Norwegian Farmer’s Son…April 17th


NFS 4.17b
Elliott could soar through the skies of “Make Believe” fun!

The resources of a little boy’s imagination are contingent to what has recently been deposited into his active cranium by the world around him.  In most cases, the greatest majority of my play time was enjoyed by “me, myself and I”, due to the little boy fact that, at my stage of life, back then, sisters and other little girls had “germs” (and therefore not allowed in my little boy world).   Most of my boy buddies lived too far away on their own farms to make it easy for them to come over to play with me very often, so it was up to my own vivid imaginations to create play times of my own invention.  And, when it came to inventing fun, I often look back to the influences of television, with its in exhaustible sources of adventure, which became the primary catalyst for sparking my imagination station to propel me into many hours of fantasizing and play.

NFS 4.17h
One of Elliott’s TV shows.

One of my inspiring television shows was the World War II program called “Twelve O’Clock High”.  Each week, on our black and white TV screen, it told the story of brave men who flew the B-17 Flying Fortress bombers in the skies over Germany during the war and all their battles, along with the drama of living in that time of history.  Sitting there in rapt attention, I stored up every moment of exciting stories while it was on the air.  After each week’s episode, my family could see my imagination take the shape of my arms spread out wide as I’d be “flying” my very own B-17 around our farm yard.   I’d make the droning engine noises and machine guns sounds with my very own “sound effects” machine……..namely, my MOUTH!! 😉

NFS 4.17g
“Hi Ho Silver, AWAY!!!!”

My imagination instigator of television also delivered me back into the Wild West of yesteryear in the form of the TV show called, “The Lone Ranger”.   Mr. Clayton Moore (the actor who played the part of the Lone Ranger) was one of my Western heroes and a prime candidate for little boy emulation.  Mimicking his Wild West exploits, I would either pretend to ride my imaginary white stallion (Silver) through the “wind break” of trees around our farm, OR, I would saddle up and ride my very own Shetland pony (Little Lady).  She and I would gallop through the woods of our “wind break ” while chasing blood-thirsty savages or outlandish outlaws.

#34=Elliott(with Little Lady at Heitzeg's farm 1965)
Elliott (bare chested), “Little Lady” and the grandson of our neighbor, Charlie Heitzeg…….Summer of 1965 at the Heitzeg farm.

At the inception of our farm being created in the 1800’s, the original owners planted a large grove of trees to the north and west side of our farm yard.  Those trees, planted in straight rows, were known as the “wind break” because that’s just what they did for us in times of storms, they would “break” the wind so that our home and other buildings were somewhat protected from the damages strong winds could incur.   Coming to the present time of my little boy adventures, those straight tree rows were fodder for fun as Little Lady and I would ride up into that grove of trees and ponder how grand it would be to build our very own Western Town there.  In my mind’s eye, I could envision a cowboy “Main Street” with hitching posts and a Sheriff’s Office, etc..  I could fathom myself as “The Lone Ranger”, “Matt Dillon” or “Ben Cartwright” as I’d right the wrongs of evil and make the world a better place for peace and justice………..hooooweee, how I could dream it up!!! 😉

NFS 4.17c
Another of Elliott’s favorite TV shows….”COMBAT!!”

The television show called, “Combat!” fueled my mini ego to march out into those woods of ours once again.  Only THIS time, it was to find just the right kind of sticks and branches that resembled rifles, machine guns and bazookas.  Pine cones made great “grenades” and the sound effects for all that weaponry was only a “mouth away” as I’d create many juicy KAPOWS! and RATATATTATS! from this little Norwegian repertoire of volatile, voluminous voices.  One could find me doing a reconnoiter for enemy troop movements across our corn fields as I would crouch, belly crawl, and then attack the German SS troopers that were surrounding our cornfields ready to assault my command post there in the woods.  My mighty mouth sounds accompanied my weapons as I began “mowing them down” with imaginary machine guns blazing, saving the day and winning all of World War II in one swoop!

NFS 4.17d
Dr. Henry Blohm

Real life heroes would also fuel my vivid need for further little boy adventures.  In THIS case, I would pretend I was a veterinarian, just like Dr. Henry Blohm, who took care of the medical needs of our animals there on our farm.  Doctor Blohm was a very kind soul who was deeply respected in our agricultural community.  He even served our educational system for many years as he served on the School Board of Directors.  I was mesmerized by this man of animal medicine every time his fancy white truck pulled into our gravel driveway.

