November 9th…“WHAT WAS THE VERY FIRST CAR YOU EVER OWNED? SHARE A FUN MEMORY, OR TWO, ABOUT IT.”
“Are you kids ready back there?” “Yup, we’re hangin’ on tight, Unk, give ‘er the gas n let’s go slidin’!!” Snow didn’t come often to the Pacific Northwest, and specifically, to our town of Battle Ground, Washington located in the southwest corner of the State. But, on this occasion, the good Lord plopped a thick, white blanket of fun over our area and it was time for some amusement with “Unk” (which was an endearing name for me as their uncle). My cohorts in craziness, that chilly day, were three of the four children belonging to our eldest sister, Rosemary. “Stooba”(Debbie) was the eldest, then came “Dougie” and then little “Beezer”(Denise). The girls had gotten their nicknames from their Grandpa Russell Noorlun. “Stooba” means short or stubby, in Norwegian, so that’s how Debbie got tagged with her nickname. I think he gave the nickname, “Beezer”, to Denise because of her cute little nose glowing like a “Beezer”. Being this was the first car I had ever owned, I discovered that the back seat of my little, yellow 1971 Datsun Coupe could fold down flat for cargo. And that’s just what I used it for when I offered my two nieces and eldest nephew to be my “cargo” and come along for some snow fun.
I surmise that whoever was the previous owner of my little “four-banger” Datsun must have had a grand sense of humor to have the gall to install racing slick tires on the back of that tiny, timid teapot on wheels. But, hey, in our case, on that day, those pseudo racing slicks made for even more fun in the snow. The schools in our area were closed, due to the snowstorm that had just passed, and I knew that the giant, Battle Ground High School parking lot would be empty of cars and possess a thick, untouched layer of snow for “spinning donuts”. That massive expanse of smooth pavement just beckoned us to “come play”.
For all you super safety sleuths out there, I’ll have you just close your eyes and turn away from this story for awhile. Because, when we “fun-a-holics” got down to that wide open expanse of parking lot, I put the “pedal to the metal” as Unk spun “donuts” in all that pristine parking lot snow while I heard tons of giggles from the back cargo area. Glancing back, occasionally, and checking the rear-view mirror, I could see three smiling little ones as they’d happily roll from one side of that Datsun to the other!! It was a blast of fun for three little cuties and this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.
November 7th…“IF THERE IS SUCH A THING, SHARE WITH US A WARM AND COZY MEMORY DURING THE WINTER ON YOUR FARM THERE IN SOUTHERN MINNESOTA.”
It was a black evening as a steel-cold, Polar Express wind screamed up over the top of Charlie Heitzeg’s hill, to our east, and came barreling down with its frozen intent of slamming into our farmstead. I was standing inside of our barn, near the dutch entry door when that gust assaulted the bulwark of our “Noah’s Ark” that kept our livestock (and us) safe and relatively comfortable from the killing chill just outside.
True, Winter’s icy fingers had clutched upon our Norwegian family’s farmstead once again. Each year, this grip of white starkness slowed down every phase of life, both for our animals, and we as their caretakers. As I shared earlier, while a young boy, I often found refuge from the frigid fangs of the assailing Winter’s cold by first bracing myself against the leeward side of our granary building. Then, I’d draw a deep breath and hold it to prevent the screeching snow winds from sucking the air right out of my lungs, causing me to gasp it back in. Leaning into that power-punch of Winter’s blast, I’d then push forward, with trudging steps, to make my way to the dutch door (split door that could open at top/bottom or both) and yank it open to jump inside the “jungle” atmosphere of our barn. “Jungle”, because with 15 fully grown Holstein cows and up to 24 or more younger animals; their combined body heat and moisture content made our barn a cozy place to get away from the wicked cold outside.
When my evening chores in the barn were completed to Dad’s satisfaction, I remember pulling on and zipping up my thick, winter’s jacket to the highest hilt. This would cause the fur collar to regally pop up and become a shield as it wrapped its fur around my neck. Lastly, I would pull on my thick mittens and set out from the warmth of our dairy barn; plotting a course for the hog house on the east side of our farmyard property.
As my rubber, buckled boots crunched their way along the snowbanks and icy path, I could see a faint glow of the heat lamps through the windows of our hog house as I approached. Once inside, I could hear playful grunts and pig giggles of numerous litters (group or family of baby pigs). They were not only enjoying a meal from their mother sow, but also the warmth of the big heat lamps that Dad had set up for their comfort and survival against another brutal Minnesota winter.
