Dexter Kruger has celebrated more birthdays than any other living Australian, but this year the party at his nursing home in Roma, in south-western Queensland, will be a much smaller affair than usual.
“COVID-19 means quite a few people can’t come, but we will still have a good time,” the supercentenarian said.
Born on January 13, 1910, the retired farmer has lived through both World Wars, the Great Depression and numerous droughts, but says the positives far outweigh the tough times, like the countless advances in technology he has witnessed.
“One of the most wonderful things I can ever remember happening was hearing [the telephone] up to my ear. It was like magic,” he said.
Secret to a long life?
Ever since he turned 100, Dexter has been asked the secret to a long and happy life, and he is more than happy to give his answer.
“There’s no secret,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Keep breathing, have three meals a day, and the time goes on.”
But he does have some regular habits.
“I sing and whistle, and I have half a dozen prawns every day,” he said.
“I think they’re very good for you.
“And for my evening meal I’ll often have a tin of sardines with my soup.”
What else does a retired cattle farmer do?
“Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit,” he laughed.
A life on the land
Mr Kruger lived most of his life “out in the open air among the tall timber”.
He worked on the farm into his early 90s.
“Nobody told me to stop,” he laughed.
Mr Kruger said life in the bush was tough, and said he wouldn’t have lived to his record age if it wasn’t for the quick actions of his father when he was much younger.
“I was working in the field and a black snake bit me on the foot,” he recalled.
“My father was alongside of me, he drew his pocket knife, picked up my foot, slit it, put his mouth over it, and sucked all the poison out.
“If he hadn’t done that, I would have been dead in 10 minutes.
“Nearly every day you are faced with tough things to do in the bush,” he said.
When he was born, the Model T Ford was still in production, and Alfred Deakin was prime minister of Australia.
At 86, Mr Kruger decided to start writing books following the death of his wife.
He has self-published 12 books filled with memories and poetry.
“I do have a lot of opinions to give to our politicians, but I can’t go into that now, it would take too long,” he laughed.
But he does have some words of wisdom for getting through COVID-19.
“We’ll get through this virus thing,” he said.
“In my industry – the cattle industry – we had several big problems overcome with vaccines.
“We’ve exterminated many things with vaccines, and that will happen with this.”
While he insists he is “nothing special, just an ordinary bushy”, Mr Kruger can’t help but share advice.
“Don’t fill your brain with other people’s thoughts to the exclusion of your own,” he said.
“You’ve got to roll with the punches and keep on keeping on.”