Epilogue: Whether it was a proclivity to procrastinate, a childhood paradigm shift of learning, or just a plain lazy little stinker……..this poem of silliness found its genesis in that fact that our dear farmer father had wisely told me about the need to properly bed down our calf pens with new, clean bales of straw. “Be sure to take the two strands oftwine with you OUT OF THE PEN”, he’d say to me. “Awww, heck, whadda dads know anyway!”…I thought to myself. So, I’d just cut open the bales, kick the straw around the pen and leave the twines. Later, when the straw was “soiled” and time for removal, those twines came back to haunt both me AND my dad as we struggled for each forkful of manure that snagged on twines that THIS bad boy had left behind. A life lesson learned the hard way for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.
March 21st…“DESCRIBE A FARM CHORE YOU HAD AS A CHILD.”
Proverbs Chapter 1, Verse 8 “Listen, my son, to your father’s instructions……..” and that’s just what we Noorlun children did. Welll, when it came to this ornery third born….most of the time 😉 But overall, my big brother and two sisters knew that it was just a normal part of family responsibility to “listen to our father’s instructions” and help work on our farm. The root meaning of the word, chore, comes from the Old English word, char, which boils down to “odd job”. When it came to seeing our animals fed twice a day, seven days a week, fifty two weeks a year…….now there was nothing ODD about that……THAT was important.
Our wise father decided that some of his corn fields were to remain intact until the stalks and ears dried to a golden yellow in the Fall harvest of field corn. The remaining fields of corn were taken and ground up fine, while still young and green, for what’s called silage to feed our animals over the long Winter still to come.
Tractors and their wagons full of silage made many, many trips to our silo and unloaded their green cargo into a giant blower fan that shot the loose silage up, up, up a long tube and fell down into our silo. When the silo was full, we were now ready to let Old Man Winter bring on His winds, cause our dear animals now had lots of food as they cozied up in our barn which lay in the shadow of that silo.
Here’s where my chore for the family came into play. Daily, it was my job (or whoever Dad assigned) to climb the very tall silo chute ladder to the top of the silo and then crawl through the doorway into the silo, itself. My job? Take the silage fork and toss down enough silage to feed the cows for that morning or evening’s feeding.
Staring up in amazement into a cylindrical slice of blue sky from inside our silo, I could see fluffy white clouds skidding quickly across the aperture of my farmboy domain. The prairie winds blew those white orbs past the cement orifice so fast, that the optical illusion of the silo “falling over” would make me dizzy and I’d lose my balance temporarily. I felt the need to steady myself on the handle of the silage fork in my hand that was stuck firmly into the silage. Seven days a week, it was my task (or Dad, or big brother) to forge my way through our handsome old barn and enter a small room that linked the barn to our very tall, cement block silo.
My young legs and arms worked in unison as I climbed higher and higher within an enclosed ladder/tunnel that led to the highest open door of this cement block repository of green delights that our cows enjoyed for their meals. Since our silo had no roof, the frigid temperatures of Winter and its snows would oftentimes freeze the layers of silage down as much as two feet deep in permafrost……..SOLID, like a rock! In order to release the green gold of cow food beneath that frozen grip, I would take my pickaxe and slam the pointed end into that frozen maize to break it up enough to then take our large silage fork and scoop forkfuls of silage down the tunnel I had just come through to get way up here. On some Winter’s evenings, with crystalline stars sparkling above the round silo opening, I’d take a rest from forking and just drink in the magic of the twilight as I’d glance down the ladder tunnel to see the golden glow of the barn lights below me. Heat, from the many bovine bodies down there would fly up the tunnel ladder and warm the numbness of my half-frozen cheeks while Bobby Vinton could be heard singing “Blue Velvet” over Dad’s barn radio.
Even with our barn doors closed against the blast of Winter’s assailing winds, there ofttimes were whistling gusts of air that would filter through the barn and then fly up the venturi of the ladder tunnel and into the silo where I was working. There was a quick lesson for me, early on, as I made the mistake of standing right in front of the silo door as I tossed my forkful of silage into the the chute opening, only to have MOST of it blown right back into my face!!! I quickly learned to stand off to the side of that square portal and THEN toss that silage down the long tunnel to the bottom of the ladder.
When a sizeable pile of this ground up corn lay at the bottom of the silo’s tunnel, I would then climb down and begin filling our metal bushel basket with that green gold. Each bushel basket was then carried out of the silo room and placed on top of the manger railing to slide down the line for feeding each of our 15 head of Holstein milk cows (and other livestock, too). Within the confines of that long wooden manger, one could hear the lowing of the cows as they marvelously munched the maize brought to them by this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.