Like any mother, a sow will valiantly protect her young piglets if anyone would try to get near them. But, in our case, my dad was now using a fairly new invention called a “farrowing crate”. This V-shaped, metal, tubular device restricted the sow’s movements so that she wouldn’t inadvertently lay down and crush her little ones. Soooo, being that momma sow was now “under control” inside the farrowing crate, I could quietly climb over the wooden railings of the pig pen and sit down in the straw where the piglets played.
As the blizzard winds howled outside these walls, you could happily find me cozily sitting beneath those hog house heat lamps. My playful, puny, porker pals slowly became accustomed to this giant playmate that had just arrived and, eventually, came to count me as one of their own. In a gleeful, rambunctious joy, they included me in their romping, stomping and playful chases. All the while, I just sat there, in one soft straw spot, so as not to scare them by any quick movements on my part. Those tiny four-legged friskies, with pointy hooves, played “leap frog” over my legs as we all basked in the glow of our happy hog heaven under Daddy’s heat lamps in the hog house of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.
November 5th…“WHAT HIGH SCHOOL EVENT, THAT YOUR BIG SISTER WAS INVOLVED IN, MADE THE BIGGEST IMPRESSION ON YOU AS A YOUNG BOY IN YOUR MINNESOTA DAYS?”
Effervescence bubbled in happy abandon behind the sparkling smile of our sister, Rosemary Arlone Noorlun. On her way down from Heaven, in May of 1946, she must’ve bounced off the North Pole and collected some of its magnetism, for she had the gift of drawing others to her and was a catalyst for fun in so many ways. Even later in life, it was our Rosie who would bring family gatherings alive by the entourage of treasures she’d bring along to any family get-together. There’d be recipes for the ladies to try together in the kitchen, crafts for everyone to enjoy, board games, etc.. Of course, there were always the happy times around the Dining Room table with our family shoe box full of photos which was brought out from the hall closet. This entertainment was long before the digital age took over, so, our Norwegian queen of the scene would hand out packets of photos, wrapped in a rubber band, to everyone around the table. We’d pop off the rubber band and all of us would joyfully start jabbering about a certain memory a photo would spark or some other fun time of the past as we’d gaily shuffle those old photos from the top of the deck to the bottom and then pass that bundle of black n white memories to the next person at the dinner table. It was easy to see that that magnetic spirit, that she captured from the North Pole at birth, followed her throughout her 43 years of life she enjoyed on this earth.
Our elder sibling of the gentle gender was 8 years my senior when 1964 rolled around. So, as far as this little farmer boy brother was concerned, next to Mom and Dad, Rosemary was top notch, all grown up (in my eyes) and the queen of cool! Still consuming her, like a sparkling of pixie dust, was that magnetism that ignited a yearning to be involved in a plethora of High School activities. Why was that so? In my heart, I feel that it was likely because of her natural love for people and wanting to be part and parcel to all that school life had to offer. As a sampling list, sister Rosemary enjoyed being a part of Kiester High School Band, Chorus, Library Club, Girl’s Athletic Association (G.A.A.), Member of Student Council, Cheerleader, Future Farmer’s Of America Chapter Sweetheart and HomeComing Queen…….just to name a few of her extra-curricular activities.
A marvelous, musically magical mentor had his own form of magnetism that drew our sister and untold hundreds of other students to his classes of band and choir there at Kiester High School in Kiester, Minnesota. This master educator was the much revered and respected Mr. Milton Leland Glende who hailed from Otter Tail County, Minnesota when he entered this world in 1926. Mr. Glende exuded not only his zeal and passion for perfection in music, but he also interjected his high standards for professionalism and discipline into each young student that crossed the hallowed portals of the “Bulldog’s” Music Department’s hallway doors. Like any great educator, Mr. Glende earned his student’s respect through the discipline that followed him via his own personal upbringing, but also that which was garnered from his time in the military serving our country during World War II. If you marched for Mr. Glende, every row, both forward and across was straight as an arrow. The marching band’s classic Hussar Military Parade jackets would have every button polished, with slacks pressed and white parade shoes looking their whitest. Simply the best, they were!
