- Associated Press - Friday, May 2, 2014

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Jack Rexroad isn’t the bragging type.

He never has been. Ask the veteran farmer about the yield of his best crop in the past 90 years of life, and he will tell you straight up that he doesn’t talk in those terms.

“We had good wheat, good milo and good soybeans in 2013,” he said. “All I will say is it was good.”

Calvin Coolidge was president the year Rexroad was born. J. Edgar Hoover was appointed as the first head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Robert Frost won the Pulitzer Prize.

That was 90 years ago. Yet, Jack and his wife, Virginia, 89, are still living and working on the Reno County farm near Partridge where Jack grew up - their residence the 1908 farmhouse his grandparents built. The landscape around them, however, has changed. The year he was born, 30 percent of Americans made a living off the farm. Today it is less than 2 percent.

Farms are bigger - sometimes covering several thousand acres. Equipment is high-tech.

Yet, Jack, a fourth-generation farmer, still plants 600 acres of wheat, soybeans and milo - driving a cabless 1966 4020 John Deere tractor. In June, his family will gather for the annual wheat harvest, with Jack driving a grain truck back and forth from the field to the Partridge elevator.

“Why retire?” the farmer asks matter-of-factly, then adds, “I enjoy it. It’s all I know.”

Jack Rexroad grew up in the Great Depression - perhaps one of the last Dust Bowl farmers still farming the land. He recalls a cloud of dust rolling in one day while at Partridge’s school.

“I was in the intermediate room that sat on the west side of the school, and I remember seeing it,” he said of the dust storm blowing in from western Kansas. “They had to turn on all the lights inside, it was so dark.”

The summer of 1938, before his sophomore year of high school, he first laid his eyes on Virginia, who was preparing to start her freshman year in school.

He waited a year to ask her out on a date, eventually selling his 1934 blue Chevy Coup for a 1940 Plymouth “so we could double date.”

“I had chances to go out with other guys, but I only wanted him,” Virginia said with a grin, later adding, “he looked like Barbie’s Ken.”

He was cute, but also ornery, she said, recalling how her husband almost didn’t graduate from high school. He and a bunch of friends, as a senior prank, took all the school’s inkwells, full of ink, and threw them out the windows where they busted outside.

A school board member stepped in to make sure the hooligans graduated but probably because “they didn’t want them to come back another year,” Virginia said with a laugh.

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