They were hanging a man the day Ernie Scott got married.

Naturally, being a young fella and all, Ernie stopped to watch. Back in 1909, even in a tough town like Pierre, S.Dak., it wasn't every day you got to see a horse thief strung up. Ernie's 17-year-old bride-to-be, Maud Seidler, was waiting for him in Kadoka, about 100 miles away. "I wondered if he was coming," says Maud. "He was more interested in the hanging than in getting married."

Ernie, 21, showed up eventually, although it was well after dark, and last Friday (June 16) was the 80th anniversary of that wedding day. They are believed to be the longest-wed living couple in the world; according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the all-time record is held jointly by two couples—one in New Hampshire, the other in India and both long dead—who stayed together 86 years.

Ernie and Maud's 80 years together have been a hardscrabble battle for survival. Unable to afford a honeymoon, they set up house in Nowlin, S.Dak., where Ernie worked as a ranch hand. In the years that followed, they lived in Indiana, South Dakota, Michigan and Minnesota—wherever Ernie could find work. And, while Ernie was on the road working at a variety of jobs, Maud stayed home and raised their children, Iris, now 78, Helen, 77, and Gwen, 72. The separations, says Ernie, now 101 and confined to a wheelchair, were good for the marriage. "People would get along better if they took off like that," he says. "When you see each other every day, you get tired of it."

In 1951 Maud moved to California, and, in 1965, Ernie joined her. They have 16 grandchildren, 48 great-grandchildren and 34 great-great-grandchildren.

Maud, 97, has a simple explanation for their fourscore years of wedded bliss: "The Lord said till death do us part." Ernie cites another reason for their compatibility in recent years. "Neither one of us can hear," he says. "So it makes no sense to argue."