by Ken Smith via Luke Parsch, Ozark Society Vice President

In 1959 when driving along the upper Buffalo River at Boxley, I spied an unusual fence—horizontal boards, but also, between its posts, cross-boards making distinctive “Xs”. And with artistic flair, the fence turned a right angle past a big, spreading tree. From roadside, I made a photograph.

Years later, I met the person who must have designed that fence–Orphea Duty, the landowner. “Orphey,” as friends called her, knew her place in this world. Her father, Ben McFerrin–teacher, advocate for public schools, state legislator, lieutenant governor–had acquired this land with its two-story house facing Highway 43. And Orphea inherited the property. After her husband, Fred Duty, had died she remained there–Boxley’s postmistress, community leader, pillar of its Baptist church.

Orphea had a definite sense of style. Only she could have designed that pretty fence at rural Boxley. Orphey and Fred were married on horseback; a photograph shows her in a nice riding habit. Her dress for social occasions was always tasteful, at times elegant. And anyone visiting her home for a meal, or even for coffee, found her table already set with china, crystal, and silver.

Orphea Duty had enjoyed opportunities for a wider view of the world. So, in 1969, she accepted an invitation to go to Washington, DC, and testify before Congress concerning legislation to create Buffalo National River. Her testimony: “Yes, I favor Senate Bill 855 that all America might enjoy the mountains, the bluffs, the free flowing river, and beyond that—the peaceful way of life.”

Orphey was slightly built, and thin, never overweight. And having a positive outlook, in peaceful surroundings. So, Orphea Duty lived for 104 years. In three centuries! She was born before the end of the nineteenth, and lived through all of the twentieth and even a couple of years of the twenty-first.