Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 8th

February 8th…..“WHAT WAS THE STRANGEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU WHILE YOU WERE DRIVING A CAR?”

POEM – “Fur Knows How To Fly” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Twas in the car, Not in the house,

On that cold morn, When I met that mouse.

He’d somehow chewed, His way inside,

To keep himself warm, And then to hide.

So out I came, To start the day,

All bundled against, Cold Winter’s way.

Good thing my leather, Gloves were thick,

Cause pretty soon, I’d need them quick.

With foot to the gas, I poured on the power,

Getting the car, To 60 miles per hour.

In shock I felt a creature, Dive in my crotch,

And in morning’s dark, There was nothing to watch.

In the flash of a second, My glove rammed down,

Into my crotch, While wearing a frown.

I grabbed little creature, Just as quick as you please,

Didn’t want private parts, To become his “cheese”.

Mouse pinched between fingers, And thumb on window’s crank,

Down came that window quickly, I’m done with this whole prank.

So as I pitched the mouse outside, At highway speed this guy,

Thought to myself, “I hope your little fur knows how to fly!!!!” 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 7th

February 7th……“SHARE WITH US HOW YOUR PATERNAL GRANDFATHER USED HORSES TO CUT, GATHER AND STORE GRASS HAY ON THEIR FARM EAST OF LAKE MILLS, IOWA.

Elliott’s grandfather, Edwin A. Noorlun, loved all his horses.  Here he admires “Sugar” and “Cane”. 

Gentle equine snorts, from “Sugar” and “Cane”, fluttered their soft, hirsute nostrils in the amber glow of dawn’s light filtering through the barn windows.  Weighing a full 2,000 pounds each, these massive Belgian draft horses rippled with muscles, yet their hearts were reciprocating the tenderness of the approaching master horseman (our grandfather, Edwin A. Noorlun) as he rolled aside the track-type barn door and entered that livestock repose to begin another day on the Ingebret Tollefson farm five miles east of Lake Mills, Iowa. 

Elliott’s Great (paternal) Grandmother, Kjerstie  (pronounced CHAIR-stee) Winden Tollefson.

While Edwin harnessed “Sugar” and “Cane”, that resplendent Iowa sunrise was made even more illustrious by the happy cackle of an immense flock of chickens that gathered round Kjerstie Tollefson (Edwin Noorlun’s mother-in-law).  That battered old galvanized bucket she carried was magic, as far as those feathered fowl were concerned, because from it, our great grandmother brought out handfuls of golden grain and broadcast it to the ground in the yard of their much loved farm.  Those feathered friends of hers clustered near her as if she was the Pied Piper of Hamelin town.

Young Norwegians, Ingebret & Kjerstie Tollefson.  Joined in marriage in 1888.

The reason my grandfather was helping on the Tollefson farm, was because Ingebret and Kjerstie were no longer the young, Norwegian newlyweds that had begun farming that lovely land back in 1890.  Both of my grandmother’s parents were in their winter years now, especially Kjerstie (who required a more constant health care), and needed someone’s assistance in helping to maintain that grand farm.   My grandparents, Edwin and Marie, rose to the need of their clan and sold their family farm near Clearwater, Minnesota.   In love and service to their elders they came to Iowa and moved into the Tollefson’s elegant two-story farm home as they began living out the Bible verse of 2nd Corinthians 1:4 by “coming alongside” Marie’s parents in their time of need. 

A horse-drawn sickle mower, similar to what Elliott’s grandfather used to mow down the hay field.

Bedecked in the unison of their impressive leather harness, “Sugar” and “Cane” stepped lively now from that classically-styled barn.  With heads high and energy fresh they were a handsome pair and ready for work.  Walking behind his team, Edwin had gathered the reins in his sinewy hands while he “steered” those draft horses to the Sickle Mower by pulling more on the left reins (for a left turn) or pulling more to the right reins (for a right turn) of the team.  With voice commands and a gentle, even pull, “Sugar” and “Cane” were obedient to their master and backed up to the Mower.  Edwin hooked up the implement, climbed aboard the steel seat and drove the team out to the grass hay field for mowing.  

