Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 2nd

February 2nd…….“HOW DID YOUR FATHER, RUSSELL, HARVEST FIELD CORN BEFORE MACHINES BECAME AVAILABLE TO DO THAT CHORE?”

The sound of the F20 tractor woke them up!

A pheasant covey catapulted themselves into the brisk Fall air, that morning, as our daddy, Russell, crank-started our old Farmall F20 tractor. Those brilliantly colored birds had been enjoying some breakfast of corn kernels among the dried and raspy-eared cornstalks to the west of our farm yard. Being the recalcitrant metal beast that it was, that old red Farmall tractor usually responded to Dad’s energetic cranking with a loud pop and backfire; and that’s just what caused those pheasants to launch in a panic. Good thing Dad’s reflexes were fine-tuned when he’d start the tractor, cause those angular, steel engine cranks were sometimes known to “kick back” and break men’s wrists or arms.

The initial loud noise was now reduced to an engine purrr, allowing that beautiful bevy of birds to settle their restless wings as they glided back down into the cornfield to peck another tasty tummy-full of yummy corn. They must’ve anticipated that Dad and our brother, Lowell, were soon to begin their annual harvest of our acres of field corn and wanted to take the opportunity to gobble till they wobble.

Russ and little Lowell drove the F20 out to the field together.

Farming was a way of life, not just for our father, but for the entire Noorlun family. We were no different than the uncountable thousands of other agricultural folk who worked the soil to feed themselves and our great nation. This meant that, at an early age, our brother Lowell was trained to “man up” and carry out his share of the responsibilities of this corn harvest that was about to transpire. Brother Lowell, being tall in spirit, but short in stature at the time, had to have some adaptions made to the tractor to be able to allow him to be a help in this operation with Dad. No matter what the needs on our farm, both of our resourceful parents embodied the adage that was popular during World War II (2)……”Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Or do without”.

Elliott, and his sister, Candice, play on top of a load of corn in the same “bang-board” wagon that was used by brother Lowell and their farmer father in earlier years.

From where Lowell was perched up high on the tractor’s seat, his little legs couldn’t reach the clutch and brake pedals. Dad’s “make it do” talents inspired him to drill holes in the metal foot-pedal “pads” and then bolt thick “extension” chunks of wood to those pedals that now allowed our elder brother to reach and operate the tractor like the “big boy” that he was in Dad’s eyes.

A husking glove.

Their frosty breaths, of that Fall season, could be seen emanating from the mouths of Lowell and Dad as they chatted while they hooked up that steel-wheeled wagon. Climbing aboard with Lowell in his lap, Dad let out the clutch as they lurched forward for the rattling ride out to the cornfield. The windbreak of trees, bordering our farm yard, were now silhouetted by golden shafts of morning sunlight that trumpeted, in its regal silence, the beginning of harvest on our farm. Being the consummate farmer that he was, our father, Russell, deftly guided the tractor and wagon up next to the first row of corn to be harvested. “Now Lowell, the F20 is in “granny gear” (1st gear). When I’m on the ground and move along the row, picking the corn, you gently let out the clutch to slowly move the wagon ahead a little each time. Okay?” “Sure will, Daddy!” came Lowell’s reply. Our patriarch now strapped on his “secret weapon” of harvesting corn by hand. It was called a husking glove. This device was the incorporation of a metal plate with an exposed and raised hook. The hook plate was riveted to leather straps that wrapped around and bound it securely to the wrist and hand. I believe our dad’s husking glove also had some short glove finger holes of leather to protect his knuckles from the rough cornstalks.

Russell snapped off an ear, shucked the husk, and tossed it to wagon as fast as he could.

And so it began, in the chill of that brisk morning, Dad would snap off an ear of field corn, then, using the hooked husking glove, rip (or shuck) the husk wrapping around that ear of corn and finally toss that ear in the general targeted direction of the bang-boards that stood high on the far side of the wagon. The ears of corn hit those high boards and then dropped into the wagon. To be efficient, it was said that a good corn picker should have at least one, or two, ears of corn flying towards the wagon’s bang-board at all times. Our father’s sinewy and muscled arms were a blur of fast action as he picked a cornstalk clean and moved ahead to the next one in those very long rows of golden maize there on our family acreage northwest of Kiester, Minnesota. Considering that each cornstalk usually produces at least 2 or more ears per plant, then times that by those many acres of long rows, well, that added up to some amazing amounts of work to be done. Some hand corn pickers have pulled off as high as 250 ears of corn in less than 40 minutes.

Elliott’s father, Russell, rests up against a tree during a family picnic. The old wooden Corn Crib building, with the family’s corn wagon, sits center in the background. Circa 1950 near Kiester, Minnesota.
Corn Elevator.

With a wagon now full of corn, Lowell pushed in the Farmall’s clutch and took the tractor out of gear by pulling the gear lever out of 1st Gear and to the neutral setting. Next, with his little right foot, he pressed down and locked on the brakes of the tractor for safety. It was now time to trade drivers as Dad climbed on board and allowed our brother to scurry up and enjoy a fun ride on top of the yellow gold that followed behind that F20. While they bumped along towards our farm yard, Lowell even told of a playtime of wiggling his tiny body into a corner of the wagon. That was usually fun until the load of field corn shifted and almost pinned him in place like a corny “prison”.

The tractor’s big, rubber, chevron-cleated tires began to sing a different tune against the rocky ground as our father urged the tractor to climb the graveled incline near our barn. That load of golden maize, following behind them, was heavy and the tractors tires made a growly gravel sound as they crested the rise and came back down towards our old wooden Corn Crib.

