A Farmer’s Journey

105-year old Grundy County man recounts life in hand-written book

CONRAD — At the ripe old age of 105, Robert Prosser said he has few complaints.

“I am old, tired, a little grouchy and often hungry for things they say I can’t have. But really, I have no complaints,” Prosser said. I never ever expected to live this long, but actually have very few aches and pains. I have lived a good life, I have a great family and couldn’t ask for more. ”

Prosser, a resident of Oakview Nursing Home in Conrad, has had a life has been filled with the love of farming, flying and classic cars.

Many of these and other memories were penned into a book titled “A Farmer’s Journey,” which was finished by Prosser in 2007 after seven years of compilation and editing.

In addition to his three children, Prosser has many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren. It was the years of telling stories and recalling memories of his life with those that he loved that brought many responses, one being — “you should write that down.”

In 2000, he began to write, and before it went to press, Prosser said he had hand-written what became the 239-page book. He describes it as a contribution toward recording his pathway through life. He said he does not have the knowledge or ability to be a philosopher, but has acquired a lot of experience. The book was edited and typed by granddaughter Gretchen (Heim) Oelson and daughter Diane (Prosser) Heim.

The book covers family memories as well as giving readers the flavor of farm work (including threshing, picking corn, horses, livestock and making hay) and a Century of Technology. Prosser also includes a timeline and favorite poems and stories from early days in school. Also included in the book is history of farm fires that he faced.

He credits his long life to persistence

“I have never considered myself to be that smart, but every day I have had to have a lot of persistence in whatever it was that I was doing,” Prosser said.

From Oklahoma to Iowa (via Michigan)

Prosser was born March 3, 1914, the youngest child of a family of four born to Harry Elmus Prosser and Alice Belle Hogle Prosser in Cleveland County in Oklahoma. When he was about three months of age his parents separated and he and his mother moved to Marshalltown to live with her brother, while his siblings and father went to Shelby, Michigan.

“I had no discipline when I was a child and my mother began to worry about me. So in 1924, when I was 10 years old, my mother tied a cardboard sign around my neck with my name and the word “Chicago” on it and sent me to be with my father in Michigan,” Prosser recalled.

The trip to Michigan from Chicago was in his father’s 1915 Ford Model T Touring car – which started Prosser’s continuing love for the Model T. It was also the first car that Prosser learned to drive, for in Michigan there was no permit or license needed.

The five years in Michigan introduced Prosser to farming – corn, potatoes and kidney beans. Potatoes were planted by hand in rows about 40 inches apart. The goal was to harvest 100 crates per day- something Prosser said was definitely “backbreaking work.” Corn was planted with a hand planter – about 2.5 acres per day.

Prosser learned his Iowa farming ways while working as a hired hand for Harold Hogle on a 160-acre farm near Eldora. Wedding bells were also in Prosser’s future. On Nov. 15, 1932, he and Mary Margaret Higar were united in marriage at the Ivester Church parsonage. From 1933-1960, the Prossers rented and lived in several farmhouses near the Eldora area. The Prossers had three children, Larry, Phillip and Diane. Robert and Mary moved to a farmstead west of Conrad in 1960. Mary passed away in 2010, just two days before the couple would have celebrated 78 years of marriage.

Flying Farmer

In 1945, the flying bug that had been dormant for several years popped out and Prosser began hearing about farmers that were thinking about flying. At 31, Prosser was “at the age not to be careless and young enough to be in good health,” so flying lessons began and Prosser obtained a license.

In 1973, discussion between Phillip Prosser and Phillip Heim were to form a partnership and buy an aircraft. But they needed a partner with a place for a hanger and an airstrip — Robert Prosser, of course. The flying bug lasted 11 years. The last entry in his pilot’s book was Aug. 25, 1985 with 230 hours logged.

Iowa Farm Life

“I firmly believe that planting seeds in the ground and watching plants emerge, then watching new animal life being born, is an honorable occupation and about as close to God as one can get,” Prosser said. “I have seen a lot of changes through the years, and while progress seems to be the desired human trait, not all advances are good. Farming as a way of life, or as a place to raise a family are disappearing and I see very little good in this changing lifestyle”.

Prosser came to Oakview Nursing Home in June 2019.

“I never wanted to be a burden to anyone, but always wanted my daughter to be close to me,” Prosser said. “I am very thankful for the life I have been given by God – with just enough bad times mixed in to make me appreciate the good times that much more.”


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