RIGDON, Ind. (AP) — For more than eight decades, Ralph Broyles has toiled on the family farm and has no plans to slow down anytime in the near future.
The farm was started by Ralph Broyles Sr. in 1893 with 120 acres. It’s now an operation that includes 400 acres.
The family was honored by the Indiana Department of Agriculture in 1997 for tilling the same soil for 100 years.
Broyles, 92, was born in Summitville, but the family moved to Boone Township in 1928.
With an easy-to-like smile and a slight twinkle in his eye, Broyles said he started working on the farm at the age of 12.
“I had a pony and a four-wheel cart,” he explained. “My job was to haul six or eight jugs of water to the men working in the fields shucking the wheat. I would fill the jugs all day long.”
Broyles said the machinery was driven by a steam engine, and he enjoyed pulling the cord to blow the whistle.
During World War II, he remembers German prisoners of war working in the tomato fields and the canning factory in Fairmount.
“There was an Army guard standing close by with a machine gun,” Broyles recalled. “The Germans were nice, but they thought they were better than me.”
Over the years Broyles has seen numerous changes in farming, the biggest being the mechanical advances.
“The equipment is bigger and more expensive,” he said. “Too computerized.”
In recent years, it’s become necessary for Broils to use a lift to get into the cab of the equipment, leaving most of the farming to his son, Bruce, and daughter Janet Blake’s family.
Making A Living
Broyles drove a school bus for the Madison-Grant United School Corp. for 42 years to earn some extra money.
“I never worked in a factory,” he said. “I drove a semi for one week. I didn’t like it.”
When asked if he ever considered not farming, Broyles was quick to answer.
“Why would you? I like the farming. I didn’t know any different. It just came natural,” he said. “I’ll keep working. There’s no point in stopping now.”
Broyles met his wife, Ruth, while he was taking a short course at Purdue University. The couple was married for 50 years.
“There was some of us guys running around,” he smiles. “Swayzee was a nice place to meet girls. That’s where I first met Ruth.”
Broyles said his wife didn’t have a love of farming, but as with many good farm wives, she was a great cook and took care of the couple’s four children.
“We went through some hard times,” he said.
In addition to planting crops, Broyles raised cattle, hogs and sheep.
“I used to buy the cattle from Oklahoma and they would come into Swayzee by train,” he explained. “It seems like the train always came in at 2 a.m.
“We would drive over there and have to go into the train cars to get the cattle out,” Broyles said. “There were 40 head, each weighing 400 pounds, so you had to worry about getting kicked.”
Blake said her father was a great role model and all the children were expected to work on the farm. She said each child was assigned a row of corn to cut out the weeds. At the end of each row was a jug of iced tea.
“I love working with him,” added Broyles’ son, Bruce. “He keeps me busy.”