Elevators in the big cities take folks straight up to new heights. Well, we had an elevator on the farm, too. It’s job was to take our field corn to new heights, too, only these new heights were up and into our Corn Crib via a door at the top of the building. Rather than going up vertically, as in the city elevator, our long, metal conveyance carried the corn at an angle and could be adjusted to whatever height was needed to reach up and into to the Corn Crib.

A full load of field corn heading for the Corn Crib.

Dad backed up the corn wagon as close as he could to the elevator’s hopper. The elevator was powered by either an electric motor or sometimes by a long pulley belt spinning from another tractor’s power nearby. A slide door was opened at the back of the wagon and Dad (with our brother Lowell’s help) began forking, hooking and shoveling the ears of corn out of the wagon box and down into the moving cleats of the elevator. Up, up, up went the ears of corn until gravity made them disappear into the Corn Crib at the apex of the elevator’s highest point. With wagon now empty, the whole process was repeated again and again till our corn harvest was completed.

The more modern two row corn picker is covered in snow and sits to the right of the Noorlun’s Machine Shop in about 1959.

Time passed with each season of corn harvest and our parents were eventually able to purchase a one row, mechanical corn picker. What a relief that must’ve been for our hard-working “farmer hero” who could now just hook up that machine to his tractor and pull it through the cornfield and let it do the work that he used to have to do by hand. And, to make farm life even better, there came the day when Dad was able to purchase a TWO ROW corn picker that attached around the Farmall F20. From that time on, the old F20 was pretty much dedicated and relegated to just that one purpose on our acreage………to bring that two row corn picker to life each year and save a ton of work for the father we all admired ……including this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 1st

February 1st……“HOW DID YOUR BROTHER HELP YOUR MOTHER PROVE YOUR FATHER WRONG IN THEIR EARLY YEARS OF FARMING NEAR VINJE, IOWA?

POEM – “Burdee Fly, Mommy!” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Newlywed farmers were Elliott’s folks. Russell and Clarice Noorlun.

Dad loved Mom, And Mom loved Dad,

At their farm on Cocklebur Hill.

Yet, like young marrieds, Our Pa could be

A downright farmer “pill”.

A warm-minded bat, at that!

As Winter came on, Any creature with wits,

Tried to find some place to be warm,

And that old house, Let in more than mouse,

Finding warmth upon that farm.

Tiny brother Lowell at the time of the bat n splat incident on Cocklebur Hill farm.

Mom had told Dad, That she and their lad,

Had seen wings flying in their pantry.

But Dad just scoffed, Then laughed and coughed,

“Aww girl, ya got bats in yer belfry!!”.

“See? burdee fly, Mommy!! Said little Lowell.

But then, brother Lowell, Tiny Norski troll,

Came running in the room with a squeal,

“Burdee fly, Mommy!!”, “Burdee, come quick!!”

Grabbing broom, Mom spun like wheel!

KerSPLAT to the bat!!

She killed that bat, Right where it was at,

Giant WHAP!!! , Went the hit to the wall!

Our dad stood amazed, With his eyes a bit glazed,

His bride was right, After all!

Elliott’s daddy, Russell (left), found out that Humble Pie is sometimes the “spice of life”. 😉

Dad was humbled a bit, After wild bat fit,

In his eyes, His young wife now stood tall.

Best believe right away, Or your pride will sway,

As your ego will head for a fall!!!! 😉

No more “Bats in yer belfry” jokes! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..January 31st

January 31st….“DID YOU EVER DO SOMETHING, WITHOUT THINKING, THAT RESULTED IN A MAJOR EMBARRASSMENT?

POEM – “Hurried Hydrant Hooky!” by N. Elliott Noorlun

“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!!”

“Hurried Hydrant Hooky”,

A game I did NOT choose to play.

I was late for our firstborn’s baby shower,

Twas the only excuse I could say.

Oooopsy!!!

Like the cows in a barn, Each day I would park,

Our car in the center lot’s stall.

After work, I’d jump in, Drop into “Drive” and begin,

Spin a cookie and go have a ball.

Amazingly, Elliott did NOT break off the fire hydrant as in this pic.

But this one time, I parked in the clime,

Of fire hydrant, Right up by the school.

And what happened next, Was really quite hexed,

As I proved that I was the fool!!!

The tow truck driver laughed loudly and couldn’t believe his eyes.

For on that day, My mind in a fray,

I ran out and jumped in the car.

I dropped it in Drive, And like a bee hive,

Got a buzz as I felt a great jar!

Tow truck had to lift Elliott’s car up and off the fire hydrant.

When I gave car “the goose”, It felt power’s “juice”,

Tires bounced up on top of the curb,

It then came flopping down, Over fire hydrant’s crown,

Causing me to exclaim quite a blurb!!

“Wait till I tell the boys at the shop!”

When the tow truck showed up, This embarrassed pup,

Was the target of a raucous tease.

“How’d the heck you do that?!” , The driver scorned,

His belittling I couldn’t appease.

Elliott was BEYOND embarrassed!

My spirit did sag, And if I’d had paper bag,

Would’ve hidden inside for a cry,

I was on a new diet, Though I hated to try it,

Twas time to eat my HUMBLE PIE! 😉

The guys at the shop must’ve laughed themselves silly!!!!

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..January 30th

January 30th……“WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT IMPRESSED YOU, AS A YOUNG BOY, ABOUT THE MUSIC PROGRAM AND ITS TEACHER AT KIESTER HIGH SCHOOL?”