March 20th…“WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER AS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE YEAR AND WHY?”
The earth was yielding her fruited harvest to us and the trees became giant flowers in gigantic breathtaking hues………yes, Fall captured my heart when it came to a favorite time of the year to find pleasures for this farm boy. Of course, every season shares their magical wonders to us, but that one special point on the calendar of yearly life held many facets of the “jewel” it was for me to enjoy.
Harvest time, on our farm, took center stage each Autumn. Of the many agricultural plantings that our parents gleaned from God’s dear soil, corn was the crop that held a major role in feeding our livestock of cows, hogs, horse, chickens, etc.. Dad had an old Farmall F-20 tractor that he kept dedicated to reside inside the enfoldment of a two row cornpicker. It was hard to say which was older, the cornpicker, or that old Farmall F-20, yet they both rose to the challenge of harvest each year, so we were grateful.
There was little, if any, muffler to quiet the sound of that 1930’s generation of tractor, so everybody knew when it was time for the corn harvest to begin as Dad sparked that old “beast” to life. It was always easy to know which field Dad was in as he was picking corn; all you had to do was step outside the door of our farm home and hear the GROWL of the F-20 “beast” as it fueled the raw power to the cornpicker. In the pristine clarity of that crisp, Fall air, the unmistakable fragrance of the field corn permeated the entire farmyard and had a delicious distinction all its own……so pleasant, yet difficult to describe.
Sometimes, in the lull of the busy harvest activities, a wagon load of field corn would sit idle on our farm yard. In these older days of harvesting corn, the ear of corn was plucked whole from the stalk of the corn plant (unlike the shelled corn of today). The mountain of maize piled high in that wagon looked like a fun playground for my little sister and I to climb to the top and explore. We were giddy with glee as we played among the thousands of ears of corn that awaited the conveyor that would auger them up and into the tall, metal mesh corncrib where the harvest would dwell over the Winter months. Children are often innocent of life’s dangers and, on that day, it was almost deadly for this farm boy. I recall going to the corner of the wagon and I began to excavate cobs of corn out of the way so that I could snuggle deeper and deeper into what almost became my tomb. There I was, digging myself further into that wagon corner when suddenly……the corn load shifted and hundreds of pounds of ear corn slid up against me and trapped me tight. I was cemented (so to speak) by that corn and panic set in quickly. It was even becoming hard to breath as the corn pushed against my chest. Thank the Lord, my darling sister came to the rescue in speedily grabbing and throwing ear corn away from my compressed body. I, too, was flipping ears of corn away from this predicament as fast as I could. The combined wild tossing of those ears of corn eventually allowed me just enough wiggle to pull myself from what could have been a literally crushing situation.
Eventually, through the faithful work of Dad and his crew, our amber harvest of marvelous maize made its way into our wire corncribs. After a time of drying, a grinding company from Kiester would come out to the farm to grind these ears of corn to a finer meal that our animals could easily chew and enjoy.
As if spectators to the mortals and their harvesting, our age old windbreak of deciduous trees were ablaze in their gigantic mantle of Fall color. Their “grand finale” of the season’s growth was taking place around us as each tree’s brilliant hues were set in glorious contrast against an azure blue sky. God’s enormous bouquets of orange, red, bright yellow and mellow gold were on display for us humans to ponder upon as the magic passing of another season was before our very eyes. Like a curtain closing the act of a beautiful play, Winter’s winds would soon strip the petals of these crisp “flowers” and usher in the next season of rest and cold for our rich Minnesota farmland. These are but a few of the reasons why Autumn has been my favorite season as I relish each year of life God has given to this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.
March 19th…“DID ANY OF YOUR BOYHOOD DREAMS GET DASHED ON THE ROCKS OF REALITY?”
Roy Rogers was elevated into the sky by the equine strength of his mighty Palomino,
“Trigger”. When those powerful front hooves touched back down to earth, “Trigger” and Roy would streak across the screen of our black and white screened television set in conquest of any injustices that came to challenge the law of right and good in the Old West.
As a little boy, I admired everything there was about Roy Rogers (whose actual birth name was Leonard Slye). I loved the way he sang, thrilled to his manly muscles as he’d be fighting the bad guys and I was especially intrigued by the fancy cowboy outfits and boots he’d wear. In my tiny world of idol worship, I decided that I wanted to look like my hero, so I’d start from the ground up with some of my very own cowboy boots.
