Elmo Snelling has no plans to retire. This spring he’s working on his 67th crop and on a cold, blustery day in early April that promised but never quite delivered much-needed rainfall, he was making plans to go into nearby Plainview, Texas, to order fertilizer for his cotton.

His energy belies his 98 years. He’ll turn 99 July 27 and plans to drive a restored 1946 John Deere tractor in the Hale Center July 4th parade several weeks before that.

He pulls an ottoman up close to the sofa where the interviewer sits and explains that he sees well but has a bit of a hearing problem. He has no trouble, however, recalling events of his long career in farming.

“I’ve done everything from plowing horses to flying an airplane,” he says. “And two years ago I put in drip irrigation. I’ve seen a move from pulling cotton to using the cotton strippers we have today. I still enjoy life and am grateful for each day the good Lord gives me.”

He’s still on the farm every day but doesn’t work as many acres as he once did. “I’m the only one I have to satisfy,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to farm the whole place anymore. I’d mess that up pretty good, but I still enjoy getting out on the tractor.”


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He likes to watch things grow. “I enjoy watching green things go from emergence to harvest. It’s fascinating to me to see that little seed that God put the germ of life in and watch the plant grow. It’s a good thing to observe.”

He farms three pivot corners on fields where his sons, Wayne and Allen, farm the bulk of the acreage. He installed drip irrigation on two of those corners to increase productivity. He hopes to make from three to four bales of cotton per acre. “But I have to make two bales before I can make three and I have to make three before I can make four. Some people talk about making four or five bales an acre. Some even shoot for higher yields than that, but if I can make four bales I’ll be the happiest man in Hale County. I’ll let it make what it will make and be happy with it.”

But he’s still working to push production up where he can.