It’s 1966 and Elliott’s 6th Grade Class trip to the Minnesota State Capitol.

A euphoric state of rhathymia pervaded the school bus as my 6th Grade classmates and I bounced and jounced our way back towards our hometown of Kiester, Minnesota. We were all a bit giddy, within the echoing bus, in having reached the apogee of now being the “big guys” of Grade School there at Kiester Public School. Our respective teachers, Mrs. Barton and Mrs. Scofield had been our guides through that 6th Grade year of learning. Out of dedication, they now had also stepped up their care as they chaperoned us in this culminating adventure by escorting us way up to the giant city of St. Paul to tour the State Capitol. We were so tickled to have some hands on, in-person experience for relating to all of the Minnesota Statehood history and knowledge that we had ingested in the classrooms over the course of that past year.

Our highly respected educator, who was also a fine Norwegian!! 😉

For those of us who have experienced it, the only thing consistent in life is change. That natural time of morphing was about to happen to us youngsters, as well. As the “grown-up” 6th Graders, in those last days of Grade School, we were going to be ushered over to the hallowed halls of the High School side of our school facility. It was time for us to get a “taste” tour and an indoctrination of what life was going to be like in the coming school year of 1966-67 and being in the 7th Grade that coming Fall.

Obedient to our graying educators, the two classrooms of us lined up and began our short journey upon the creaking wooden floors from the second floor of our old school facility. Down the massive sections of stairs we descended as we bottomed out and spun a right turn while marching down and through the old gymnasium. Now transitioning, we hung a left turn into and up the ramp that led to where the truly “grown-up” kids lived; the 7th through 12th Graders. With those creaking wooden floors behind us, we now made our way down the expansive High School halls of polished stone floors and passed under ceiling lights that spotlighted each of us as we eventually stopped at the classroom doors of the one and only Mr. Milton Leland Glende. Through those portals behind him were the illustrious educational chambers of our Kiester High School’s Music Department. We were greeted and received by the master educator himself, Mr. Glende. We all filed into the wide-open, expansive classroom that was flooded with daylight from the walls of windows that encompassed that educational domain. We sat down in the band chairs in trepidatious awe to experience this new chapter of school life and get a tuneful earful of band life from this honored educator……..who just happened to be a full Norwegian, like myself………Yah, shure, yew betcha!! 😉

Elliott’s lovely sister, Rosemary, is third from left near window.

Ever since I had been knee-high to a burp, I had been deeply impressed by watching our elder sister, Rosemary, as she enjoyed being a member of that elite cadre as a musical “Bulldog” in the Kiester High School Band. When you’re a tiny guy, you hang on every word and deed of an elder sibling and that’s just what I did as I’d listen to big sister. There were Rosie’s stories of the hours practicing in Mr. Glende’s immense band room. The button-popping pride of watching her don their handsome band uniforms and witness her fellow musicians in how they also wore them with such pride. And, happily, there was the pride-filled pleasure of attending her band concerts and marching performances that were always so full of proper pomp and pageantry. The list was long, when it came to impressing my young life with how special it was to be a bona-fide member of the Kiester High School “Bulldog” Marching Band.

Mr. Glende could play them ALL!!!

President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “The supreme quality of leadership is, unquestionably, integrity. Without it, no real success is possible……”. Even as a young boy of only 12 years, I could discern that THIS was the key to Mr. Glende’s success. To this very day, countless folks can attest their allegiance to this special man because he was just that……a fine man of integrity.

Mr. Glende , back row on right side, and just half of our large and very talented High School Band.

Just like a shepherd knowing what’s good for his sheep, Mr. Glende adroitly picked up and played a plethora of band instruments so that his new “flock”, of 6th Grade guests, could be inspired and at peace knowing that this musical shepherd would lead them to new knowledge and heights in making music; both choral and instrumental.

Too tiny to toot!!!

There was also a bit of unintended levity on that demonstration day as dear Mr. Glende started with the Woodwind Family of instruments, then moving to all the Percussion Family of instruments and for a finale, rolled on into demonstrating how the Brass Family of instruments made their sound. In what appeared to be an honest miscalculation on his part, rather than starting with the tiny mouthpiece of the French Horn, Mr. Glende picked up the giant Tuba. Its large mouthpiece allowed his lips to flap easily as he played us a short musical rendition. His next brass conquest was the Baritone, which he played with elegance. Next came the Trombone, then a Trumpet. With each Brass instrument, the mouthpieces were getting tinier and tinier. When that dear man picked up the French Horn to play, his poor pucker pooped out and a squeaky nothing came out. A few of us (including myself) gave a small giggle as Mr. Glende explained the reason why of what just transpired. With some concentrated determination, our musical hero MADE that French Horn play and forever impressed this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.!!!

These young ladies, and thousands more, considered it a point of “Bulldog” pride to be a part of Mr. Glende’s Kiester High School Band!

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..January 29th

January 29th…..”DURING YOUR FARM DAYS, WHAT WAS A FUNNY THING THAT SOMEONE SAID AT A 4H MEETING ABOUT YOUR MOTHER’S BAKING SKILLS?”

POEM – “The Fumble Honey Jumble!” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Elliott’s mother, Clarice. Baker par excellence!

Our sweet farmer mom, Was the baking queen,

And made our home, The tastiest scene.

Watching was fun, but tasting was better!

Out came flour, And rolling pin,

Along with sifter, To dust the flour thin,

Upon the table, Twas time to bake,

And make Honey Jumbles, For our tummy’s sake.

Large cookies made with honey.

