Still swathing at 97, Webster helps grandson run Glendale ranch
GLENDALE — Blain Webster, just two months shy of 97, can’t think of a better way to spend a day, than to drive a swather across a field. He’s been helping his grandson, Matt Webster, harvest 600 acres of hay and grain this summer, and its been the best summer he’s had in the past five years.
“I think you feel a lot better if you are doing something than if you do nothing,” he said. He’s speaking from experience. Five years ago, he began having some health problems. He could breath all right, but he wasn’t getting the oxygen he needed. He was advised to do less. And his knees hurt him - so bad that he won’t get up unless there’s something to hold onto, he said. He requires a walker to get around.
“My knees are worn out, I can’t see as good and I can’t hear hardly a @#%$ thing, but as long as I keep my oxygen up, I’m fine. I feel good,” he said.
That feeling of well-being is not just in his head. Blain monitors his oxygen levels, because when they drop, he gets a headache.
“It’s better when I’m out here. Sitting up at home, it (his oxygen level) is at 94 (percent), but up here it is 95 and high as 98,” he said.
“Farming is a hard life, but it is a good life,” he said. “It’s your own — if you work for someone else, you make money for him.” Webster’s got the experience to have an opinion on the matter. He’s been farming east of Glendale Reservoir his entire life.
As a boy, he worked it with his father, using horses. He tried to talk his dad into a tractor, but Sam couldn’t see a reason for that. Blain’s mother did, however, and he purchased an International H that got the work done a lot faster, he said. And the ability to turn the dirt over at deeper levels yielded lots better harvests.
When Blain was 15 years old, his father died, and Blain took over. When he fell in love, he brought his bride home and the couple raised their children there. Eventually, their son, Dennis took over the ranch, but Blain continued to work it with him.
“It’s too much for one person to do alone,” he said. So he stayed on, helping Dennis until he was told to slow down for his health, five years ago. By then, Dennis had his son, Matt, to help run the ranch.
But last fall, Dennis died in a farming accident, leaving Matt on his own. Blain decided his grandson needed a partner, and got back to work. He requires help getting into the machinery, so once he’s there, he likes to stay until he’s tired. Matt and his wife, Courtney, make sure he’s got food, and are there to help him in and out of the equipment and shuttle him to where he needs to be.
“I have something to eat, some water and I feel good. That’s all I need,” Blain said.
He said the idea of selling the place has never really been an option.
A few years after the Depression, during which Blain’s father was offered $100,000 for about 200 acres of the farm, Blain recalls him saying,” I could have sold that for all that money, but you know, I wouldn’t have had the money now, or the farm either.”
“If you can run it and take care of it, keep it,” he said. Another piece of wisdom from nearly of century of living, said Blain, is to “stay our of debt.”
Working with Blain has been inspiring and educational, said Matt.
“He’s the epitome of work - it doesn’t matter what sets you back, you just keep going,” he said. “The way he showed his love for us is working for us.” Matt and Courtney named one of their sons after Blain.
As they’ve worked, Blain has shared his recollections of almost a century’s worth of memories.
“He can tell you about way back. He remembers going to Weston during the Depression and see the hobos on the trains traveling the country looking for work,” said Matt. Blain also remembers when Glendale Reservoir was built. The last dam built by horsepower, notes the Trailblazer, dignitaries from two states attended its dedication in 1930. Blain would have been 9 years old.