By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

RUSH CENTER -- Effie Crowell isn't slowing down.

"I'm still cooking," she said last week as she flipped a series of hamburgers on her small grill, including the popular Effie Burger, a half-pound hamburger that, when combined with french fries and iced tea, will cost $6. "All these years. I'm still cooking."

And she has no plans of stopping.

"I really wouldn't know what else to do," she said.

Effie is the longtime owner of the Rush Center restaurant that bears her name.

"At 88, do I need to retire?" she asked. "No, this is where my heart is."

She's been cooking there since 1965, taking off summers to paint her house, mow the lawn and follow her grandchildren on the dirt-track racing circuit.

Effie naturally is a sponsor of Crowell Racing, but she's also its greatest fan, traveling to races across the state, and she hopes they will be back at races in Hays and WaKeeney this summer.

"I've got some great customers," Effie said of part of the reason why she continues to toil over the grill. "The lady that's working for me has worked here for 35 years."

That would be waitress Shelly Kerschner, who started working at Effie's as a sophomore at La Crosse High school. She was just 15 years old at the time.

Kerschner keeps up a running conversation with many of the customers and with Effie as she ferries food and dishes back and forth to the kitchen.

Effie won't hear of any talk of retirement.

"What would I do at home," she asked, "sit there?"

That's not her style.

She also recognizes what has happened to others who have retired.

"I see so many of my classmates who sit down and then don't live," she said. "I think as long as you can keep busy, you're better off."

Should she ever decide to quit, Effie's told her children she'd likely turn the restaurant into another business venture.

"I tell them if I ever have to quit, I may have to put all my stuff down here and have an antique shop," she said. "My kids tell me I'm hoarding. I'm not hoarding."

Besides, she's having a good time cooking and visiting with people every day.

"I enjoy every minute of it."