NFS 4.17e
Dr. Blohm helped many of our cows give birth.

Many a time, our father would call good Dr. Blohm to come out to the farm to help a cow give birth to her calf.  With arm length rubber gloves, the doctor sometimes would have his entire arm buried inside that cow’s “rear echelon” to assist in bringing that sweet little calf into the world safely.  As he’d work on one animal or another, sometimes Doc Blohm would cast away some of his spent Vet supplies on the floor of the barn.  I’d ask if I could have them, and invariably, he’d answer in the affirmative, “Sure, help yourself!”

NFS 4.17f
Dr. Elliott Stoopenfunkle!! 😉

Wanting emulate this fine local doctor’s ways, I asked my dad if I could use one of his old fishing tackle boxes.  Once in possession of my new “doctor kit” container, I now had a place to put my collection of old Vet syringes, drug bottles, etc. that I had acquired over Dr. Blohm’s many visits to our farm.  In my imaginative mind, I now became “Dr. Elliott Stoopenfunkle”…….world famous veterinarian!!   Even as a kid, I knew that Dad would NOT appreciate me “operating” on his live dairy cows, so I then had to find a play time cow substitute.  Out into our woods I’d go and found a fallen tree that had the center core/heart rotted out to the point of being an open hole.  Now I had my perfect “cow” to operate on with my play doctor’s kit of high falootin’, rootin’, tootin’ medical supplies.  Fun on the run for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.!!!

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Blessings to Dr. Blohm’s memory for taking good care of our animals on the farm!!! ><> 😉




Norwegian Farmer’s Son…April 16th


NFS 4.16b
Mr. Sun winks “goodnight” on a farm horizon.  😉

As the sun winked “goodnight” to us at the horizon of our farm each evening, I eventually made my way inside of our century old farm house to enjoy our mother’s delicious supper.  With tummies full and happy, the inevitable time of day would arrive……bedtime.

#265=Rosemary&amp;1936 Chevy stuck in snow; Winter 1951
Our sisters had the big bedroom upstairs (upper window above wagon).  Elliott, and big brother Lowell, had the smaller bedroom at north end of house.  If you look close, you can see our sister, Rosie, inside our 1937 Chevrolet 😉

Ours was a two story farm home with two bedrooms upstairs.  Our sisters, Candice and Rosemary, held territorial rights over the larger south bedroom.  Lowell and I  held sovereignty over the tiny north bedroom at the top of the stairs.  A door divided our two domains of the girls from the boys.

NFS 4.16g
Elliott and Lowell slept in a bunk that sunk.

When it came to sleeping accommodations for big brother and I , our bed matched the nature of our antiquated, home……….OLD!!  If you’ve ever heard of a swayback horse, then you have a perfect picture of the bed us brothers slept on.  Maybe that poor excuse for a bed actually HAD been a swayback horse in a previous life because even if you TRIED to stay on the edge of the bed during the night, you’d always end up in the “valley” colliding with big brother in the center.  Being the little kid brother, I was assigned to sleep against the wall.  Only problem with THIS arrangement was, our dear old upstairs ceiling had the classic sloped roof line on my side.  Any quick moves sitting up in bed and  I’d get a “KA BONGOH ON THE HEADOH!!”

NFS 4.16e
Mom’s quilts felt like a “ton of love” in the Winter!

Our beloved mother, Clarice, took care that her children were always warm and cozy when it came to bedtime and her blessings came into play especially on Winter nights.  Over the years, she had stitched together these heavy blankets (which is actually what a quilt is, in reality) from all kinds of thick fabric material she’d saved up or received as gifts from other ladies in our family.  Some quilting material even came from good, kindly neighbors who would share with us.  The batting (or filler) between top and bottom of the quilt helped to make the overall experience of these massive blankets to be wonderfully cozy on those frigid Winter nights.  We’d snuggle under its loving weight and warmth as icy snow fell just outside our single pane glass window.

NFS 4.16d
This was our bedtime prayer with Mom each night.  Our version ended with “soul to take”, but I find the last line is very tender and I would have gladly learned that, also.

There was door at the foot of the stairwell, and most evenings, our spiritually-minded matriarch would have us scurry up the stairs and into our beds and have us fold our hands for our nightly prayers with her.  The following was the common prayer of the day for many families.  We would recite it with her listening from the bottom of the stairs…….“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen!”   Our darling mother would then wish us “Sweet Dreams” and our little heads plopped into our pillows with slumber close behind.

NFS 4.16c
In his dreams, Elliott sometimes drove the biggest tractors ever made.

Having arrived on dreamland’s doorway, I think the influence of daily farm life guided the content of most of my dreams.  In the ethereal realms of slumber, I would see myself driving big tractors, trucks and even climbing the tallest trees.  Sounds pretty normal for a boy, ya?

NFS 4.16a
The daytime wildness of the massive bulls that Elliott saw on their farm carried over into his dreams sometimes.

Yet, to the other darker spectrum of the dream world my dreams would be conjured, and there I’d be, being chased by these giant, angry Holstein bulls!!!  The scenario usually played out in one of two tortuous ways; either I couldn’t get out of the bull’s way because my feet seemed to be made of lead (each foot weighing a TON each), orrrrrr, I would look down to see my feet running at a blurring pace, but I wasn’t hardly moving an inch to get away from the fast approaching bull who was gaining on me by the second with murderous intentions!  That behemoth, with flared nostrils, would now be lowering his massive head to make the connecting attack and crush me to death!!!!   It was at that critical moment of a death impact that I’d wake myself up by literally convulsing in bed as I returned to reality from almost being hammered by a Holstein.  Those were seriously scary dreams for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

NFS 4.16h
Young Elliott’s adventures in farming oftentimes carried over into his dreams.

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…April 15th


#94=Elliott watering flowers on farm, 1963 maybe
Chore boy Elliott 😉


NFS 4.15b
One of Elliott’s chores, each day, was to walk down to the pasture and call the cows home for milking.

As sure as the sun rises over the barnyard, growing up in a farm family meant each of us had responsibilities (also known as chores) to carry out daily.   On top of school home work, attempting to clean my room, and other tasks of family life, one of my numerous chores each day was to hike to the south end of our 120 acre farm and “call the cows” from the pasture and herd them up, through the cow lane, to our barn to be milked.

#76=Kiester farm, looking NE from field
Elliott had to walk about a half mile along the gravel road, to the right in this photo, to reach the pasture and call their cows home for milking time in the barn, which is the big building to the left.

In the latter part of each afternoon, I’d get off the bus from school and boogie upstairs to my bedroom to change into my bib overalls and get my farm boots on.  As the late afternoon sun warmed my shoulders, I’d saunter to the south end of our U-shaped driveway and begin the daily trek down our gravel road and eventually end up at our large pasture land by the south boundary of our farm property.  Along that same gravel road was our cow lane that was about 10 feet wide and ran the length of our land and up to the cow yard.  Our Holstein herd of cows really had it “made in the shade” out there in that pasture land.  Lots of tasty grass was theirs to chew on all day and plenty of cool water that flowed along Brush Creek that was our south property line running from west to east.

NFS 4.15f
The Minnesota Summer rain was so warm, it was like taking a shower as we’d go get the cows from their pasture.

Getting the cows sometimes turned into an extra fun time when cousins would be visiting our farm.  The afternoon Minnesota skies above us would darken and then open up with a warm rain that soaked us all to the skin, but we reveled in the fact that it was as warm and comfortable as taking a shower in the house.  With the pelting of each raindrop, we would just continue on in the moment of childhood joy and relish the time of working and playing in one fell swoop!  Most days, though, I was solo in this farm boy task as I’d shuffle along the gravel road towards the pasture.  Even as a child, I recall musing on the lush beauty of our crop lands that grew vibrantly verdant as they were nurtured from below by the rich, black soil of our farming region’s glacial deposits.  As I paced along, I also noticed what our father called “soil bank”.  It was a fallow ground that Dad had plowed but left alone, as far as planting, so that it could rest a year and may be used for a different crop in the near future.

#667 MN home farm
Down in the ditch and along this gravel road was the cow lane where Elliott herded home the cows each evening for milking.  Pasture was to left and behind of this photo (taken in 1968…a year after our family left for Washington State). 

Eventually, my “shank’s horses” (another way of saying “legs”) had me arrive at the pasture of our farm that bordered along the banks of Brush Creek.  Father had taught me that to make my voice carry the farthest, in calling the cows, I should cup my two hands into a type of a megaphone tube and then hold them to my mouth as I called out, “COME BOSS!!!  COME BOSS!!!”  According to Dad, the cows had become accustomed to that human noise being associated with being fed their tasty grain “supper” back at the barn and would begin coming my direction and up the cow lane.  Most afternoons, my call of “COME BOSS” would do the trick and, sure enough, the older cows wayyyy out there in the pasture, would lift their heads my direction and begin coming towards me.  The younger “ladies” then followed the example of their elders and the entire 15 Holsteins (with calves and youngin’s) would amble past me and up the cow lane towards our cozy barn and their tasty evening meal that was waiting for them.

NFS 4.15d
Angry Elliott ended up crying or screaming at cows who didn’t obey his “COME BOSS”!!

On some afternoons, though, for whatever reason, there would be a “cow mutiny” against this farm boy who was only trying to carry out the orders of his farmer father.  I’d stand there at the gateway of the pasture, on those days, and holler “COME BOSS!” till I was hoarse and crying out of frustration!!!  How dare they not obey!!  The gall and audacity of those bovines to not heed my vociferous commands!!!   To compound my exacerbated predicament, clouds of Dragon flies must have heard my screaming as they rose up out of the mucky swamp areas of pasture and began dive-bombing me.  Although harmless, I’m told, my overly productive imagination saw those creatures as horrid helicopters that would either sting me to death with their long tails, or pick me up and haul me away to their swamp, never to be seen again!!!

Common Hawker - dragonfly
Elliott thought those Dragon Flies would be a draggin’ him to his doom!!

Not only am I frightened to death by those Dragon Flies, but now I’m getting MAD at those recalcitrant, milk-laden, horrid Holsteins!!! Down off the upper gravel road I launched and raged, full speed, out into the pasture to physically drag those ornery animals back with me to the cow yard.

NFS 4.15e
Elliott made those cows run so fast, their milk bags about slapped themselves silly as they ran towards the barn yard.

As I circled the herd, I’m picking up sticks and rocks to fling at those disobedient bovines as I actually chased them back to the cow yard and barn.  The herd moved alright…..and FAST!!  Problem was, that when Dad saw them RUNNING up the cow lane, he saw their udders (milk bags) being thrown from side to side in violent slapping motions.  Dad bellowed at me at the top of his manly voice, “DON’T CHASE THOSE COWS!!!  THEY’LL INJURE THEMSELVES AND ALL THOSE CHURNING UDDERS ARE GONNA MAKE THAT MILK INTO COTTAGE CHEESE!!!”  Well, he was obviously exaggerating about the “cottage cheese” part, but, nonetheless, it was sometimes a very frustrating chore for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

Cow 1



Norwegian Farmer’s Son…April 14th


#404.2 Christmas 1959
Elliott’s hero and big brother, Lowell, is on the left.

POEM – “Adventures With Good Hearted Brother” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Handsome hero, That’s my bro, I’d shadow him, Where’er he’d go.

#395=G&amp;G Sletten home, Albert Lea, MN; August 1963
Elliott got a baseball between the eyes in front of this quaint cottage that belonged to our beloved maternal grandparents.

Like the time we went, To Albert Lea,  Our dear grandparents, Were there to see,

My brother said, “Hey El, let’s play,  Some baseball catch, To pass the day,”

NFS 4.14a
Play ball!!!

So out came the gloves, And the fun began,

Cause I’ve always been, Brother’s biggest fan.

NFS 4.14b
As daylight waned, it was harder for Elliott to see that ball coming down from the sky.

He’d fling high balls, O’er power line wire,

I’d catch ’em and try,  To throw ’em back higher,

Until the light, Of day did wane,

And to see that ball, I’d have to strain,

My young boy’s eyes, To meet that ball,

Inside my glove, Or let it fall.

NFS 4.14d
That last ball was hidden in the dark sky and cracked Elliott right between the eyes!!!!

Sure enough it got, So dark that night,

When bro flung it high, It went outta sight,

Before I could see, Where the ball would fall,

It cracked my head, Like sledge hammer mall.

Goose egg rose, Upon my head,

And for a moment, Bro thought I was dead,

But such are adventures, With good hearted brother,

I still love him dearly, Like no other!!!

NFS 4.14c
Always like a young father to Elliott, his big brother Lowell will always be a hero to that Norwegian Farmer’s Son.



Norwegian Farmer’s Son…April 13th


NFS 4.13b
One man’s trash was Elliott’s treasure as he explored the local junkyard of old cars and trucks!

Nestled among weeds and brambles, on the southern city limits of Kiester, Minnesota, dwelt our town junkyard.  Old cars, trucks and other paraphernalia came here to rust away or be parted out for folk looking for cheap repairs on a vehicle of their own back at their farm.  Dear Mr. Elmer Simonson was the proprietor who ran this business.  This was a metal-laden heaven for dead hulks that once were sleek traveling conveyances in their heyday.  Our father, Russell C. Noorlun, and Mr. Simonson were good friends and Dad would sometimes stop by the junkyard to see if he could get a part off of a wrecked car or tractor to use for repairs back on our farm.  It was times like this that I LOVED to tag along with Dad to town, cause while he was talking with Elmer, it was my opportunity to explore and climb through countless classic ol’ cars and trucks.  As I climbed inside the creaking contraption of what used to be a car, I’d settle behind the steering wheel and pretend to be driving the car on some imaginary adventure.  Like any bouncing, boisterous boy, I relished the clouds of dust that would billow up within the interior of the old automobile from those dirt laden seats as I’d bounce up and down in my vigorous play acting.

#827 Lightning (Beryl Lark) in the KHS HomeComing Parade
Beryl “Lightning” Lark was one of those unique individuals, in our town, that restored toys he found in the junkyard and sold them at his “Toy Factory”.

Amongst all of this caliginous clatter of cluttered clunkers, there lived a quite unique individual.  This man’s name was Beryl “Lightning” Lark and his “home” was literally a shack either in or nearby the boundary of the junkyard itself.  To create some form of income for himself, “Lightning” would rummage through the junkyard and find discarded toys.  He’d bring them back to his ramshackle dwelling and do his best to repair and then re-sell them.

NFS 4.13c
Mr. Lark (alias “Lightning”) even managed to put ads in the High School Yearbook each year.

To promote his little business endeavor, “Lightning” even advertised his business as a “Toy Factory” and would dress up in old lady’s clothing and ride a bike in the local High School Home Coming Parades as he’d throw out candy to the kids.  It didn’t seem to bother “Lightning” in the least that this old dress was wayyyy too small for him and resulted in his big belly bursting open the dress up the side seams.   Besides his “Toy Factory” earnings, Mr. Lark would also garner income by working odd jobs around town.  He even got hired on to come out to our farm sometimes to help the grain grinders that would grind down the field corn into more of a powder form that was easier for our cows to eat.

NFS 4.13d
Elliott saw this exact “Tonka” truck at “Lightning’s Toy Factory” and pleaded with his father to get it for him.

On a very pleasant Summer’s evening, our cows had been milked and other chores had been completed.  Now was the time that Dad needed to drive into town for something and asked if I’d like to come along.  I was thrilled, of course, so we climbed into our 1950 Ford pickup and headed into Kiester.   Sure was a good thing that I just happened to come along that night, because that was to be the evening I found my “treasure” in that junkyard.  As the gentle light of dusk was bidding the world goodnight, Dad pulled up next to “Lightning’s Toy Factory” to step inside that shack and talk story with Mr. Lark.  While the two men were talking, my little boy eyes locked on to what I thought was the coolest looking piece of boy treasure I had ever seen.  It was a handsome, orange, dual axle, all metal Tonka brand dump truck.  It was a little on the worn side, but it was in basically great condition.  I must’ve used my saucer-sized pleading eyes to Dad, cause he made a deal with Mr. Lark……..and the truck was MINE!!!!  My dump truck even had special piston hydraulic lifters that, when you tripped the dump box lever, it didn’t just flip up fast, but instead would slowly rise and bring the load of dirt up and allow it to dump out the back tailgate just like the real trucks did.    And ohhhhh, those real rubber, knobby-treaded tires made the greatest tracks in our soft soil back at the farm.  I cherished and played with that Tonka dump truck for many years!  As I grew out of that toy truck stage of life, I made sure to tuck this orange treasure away and brought it out years later when our only son was ready to play trucks in his generation.

#138=Nathan playing trucks in garden; June 1987
Elliott’s only son, Nathan, played with that Tonka dump truck, in his generation, till it truly DID literally fall apart from loving use.

One boy’s trash (of that orange toy truck) was definitely another boy’s treasure for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

NFS 4.13e
Tonka trucks and toys were famous for their all metal construction that lasted for many years.  Notice also these great prices from 1957, which is likely the year Elliott’s truck was first made.


Norwegian Farmer’s Son…April 12th


NFS 4.12b
It was Elliott’s dear mother who had to wrestle with them thar toenail terrors!! 😉

I’ve heard tell that some mothers almost “lose their religion” when it comes to getting their young family ready for church on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings.  Thankfully, our mom kept her frustrations in check….for the most part, that is…..heheheh 😉

NFS 4.12d
Once IN the tub, Elliott didn’t want to come OUT!! 😉

At our home, going to church started on Saturday nights when Mom would almost have to bodily threaten me to get INTO the bathtub and scrub off my little boy scales of scum in preparation for church the following morning.  Therefore, once I had ensconced my boy body INTO that tub, I had so much fun that I became a prune from head to toe and had to again have Mom threaten me …..only this time it was to get OUT of my porcelain playground palace, dry off and prepare for the next phase of “gettin’ ready for church”.

NFS 4.12e
“Quit squirming, Elliott!!”

Squeaky clean out of the tub now, and wrapped in a towel, it was to boogie into the Living Room and sit by the upright furnace for warmth and to wait for Mom to come with her clippers and fingernail files.  Nail time!!!  Not sure if we were too ornery, or if Mom was worried about us kids cutting off our own appendages, but next came the toe and fingernail clipping ritual.

NFS 4.12c
A Saturday night family tradition at Elliott’s farm home was to watch the “wunnerful” Lawrence Welk Show together.

In between our protests of Mom’s cuticle capers on our nails, we’d watch our family’s favorite television shows of “Lawrence Welk” and then “Gunsmoke”.  Our farmer dad, over in his easy chair, would sometimes “shush” us if we were too vocal when Mom inadvertently skewered us with a nail file while cleaning the leftover grime from our dingy digits.

#105=Elliott's first day at Sunday School; 1959 maybe
Thanks to Mom, little Elliott is scrubbed n polished and ready for Sunday Worship and Sunday School as he stands next to their 1952 green Chevrolet.

Although our family lived within a modest income, Mom always saw that her children were scrubbed and polished for the Lord’s Day each Sunday morning!

#963 Grace Evangelical United Brethren...Kiester, MN 001
The Grace Evangelical Brethren Church was Elliott’s home on Sunday mornings along with his family there in their little village of Kiester, Minnesota.  ><>

As I look back, I treasured the kindness of our adult church “family” at Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church there in our hamlet of Kiester, Minnesota.  From the cheerful ushers who greeted us at the doorways, to the Sunday School teachers; I felt at home and comfortable there.

Bored in church6
As a little boy, Elliott was happy to BE in church; it’s just that understanding what was preached was a whole different story.

Now it’s true that I was happy to BE in church, but sometimes comprehending the spiritual aspects OF church were a whole echelon above the immaturity of this little boy brain.  It was hard enough just to sit still, say nothing of actually paying attention to the sermon and understanding what the minister was striving to preach about.  So, even though my little boy mind would wander, while looking at the stained glass window, I still felt the peace of our family being in another “home”, so to speak, in a spiritual sense.  My favorite treat of all Sunday mornings was to hear our dear mother sing those wonderful hymns of our Christian faith during congregational singing.   I thank you, Lord, for the young church days of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

NFS 3.29d
Elliott knew that it took a Saturday night bath to be ready for Sunday morning worship at his little church in southern Minnesota. ><>


Norwegian Farmer’s Son…April 11th


NFS 4.11b
Christmas cards were the way to Elliott getting a new bicycle.

Does this add up?…….Christmas cards + 90 degree Summer heat = new bicycle.  Well, it added up for me back in the Summer of 1965.  Dreams are quick to course through the imaginative mind of a young boy when you’re 11 years of age.  A major desire was ignited for me by the arrival of a Christmas greeting card catalog that landed in our old metal mailbox out by the gravel road that passed by our farm.  Along with the greeting card catalog was a second catalog that contained all the wonderful array of prizes that could be earned by selling just the right amount of boxes of those cards.  The bigger the prize you desired, the higher number of boxes of cards you would have to sell to achieve that prize.  It was the card company’s way of rewarding your efforts to sell their cards.  It didn’t take too many turns of the prize catalog’s pages before my eyes LOCKED ON to the fabulous photo of a handsome, red, three speed bicycle.  My little 20″ bike, there on the farm, had only one speed……ME…..huffing n puffing as fast as my legs could peddle.  But this marvel of bicycle engineering would allow me THREE whole speeds to shift into for lightning speeds (or so I imagined).