Parts of a horse-drawn Sickle Mower.

Like Nature’s starting gun, a handsome, scarlet-feathered Northern Cardinal gave its shrill high whistle as our Grandpa Ed dropped his mower’s sickle blade to ground level. Our grandfather made a chirrup, clicking sound with his mouth and his handsome team pulled forward to begin the work. As the mower’s wheels went round n round, gears were activated that transferred a back n forth motion of the knives on the cutting bar. Like falling asleep, swaths of grass immediately laid down flat from the cutting action of the bar as Edwin rolled along the field. After many swaths later, the hay field was now completely cut and would lay a day or two in the sun to properly dry the grass in anticipation of the next operation.

Elliott’s Uncle Gaylord Noorlun driving “Trixie” and “Dixie” pulling what was called a Dump Rake.

Being a blessing to the Tollefsons was a family affair, so our young Uncle Gaylord Noorlun was put to work a couple days later with a draft horse team named, “Trixie” and “Dixie”. Gaylord hooked up the team to a device called a Dump Rake. This farming machine consisted of a long row of spring-steeled tines that were shaped in a giant curve form. Those tines were attached to the axle of the rake and could be raised and lowered by the operator. Gaylord set the tines to ground and slapped the reins to the backs of his horse team. They then pulled the implement across the field till the tines were full of the grass hay. It was then that Gaylord would “dump” that load of hay and begin again. Back n forth n back n forth he went, dumping the new batches of hay in alignment with what he had done previously. When finished, the field now had neat lines (also called windrows) of hay waiting to be harvested from the field.

Elliott’s grandfather, Edwin, drove the “Sugar” and “Cane” while his sons spread the hay on the wagon.

Blessed with strapping sons, our Grandpa Ed enlisted at least two of those boys on the big day of haying. The hay field had been cut, then dried, then raked. Now, it was time to harvest that “food” for the many animals on the Tollefson’s farm that depended on our farming family to keep them alive during those long and bitter Iowa winters. “Sugar” and “Cane” were hooked up to the wide Hay Wagon (sometimes called a “Flat Rack”) , which, in turn, was hooked up to a tall implement known as a Hay Loader. The motion of the Hay Loader’s wheels created a gear-driven, syncopated movement of long arms that had “fingers”, so to speak, that grabbed and moved the hay upwards on the elevated ramp from the rotating tines down at ground level. Ed, and his proud team of draft horses, straddled the windrow of hay. As the straddled wagon wheels passed over the windrow, the rotating tines of the Hay Loader raked the hay up and towards the syncopated, fingered arms. The mass of hay then traveled up, up and over the top and then fell down onto the Hay Wagon where Ed’s boys used forks to move the hay around on the Flat Rack till it was mounded high. Someone then jumped off the wagon and unhitched the Hay Loader. It was now time to head for the barn and put this load up in the Hay Mow (the “ow” in the word sounds like OW….as when you get hurt).

“Sugar” and “Cane” are ready to pull up another sling of hay. Elliott’s grandfather, Edwin, is on top of the hay load with Uncles Erwin and Doren to the right side of photo.

While out in the field, loading the hay, our uncles had slung/thrown a series of ropes across the wagon at various depths of the hay load.

With the wagon now full of hay, Grandpa and his sons enjoyed the ride back to the farm yard to unload. Once the wagon of hay was in position at the barn, those ropes (mentioned earlier) then became what’s known as “slings” that would be used to pull large portions of hay up and into the Hay Mow.

“Sugar” and “Cane” now had a new job that day. They were unhooked from the Hay Wagon and re-positioned at the corner of the barn. The back “evener” of their harness was now attached to a strong, thick, VERY long rope that traveled inside the barn, around various pulley wheels and, eventually up to the Hay Mow and out the large, open Hay Mow door.