Big n round, With a donut’s hole,

A honey of a cookie, To please the soul.

Honey Jumbo cookies for the guests at our 4H Meeting.

We could never get enough, Of Mom’s Honey Jumble treat,

So when it was time, For 4H Club to meet,

Our mom served the guests, Our family’s fave,

In hopes club members, Soon too would rave.

Gossips said, “Tough luck!”

Instead, club mothers, In secret hiss,

Began to say, Something was amiss,

That Mom had had, “Tough luck” with her dough,

In what they thought, Should be donuts, ya know.

Elliott’s mom had the last laugh!! 😉

But our mom she just took it, All in stride,

As the smile on her face, She could not hide.

Honey Jumble cookies, To us were the best,

Made with love by Mom, Who passed every test,

By filling farm home, With tasty love,

E’en now as she lives, In Heaven above!!!

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..January 28th

January 28th…...”WERE YOU EVER PULLED OVER BY POLICE TO RECEIVE A TRAFFIC TICKET FOR SPEEDING IN A CAR?”

Rear-view trouble!!

“DON’T MOVE YOUR HEAD!!!” came the terse command from my Uncle Barney Hollembaek as he sat in the passenger seat next to me. As we screamed down that gravel road, I had twisted my head to the right to inform my uncle that a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman (with a very fast horse…..said tongue-in-cheek…hehehe) had just come off of a side road as we made our way towards the Alaska/Canadian Highway and had flipped on his dashboard lights as he was now in pursuit of us. “If you keep your head still, maybe he’ll think you didn’t notice him and will just drive by!!” But, alas, that bit of advice didn’t work in my case.

1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302

I’ll leave you in suspense, for a moment, as I backtrack to fill you in on what transpired up to this point. It was March of 1972. I was an 18 year old Senior at Battle Ground High School in Battle Ground, Washington. Our school was about to be let out for the annual Spring Break Vacation. Our fun-loving Uncle Barney was passing through our town and had invited me to keep him company as he drove my Cousin Scott Hollembaek’s handsome Ford Mustang back up to Alaska. Our mountain man of a cousin had left the “Stang” in our keeping about 6 months earlier when he took a flight out of Portland, Oregon bound for Hawaii and a construction job. Scott had done some amazing tweaking of that 302 power-plant that made this “Grabber Blue” Mustang the hottest set of wheels I had ever ridden in!!! When Scott “punched it”, that car literally threw me back into my seat as we’d rocket off down the road. I remember cautioning Scott one afternoon about our local cops pulling him over for a speeding ticket. His response? “Ahhh, they gotta CATCH me first!!!!” 😉

Uncle Barney Hollembaek.

Our bigger than life Uncle Barney was a Leatherneck Marine, during World War II, and had served in the South Pacific. He was a risk taker, a business man, an innovator and he employed all those qualities that worked towards success for him over his years there in Alaska. Having received permission from my folks, I was more than thrilled to be his driving buddy on the way back up to the wild north country, riding shotgun, so to speak, inside this amazing Ford Mustang. I’m not sure just who (Scott or Barney) or why, but someone had disconnected the odometer on the “Stang” before we pointed the car northwards towards Seattle, the Canadian border, British Columbia and eventually up the Alaska/Canadian Highway to Palmer, Alaska. Since the speedometer (as well as the odometer) were now dead, the only way to mark our speed, as we rolled along, was to watch the tachometer needle moving through its spectrum and kinda gauge the general flow of traffic around us on the freeway.

Too much fun = TICKET!!

On the second morning, after we cruised across the Canadian border and into British Columbia, Barney was ready to take a breather from driving. The 290 “horses” under that blue hood were now all mine to command and, ohhh, it was a treat!!! With “four on the floor” and “pedal to the metal”, we saw mile after mile of stunning, rugged scenery pass by us as we talked up a storm and enjoyed each other’s company on this long journey. On our way towards the actual Al/Can Highway at Dawson Creek, the wild country, and the road itself, took on a more rugged atmosphere.

That “Mountie” was one cool and relaxed dude!!

In 1972, the majority of the Al/Can Highway was still graveled. The only paved highway sections were a few miles before and after major cities. It was on one of those stretches of graveled roads, one day, that I met a challenger. A car had passed me. I thought to myself, “O.K., no biggie! Hope ya have a great day.” Then, that same car in front of me started slowing down. So, I shifted down and punched that 302 powerhouse and passed the guy. It was quickly becoming a cat n mouse game. He passes me, I pass him; and each time we’re both going faster and faster. Remember, I only have a tachometer to gauge my speed. I’m really starting to cook up some “rpms” to catch this “mouse” again, when, all of a sudden, out from a side road comes an RCMP patrol car and flips his dashboard lights on. As you recall my uncle’s directives earlier, well, my steady head did nothing to cure what happened next. That Canadian “copper” came zooming up alongside us and, in sign language, swung his arm over and over, telling us to pull over. We did. He now “punches it” and literally FLIES up ahead of us and catches my intended “mouse”, too.

“That’ll cost you $45, sir!!”

Barney and myself sat in the car, alongside that gravel road, patiently waiting while the trooper wrote a speeding ticket for my “mouse” up ahead and then lets him drive off. With a swing of his authoritative arm, “Mr. Mountie” summons us to drive slowly up to where he stands. That handsome officer was resplendent in his Canadian policeman’s uniform that day. Our Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman was also in command of a great personality as we chatted while he wrote me a speeding ticket for doing 85 miles per hour in a 60 mph zone. The price of my fine was to be $45.00 and we were to be honest men and stop up ahead in the town of Quesnel, British Columbia and pay my fine at the courthouse there. By today’s standards (as of July of 2020), $45 is a little drop in the bucket, but back in 1972, that amount of money was a pretty impressive chunka change that was gonna be sucked outta my pockets!!!