NFS 4.11g
Elliott thought of how he could make his dream come true.

Now, the logistics of achieving that bike would take some doing.  First, I’m sure I whined my poor mother and father’s ears off into acquiescing to this young lad’s fortuitous hopes of selling enough cards to earn that bike.  The next step was who could I sell those cards to, and how many boxes to each customer?  The next hurdle was a timeline.  How fast could I sell those boxes of cards and get them back in time for the holiday season that Fall?  And, IF I sold the required number of 65 boxes…….how fast could I get my new bicycle?  The great British statesman, Winston Churchill, once said, “Success is walking from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm”  …..THAT was how I took the “no thank yous” from people that Summer because I wanted that handsome bike in a big way!

#65=Elliott on Little Lady with Morton Holstad, 1963
Elliott’s beloved pony, “Little Lady” would be his vehicle to success in traveling the local countryside and to Kiester, Minnesota as he sold Christmas cards.  The former Landlord of our farm, Morten Holstad, holds the Shetland’s reins with Elliott “on board”. 

The next step was, how will I reach my potential customers?  We lived three miles out of town in the farm country and even our next door neighbor’s farms were a half mile and even farther away from our farm.   “Shank’s horses” (my own two legs) would take forever to walk those kind of distances!!!  Hmmmm…….thinking, thinking, thinking………..YES, of course, of course!!!!  I would saddle up and ride my trusty steed, “Little Lady”, who was our gentle Shetland pony.   It has been common knowledge, over time, that Shetland ponies, in general, are known for their mean/angry dispositions, but not our dear lil filly!   Happily, we were blessed with a sweet little equine angel, so therefore, she was christened as “Little Lady”.   So, sales materials were now loaded into a satchel that could be hooked over my pony’s saddle horn, then it was foot to the stirrup, up on the saddle and off we’d go, “Little Lady” and I, on the gravel roads of our farming community seeking customers.

NFS 4.11c
Elliott’s hometown was just about a mile or two from the Iowa border.

If I had been rich, I would have bought and brought along one of those new-fangled cassette tape recorders with me that hot Summer of selling Christmas cards and here’s why.   Normally, Christmas, in our part of America, was associated with frigid temperatures and a blanket of thick white snow.   To the households I visited that Summer, it seemed completely incongruous to the lady of the house to have a youngster selling Christmas cards in the boiling, 90 degree Summer heat of July.

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Elliott knocked on so many doors that Summer as he tried to sell Christmas greeting cards.

I would faithfully rattle off my sales pitch of how lovely these Christmas cards were, and how that they could be “personalized” with the family name and any message they’d like to have printed on each card.  Inevitably, the lady of each home would ask the same question after my sales pitch.  “Young man, it’s July and it’s 90 degrees out today!!! Why are you selling Christmas cards in July?”  Like a “human tape recorder” I would then have to repeat and repeat and repeat the reasons, to each household, why I had to sell the cards in July………THAT’S why I wish I would’ve had a tape recorder along 😉

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Elliott’s goal was finally achieved and money collected!!

Eventually, through perseverance and many generous neighbors and family, I finally achieved my sales goal.  Mom counted the customer’s money (cash and checks), and then wrote out one check (from our family’s checking account) to pay for the large order.  She then graciously filled out the grand official order form to the “Junior Sales Leadership Company” (or whatever that business was called).  When she finished all that, I literally ran the order form out to that old metal mailbox at the gravel road and wished that mailman would come fast!  True to their word, the card company sent us a big, cardboard box full of the lovely and festive Christmas cards that everyone had ordered.  Each box of cards were handsomely embossed with each family’s names and personal greetings.   With Fall having arrived with its wet weather, Mom and Dad and I piled into our 1956 Chevy to deliver all those cards to the farm families, town folk and relatives that had ordered cards from me.  They all were pleased and it was a fun moment for this little salesman to see!

It was late Winter/ early Spring of 1966 before my cherished and greatly anticipated new bike came from the card company rewards division.  I rode that handsome set of wheels with great pride for it was the concrete evidence of a valuable life lesson of hard work for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

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Elliott’s village of Kiester, Minnesota had many generous people who bought his cards and helped him achieve his goal of a new bike.  In these days, the town had a population of over 700 people.