I would’ve loved to have been the proverbial “mouse in the corner”. Then I would’ve been able to hear of the reasoning for this honored music educator to have picked my sister’s 1964 Senior year of high school to decide to make an actual professional recording of one of their Band & Choir concerts. Plans were in the works to create a 33 1/2 rpm (Revolutions Per Minute) vinyl record of the event. Big sister, Rosie, and her Music Department comrades must’ve been buzzing with excitement as they entered Mr. Glende’s music room each day. I can imagine the fragrance of brass polish and trumpet valve lubricant on the air as they pulled their instruments from their cases and found their seats in the semi-circle practice area. Rosie played drums in the band and sang in the choir, as well. There must’ve been an extra edge of excitement as this young assembly of musicians knew that every note needed to as close to perfection as possible to bring honor to the “blue and white” traditions of our dear alma mater and to make their cherished Music Master to be proud of their performances.
History is a bit foggy for me on this point, but I’d venture to hypothesize that this very special recording session would be made even more special by the event occurring in the evening hours. This way, local farmers (like our father) could finish the milking of dairy herds, and other chores, before getting himself and his family into their “Sunday Best” to drive into town for this gala event. You can just imagine our good town and country folk parking in front of the High School as the setting sun yielded its brightness to another evening as they make their way through the school’s entry foyer and to our gymnasium. As family after family filed past our school’s trophy case, they could see numerous awards that, with Mr. Glende’s leadership, had been won over the years by fine young musicians like they were about to enjoy that evening. Recording technicians were at the ready to capture this musical evening as Mr. Glende, with his dear wife Gertrude at the piano, commanded rapt attention from his band and choir. As he gave the down-stroke, the most wonderful music filled that gymnasium to the very rafters for all to enjoy.
The eight years, that separated big sister and myself, would not be considered a full generational spectrum. Yet, I sensed then, and still do today, that those young people involved on that evening, in 1964, were far more mature than their chronological teenage years. I surmise that it was because they were the direct offspring of the “Greatest Generation” that had sacrificed and won World War II. They were held to a higher degree of discipline as they grew up in the shadow of godly parents who helped form these young adults a into team of not only playing music that night that went onto a record album, but would go forth into their world of tomorrow to make a positive imprint with their own lives and the lives of the children they would bear. Yes, when Rosemary brought home the actual record album of that concert night, I was allowed to hold it and gently slide the vinyl record out from its protective paper sheathing. “Wow!!!!”, I exclaimed, it was CLEAR, SEE-THROUGH BLUE!!! I was entranced! Up to that point, I had only seen records made out of black vinyl. What a grand way of celebrating the music that was not only IN the record, but also celebrating the “Blue & White” of our Kiester High School “Bulldogs”.
At the tender age of only 43 years, the good Lord called our beloved sister Home to Heaven’s Shores. Sad as that time was, I celebrate her precious life while among us here on earth. It is as if her very life was a symphony as she orchestrated four beautiful children into this world that carry on the music of her life to this very day. And, what is more than gold to me, is when I listen to this 1964 recording of Rosemary and her classmates over and over. Each rat a tat tat of a snare drum, each drum a drum drum of a kettle drum………..I’m hearing our Rosie who was one of those musicians. When I hear “All Ye Who Music Love”, I hear the high, feminine voices and I ponder…….”One of those sweet voices is my Rosie!”……….the sweet sister of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.
November 4th…“TELL ABOUT THE BUSY HARVEST TIMES ON YOUR FARM IN SOUTHERN MINNESOTA?”
Ubiquitous to every farmer who’s ever planted a seed is the hope and grand finale of desiring a good harvest. All of the invested sweat, hours, sore muscles, etc. would, we prayed, culminate in a bounteous yield at the end of each growing year from those black, enriched soils of southern Minnesota. Our Norwegian farmer’s magnum opus (great work) would, in all hopes, bring in food for our Noorlun farm animals and even have enough crop left over to sell at the local grain market. That accomplishment would provide a monetary income to help Dad take care of our mother, Clarice, and his beloved family over the coming Winter.
The morning milking of our Holstein dairy herd was completed at about sunrise on that fine Fall day. Mom had a big breakfast waiting for Dad when he came up to the house from the barn. Breakfast was Dad’s favorite meal of the whole day, he could easily gulp down a couple bowls of cereal, black toast, lots of coffee and at least three eggs with bacon and maybe a chaser of half a grapefruit. The creaking screen door of our back porch signaled Dad’s exit into what was to be another busy harvest day. Due to the brisk weather, the flap of my cap came down over my ears and thick gloves came on as I strapped on my bib overalls and came out that same door. I could see our farmer father vigorously pumping away with his grease gun as he lubricated and then oiled our “Gleaner/Baldwin” brand grain combine. “Sha-glick, sha-glick, sha-glick” was the sound that that grease gun made with each muscular compression of those sinewy arms; for with every repetition of that handle, Dad was making sure each “Zerk” fitting was being filled to capacity with lubricating grease so that our farming harvest machines could run for that day in the smoothest way.
