January 12th…”WHAT DID YOUR FATHER DO FOR A LIVING?”
As his daddy before him, my father was a tiller of the soil and I gladly count him to be in excellent standing among other great All-American Farmers.
Under the loving tutelage of his much admired parent, Russell gleaned a working knowledge and great respect for the honored career of farming. Yet, due to the hard times of growing up in The Great Depression of the 1930’s, our father, Russell, faced the fact that he would have to make his own way, financially, by the sweat of his brow and muscles. You see, the handsome Edwin Noorlun family had been blessed with five sons and three daughters. That’s a lot of mouths that had to be fed and bodies clothed in those very lean Depression years when every penny was hard to earn and even harder to keep in light of life’s expenses. Russ faced the fact that he felt it better to strike out on his own in the world and lessen the financial load upon his parents.
Our Norwegian patriarch only finished his 8th Grade year of education in the public school system on or near the Chippewa Indian Reservation. From there, he then left home to begin his new chapter of life as a hired farm hand working at various farms in his home area. It must have been a real adventure for a 14 year old boy to be on his own, independent from family and working at various farms in and near Mahnomen, Minnesota. Dad was grateful to get even the simple wages of a place to sleep and a meal for his tummy (with a few dollars in his pocket) in exchange for long days in the farmer’s fields.
Since Dad was now a 14 year old independent person, he went from farm employment to farm employment hearing an old-fashioned term used by the owners of each host home. They’d tell Dad something like, “Well, Russell, we’ll give you $10.00 a month plus ‘room and board’. The origin of this phrase, ‘room and board’, originally came from history’s Middle Ages. As a laborer served his master/employer during the day, he was given an evening payment of a room and a bed to sleep in at night. The ‘board’ part of this old phrase had to do with food. In ancient times, only rich or royal society folk could afford true china plates, therefore, peasant commoners would take a wooden board, hollow out one side of that board and used it as a plate for the ‘payment’ of food for their hard-working laborers. And there you have it…….’Room and Board’. 😉
When it came to hard work, our dear daddy spoke of harvesting potatoes from sunrise to sunset and getting only 50 cents for the entire day of grueling, bent over labor. After his early teenage years of being a farm hand in the northern realms of Minnesota, our family patriarch decided to head for south central Minnesota and northern Iowa to seek new agricultural employment on the farms in those areas.
While there, in northern Iowa, Russell caught the eye of another Norwegian who was of the gentle, feminine persuasion……that of our dear mother, Clarice Arlone Sletten. They were married in June of 1941 and the newlyweds went to work for a couple of growly, bachelor brother farmers near Mom’s tiny village of Scarville, Iowa.
Over time, Dad and Mom had their bellies full of the negative and irascible bachelor brothers who employed them, so, in the spring of 1942, our poppa was looking for new opportunities of agricultural employment in the Kiester, Minnesota area. It was in that dear village that Father met a sweet man by the name of Walter (lovingly known as Wally) Mutschler. Wally and his darling wife, Genevieve, not only hired Russell and Clarice to help them work their farm, but also became like an ‘extra set’ of parents for my folks and an ‘extra set’ of grandparents for us Noorlun kids. We’ve been tied in love to the Mutschler family ever since!!
The spring of 1946 brought a wonderful opportunity for Dad and Mom to have a farm of their very own. Just to the south of the Mutschler farm (where they were hired hands), was a lovely 120 acres owned by Morten and Tina Holstad. Tina’s parents (or grandparents) were early farm folk who worked that land back in the late 1800’s. I seem to recall a family by the name of Thompson were the original homesteaders that lived and worked that soil even farther back in the middle 1800’s. When our folks moved onto the “Holstad place”, they first rented from Morten and Tina, but eventually, they signed papers to begin the process of purchasing this special farm to have and call their very own.
Life on a farm is both heavenly and hard at the same time. To smell the delicious black earth turned over by the plow in the spring is a delight to the senses. Then, at the end of the harvest season, to catch the heady fragrance of harvested field corn stored in the corncrib……well, it makes one glad just to be alive.
Thanks to our father and mother’s choice of livelihood, I was able to see the glory of the farming culture on a daily basis. That scenario ran the full gamut of life’s spectrum from seeing farm animals being born to the necessary ending of some of their lives by butchering in order to provide meat to the freezer for our family meals. I loved it all and was touched profoundly for my entire life by each farm experience. Thanks, Dad, up there in Heaven!!!! I’m so glad I grew up as a Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 🙂