Happy to be sixty

Jerry Nelson Special to the Farm Forum
Farm Forum

Nobody could be more surprised than I am by this development.

I never expected this. It has always been a vague possibility, but I didn’t think it would actually happen.

It saddens me (yet at the same time, gladdens me) to report that the rumors are true: at the end of this October I will turn sixty.

Who would have thunk? Certainly not me. From the very beginning, my life’s plan had been to remain forever young. It’s tough to grapple with the fact that you are on the threshold of your seventh decade when you once embraced the motto “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

Some interesting reflections come to the surface at this particular juncture in the space-time continuum. One remarkable detail is that I have been alive in eight different decades. Although, in all honesty, I must admit that I don’t recall much of the 1950s. In fact, there was a period of time during that decade when I was so enfeebled that I couldn’t even walk. And my understanding is that for some while during the ‘50s, my communication skills were limited to a series of unintelligible vocalizations.

It’s been said that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t really there. That’s a big load of hooey. I can clearly recall the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK. My generation grew up at a time when Batman was a live-action comic book television show, not a two and a half hour study of Ben Affleck’s mammoth and inhumanly square jaw line.

Saigon fell a few weeks before I graduated from high school. Watching the recent Ken Burns documentary about the Vietnam War was like replaying the newsfeed of my formative years. I don’t know about you, but I really miss Walter Cronkite.

People are gobsmacked whenever Elon Musk successfully rockets a payload to the International Space Station. Big whoop. When I was growing up, we sent men to the freaking moon!

At the time when I was born, all of my grandparents were in their early 60s. My earliest impressions of my grandparents was that they were all incredibly ancient. As a kid, I would look at them and wonder: why would anyone want to live that long?

My grandparents were born in the 1890s. This means that they could have theoretically known someone who had shaken hands with Abraham Lincoln. And Lincoln, as you may know, lived in the same house where George Washington once slept.

A person doesn’t want to get caught up in a game of historical comparison. For example, Mozart began to compose music when he was just five. When he had attained the ripe old age of 21, Steve Jobs launched a little company called Apple. And Teddy Roosevelt became president when he was only 42 years old.

Compared to those historical overachievers, I am a total flop. On the other hand, all of those folks are, historically speaking, deceased.

Speaking of which, hitting sixty means that I have now lived three decades longer than they thought I would.

The year when I was thirty, I descended into a manure pit on our family’s dairy farm to unplug a balky pump. I didn’t make it back out.

My parents found me floating, unconscious, in the manure. Thanks to their quick thinking, I am still here today.

Our local first responders were able to extract me from the manure pit in time. Thanks to their swift and courageous action, I am still here today.

A couple of times during my ensuing hospitalization for hydrogen sulfide exposure, the doctors informed my wife that nothing more could be done for me. Thanks to her cool-headedness, I am still here today.

In the aftermath of my brush with death in the manure pit, my family and our local community rallied to support my recovery. I can never thank them enough.

Graying hair, aching joints and a memory that is beginning to closely resemble a sieve don’t bother me in the least. I shouldn’t even be here; each day of the past thirty years has been a freebie, a bonus.

Every sunrise that I get to see is a gift. Every sunset that casts its orange glow across our little farm is wonder.

Our two sons were four and six years old when things nearly ended for me in that manure pit. Because all of the cosmic parts somehow aligned perfectly, I was able to be around to watch them both grow up and become outstanding (not that I am prejudiced) young men.

And that will always be the best birthday gift of them all.

If you’d like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at and at booksellers everywhere.

Jerry Nelson