TAR HEEL — About one mile behind the Smithfield plant in Tar Heel, near Chickenfoot Road, are a lot of fields. Or, more correctly, many Fields, and one of them is 88 years old and has seen just about everything.
Born in 1930 as Doris Fields, the Bladen County daughter of farmers married a 21-year-old Bladen County Navy veteran at the ripe old age of 16. Then Doris Inman, she settled down on Fields Road in Tar Heel to start a family.
The couple would spend the next couple of decades rearing their nine children and raising corn, tobacco, peanuts, and beans. For Doris, however — an independent personality — having work to call one’s own was important.
“I decided to raise hogs,” she explained. “I didn’t think twice. I knew I could do it.”
Self-taught, Doris said she “knew everything there was to know” about raising the livestock and had the first heated hog house in Bladen County.
“It was very modern,” she said. “I loved getting out and working with my hands.”
Sitting on the table to her right were half a dozen legal notepads. Doris gestured to the pile.
“I wrote everything down,” she said, picking up the notes and leafing through the top one. “How to kill hogs, how (her daughter) Connie was born in the pack house without a doctor — everything, anything I could think of.”
In addition to her own nine children, the self-labeled “strong-minded” farmer took in at least three other children who needed homes.
“It takes a lot to feed that many children,” she said. “I learned how to do a lot and how to make do without a lot.”
Learning was the order of the day. She learned how to make wedding dresses, a skill that came in handy when her own daughters got married.
“I’m really proud of this dress,” she said, after retrieving a box from a hall closet, extracting its contents, and running the beads, satin, and lace through her fingers. “I don’t even remember how I made it, but I hope somebody will wear it again someday.”
All around her home are paintings she created, a hobby she picked up after she sold the hog farm to family members. She now also makes quilts in her spare time, having made approximately 70 by now, she said, enough for all nine children and 20 grandchildren, and she’s currently working on quilts for her great-grandchildren.
“That’s the way everybody was in my day,” she said. “We knew how to do anything.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.