I could tell that Barney was about to “milk the moment”, seeing that our law officer was so laid back and amiable with us. “Just curious, Constable, what if we bypass Quesnel and just keep on driving?” To which, in a very relaxed tone of voice, our Constable replied, “Oh, no problem, gentlemen, we’ll just radio ahead, if you don’t arrive within the hour, and have you both arrested.” You can bet yer sweet bippy that we DID stop in Quesnel and I DID fork over a precious $45.00 of my vacation spending money that was supposed to buy some fun in Alaska for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

Elliott still is impressed with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police….and their fast “four-wheeled horses”!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..January 27th

January 27th……“WHAT WAS THE MOST UNIQUE EMPLOYMENT YOU HELD DURING YOUR VOCATIONAL CAREER?”

Layne’s Funeral Home director Denton Harlan, shown, Saturday, April 7, 2012, has been in the funeral business for over 40 years. (Steven Lane/The Columbian)

A distant, muted chime could be heard as I entered the front door. My arrival had been automatically announced by a small, swinging trip switch at the top of the door header of Layne’s Funeral Home in Battle Ground, Washington. In the respectful quietness, I walked to the back pews of the chapel. My kind friend, Denton Harlan, who had heard that chime, in what was known as the Prep Room, stepped out into the front of the chapel to greet me and welcome me to my new employment. It was the Summer of 1983. A few weeks prior to this, Denton had “bumped into” my wife and I while we were getting Traveler’s Checks for our vacation at the old location of The First Independent Bank. The “grapevine” had informed Mr. Harlan that I was seeking part time employment to help care for our growing family. “When you get back from vacation, come see me over at the funeral home.”, said Dent, “I need someone to help out cleaning the building, washing cars, etc..” As my years with Denton unfolded, I was to find out how many pleasant ways his “etc.” would encompass. I was elated for his kindness to us, as a family, and gladly anticipated beginning my new part time career.

Elliott scrubbed n rubbed all the vehicles.

The funeral business can be paralleled to farming, in a way. For, like a farmer, a funeral director sees to the needs of giving attention, devotion, sacrifice and work to meet the grieving needs of a family at any time around the clock. Seven days a week and any time of the day or night these dear servants of our community were on call to meet a family’s needs whenever they lost a loved one. After discussion with Denton of my duties, it was decided that for me to meet the needs of the building and car cleaning, we would propose a tentative weekly duty time of Saturday afternoons. I was more than happy to be flexible, regarding that schedule, for if a funeral had to be performed during my usual cleaning time. I’d just come into the funeral home on a different day.

Elliott played guitar and sang if families requested.

Denton and myself both attended the same church, over the years, so he knew that I played guitar and sang. I was honored whenever my custodial position at “Layne’s” took a turn towards being part of something different that just cleaning. I found pleasure in giving families solace by singing a special song, or two, at the “Layne’s Funeral Home” chapel for their loved one. On occasion, at graveside services, I found myself singing to the family and mourners as birds sang nearby and gentle breezes floated through the pine trees while I’d play my “Black Beauty” Guild guitar and sing “That Silver-haired Daddy Of Mine” or some other tune of their choosing.

Elliott’s “smile medicine” each week.

The greatest majority of Saturday afternoons at the funeral home were clear and open for me to do my cleaning and car washing. It was also around 1983 that I became aware of, and a giant fan of, a weekly radio show on Minnesota Public Radio called, “A Prairie Home Companion”. Not wanting to miss a broadcast, I’d bring along my little walk-man radio with ear plugs and was tickled when 3pm came around. I called it my weekly “smile medicine” as I’d hear Mr. Garrison Keillor do the opening song and I’d be set for 2 hours of laughter, great music, skits, phoney commercials (like the “Fear Mongers Shop”, etc.) The humdrum of cleaning was always made more palatable with smiles from this grand radio show.

Denton was, and is, a multi-talented gentleman.

Over my 27 years in service to Denton and his business, I became more deeply impressed with the tender and sincere heart of this dear man. His integrity and open heart had made him a very well-loved community figure. So many families in our Battle Ground, Washington area knew that Denton Harlan always had their best needs at heart. And, on more than one occasion, I saw Denton use his myriad of talents to meet those needs. One instance really stood out to me. A family had lost their dear father who was an avid hunter. They wanted to somehow carry a memento of their dearly departed daddy. Here’s what Denton did for them to meet their need. Denton had purchased a World War II era metal lathe that had originally been used at the Boeing Aircraft Plant in Seattle, Washington. This amazing funeral home director/craftsman took some brass rod stock and “turned” it in his lathe to create these handsome bullet-looking key rings. The center of each “bullet” had been drilled out to make a core. A brass, threaded cap was also created for each key-ring that even had little rubber “O-rings” to make the “bullet” air tight when the cap was screwed into place. Their father had been cremated, so Denton poured some of the father’s ashes into each key-ring and sealed it shut. The family members were just thrilled that Denton had found a way for them to “take Daddy with them” wherever they went as a memento of his love and the life that he had lived.

Whether I cleaned his place of business, washed his many vehicles, sang at funerals, helped usher funerals, or whatever service I could offer……….I was more than happy to be a brother in the Lord, and a friend of Denton Harlan who has always been a blessing to this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..January 26th

January 26th…..“AFTER WORLD WAR II, DID YOUR UNCLE ERWIN MARRY AND HAVE A FAMILY? WHAT WERE SOME OF HIS VOCATIONS THROUGH THE YEARS?”

