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- Texan Elmo Snelling, 98 years young, is a piece of living farm history.
He likes cotton, but says he’s always liked to diversify. “I raised mostly cotton and grain sorghum. I used to grow corn, too, but decided I was selling water too cheap. I haven’t grown any corn in about 15 years. I like corn. We got it in and out early. It’s a good crop to grow but it has to have a lot of water; it does not tolerate dryland like cotton or grain sorghum will. The short-season hybrids we have today would do better.”
He says Hale County is good cotton country. “Cotton is a good plant for this country, and I’ll stay with it for at least one more year.”
Cotton still presents challenges but the process is “vastly different from when we had to take the cotton to the gin and wait to drive it in. We were responsible for the cotton, even at night, until we got it loaded. Things have changed a lot from pulling cotton to the way we harvest and manage it now. I never did pull much cotton. I don’t think I would have made a very good living at it, but I have weighed many a sack of cotton.”
He’s always stayed busy and involved.
He was one of the first presidents of the Hale County Farm Bureau and recalls being courted by the upstart Farmers’ Union to change allegiance. He says he had taken on a responsibility with Farm Bureau and would not have been comfortable leaving for another organization.
He’s also restored several old tractors and various pieces of farm machinery over the years. He has the first turning plow he ever owned, restored, in his front yard. “I had to cut roots out of the wheels to move it,” he says. He has restored a John Deere tractor that “had a tree growing through it. I had to cut the tree and then move the tractor.”
Snelling has many other tractors, implements and two old cars, one a Cadillac, either in his barns or around the farm yard in various stages of restoration or disrepair. One steel-wheeled tractor dates back to the 1920s. “I’ll never do anything with that one,” he says.
He pointed out another John Deere, ’40s era tractor that is mostly restored but parked in a shed and surrounded by other implements, parts, boxes and other memorabilia. “That tractor will never move from here,” he says.
His “every day” tractor is a 1980 Allis-Chalmers with a restored Cummings diesel engine. He expects to make another cotton crop with it.
Elmo Snelling makes no predictions about making a crop in 2013. He has yield goals but understands the vagaries of weather and other elements beyond his control. “I’ll plant a crop this year,” he says and laughs. “I’ll do something, even if I do it wrong. I plan to grow cotton and plant the pivot corners. I may not plant that one dry corner if it doesn’t rain, but might let it go to summer fallow or plant some soil-building, dryland crop.”
Farming “is still a challenge,” he says. “But I will continue to do the best I can.
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