|Lillian and Prather Slay have been together for 62 years, having first met in his father's chicken house where her mother had gone to buy chickens.
-- Photo by Ralph Golden
Prather & Lillian Slay
Prather, 85; Lillian, 82.
Lafayette, Chambers County
Alfa Member Since:
Current Office or Board:
Prather: Board member, Chambers County Farmers Federation, and member of the State Horticulture Committee
Lillian: Chairman, Chambers County Farmers Federation's Women's Leadership Committee
Previous Office(s) or Board:
Prather: Formerly served as president and treasurer of the Chambers County Farmers Federation
Prather: A 30-year board member of the Farm Service Agency, board member of State Farmers Market Authority, deacon and clerk in Mount Hickory Primitive Baptist Church.
Lillian: Chairman, Chambers County Homemakers Club and various committees at Chapel Hill Methodist Church.
Speaking of church ... For 62 years, the Slays have attended Mount Hickory Primitive Baptist each first and third Sunday, and Chapel Hill Methodist each second and fourth Sunday.
The Slay Farm:
The Slays' Chambers County farm covers 432 acres, but they also have another 280 acres of timberland in Mississippi. The farm operation includes more than 70 brood cows, 60 acres of hay and a 30-foot by 96-foot greenhouse for growing tomatoes. At one time, the Slays also had a 12-acre apple orchard, and would sell apples, apple pies, apple juice, apple cider and dried apples. "We kept our head above water those years until these 'souped-up goats' -- some people call 'em deer -- got so bad that it put us out of business," says Prather.
"I don't know what my role is," said Lillian. "Cooking is all I know. I used to drive a tractor and plow until the children came along. Then, I had to cook so much I didn't have time for that."
Now that all the Slays' children have left the nest, Prather jokes that Lillian may soon have to start driving the tractor and plowing again.
The Slays, who have been married 62 years, have five children: Simmie, 55; John, 53; Jane, 51; Mary, 47; and Phillip 45. They also have 15 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
The Slays' Love Story:
Lillian: "Back in the 1940s, my mother used to buy chickens, dress them and take them to the curb market for sale. And Prather's daddy raised chickens and sold them. So one day my mother was going up there one day to buy some chickens, and I happened to be at home. She wouldn't let me stay home by myself, so she made me go. I didn't know it at the time, but my mother had been there before and had seen Prather and two of his brothers, and she told Mama Slay, 'You've got three boys. I sure could use one of them.' Prather was the oldest of the boys, and I set my eye for him. It took me three and a half years to get him."
Prather: "I'm glad her mama needed some chickens," says Prather. "I don't remember the first time I saw her, but she was a pretty little girl. I don't know why she picked me -- I guess because I was the oldest and the ugliest and she felt sorry for me."
The Chicken Business:
"Back during World War II, beef was rationed but chicken wasn't," said Prather. "So the chicken business was a pretty good business to be in. You just had to raise them, and you could sell them to anybody who needed them and you didn't need rationing stamps.
"We had a pretty big chicken house -- but in this day and time, it would just be called a hut. Anyway, we raised broilers and when they got up to a good size, we would put them in chicken coops and load the coops into Daddy's 1934 Chevrolet, and take those to town. Back then, Opelika didn't have hardly any businesses -- the streets were nothing but big ol' houses. I'd go up and down those streets knocking on doors selling chickens. I'd knock on one door and maybe the lady at that house would want to buy one or three or maybe she wanted me to bring her five next week. Usually, they've have a cook and I would bring the chickens around to the back outside the kitchen, wring the chickens' necks and leave 'em flopping in the yard while I went on to the next house to knock on their door."
A Good Day/Bad Day Is ...
Prather: "A good day is when you get the hay cut, the sunshine dries it and you get it all in the barn. A bad day is when you're hurrying to get the hay up before it rains, and someone calls to say that your cows are out."
Lillian: "All of them are good, except when I don't feel well. I'm just thankful I'm able to get up every day and go."
You May Not Know ...
After finishing high school, Prather spent the summer working on a hay farm in Ohio, followed by a few weeks of picking oranges in the citrus groves of Florida. Although he was turned down for the draft due to a heart condition, Prather found himself at the end of the war working in a shipyard in Hawaii -- at little place called Pearl Harbor.
"As a young man, I had a dream of catching a freight train and riding across the country," says Prather.
"I didn't know he wanted to be a hobo," exclaimed Lillian. "He did draft around a lot, but he hasn't drifted since we married."
-- Compiled by Darryal Ray