Erwin impressed his new girlfriend in another way. 😉

“What is it you want, Mary?(played by Donna Reed)” says George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart). “What is it you want?” “You want the moon?” “Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down!” “Hey, that’s a pretty good idea!” “I’ll give you the moon, Mary!!!” Such were the twitterpated wooings of a young man in love who wanted to make an impression on his new lady friend in hopes of winning her for the the rest of his life. You can just hear the idealistic, yet tender, infatuated voice of George Bailey in the classic 1946 movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life!”.

Elliott’s sister, Rosemary, was one of the flower girls at their Uncle Erwin’s wedding to his bride, Audrey, in December of 1950. Rosie is little cutie on the right and was only four years old at the time.

Impressing a lovely young lady would have a different twist for our uncle. Fresh from the Army and full of telephone communications knowledge, our paternal Uncle Erwin Noorlun arrived in Lyle, Minnesota in January of 1949. As he began his new job of updating the telephone systems in that town, he had the pleasure of meeting one of the loveliest switchboard operators he’d ever laid his eyes on. Her name was Audrey Virginia Kulff. Six years his junior and pretty as a picture, they struck up a friendship that culminated in their first date in the frigid January outdoors of that borderline town with the State of Iowa just beyond its southern boundaries.

Erwin’s feet.

Now it kinda makes ya scratch yer head to figure that, here’s a young buck who grew up in Minnesota’s frozen north country. He must’ve learned all the proper ways to protect his body from Winter’s chilling ways, right? Yet, on this magical first date with Audrey, Erwin actually froze his feet!!! My, my!!! Was he captivated by her beauty? Staying out in the grinding cold to try to snatch that first kiss? Whatever the case may have been, that small town of 600 souls found Erwin’s predicament to be hilarious and he was the buzz of the chatter around that town for some time after the incident. Whatever Erwin’s cost, in frozen footsies, he won his maiden and they gathered at the north end of the little town of Lyle at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church to “tie the knot” on December 2nd of 1950.

Edwin and Erwin hold Scott Noorlun, the first of his three sons.

Just like the 1946 movie, Erwin and Audrey could jointly say, “It’s A Wonderful Life”!!! Not only had “Erv” been spared during World War II, there were the blessings how he and Audrey had met, married and began a handsome family of three great young sons. Baseball became just one of the numerous bonding times of a young father and his sons. On the special occasions that brought Erv’s family to our farm for a visit, I can still see baseball gloves “glued” to the hands of our cousins Scott, Steve and Joey as they climbed out of their family car.

Elliott on left with cousins Scott and Steve.

Like any youngsters, my uncle’s boys and I had tons of fun climbing in and out of farm equipment and even played some baseball catch. One day, Uncle Erwin showed us all just how much power he still had in those paratrooper arms of his. He asked us to toss him one of the baseballs we had been playing with. With a spring-coiling windup of his body, Erwin let fly at least three baseballs that flew like bullets and shattered the wooden siding on our granary building. We kids just stood there with our jaws dropped open in amazement.

Elliott’s handsome Uncle Erwin Noorlun is the only police officer with sunglasses in this photo. Can you spot him? He’s standing third in from right.

In his early years, after marrying Audrey, “Erv” helped her brother, for a while, hauling new cars. Then, Erwin decided he wanted to move into law enforcement and spent 10 years as a policeman in Detroit, Michigan. The young Noorluns wanted to be closer to family, so, with the rank of Sargent, Erwin picked up and moved to Golden, Colorado in 1963 – 64. He invested 20 more years with the police force there and retired in the early 1980’s as a Lieutenant.

Elliott’s father, Russell (left), with his younger brother, Erwin, at the Noorlun farm near Kiester, Minnesota. Late 1940’s.

Our handsome uncle is gone now. He left us in September of 2019. As I mused upon the overall scope of his life, was our uncle perfect? Not at all. He endured and weathered just as many human failings as any man. Heck, even our First President, George Washington, cut down the cherry tree, right? 😉 Yet, do I believe that Erwin had a “wonderful life”? That would come as a resounding YES from this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..January 25th

January 25th….“TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR PATERNAL UNCLE ERWIN. DID HE SERVE IN WORLD WAR II?”

During World War II, Elliott’s grandmother stands next to their window banner with two service stars.

Not one lugubrious ligament languished lazily in Uncle Erwin’s lithe young body. That vibrant eighteen year old Norwegian frame, of our very handsome uncle, was resplendent with energy from head to toe and plenty of muscles in-between. Erwin was one of eight beautiful children that were brought to life, in the northern Minnesota farmlands, by our family patriarch and matriarch, namely Edwin A. and Marie L. Noorlun. Uncle Erwin was, like so many of his generation, toughened by growing up and enduring the hardships of country life as well as being partaker of those who survived the Great Depression in America that lasted between 1929 and 1939. Like so many who lived through those lean years, Erwin learned and lived by the sage saying that went……..”Used it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Or do without!”

The surprise Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7th, 1941, had thrust America into World War II. Erwin (and his brother, Doren) were among the 16 million young Americans incensed by that aggression, and, when their time came, they responded to Uncle Sam’s call to serve our great land in her time of need.