An ingenious system of ropes, pulleys and horsepower enabled farmers to pull hay from their wagons up into their barn for winter storage and feeding.

Starting with the top layer of hay on the wagon, those rope slings (mentioned earlier) were now brought up from the two sides of the wagon as Grandfather tied them into a knot that hooked to the tracking system above him. One of Edwin’s sons would then take the reins of “Sugar” and “Cane” and slowly drive them forward as they pulled on that long, heavy rope. The resulting pull on that rope began to pull that entire layer of hay up into the air till it connected with the iron tracking system at the top of the Hay Mow door opening. You’d hear a “click” as the tracking system now took the pile of hay horizontally into the barn’s Hay Mow. Another worker inside the Hay Mow watched the traversing hay as it “flew” down the track. At the proper spot, the worker yanked on a trip rope which released the load of hay from the slings and let it fall to the floor of the Mow. A weighted return rope was instrumental in helping to bring the slings back outside to repeat the process again and again till the Flat Rack was empty.

Some farmers used two large iron hooks (called a hayfork) to lift the loose hay into the barn. Elliott’s grandfather preferred to use rope slings on different levels of the hay load.
Like these fine men, no one went away from a farmer’s table hungry after working hard in the hayfields all day long.

In the shadows of that evening, when the last load of hay was in the barn, not even the sad cry of a Mourning Dove could dampen the spirits of all the hard workers that day that came together in a quiet rejoicing to have been a blessing to our great grandparents in seeing all that grass hay harvested. The grateful ladies of our clan would make the call for “Come and get your supper!” A line of bib overalls and smiling faces bellied up to the wash basins and sinks to scrub off the day’s sweat and soil from their well-worn bodies. With caps off and hair combed, these “knights of the land” sat themselves down for a feast fit for a king. Many of you folks might remember how lavish a farm kitchen table can be when it’s laid out with every tasty morsel from A to Z. Although this all happened before my birth in 1954, it would truly have been a fine day to be proud of being a Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 6th

February 6th……….”WHEN WATCHING TV SHOWS, AS A LITTLE KID ON YOUR FARM, DID YOU THINK YOU LEARNED SOMETHING AND THEN FOUND IT WAS NOT WHAT YOU THOUGHT?”

POEM – “Gullible Garrulous Gus” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Poor Elliott is STILL a Gus! 😉

This gullible, garrulous Gus, True he was the son of Russ,

Yet, unlike Dad, This spacey lad, Had really missed the bus!

One of Elliott’s favorite TV shows. Fuji is in white, lower left.

While watching childhood show, About sailors on the go,

From what they said, It got in his head, New words became his glow.

Fuji, even though a Japanese prisoner, was part of McHale’s “family”

“McHale’s Navy” had a prisoner of war, Who had stumbled there upon their shore,

Though a Japanese, he was eager to please, And they loved him forevermore.

Fuji said, “Oyyy Veyyy!!!” when he was in trouble.

But when trouble came, Fuji felt quite lame, So to express his great dismay,

He’d blurt out loud, Within that crowd, And hollered, “OYYY VEYY!!!”

“Gullible Gus” (alias Elliott) is on left, in 1962, at the time of thinking “Oyyy Veyy” was Japanese! 😉

So, for days on end, I’d try to bend, Conversations to my sway,

And attempt to please, With MY Japanese, As I’d use the term, “Oyyy Veyyy!!”

Elliott’s family had a good laugh about what he THOUGHT was Japanese.

My parent’s slapped their knees, In laughter high as the trees,

Cause what I didn’t know, Was the words from that show, Were NOT even Japanese!

“Oyyy Veyyy” is actually from the Yiddish/Jewish language.

What the writers had thought to be funny, Went over the head of this sonny,

So a major contrast, With humor to last, Made that Japanese man extra funny!

Elliott was blushing big time!!! 😉

So, next time when you try to be cool, Beware lest you be the fool,

Best to check your source, You silly horse, Or you’ll be an ass of a mule!!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 5th

February 5th………“WHAT IS A DELICIOUS MEMORY YOU HAVE ABOUT GROWING, EATING AND STORING SWEET CORN ON YOUR FARM NEAR KIESTER, MINNESOTA?

Elliott STILL loves fresh sweet corn!

EXPLOSIONS of sweet-corn ambrosia flooded my young farmer boy’s mouth as my juvenile incisors ripped mouthful after mouthful of golden delight from each corn cob. Ooozing, sweet, creamery butter, that was soaked into that sweet-corn, would glide happily over my chin in a glissando of gluttony and boyhood joy. You’ve maybe heard of having a “square meal”? When it came to my collegiate corn crunching credentials, my end product culminated in a completely square corn cob devoid of kernels and residual juices. My square corncob had been literally vacuumed dry by my mouth, in latitudinal rows, till there wasn’t even a trace left of those tantalizing morsels.

A row, or two, of sweet corn seeds were planted right alongside the alfalfa field, just like you see in this photo.

In the Spring of that year, our parents had the grand idea to provide sweet-corn, not only for our family’s delight, but to bless the whole clan of our relatives that lived in the southern Minnesota and northern Iowa area. In the past, there was a time in the life of our farm, as a side form of income, that our father, Russell, used to sell seed corn to other area farmers. I’m wondering if he might have been able to secure a bag or two of actual sweet-corn seed from the company he represented? However he procured it, there was enough seed for one or two full rows of our sweet-corn delight. When it came to the major usage of our farm acreage, the dominant type of corn that Dad planted on our farm was what’s called, field corn. It’s the type that matures to a hard, dry kernel and is then shelled, ground and would provide feed to our animals, especially during the cold Winter months. On this occasion though, our dear daddy loaded up one or two seed canisters on the right side of our corn planter with those yummy kernels of sweet-corn seed. As his Farmall H tractor pulled the corn planter down near our alfalfa field, Dad dropped the planter into that luscious black soil and saw to it that those two sweet-corn rows went into the ground right next to the edge of the alfalfa field. This way, when it was time to harvest, later in the Summer, all we’d have to do is drive our pickup truck alongside that first row or two of sweet-corn and start picking. That way, we didn’t disturb the rest of his acreage of field corn.

Elliott’s family and extended family picked sweet corn till that pickup truck was full to overflowing.

During the remainder of that Spring and early Summer, while enjoying family visits and telephone calls, Mom let it be known that this particular Summer was going to be “extra sweet”, in a way. When our corn harvest day finally arrived, grand-looking family “chariots” started to roll into our U-shaped farm driveways. There were Chevrolet Bel-Airs, Buick Electras, Plymouths, Fords and even our grandparent’s 1949 Mercury Monterey came to an elegant stop at our farm as they parked their cars in the wide expanse of our graveled farmyard. After initial hugs and greetings among the family, out came the work gloves and a garrulous gaggle of loving laborers clambered aboard our 1950 Ford F-100 pickup truck for the ride out to the alfalfa field and our two rows of adjacent sweet-corn.

A celebration of eating sweet corn was had by the loving families that came to help that day. Elliott’s father, Russell, is on the right side of picnic table (with glasses) and his mother, Clarice, is standing behind Russell on the right.

With a twist and a downward snap, off popped each full ear of sweet-corn still in its husk (outer green wrapping). Each ear then was gently placed into our pickup truck bed……we didn’t want to damage those tasty kernels inside. Even with sideboards on the truck, our happy pickers just about filled that truck bed to the hilt with a mountain of sweet-corn grown to perfection.

The next sweet phase of sweet-corn.

