Photo by George Lauby
Darold Miller irrigating corn near Maxwell.
Dryland corn near Lake Maloney, five miles south of North Platte, July 28.
Most of the irrigated corn is a few days behind normal stages -- a good sign, in view of the long cold spell in April that delayed planting.
But while irrigated corn looks good in the valley, dryland corn doesn't.
Weather continues to play havoc with crops. The cold spring kept planters out of the field throughout April, delaying the start of the growing season 10 days to 2 weeks.
Sporadic rains brought enough moisture to sprout crops and get them going, but after 2012 -- one of the driest years in recorded history -- left cropland with little to no subsoil moisture, dryland corn has struggled.
In most places in the North Platte area, dryland corn is toast.
The situation doesn’t rattle Darold Miller of Maxwell, who is in his 80s. Miller doesn’t get rattled easily. He’s seen worse.
Miller grows nearly 400 acres of alfalfa, corn and soybeans in the Platte Valley, west of the Ft. McPherson National Cemetery.
He started farming at age 14, when his father fell sick, and Darold had to plant 100 acres of corn with horses, using a two-row planter hitched to the team.
On a good day, he could cover 10 acres.
From that beginning, by the 1980s he was farming 1,200 acres with the help of two sons, taking care of 400 cows and feeding the calves until they were ready for slaughter.
He reduced the operation as his sons left to pursue their careers, but Darold still loves to farm, even in dry weather.
He is currently irrigating his alfalfa, something he has rarely had to do before.
He said faith has helped him endure his biggest challenges. During the 1980s, interest rates climbed to nearly 20 percent and banks closed up. Farm foreclosures were common, but Miller endured.
“I prayed,” he said, “and kept up good communications with my lender.”
In challenging situations, he recites the philosophical proverb – “And this too will soon pass.”
He credits his wife Ilene for his success.
“She has supported my efforts for 60 years,” he said.
Miller is not only active on the farm, but in community groups. He is currently on the board of directors of the Lincoln County Weed District and Plain View Cemetery. He teaches Bible study and Sunday school at the Nazarene church in North Platte.
He’s a former school board member and served on the board of banks.
He’s proud of his son Ivan, who operates Miller Repair, a bustling, independent farm equipment sales and service on the south edge of Maxwell.
Recently, a customer came to Miller Repair from New England to buy Allis Chalmers parts from his son. The man said he couldn’t find the parts anywhere else -- a tribute to his son's wide-ranging business.
“He does a good job. He serves a wide area,” Darold said.
These days, Darold starts each day with a long walk on the treadmill to get his blood flowing and his joints limbered up.
Then he goes to work.
Even though Darold's father was sick one spring when Darold was just a teenager, his father lived to age 97. Based on his father's longevity and Miller's work ethic, Darold is apt to produce much more top quality alfalfa and corn to add to his long list of accomplishments.