It was customary, during the War, for our government to honor families who had sons, or daughters, who served in the military. That honor was bestowed by sending each military family a window banner that had a blue star for every loved one who served their country during that tumultuous global conflict. A banner personally honoring the Noorlun boys was proudly hung in the window of the family home for all passersby to see and admire. If a son or daughter gave the ultimate sacrifice of their life in service during the War, then a “Gold Star” banner was sent to the family with condolences for the supreme sacrifice in the death of their son or daughter. We, as a family, would always thank the Lord that both Erwin and Doren came home safely from that fight for freedom.

Fort Benning, Georgia Jump School

“Meeep Meeep!!!” went the short report of a Jeep’s horn as it kicked up dust while driving past Erwin and his Army buddies during Paratrooper Jump School in Fort Benning, Georgia. It was now 1944 and our uncle had matured to the point of now qualifying to join the ranks of the 16 million warriors that served in the War. It was one thing to join the Army, but it was a noble aspiration to step up the echelons to be the best and serve with the best……..The Paratroopers. Yes, the $50.00 extra a month in bonus pay was a big incentive for many a hopeful paratrooper recruit, but there was also the badge of pride that every man would wear, deep inside his heart, if he could survive and thrive through some of the most grueling training that the Army could throw at you. To become one of the Army’s elite, you ran till your lungs felt like bursting, you climbed up and down every obstacle imaginable (with full pack and rifle), hand to hand combat was taught because you’d be dropping behind enemy lines, and, above all that, you had to be able to learn to jump and parachute out of an airplane (with full gear) five times, in order to get your jump wings. When Erwin accomplished all of those goals, he was then given the honored privilege to spit-shine his jump boots, blouse his trousers over those boots and proudly wear the parachute patch on his garrison cap with accompanying Parachute Jump Wings on his uniform coat. He was now a full-fledged paratrooper and member of the United States Army 17th Airborne Division.

Elliott’s Uncle Erwin Noorlun was aboard the USS J.W. McAndrew when his troop ship was struck by a French aircraft carrier.

In early 1945, the war in Europe was now in the Allies favor and victory seemed imminent, so the Army “big brass” (leadership) began planning for the proposed invasion of the main islands of Japan. In the meantime, on March 13th, 1945, while on the Atlantic Ocean bound for Europe, Erwin was one of hundreds of paratroopers onboard the USS J.W. McAndrew troop ship. That night, under the cloak of darkness, and thrown about by heavy seas, the French aircraft carrier, Bearn, collided with Erwin’s troop transport killing up to 130 men who were sleeping peacefully down inside the McAndrew’s hold. Our uncle’s life was thankfully spared, but he was forever impacted by the tragic loss of so many young men that would never see marriage, family and other enjoyments of life, having died so young.

Elliott’s Uncle Erwin was among these Paratroopers celebrating the end of World War II and going home!! 😉

In early August of 1945, Erwin was again onboard a troopship that had come through the Panama Canal, in Central America, and was on it’s way towards Japan. Operation Downfall was to be the actual invasion of the Japanese home islands and Erwin’s paratroopers were to make air jumps onto military targets. One day, joyous pandemonium broke out among the men onboard ship when the Captain of the troop transport got on the overhead speakers and relayed wonderful news. Due to the two atomic bombs having been dropped, Japan had finally surrendered. The War was over!!! The ship’s new course setting? Home to the good old USA and the port of Newport News, Virginia.

Erwin in post-war service.

With peace restored to the world, Erwin came home to Minnesota for a well-deserved family celebration and a ninety day leave for rest and recuperation. In welcoming Erwin (and brother Doren) home from the War, there were lots of family hugs n kisses….well, at least from his three sisters ;-). We even have a photo of Erwin’s siblings giggling with laughter. They had indulged in some “well-lubricated” and inebriated silliness while they partied with their soldier brother.

The silly celebrations of Russ (center) and Doris (right) when their brothers came home.

Then, on January 1st of 1946, our uncle then decided to re-enlist with the Army, at Minnesota’s Fort Snelling where he received initial training in various forms of telephone communications. The Army then sent Erwin to Salt Lake City, Utah for more communications training. He was finally sent to San Francisco, California to climb aboard a ship heading for the post-war Japanese Prefecture of Okinawa. For the next 30 months, Staff Sargent Erwin Maurice Noorlun faithfully helped to rebuild everything that was needed to repair telephone and telegraph systems that had been destroyed during the World War II battles that consumed that island between the Japanese and Americans. When Erwin successfully completed that tour of duty in Okinawa, he received his honorable discharge from the Army on September 29th, 1948 at the rank of Staff Sargent.

Staff Sargent Erwin Maurice Noorlun. 1945.

We were all so proud of our patriotic and talented Norwegian former farm boy who could “do it all”……..be it jumping from airplanes, to climbing telephone poles for Uncle Sam.

Thank you, Lord, for the uncle of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..January 24th

January 24th….”PLEASE TELL US ABOUT ONE OF YOUR PATERNAL UNCLES. WAS HE HANDSOME? WHAT WAS HIS EARLY LIFE LIKE IN NORTHERN MINNESOTA?”

Uncle Erwin is to the far right and in front of his mother, Marie. Photo is circa early to mid 1930’s. Elliott’s father, Russ, is center in white shirt.

A midwife, bundled against the frigid, northern Minnesota winds rushed into the farm’s warm kitchen. She arrived that night as an angel of mercy and help to the rural farm home of Edwin A. and Marie Louise Noorlun. That farm lay near the town of Mahnomen, Minnesota which resides within the White Earth Chippewa Indian Reservation. For that time in history, the town sported a healthy population of 989 stalwart souls who clung to the wildness of that wooded land.

