Back in the late 1980s, the oldest active farmer in Illinois was Merrit Heaton. That may not seem like a big deal, but in 1988, at age 97, Heaton was invited onto “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” to talk about his life and experiences. Inviting everyday people onto the show was common for Carson, who had a true love for lives lived, stories told and the lessons these people could share. But Heaton was special, and Carson knew it instantly.
Originally hesitant to accept the invitation, Heaton is instantly put at ease by Carson’s special interviewing style (Carson tells Heaton not to worry, “This show is nothing compared to the 10 or 12 world wars you must have been in!” ) and relaxes Heaton right away. And we are so glad he did because that is when the interview becomes an amazing comedy skit, with Carson setting the jokes up and Heaton knocking them down left and right.
Heaton is a snapshot of Americana — fallen right out of a Norman Rockwell painting and into our hearts. He is everything we strive to be: hard working, humble (well, humble-ish), intelligent, old, but it’s his light and humor that make him so magical and so, so easy to love.
Let him steal your heart: