Maggie Lou Smith may be 91 years old, but don't try to tell her to slow down. She has written three books in the past three years and is now planning to record some songs she wrote many years ago.

Maggie Lou Smith may be 91 years old, but don't try to tell her to slow down. She has written three books in the past three years and is now planning to record some songs she wrote many years ago.

Although she shares her Monroe City, Mo., home with her son, Larry Smith, a disabled Vietnam War veteran, she believes in being independent, and explains her long, healthy life.

“I believe in prayer and vitamins,” she said. “If it wasn't for the good Lord being with me, I wouldn't be here this long.”

A Shaklee products dealer for many years, she takes two alfalfa tablets every day. “I buy 100 percent alfalfa,” she said. “If I go without alfalfa, I have to walk with a cane. (By taking it) I don't have any arthritis.”

She also takes lecithin, “to keep from having memory loss. I have had two heart attacks. Once I had one and three weeks later went to a doctor and had an EKG. He said, 'You've had a heart attack.'” Lecithin also helped when, “I had a stroke, with my vision blurred and speech slurred.

My son called an ambulance, but I took a lecithin and didn't have to go to the hospital.”

Book describes the Great Depression

Smith's first book, “Life Can Be Beautiful,” begins with her childhood on the family farm at Hunnewell during the Great Depression. Her parents were Frank Lee and Lennie Ethel (Ide) Yager.

One vivid memory involved her feet freezing. “I was 10 years old,” Smith said. “We wanted to go to school for Valentines Day, and we walked four miles. My feet were frozen, and Mom put them in ice water.

“With nine kids in the Depression days, we nearly starved to death,” she said. “We would go out and eat wild berries and grapes. In 1933 and 1934 we got food from the Food Bank and would fight over the oranges. We ate a lot of navy beans and cornbread, and homemade sorghum. We didn't have money.

“I've never been afraid of nothing,” she said. “I grew tough by growing up with seven brothers. … I looked up to my brothers.” She hunted with them, boasting, “I got a deer the first time I went deer hunting.

“I left home when I was 12 and took care of an old maid to go to high school in Monroe City,” she continued. “I was already cleaning houses. With nine children, there were too many of us. I had to go to work. … I quit school in my junior year and got married.” Her husband, Russell Smith, left shortly after their wedding to serve in the South Pacific in World War II.

Later for 17 years she hosted reunions of her husband's World War II Army Infantry company. “They made me an associate member of his 129th Infantry of the 37th Division, U.S. Army,” Smith said.

Smith was proud to report that 17 family members – including her husband and son - had served in the U.S. military. They are listed in her first book.

The book also includes names of many neighbors, friends and family members through the years.

The Smiths raised their three children on a farm. During those years, she carried a gun and at times ran people off the property, accompanied by her dog, a German pointer named Spike.

She and Russell moved to town when he was 65. Before Russell died in in 1999, she cared for him for several years, taking him to the VA hospital in Columbia many times. Later she took care of 13 people, “mostly old people.”

Smith's home remedies listed in second book

Several of Smith's home remedies for illnesses are listed in her second book, “Before I'm Too Old.” She wrote this from notes she had written. “Over the years, I'd make a note of something I heard from my mom or what people have told me and what I've tried,” she said. “I began in 1946.

“Friends call me (for advice),” she added. The book has health hints, she said, such as “gargling vinegar for a sore throat. … For a gall bladder attack, drink lemon juice. It will dissolve gallstones. Eat apples for constipation, and toast and bananas for diarrhea.”

This book also contains prayers, recipes, household hints and advice about living well.

Her third book, “The Last Chapter,” includes details she neglected to include in the first book, including how she always farmed and did outdoor work by the signs in the almanac.

The books include her two daughters. Cathy Creesen and Connie Love. Creesen works in a hospital in Fort Madison, Iowa, and lives in Donnellson, Iowa. Love lives in Columbia, Mo., where she teaches quilting and works in a quilt shop.

Smith also has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and the books include amusing stories about things they have said and done. “Julie Gwinner of Hannibal is my oldest granddaughter,” she said.

Smith is selling the first two books for $10 each, and the third for $8, because it is briefer. Her books may be purchased by calling her at 573-735-2367.

Reach reporter Bev Darr at bev.darr@courierpost.com.