February 10th...”WHEN IT CAME TO BIG PROJECTS ON YOUR FARM, HOW DID YOUR FATHER MAKE THE BEST USE OF DOLLARS OR RESOURCES?”
The nails screamed out in agony, or so it seemed by the sounds they were making, as Dad’s sinewy muscles maneuvered the claw bar to remove them from the wall he was tearing out. In this now decrepit old house, in our hometown, it was as if the nails were pleading to stay in the walls of what had once housed a family and its life. Yet, as a kernel of corn “dies” in the soil to bring a new crop, so also was it destiny for this old house to give up its lumber to live again in the form of a new garage on our farm just 3 miles from our village of Kiester, Minnesota.
Our beloved, hardworking parents came from what is often called “The Greatest Generation”. They were hardened by the lean times of the 1930’s with it’s economic depression and then had to sacrifice for our soldiers, sailors and Marines during World War II. That mind set of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” was a staple of how they lived out the rest of their lives; especially when it came to “stretching the dollar” to make our farm as successful as they could.
Being just a youngster, in those days of the mid 1960’s, I wasn’t keenly aware and questioned why Dad would even want to take on the task of building a new, two car garage and shop structure. I can only assume that reason #1 may have been to escape the rigors of scraping ice and snow from our car and truck each Winter whenever he’d want to go someplace. Reason #2, in my personal opinion, could have been that Dad wanted a shop with extra space to be able to pull in large welding and/or repair projects there on the farm. His original shop building was pretty small, with just enough room to house his large array of tools, welders, acetylene torches, etc.. As a resort, Dad had to do most of his repair work on large items while exposed to the outdoor elements.
Whatever the composite reasons were, as a whole, our father’s decision was to create a new building to grace our farmyard that would incorporate used lumber. The cost savings of building with used, FREE lumber would greatly reduce the cost factor in getting the garage/shop completed within budget for our parents and family.
It was roughly the Summer of 1965 when our dad heard about an old, abandoned home in our village of Kiester, Minnesota that was available for local folks to glean any usable lumber for their own use. Sometimes, Dad and I would load up our 1950 Ford F-100 pickup with tools and head into town to take apart and bring home various components of wall framing or other wood that he could use in his own building adventure.
Sometimes, after the cows were milked for the evening, we’d hook up a flat rack wagon to our Farmall H or Super M tractor and go “harvest” some long lumber from the old house to add to the progress of our new structure.
I was always raised to respect other people’s homes. It was as if someone’s home was sacred ground and you showed respect by not entering it until you were invited by the family to actually enter into their home, which was their personal domain of family. Well, even though there was no longer a family in that dilapidated old house, I felt uneasy stepping inside the front door the first few times. The late afternoon sun would often flood through the rippled glass windows and illuminate golden rays of light through the floating dust in the air from our hammering and sawing. Being the little adventurer that I was, I’d slowly climb up the creaking stairs to the second story and explore what used to be the family bedrooms. From that vantage point, I’d see the view around town from those cracked and lonely looking upper windows. To the best of my knowledge, I would assess this old house could have been as much as a century old at the time we began making it yield up its wood to us for our new project. Even as a young boy of 11 or 12, at the time, I couldn’t help but wonder how many families had called this place home with all their laughter and holidays together, etc..
After the investment of our sweat, splinters, blood and blisters, our family saw a brand new domicile for our car and truck to stay dry in Winter and a shop (with a stove for warmth) for Dad to fix, fashion and create within his new surroundings. T’was a feeling of pride to have been a small part of family success for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.