GOING STRONG AT 90
By Alice Perry Linker
Observer Staff Writer
he doesn't ride horseback anymore, but at 90, Gertie Hibbert still drives a tractor.
"You can consider me a tomboy, I guess," Hibbert said after climbing down from the tractor seat one cloudy morning last week.
She's still driving her car, too, and sometimes travels from her rural Union County home to La Grande "two or three times a week."
She recently had her Oregon driver's license renewed, as did her sister, Ida Lyman, 92.
"They just took a picture, and they asked me if I drove with glasses. I said, Â‘Yes,' " said Hibbert, who celebrated her birthday Feb. 8.
The Union County native admits that she has slowed down in the past few years. Arthritis keeps her off a horse, but she's recently acquired a colt that lives at her son's place a mile or so from her home. She said she doesn't expect to ride him Â— just enjoy him.
She said she's convinced that a fall from a horse about 25 years ago contributed to the arthritis that has slowed her down.
"We were going elk hunting, and the horse slipped in the mud," she said. "I fell and the horse fell on top of me. I think I crushed some vertebrae."
She continued riding until about three years ago.
Hibbert, who has spent most of her life in the Mount Glen area, has seen many changes in Union County during her 90 years. Her life story has been told through an oral history for the Union county History Project.
Last week, Hibbert agreed to go back to her old school, the one-room Mount Glen School, where she was a student for eight years. The school now stands abandoned and in disrepair except for the new roof that holds it together.
Like many rural students in the early part of the 20th century, Hibbert went to La Grande for high school and lived with a family, earning her room and board by helping to care for their children.
The farm where she now lives has been in her husband Eugene's family for five generations. Her sons continue to farm the land, and she and her son, Milo, a La Grande doctor, share garden space in the large yard behind Hibbert's house.
"We like corn Â— roasting ears," she said. "He plants squash, but I don't like squash. I plant corn, and we've had a few tomatoes, but it's almost too cold here for tomatoes to do well."
She mows the lawn and shovels snow Â— when there is any.
"I've had to shovel snow once this year," she said. "This is the first year that I can remember that we've plowed a field in January."
Hibbert, who doesn't watch much television except for the news, finds entertainment in creating quilts.
"When I'm not out in the garden or the yard, I quilt," Hibbert said, showing off her most recent creation made from scraps left over from other quilts and sewing projects.
She said her mother taught her the art of quilting when she was a girl.
"Since last February, I've done over 25 quilts," she said. "I give them away to my children for Christmas, and I give them to the Relief Society."
The Relief Society is an organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Of Hibbert's eight children, four live in the Grande Ronde Valley. She has 45 grandchildren and 78 great-grandchildren.
"I can't keep up with all of them," she said.