By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

He's at least a foot shorter than most of his coffee drinking buddies. But Kenny Zimmerman doesn't take guff from any of them.

Although barely 5 feet tall, Zimmerman can keep up with the rest of them. It's something he's gotten used to during the past seven decades.

"I got it from both sides," said Zimmerman, the shortest in his family of six other siblings. "Both my mom and dad were only about 5-5 or 5-6."

Zimmerman is still going strong, working full time for Universal Pest Control three months shy of his 73rd birthday.

"Too late to change now," Zimmerman said of his 27-year career in pest control, including the past 20 at Universal. "(Universal owner) Rick Wolfe is a good guy to work for, and what would I do if I retired? I'd go nuts at home."

One thing he probably would keep doing if he ever does retire is his daily early-morning trip to the local donut shop in downtown Hays. He arrives at six each morning, give or take a couple of minutes.

"He's like clockwork," one of the regulars at his table at Daylight Donuts said.

Zimmerman and his wife, Barbara, raised their two children in Hays and never have thought of leaving. Now, nearly their entire family -- which includes nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild -- all live around the Hays area, too.

"I don't like driving in the city," Zimmerman said.

"And," he added, "we have everything we need right here."

Grabbing a cup of coffee and catching up on the latest news is a daily must for Zimmerman, whose day begins at about 5 a.m.

Rising early is something Zimmerman became accustomed to at a young age while growing up on a farm west of Schoenchen.

"We'd have to milk cows in the mornings before we went to church (and school)," he said of his daily routine as a youngster.

While farming wasn't his choice of careers as an adult, Zimmerman said the work ethic he learned growing up has served him well.

So, too, has getting his day started early, with a large cup of coffee.

It's something he plans to do, along with working, for as long as his health allows it.

"How many people retire and they're back at work two months later?" he asked. "I might as well just keep working."