Under the lush, cool canopy of shade trees, back at our farmyard, came the next stop in this green adventure that yielded yellow treasures for all. Out came the tables, sharpened knives and any other utensils necessary to begin to prepare this mountain of sweet-corn for our families to take home. Dad carefully backed up our Ford pickup under those shade trees so that we could stay cool in this grand process of food production. Nearby Meadowlarks and Red-winged Blackbirds were the perfect musical symphony to accompany our army of corn cob cutters.

Freezer boxes for the sweet-corn.

Cooling, brisk prairie winds coursed through our shaded reverie as an assembly line of love saw corn cut off of uncountable cobs and fall to the trays or cake bowls below. Nimble fingers popped open a myriad of freezer boxes from their flattened shipping containers. With freezer boxes lined up like soldiers in a row, hard working hands moved mounds of golden sweet-corn from the slicing area and hand-packed it into those freezer boxes. Not only do “many hands make light work”, but also there were the joys of families fellow-shipping the day away as those full freezer boxes of corn were stacked higher and higher. “Naked” corn cob and husk piles grew higher and higher, too. We had some mighty happy pigs that evening, as, what seemed to be, “tons” of empty corn cobs and husks were thrown over the fence into their exercise area near our hog house. They were deliriously giddy with porcine prancing as they feasted on their own version of corn.

After all that work of loading freezer boxes for the families, it was now time to have a feast on the some of the biggest and best fresh sweet corn that was harvested that day. Boiling pots were kept busy preparing each batch of gold delights. Needless to say, there was an endless supply of that golden enjoyment, smothered in real creamery butter from our own local Kiester Co-op Creamery Association. Plastic corn cob trays and skewers were put to good use as we all ate and ate and ate till we about burst from the delicious joy of it all.

And Elliott is STILL a “corny guy”!!! 😉

As the sun winked goodbye to us over the cloud-banked horizon that evening, our beloved families rolled out of our farm’s U-shaped driveways. Some honked goodbye as they rolled northwards out of that driveway and some honked and waved as they rolled out the south driveway. Everyone went home with having had a fun time, good memories and enough sweet corn to carry them through the coming Winter and into next year. It was a delightfully tasty day to be a Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 4th

February 4th……“WHAT WAS A COZY, YET AT TIMES MESSY, EXPERIENCE WITH BABY CALVES DOWN IN YOUR BARN ON YOUR FARM NEAR KIESTER, MINNESOTA?

Those baby calves would suck on fingers, clothing AND milk, too!

With pint-sized pandiculation, our baby calves were stretching themselves awake just as I entered and sought the warmth of our barn. The fearsome frigid winds, of that winter’s night, had blown me clear across our graveled farmyard and, in the process, nearly sucked the life-giving breath right out of my young lungs.

Those baby bovines were, like any “child”, full of happy energy and welcomed any attention that you could muster in their direction.

Elliott found that the wild abandon of a thirsty calf could cause quite a mess.

Those happy, hirsute Holstein “babies” were thoroughly enjoying the heady fragrance of the clean, golden oat straw bedding that Dad had laid down around them there behind our dairy herd. Tethered to the barn wall by a leather neck collar and rope, they could only move around just so far, as not to impede Dad or myself from getting around them on the walkway as we milked those fifteen head of lovely Holsteins.

The very young calves still enjoyed milk right from Momma!!! 😉

The Bible even speaks to farmers, just like our father, Russell, when God shares in Proverbs Chapter 27 and Verse 23: “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds.” Our hardworking daddy loved his animals and did just that. Knowing which calf belonged to each cow, he knew their respective young ages and that some of these little ones, under his care, still needed their mommy’s milk. Those four-legged, tiny “energy pills” could sense that it was their time to nurse and were literally jumping for joy as Dad approached them to release and guide them over to their mother for nursing. With ravenous sounds of strepitous sucking, those eager bovine babes were a voracious vacuum as they head-butted their mother’s udder bag in hopes of getting that last drop of nutritious milk.