The snowy chill and whiteness of that day on December 10th, 1925 was not about to hold back the drama and warmth of a tiny, new life that was about to be brought into the world. That new life, complete with a set of loud lungs, was my paternal Uncle Erwin Maurice Noorlun. Being born the sixth, out of eight children, this handsome little boy child was about to begin a very remarkable life. In a smiling, poetical sense……..Erwin was destined to find that he would mimic the definition of his hometown’s name; for you see, Mahnomen, in the Chippewa tongue, means “wild rice”; and Erwin was going to have some fun in life sewing his own……”wild rice” 😉

Two church equals too much! Erwin is on the far right with his brothers.

Not only was my Uncle Erwin a very handsome Norwegian boy, but he was as sharp as the proverbial tack, too. School came easy for our uncle who often excelled in his studies to the point of garnering championships in the local school’s Spelling Bee competitions. Erwin was also faithful in lending his youthful, muscular prowess in helping with the family chores there on their farm in the big woods of northern Minnesota.

The Noorlun family had been raised in the Norwegian Lutheran Church. It appears to make logical sense (at the time) that the church elders desired to preserve the cultural heritage of Norway. So, to provide for the senior saints in their midst, who still spoke mostly Norwegian, there would be one worship in English and one in Norwegian. Grandpa Ed and Marie concurred with that edict, so Erwin and his siblings were required to attend not just one, but TWO worship experiences every Sunday. One worship time was in the English language (for the younger crowd, perhaps) but then, Erwin and his antsy siblings had to stay seated in those long, hard pews for a repeat worship, only this second time around, the experience was all in Norwegian. Therefore, when the occasion arose for four of the Noorlun brothers to have their photograph taken one Sunday, before leaving for the double morning worship time, it’s no wonder that they all showed themselves sour-faced about what they were about to endure that morning at church! 😉

Erwin’s father, Edwin (on load of hay in 1948) knew how to drive a team of horses. He soon found, though, that cars were a different beast! Elliott’s Uncle Erwin is shirtless at center and Uncle Doren Noorlun, is to right.

Horses played a prominent role in the farm life of the Noorlun family. All of those good looking Norwegian siblings were adept at riding a horse. My father, Russell, even spoke of being so comfortable with the giant draft horses, that he’d climb aboard their broad backs and fall asleep on lazy summer days while those equine leviathans gently foraged in their pasture land.

In kin with his brother Russ, one of Uncle Erwin’s early employments was to deliver mail to many Mahnomen area farmers. Like a repeat of the storied “Pony Express” riders of western legend, Erwin carried out this task on horseback in that same proud tradition of faithfully getting the mail delivered.

In 1935, when Erwin was a mere 10 years old, his quiet-mannered father bartered a deal to trade away one of their handsome teams of horses in exchange for procuring the Noorlun family’s very first car. That 1928 Model A Ford sure didn’t whinny like a horse, but there were plenty of “horses” under that hood. Now, true to fact, our Grandfather Edwin had never driven a car before. From his birth in 1888, to that day in 1935, Edwin’s life was spent with horses; either riding on top of them or driving a team from behind them. Was he gonna “bronco break” this metal hombre, or would the metal hombre “break” HIM? Edwin Noorlun was a horseman through and through. Yet here he was, now the master of a metallic, mechanized marvel that happened to be pointing towards their shed that day. Erwin’s dear daddy crawled inside this new-fangled “animal”. Edwin managed to bring the beast’s engine to a coughing, sputtering life and somehow even popped it into gear. Only problem was, there were no leather reins to pull to control the “horses under the hood”. The Model A was on a roll, picking up speed and heading right for the shed. Grandpa Edwin started yelling, “WHOA!! WHOA!!!”, as if he was still talking to his team of horses. Thankfully, and in the nick of time, Ed found the brake pedal on the floor and stopped the Ford just before he crashed into that wooden structure. Erwin’s mother, Marie, began a hearty laugh at her horse-farmer husband who kept yelling, “WHOA!!” at the car!!! By this time, the whole family joined in hysterical laughter at the happy ending of what could have been a crashing experience.

The Noorlun’s new barn in process of construction.

As if right out of the pages of “Little House On The Prairie”, a few more years down the road of life passed by when our Uncle Erwin (along with his family) saw a prairie fire erupt and consume their family’s barn in horrific flames. For a farming family that relied on horses to help them till the land of their farm, thirteen-year-old Erwin could only stand by and suffer the trauma of seeing several of their precious horses burned to death in that fire. His father, Edwin, had valiantly tried to coach the animals out of the burning barn, but the confusion of the smoke and mayhem around those fine horses was too much for them to bear and they could not be led to safety. This left Edwin no choice but to save himself and get out of that conflagration before he, too, would be killed. Yet, even in such sadness, every cloud has a silver lining, and thankfully, as was the noble norm for those times, many friends, family and neighbors came together to re-build the Noorlun family a brand new barn to house their remaining livestock.

Elliott’s Uncle Erwin(left), along with a man named John Kinney, hold and comfort some survivors of the disastrous barn fire on their farm.

An old saying goes like this: “The only thing consistent in life is change” Even though the death of those fine horses touched Erwin deeply, it was time to celebrate those that survived and prepare for the inevitable change that comes with a new chapter of life. To capture that thankful moment, Erwin led out one of the survivor horses, while Mr. John Kinney carefully coached the mare’s little colt alongside. A photograph was snapped and a new beginning commenced.

Thank you, Lord, for the fine life lived by the uncle of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son………(to be continued) 😉