Hard work pays off for centenarian

LITCHFIELD - He is 102-years-old, still lives in his own home on the farm, and eats lunch at the cafe in Litchfield nearly every day. It is a feat not many have accomplished, but Clyde McFadden thinks of himself as anything but “special.” Clyde was born Jan. 6, 1909, on a farm south of Loup City, where he grew up. He graduated from Loup City High School in 1927. He recalls the summer after his high school graduation when he and a buddy took off and traveled around the state picking corn. He says they finished up just in time to come home for Christmas, and made 4.5 cents a bushel. He moved to Austin, Neb., where he worked and played baseball for a local team. Clyde says he particularly enjoyed playing third base, but was called upon to pitch quite often too. In 1934, Clyde married Mildred Burrows. They made their home on the Custer County line, west and south of Loup City. The couple lived there for a year, then moved just a little ways east of there, Clyde says. He recalls that he and Mildred also lived in Rockville for a short time before moving to the farm east of Litchfield in 1942. He is still there. Clyde says he has always loved farming and cattle. He vividly remembers his first tractor - a 1937 John Deere Model A, purchased in 1939 or 40 for $700. He also remembers his first car, a Model T. “There was a veterinarian over in Loup City who had a Model A coupe he was looking to sell or trade, so I bought it,” Clyde recalls. “That was my first Model A.” When he and Mildred first moved to the present farm electricity was just making its way to the rural areas of Nebraska. He says they had a telephone for quite a while before that though. Clyde also recalls many severe weather situations on the farm, such as the famous Blizzard of ‘49. He says he remembers airplanes flying over to drop hay in the Sandhills for the cattle. But he was one of the lucky ones - he did not lose any livestock during the terrible storm. It was during one of those awful blizzards when Mildred’s mother passed away. Clyde recounts how he walked out in front of the hearse as a guide the day of the funeral because the road could not be seen due to the snow. There was also the time when Mildred, a school teacher in a country school near Hazard, was trying to get home from school but didn’t quite make it before the storm hit. “She walked to a neighbor’s house that was close by there and knocked on the door, but they were gone. We later found out they were stuck somewhere else in the storm too,” recalls Clyde. “So she just went inside to stay warm. I couldn’t get over to get her until the next day. And we had a time pulling the car out of the snow bank.” They got home and discovered they had no electricity, which of course meant they also had no heat. “I had some old ties out in the barn, so I cut them up and burned them to keep warm,” Clyde says. Clyde is the oldest of five children. Of his three sisters and one brother, only a sister - the youngest - is still living. His beloved Mildred passed away in 2003. Clyde and Mildred had two sons; Tom and Ron. Ron lives in Dunning, and Tom lives just up the road a few miles from where he grew up. He now farms the place his parents settled on in 1942, taking over that duty more than 40 years ago when Clyde retired. Clyde says he “retired” from farming at age 60. At that time they had a sale, and Tom bought the farm. After that, Clyde says he worked helping Tom out, up until three or four years ago. He and Mildred always had a large garden; “sweet corn, tomatoes, beans, carrots - pretty much anything you can grow in a garden” Clyde recalls. He says he also had to give that up a couple of years ago because he couldn’t really take care of it any more, though he did still grow a couple of tomato plants last year. Clyde doesn’t have an answer for the secret of his long and healthy life, “just hard work I guess.” Spoken like a true, humble, Nebraska farmer.