Like many farm families, money was for essentials of life, NOT cowboy boots. I’d have to EARN that kind of money on my own. So, out came the steel traps and I’d saddle up my Shetland Pony, “Little Lady”. She and I began our own trap line (as it’s called) for a mile or two in each direction from our farm; anywhere we saw a gopher mound, we’d set a trap. When successful, I caught and killed a Pocket Gopher, I then received ten cents for each front claw that I presented to our local County Agent (Charlie Heitzeg). I’d keep the claws in a glass jar of salt, so I could save up a bunch to cash in at one time. It took A LOT of gopher claws to add up to enough money to purchase and ship those boots to our farm there outside of Kiester, Minnesota. As dollar bills began to accumulate in my shoe box, I had the thrill of perusing our mail order catalogs till I found the PERFECT pair of handsome cowboy boots. The rest of my western outfit would come later, but I HAD to have those boots……BIG TIME!
With each catalog page of boots, I began imagining “Little Lady” and I on our own grand adventures around the farm with my magnificent cowboy boots hooked into her saddle stirrups. When the shoebox was “full”, the day finally arrived as our beloved mother, Clarice, did the catalog paperwork on my behalf and we took the envelope, with my dream inside, out to the mailbox. My goodness how the days seemed to creep slowly by as I waited for the magic parcel to arrive from Sears!!! Being the impatient youngster I was (and still am), I must have driven Mom close to the brink of violence as I’d harass her almost daily with, “When will theyarrive? Do you think my boots will come today? Why is it taking so long?” Sainted woman that she was, I was thankful she didn’t take my head off like a praying mantis. She’d just answer my anxious questions in a reserved manner. Blessed we were to have her!!
The magic day FINALLY arrived and I could feel the electricity in the air as I grabbed that shipping box out of Mom’s offering arms and raced upstairs to become, in a sense, Roy Rogers (farmer boy style)! Tape and wrapping paper flew as my nervously anticipating fingers wielded a blur of activity while I dug for my precious new foot wear. These were to be my very first EVER pair of cowboy boots. THERE THEY WERE!!!! In all their tanned glory they filled my nostrils with their heady fragrance of leather cowhide. I could have fainted right into cowboy heaven at that moment. Scooting over, I sat on the edge of my swaybacked bed and began to tug on the first boot. OHHH NOOOO!!! No matter how hard I pulled, the boots were TOO SMALL!! Somehow our family’s concept of boot size was different than that of the Sears Catalog folks. I was totally CRUSHED in my spirit! With tears streaming down my cheeks, I took the too small boots downstairs to Mom with the deepest sad face a brokenhearted little boy could emit!! It had taken SO VERY LONG for them to come, and it would be SO VERY LONG, in a little boy’s mind, to send them back and get the next size up. But, you know, as hard as it was, I just had to endure that wait. It was a true test of patience for a very discouraged Norwegian Farmer’s Son.
March 18th…“WAS FARM WORK DANGEROUS? SHARE THE REASONS WHY.”
Our hard working farmer father was like a soldier facing the dangers of the unknown as he’d enter the world of agriculture every morning. Only the good Lord would know what kind of predicament or battle Dad would have to face with either recalcitrant animals, or in this case, a piece of farm equipment and a tool.
One of the many machinery implements Dad used on the farm was called a Disc. This device could be used to help smooth a seed bed for planting in the Spring, or help cut down the stalks of corn stubble in the Fall. The sharp, circular steel wheel blades of this device, being pulled by the tractor, would cut and send the soil to one side and then slice that same soil back again to break it up thoroughly. It was during one of those corn stubble operations when Dad looked back, from the seat of his tractor, and saw that one of the disc blades had broken and needed to be replaced.
After bringing the Farmall Super M to a stop, Dad shut off the engine and climbed down from the tractor to inspect the damage a rock had caused to the disc blade. With consternation for the interruption to his field work, our father pulled a Crescent Wrench (and other tools) from the toolbox attached to the tractor. By spinning the gear wheel on the Crescent Wrench, Dad was able to close down the metal jaws to just a slit opening and then slipped those jaws of the wrench over the disc blade. His intention was to use pressure exerted against the spring steel of the blade and then loosen it to come off the disc shaft and reattach another disc blade in its place. Instead, Dad’s sweaty hands, being now under full muscle power, slipped off the handle of that wrench that was now under recoil pressure of the tensional disc blade. In a split second, that wrench (under pressure from the disc blade) catapulted into Dad’s face. The jaw of the wrench hooked into and ripped open our father’s nostril, tearing open that fleshy protuberance clear up and exposing Dad’s sinus cavity. Now in stunning pain, and with blood everywhere, our father miraculously made the trek from the field and back up to our farm house. Mother quickly called our neighboring farm and Mr. Chet Ozmun to please come to their aid and assist in administering some initial medical attention.
