One-by-one, Lowell Clifford moves buckets, pouring cattle feed into each one as a cloud of dust fills the air. With a soft grunt, he slowly leans down. Earlier in life, he says, he would have filled them to the brim rather than halfway. But at age 83, he has lost strength and speed.
Despite losing his wife, Mary Sue, Lowell has kept his farm going. He works from early morning to past sunset.
"Most old farmers would go somewhere to be taken care of," Lowell says, smiling. "I've got more than I can do."
Running a farm is not a one-man job, says Mark Clifford, Lowell's eldest son. Mark and his brother, Keith, have pitched in at times. Their mother's father was a tobacco farmer, and they would help out when visiting for vacation. But they have their own children and grandchildren, and working on the farm isn't always possible.
Lowell and Mary Sue met as teenagers in a cow field in Cynthiana, where they were neighbors. They were married for 57 years before she passed away from ovarian cancer six years ago. After Lowell's time in the Air Force toward the end of the Korean War, they returned to Kentucky from his base in Texas. They moved home in 1971 with their two sons. Lowell got the farm he wanted.
Lowell says there is no clear future for the Clifford farm. He isn't planning to give up his passion until he has to. He is content waking up to the work farming demands. There are 400 acres to care for. The calves need to be fed. His two barn cats, Skinny and Fatty, greet him with the same exuberance he gives them.
"He could very easily die on this farm," Mark says. "In his mind, I don't think anything better could happen to him."