Archived Story

‘Age just a number’ for local 99 year-old

Published 8:00am Wednesday, August 25, 2010

 

99 year-old local resident Omer Johnson is still actively working the farm he has lived on for most of his life. Johnson survived a Japanese hornet attack 11 years ago, but has since recovered and is often found on his orange Kubota cutting grass and working the farm. | Nathan Strickland/FCT

 

Heading past Jonesboro, just crossing over the Franklin- Colbert line, chances are a person can either hear the noise or see a man on a bright orange tractor cutting grass in the middle of the day.

People may be shocked to find out the man behind the wheel is 99-year-old Omer Johnson.

Johnson has lived pretty much in the same spot all his life and believes “it is the best place to live in the U.S.”

Johnson is now approaching 100 and has no plans of slowing down.

“I worked at TVA for 40 something years and worked at Reynolds for one,” he said. “I’ve never been out of a job. I’m always trying to do something.”

Currently, Johnson mostly works around his home and with his home sitting on top of a hill and a number of acres to keep in tip-top shape, he believes there is always something to do.

“I have always lived on a farm,” he said. “I took over around 481 acres of land when my daddy passed away, so I’ve always had something to do.”

Johnson said working around machinery all his life has really took a toll on his hearing in his right ear, but in a conversational setting a person can tell his mind is still sharp.

Johnson enjoys telling funny stories of his past experiences in the 1930s and 1950s and said he can remember them “as if they happened yesterday.”

Johnson believes he has made it to 99 years of age simply through the grace of God.

“I couldn’t do it without him,” he said. “I joined the church at 17-years-old on a Thursday. It was a dry year, a dry August that year.”

Johnson said his fondest memories of church back then was the baptism services.

“My pastor had been baptizing people in the river and one year the creek got to where it wasn’t deep enough, so I told the pastor that my dad had a pond and he could continue with the services there,” Johnson said. “There were three to join at the water that day. Bro. Fowler baptized 21 people that day. At one point in time he got so tired he actually asked me to dunk people. I told him I wasn’t no preacher and that I didn’t have the authority to do that.

“Later that day, Bro. Fowler asked me where in the world did my dad hide the ice in the pond, because the water was freezing cold.”

Johnson said another fond memory of the past was growing watermelons and eating ice cream, two things he still enjoys tasting to this day.

“I’ve seen watermelons grow on top of each other,” he said. “Back then nothing really bothered the watermelon patch so you could grow a bunch of them and they would still be in one peace. I remember plowing all day and into the night one time planting an acre in Scotchler, acre in Stone Mountain, acre in Dixie Queen and Acre in Wonder. There were over 15,000 melons in that patch and I remember a guy coming down and making around 13 trips, hauling the melons up north to sell. I believe I’ve had more fun selling watermelons than anyone in the world.”

Johnson said he has witnessed many “firsts” in Russellville, but the one that sticks out of his mind the most is the first airplane to ever come into Russellville.

“It was a sight to see,” he said. “No one had ever seen an aircraft come to the area before and it was just an experience I’ll never forget.”

Johnson said 11 years ago on Oct. 17 he had a brush with death as he walked up on a Japanese hornets nest on his property.

“64 Japanese hornets stung me all over my body that day,” he said. “I like to have died then, but I lived. I ate crackers and drank buttermilk for weeks until I could get back on my feet.”

Johnson said he has pretty much experienced everything there is to experience in his long life, but he is always up for new experiences and if he could do anything in the world he would probably “go to the moon.”

So if you are ever driving down through Johnson’s neck of the woods, just give him a wave and chances are, if he sees you, he will give you a thumbs up as he keeps on trucking through life.

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