Army vet never imagined he would stay in the area for 32 years


GORHAM --  Stepping outside his neatly trimmed country home each morning, Bob Hammersmith is greeted with a virtually unparalleled panoramic view.

He's typically joined by his faithful dog, overly plump but anxious to tag along most anywhere Hammersmith is headed, other than in a vehicle to go to the veterinarian's office.

It's an idyllic life, one quick to bring a smile to his face when he talks about the area.

There was a time, however, when he didn't know how long he'd be staying there.

"I jumped at the chance to come over here," Hammersmith said. "I said it wouldn't last a year.

"But it's been 32 years."

Now 80 years old, Hammersmith moves slower, and isn't out actively farming, as virtually all of the farm -- save for pastures rented to area farmers -- is in the federal Conservation Reserve Program.

"I'm just looking after it now," Hammersmith said of his role on the farm in southeast Ellis County. "They pay me a little to watch so no one breaks in."

There was a time, however, when he did all the farming.

But he has farming in his background, ever since his grandmother all but strapped him to a tractor. That's when he was about 12.

"That's where I learned farming," he said. "It stayed in my blood."

Farming practices have changed, dramatically.

Today, he's got air conditioning in his tractor, and he doesn't have to reach back and pull a lever to pull the plow out of the ground.

Born and raised in the Gorham area, Hammersmith didn't stray far from his home.

Except for his stint in the Army.

He said he "got out of basic training when the (Korean) treaty was signed."

Still, he spent 18 weeks in Germany.

"I'm 80 years old," Hammersmith said. "My time pretty well is marked."

He won't give up what he's got, however.

"I wouldn't be out here if I didn't enjoy it."