Under my dad’s wise leadership, he knew when the time was right to begin weaning the calves away from suckling their mother’s milk and, instead, drink from a pail of milk or water. Our farmer father helped me learn the “trick” of letting the calf first suck on my fingers and then, with him still sucking my fingers, lower his head into a pail of milk that I was holding. It was oftentimes a comedy of errors to partake of this learning experience. The cute calves loved to suck my fingers (and clothing, etc.), but when I’d lower their snout into the bucket of milk, they’d sometimes suck milk up their nose and sneeze it out in explosive white charges of liquid that shot all over me and the calf’s head. It was hilarious!!! Here was this young animal so thirsty for milk, but making a mess of himself and me in his vain attempts at learning this new order of life for him.

Eventually, it was time to just cuddle and enjoy the calves.

With feeding time behind us, it was now time for me to get down on the same level as our baby bovines in the straw piles. That thick, golden mantle of oat straw, that cozied round each calf, had a warming effect just like the thick quilt, that our mother made for us, that awaited us in our bedrooms. I can still see some of the calves still intent on sucking the ears of their little buddies beside them, but, for me, this particular little bovine beauty laid his head on my leg and began to drift off to sleep as I stroked his soft head and neck. The menacing winds of Old Man Winter scoured the outer walls of our barn that night, but within this bulwark of warmth rested two……….a tiny Holstein calf, with his tummy full of milk, and this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

The row of windows, on left, were where Elliott’s father usually tied up the baby calves on their farm near Kiester.

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 3rd

February 3rd……“WHAT WERE SOME OF THE WAYS YOUR FAMILY CLEANED YOUR BARN ON YOUR CHILDHOOD FARM NEAR KIESTER, MINNESOTA?”

POEM – “To Scoop Dah Poop!” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Time to spin, Another yarn,

Of daily life, Down in our barn.

Barn-swallows in, The rafters flew,

But down below, Were gutters of goo.

Our bovine beauties, Were a busy crew,

When it came to droppin’, Lots of doo,

That perfume rose, Up to our nose,

To rid that stuff, Did a challenge pose.

A “Louden” brand Litter Carrier

A stiff push broom, We’d give it a shove,

As them “cow-cakes”, Fell from above,

Onto the walkway, Behind each “girl”,

Who was too powerful, As she’d “unfurl”.

With walkways clear, By broom once again,

Twas now the time, For us farmer men,

To grab pitch fork, For Dad and boy,

And roll on in, Our “fertilizer toy”.

Similar to Elliott’s barn, except they had a manure spreader waiting outside the barn that was hooked up to a tractor and not the horse drawn wagon as in this drawing.
Gutter Scraper

We’d start with scraper, At one end,

Of gutter as, We’d push n bend,

And push those “giblets”, Far as we could go,

Till “brown stuff” got heavy, And said, “NO!”

Time to scoop dah poop!

We’d grab the “bucket”, On track above,

And along the ceiling, We’d give it a shove,

To the point in the barn, With gutter “pile” big,

And lowered the “bucket”, It was time to dig,

Scoop after scoop, Of manure with a fork,

By golly t’was just, Such sweaty work.

Angry Elliott

But then one day, As Elliott worked,

A step in safety, He did shirk.

That “bucket” of poo, Spun upside down,

And flung that load, Of “goo” to the ground.

Colorful words, Flew from this lad,

Cause now double work, Was his to be had.

The walkway (on left) was covered with manure and Elliott had to reload the track bucket all over again before rolling it outside to the waiting manure spreader.

With “bucket” swung round, To be right side up,

It was time to repeat, The work of this pup.

With the goo in the loo, We rolled it outside,

Where manure spreader waited, For loads from inside.

A pull from a rope, “Bucket” dumped its load,

And eventually then, Tractor’d head for the road,

To fertilize fields, Making them grow green,

And blessing us with , A barn now clean!! 😉

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!