It was right outside the house," she said quietly to the photographer as she insisted he stay for her birthday dinner. "Its limbs made fine switches."

The boys — Gary, Larry, Ronnie, Carroll and Maurice — like to tell stories about those switches and the snakes they encountered growing up in Queen City.

One time a snake got in their father's pickup out in the back yard. The boys got it out, but dad (Merrell) wouldn't get near the truck for days.

On another occasion, dad slowed the pickup for the boys to chase a snake on the roadside. When the snake went up into the neighbor's yard, the owner came running out saying, "Leave my pet snake alone!"

Such stories came easy at the mother's birthday party Sunday, and Katie encouraged everyone to tell whatever they wanted. She's like that. Besides, she'd minded them all their lives and could still do it.

"It's her birthday. Let's tell stories about her," son Gary said.

"The one that tells me most about her is the time when I was young and mom and I were outside. She stepped on a board with a nail in it that went through her foot."

Gary said the mother told the son to pull the nail out.

"I couldn't do it. So she just reached down, put her foot on the board and pulled it out. She put some cloths around it, and we continued working."

"Perseverance and God-centered" is how the boys describe mom.

It seems the parents took the boys to church every time it was open.

"We were all there, even if drug by our ears," Carroll said.

" ... we're blessed to have a mother like her. Always special to us, she showed how to do things from day one and is still going on today."
Ronnie Clayton

One of the best memories for the five was the breakfasts.

"Every morning, two huge pans of biscuits, bacon, sausage, eggs, big jar of Blackburn Syrup. Those big pans had five biscuits per kid. That's 25. We'd sit down and devour. And plenty of fresh milk."

The milk brought back one tale that Gary at first wished wouldn't be re-told.

"Gary had this best friend Danny Green, who really liked milk. He'd stand there about 10 feet away from the cow and let Gary squirt him in the face with the milk first before Gary would get him a glass of fresh milk. Danny sure did like milk," Larry told.

Katie had the boys all day long since dad would be up and off to the defense plant before daylight and then home after 6.

"I'd have the boys taken care of until then," she said.

Of course, when dad arrived there was no problem, but once the school superintendent did have to come, Maurice recalled.

"J.K. Hileman came to the front door and said he'd had to whip Maurice that day."

"Thank you, I think I can handle it from here, Mr. Hileman," Merrell said.

After that there was never a problem, Maurice said.

"That was the way you disciplined then. The superintendent came over and knocked on your door."

The five boys are all close in age from 71 to 79. Their mother, who likes to laugh big, talks a lot and holds on to the person she's talking to, would say simply, "The Lord helped me through it."

"It wasn't easy, we worked," Ronnie said. "But we're blessed to have a mother like her. Always special to us, she showed how to do things from day one and is still going on today."

"We didn't have a lot, and I remember we couldn't have candy and cookies and things," Gary said. "But every afternoon we'd come home and mother would have sweet potatoes, one for each of us, baked in the oven so we could have something sweet," Gary said before adding, "To this day I can't stand them."

The family remembered the trip to Carlsbad Caverns and camping out in Arkansas. Seems all of their memories involve the out of doors.

"We never spent time in house," they said.

But they were happy to be at home for their mom's 101st day Sept. 13.

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