Just like a cowboy of old would’ve dropped onto his horse’s saddle, so also did our father climb up and drop into the spring-loaded seat of our handsome International Farmall Super M tractor. His farmer’s work-boot reached down and depressed the engine starter lever as that faithful, 264 cubic inch, four cylinder engine happily popped to life. With a pull back of the throttle lever for a bit more speed, the vertical engine muffler spewed a carbon cough cloud to the sky. Russell slowly let out the clutch as he and his red-metaled steed rolled forward towards the woods of our windbreak where we kept our combine machine. Throttling down the engine speed, our hardworking dad put the tractor into the gear called reverse as he slowly backed up to and hooked up the “tongue” of the combine to our tractor. Russ climbed down from the Farmall M, grabbed and then pulled up and inserted a heavy tube from the combine towards the back of the tractor that had a cylindrical sleeve gear that faced the tractor. The long device, now hooked up to the Super M, was a means for receiving power from the tractor that would operate that grain combine. The point of connection to the tractor was known as the PTO. That acronym stood for a “Power Take Off”. Once in the field of soybeans, Russ would activate that PTO and the spinning tractor gear would spin the tube to the combine and that magnificent machine would harvest our soybeans.
With the harvesting of our soybeans completed, our father then climbed aboard the very old International Harvester F20 tractor that was intercoursed within our two row cornpicker machine that literally wrapped around that old tractor. That F20 engine came to life with a growl, seeing that it hardly had any muffler left on the engine. Previous greasing and lubrication took a while to smooth out the clanking, squeaking and kahchunking sounds that the old beast made as it lurched towards the golden cornfields that awaited its voracious appetite for harvesting corn.
As wagon, upon wagon of golden field corn came rolling into our yard, it was off-loaded into a device called an elevator that slowly pulled the chain-linked sections of corn up, up and then into the top of a wire mesh corn crib. As the fields yielded their acres of corn, that wire mesh corn crib became like a giant yellow, vertical tube there on our farm. Full to the very tip top with uncountable ears of corn the harvest would now be dried by the howling winds of Fall and Winter. For, unlike our Minnesota summers (which were extremely humid), the Fall and Winter months, in that part of the United States are super dry, though also super cold.
Thanks to our family friend, Harry Bauman, my big brother, Lowell Noorlun, and of course the long hours worked by both our father and mother; another year’s harvest was safely in storage just in time for Old Man Winter to move in and cool things down for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.
November 3rd…“DID YOUR PARENTS EVER ALLOW SPORTSMEN TO HUNT ON YOUR FARM THERE NEAR KIESTER, MINNESOTA? WHAT ANIMAL OR BIRD WERE THEY SEEKING?”
The shrill chill of a Fall wind sliced through the golden-crisp cornfields that encompassed our farm there in south central Minnesota. Our rich soils had once again blessed us with a bumper crop of amber maize (corn) and also a bumper crop of beautiful ring-necked pheasants that feasted upon the millions of corn kernels that awaited their happy pecking. I sensed there was almost a personification of those Fall winds. It was as if “Mr. Fall” was using those brisk gusts like a broom, of sorts, sweeping our Midwest “house” in preparation for Old Man Winter to arrive and move in shortly. Our endless soldier rows of corn were tender and green, just a month or so earlier, but now, those same fields lay brittle and brown, ready for the harvest, as acre upon acre now noisily made a rasping melody all its own as the Piper of the wind moved each stalk in its musical sway.
As reliable as the seasons changing, so also could we annually expect a cadre of pheasant hunting guests that would visit our farm each year. This group of good-natured fellows journeyed all the way down to us from the massive metropolis of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. Working off of a hypothetical assumption, on my part, I’m guessing that these burly, bicep bulging, benevolent bruisers were likely business acquaintances of our Uncle Ray Noorlun who was a mechanic and lived out most of his days in the “Twin Cities”. Either way, this garrulous group of guys were greatly appreciative of our parents, Russell and Clarice, for allowing them to hunt and camp on our farm property. As a means of token “payment” for their hunting privileges, these sportsmen usually brought us some gifts as their way of saying thanks to our family. On this certain year, one of those gifts given out brought my little sister Candi’s eyeballs to the point of bursting with happiness as she was handed her very own “Baby First Steps” doll. She was thrilled, to say the least.
