Stafford County farmer, mechanic going strong at 101

Stafford County farmer, mechanic going strong at 101

For Loyd Ratts every day is a new opportunity to focus on inventions others will find useful

Loyd Ratts of St. John, Kansas, more or less officially retired from farming this year at the age of 101.

Related: At 101, Loyd Ratts of St. John embraces technology changes

"This was my last wheat harvest, out there with the combine," he said. "It was one of the best I ever had. Now, I have rented out the last of my ground. Someone else is going to be farming it from now on."

He's pretty happy and grateful that the "someone else" is his son-in-law, Phillip, and grandson, Jason. Their involvement has enabled him to stay active in the everyday workings of the farm and having them there means he will get to stay up to date on what's going on and watch the progress of the technology he loves.

SHOP CHAIR: Loyd Ratts uses a specially modified motorized wheel chair with a side tool table to get around his shop, operate his welding tools, drill press, and pipe threaders. At 101, he has lost the physical strength to stand at a convnetinal table and bend over his work.

That does not mean, however, that Ratts is actually retiring. He plans to put more emphasis now on his sideline business of inventing useful products for home and farm use and working in his farm shop to produce them.

People who know him are not surprised.

"Loyd is the quintessential Kansan," says his friend Beccy Tanner, a Wichita Eagle reporter and St. John native who is writing a book about Ratts' life. "He is a man of faith and devotion, a salt-of-the-earth principled progressive."

He is also among the last of a dying breed, Tanner says,

"He is self-taught and knows how to build anything he dreams with his own two hands."

Related: Meet Loyd Ratts, a 'Century Farmer' who has lived every minute to the max

Ratts lives within a few miles of where he was born and grew up in Stafford County, in a home that to him represents some of the values of his family.

METAL PRESS: Ratts is particularly proud of his metal press, a compressed-air powered tool that enables him to straighten or flatten metal that has is bent.

The home where he lives belonged to his aunt, who had struggles of her own. She found herself a divorcee with debilitating disease and a child of only 10 years old to raise alone after her ex-husband left.

"My dad homesteaded 160 acres in Kearny County and rented the farm between here and St. John, where I was born," he said. "My dad helped farm it all until my aunt's illness. She was really sick and had a stroke and couldn't take care of herself."

His parents stepped up to help. There was a mortgage on his aunt's place and she was stuck with the debt following the divorce. His dad stepped up, placing a mortgage on his own properties so he could help his sister-in-law get out from the mortgage her now-absent husband had taken out on family land. The year was 1927. 

Related: Age brings appreciation of safety, concern for others says 101-year-old inventor

"It took dad 13 years of hard work and long hours to pay off a 30-year mortgage, but by 1940 all the land was free and clear," he said.

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