Mr. Ozmun quickly realized that our daddy’s injuries were far beyond his capability to help, so Chet then gave a fast phone call to Frost, Minnesota and the office of Dr. Lewis Hanson. This country doctor was, in my opinion, one of the last of his breed. He was a true country doctor in the fact that he deeply cared for the farmers and their families in our area. Unlike today’s modern medical specialists, Doc Hanson came TO you…and fast…..right to your farm. Even though it was about 20 miles from our farm to Dr. Hanson’s office, it seemed like Chet Ozmun had just placed the phone back on its cradle when Doc’s old Buick roared into our gravel driveway and slid to a halt in the yard just outside of our kitchen window.
Daddy was painfully waiting at our kitchen table when Doc Hanson blew into the house with his black doctor’s bag in tow. Little sister, Candi, and I were in the kitchen that day and observing this tense and bloody moment. In our innocence, one of us mentioned that our father’s face resembled “cherry pie”……….with that remark, we were then ushered “outside to play” and not to bother the adults involved in the serious situation at hand.
Later, I was told that Doc Hanson had dropped (and lost) his half-moon suturing needle on the floor of our kitchen and it seemed to have disappeared. He had to settle for one of Mom’s straight quilting needles, instead, in order to sew up the gash to our father’s nose and sinus. I can only surmise the EXTRA pain that our father had to endure with this more intrusive form of repair to his already hurting face. I could bet that our daddy’s fingernail marks were still in that kitchen chair cushion for years to come because I don’t recall anything mentioned about the doctor using any type of anesthetic.
Our thanks to Doc Hanson, Mom and dear Chet Ozmun for coming to our father’s aid that day. Blessings to your memory, Dad, for your hard work and the dangers that you faced for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.
March 17th…“DESCRIBE A PEACEFUL MOMENT ON YOUR FARM IN MINNESOTA DAYS.”
The staccato, puttering exhaust of Dad’s milking parlor system sent out gentle reverberations into the Minnesota Summer’s evening. Cows in their stanchions, within the barn, were peacefully masticating their supper of green corn silage from our tall storage silo that stood as a sentinel against the evening sky. Their bovine beast feast was augmented by some scoops of grain and they even received a “dessert” of a tasty vitamin-type meal powder as it was topped on each portion pile in front of their stanchions along the manger wall. Our Holsteins seemed to relish their “dessert” just like us humans love chocolate syrup drizzled over ice cream.
As was common across the fertile farmlands of our area, a brisk Summer wind coursed through the barn and sought a way of escape to the other side of this bovine refuge. Dutch-styled “half doors” populated the various entries to our cow palace and, on these pleasant evenings, I enjoyed swinging open the upper door on the east side of our barn to gaze out over the farm fields to our east and enjoy the innocent meditation of a little farm boy. From the western horizon behind me, golden rays of evening sun blanketed the corn and soybean fields with a rich spectra of amber light that imbued the foliage with luxurious worth as the happy winds made those crops come alive with dancing undulations.
Enfolded into this mixture of pastoral peacefulness was a song that was playing from Dad’s old barn radio. That dust-encrusted implement of music, located in the center of our barn, was broadcasting every time we were milking the cows. True, it was a form of entertainment for us farmers, but Dad also maintained that the music tended to relax the cows, too, allowing them to “let down” more milk that we could sell at the local Creamery. On this particular evening, there was a lilting tune that emanated from the radio perched above our Holstein’s heads.
This special song was from Japan and sung in Japanese by the singer Kyu Sakamoto. The song was called, “Sukiyaki” (which is actually a Japanese meal of sliced meat fried rapidly with vegetables). An American radio announcer, who first heard the song, couldn’t pronounce the real name, so he tagged it with the only word he could think of in Japanese. As history shares, this song became a Top Ten Hit that year, and its popularity swept the nation.
I rested my elbows over the ridge of that Dutch door, lost in thought as I gazed over those fields. Fragrant gusts of wind funneled through that venturi point past me and into the barn. My blonde hair, tousled by that wind, coupled with the magic of that song, gave an overall peaceful bliss to a serene moment for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.