Our visiting “city slickers” began unloading their cornucopia of hunting gear from their various station wagons and pickup trucks. They appeared to have purchased every imaginable gadget for hunting from A to Z and they managed to get it all stuffed neatly in their vehicles. Out came hunting vests, shotgun shells by the boxes full, long-johns to keep them warm, classic “Jones Hunting Caps” and last, but not least, out came their giant shotguns in their wrapping shrouds, etc.. Even in the briskness of that Fall day, our hunting guests became thirsty from all of their activity in unloading of gear. Our handsome farmer father, Russell, sought to slack that thirst and offered the coldest, sweetest water this side of anywhere. He invited our guests over to our little well pumphouse at the center south side of our yard and handed them a porcelain cup that hung on a nail off of that little building. As each hunter guest filled and drank our pure water from that cup, they each raved about how “delicious” our ice-cold water was!!! “This water tastes GREAT!”, they’d each say, of the iron-enriched mouthfuls, and would fill up cup after cup. Having lived in the big city all their life, they had become accustomed to the chemically treated water that was obviously tainted by those same chemicals intended to keep down the germs associated with such close-in city dweller lifestyles.
Like any inquisitive kid, I was captured by the manly aura of these high-calibered friends who visited our farm so I gladly shadowed them as they made their way to the west side of our family orchard and began to set up their encampment of tents, fire pit, etc.. Inclusive, they were, as they allowed this little whippersnapper to take part in the exuberance of their zest for checking their various paraphernalia that was to be essential in having a successful hunt the next morning.
As a ten year old, in 1964, I was in awe of the massive array of shotgun “artillery” that surrounded me that afternoon. Single barrel, over/under barrel and double barrel shotguns were being prepped and displayed to each side of me. These men brought an arsenal of firepower with them that captured my mini-man imagination. To top off my boy joy, these furry-faced, masculine visitors actually invited me to have supper with them and camp out, overnight, in their tents. I was beyond thrilled to be included into their fraternity of pheasant fellowship!!
As the Minnesota sun dropped into the western horizon, so did the temperatures that evening. The tent’s interior fabric walls were getting frosty as they were lit by the glow of a Coleman lantern. That same glow was casting an essence of pleasantness among us compared to the bleak blackness that surrounded our fabric abode in the star-studded ebony sky above us. After a simple meal with our visiting guests, I was invited to experience my first time of sleeping in a fleecy, fabricated device called a “sleeping bag”. Once I slid myself horizontally into that cozy tube, I zipped up the full-length zipper of that contraption and I was as snug as a bug in a rug for the rest of that frosty night. As the eastern sunshine trepidatiously brought it’s weak warmth to a new Fall morning, I stepped outside our tent to realize that one of our hunter friends had braved the elements overnight in his sleeping bag OUTSIDE of our tent. That man’s beard was totally white with frost that had crept up on all things during the night, like a white leopard landing upon its prey.
By the time our hunter friends had scarfed down their breakfast in those tents, the marvelous Minnesota sunshine gained intensity and had chased away the frost with it’s warmth. A perfect Fall day was upon us to enjoy. Pheasants could be heard in the cornfields nearby, as if daring us with a “come catch us if you can” kind of chirruping call. Herein came the anomaly of my association with the hunting adventure that day.
Depending upon the type and model of shotgun our guests were using, a single shotgun shell could contain up to as many as 100 BB’s inside. When the trigger was pulled, the gunpowder exploded, sending those 100 BB’s into the air, in a fanning spread, in hopes of knocking a pheasant from out of that cornfield sky. Antithetically, my firepower, that day, consisted of a little “Daisy” BB rifle that fired one, single, itty-bitty BB out of the end of that little boy air-rifle barrel.
Incongruous as it was, and I’m sure comical to a number of the men that day, nevertheless, there I strode along with my fellow pheasant flushers as our team spread out along the entry rows of a cornfield and began our walk down the crispy, wind-tossed cornfield rows. As a ring-necked pheasant would launch into the air ahead of us, the multiple shotgun cannonry around me was deafening. It is without saying, that the faint “plink, plink” of my tiny BB gun air-rifle was unheard by the men as I also fired off shots at the same targeted pheasant in flight. But, being the puny, pusillanimous, positive thinker that I was, in those days, I was just sure that it had to have been my single BB that brought down that fancy, feisty pheasant that lived on the farm of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