March 6th…“TELL ABOUT HOW YOU SPENT YOUR SUNDAYS DURING YOUR EARLY YEARS IN SOUTHERN MINNESOTA.”
In those peaceful, Sunday morning hours, that giant yellow orb could be seen rising in the sky against the silhouettes of neighboring farms to our east. God’s lovely Minnesota sunrise welcomed me to another Lord’s Day.
For our family, as Christians, I often felt that the name of this day should’ve been reconstructed as SONday, for we, as a family, would soon attend Sunday School and sing God’s worship with the fellow saints of our village at Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church in Kiester, Minnesota. Our family farm lay a full three miles to the northwest of town, but yet I could stand in our front yard, on those Sabbath mornings, and hear those distinct, large bell chimes coming from our church’s steeple and bell tower. With each melodic peal, that handsome brass instrument would beckon us to heed Hebrews Chapter 10 Verse 25 that says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some it; but exhorting one another, and so much more, as ye see the day approaching.” That large bell’s peals were a musical invitation to this young boy’s ears.
Still squeaky clean from my Saturday night bath, I was told to dress up in my Sunday best and be ready to jump in our car to head for Sunday School. Our beloved mother was always the faithful one who got us to church each Lord’s Day, and, if she wasn’t able to, for some reason, she had a “second mother” who lived on the next farm to the north of us.
Gentle and with an elegance all her own, Genevieve Mutschler would hear the phone ring in her lovely home to the north of our farm, pick it up, and then graciously agree to Mom’s need for our transportation to church on some Sunday mornings.
When it came to going to church in style, Genevieve really came through. She, and her jovial husband Wally, had recently purchased a brand spanking new 1960 Ford Galaxie 500 Town Victoria. In just moments, that handsome lavender set of wheels could be seen rolling over the peak of pleasant gravel road from the north and drew to a stop at the foot of our driveway. Every bit a lady, Genevieve leaned over, and with her going to church white gloves on, popped opened the passenger door for little sister Candice and myself to slide into and onto the plastic embossed seat covers that were stretched over the handsome seat fabric. These clear covers were necessary to protect the upholstery fabric from the rough life of a farmer and his family’s daily ways.
Now settled in to that dream boat of a car, Genevieve allowed that powerful Ford engine to reinitiate the trip to church as she ferried us across the gravel roads towards our beloved hometown of Kiester.
Whether by Genevieve, or by our parents, I always enjoyed arriving at the front of our church. Not only were there giant shade trees comforting us by their coolness, but I knew I would be greeted heartily each week by one of our church ushers at the front door. Mike Iverson made me feel special and loved with his teasing and giant smile each Sunday. His crooked, toothy grin was unique to me, but even more deeply, I saw God’s love in his eyes as he sent me happily on my way downstairs to Sunday School in our church’s basement.
The shepherd of our E.U.B. congregation, in those days, was the Reverend E. J. Utzinger (pronounced YOOT-ZINGER). To my little boy eyes, he kinda resembled the old time comedian, Jack Benny, only this man was NOT funny and he was dressed in black clerical robes with a very sober countenance. I’m confident Pastor Utzinger had every intention of serving God in our small community in the best of manners, it’s just that smiling seemed rather strained and unnatural for him.
Like most children, the adult oriented sermons were wayyyyy over my head as far as understanding their high and lofty King James English. Instead of TRYING to pay attention to the sermon, I found myself daydreaming to pass the time as I sat next to our mother in our pew. I would imagine that the cracks in the square-tiled floor below me were intersecting country roads, just like those of our farming region that were laid out in “quarter section” squares. While sitting quietly in the pew, in my mind I would pretend that I was riding my imaginary Harley Davidson motorcycle (or other vehicles) up and down my “roads” until our mother would nudge me to let me know it was time to stand up and sing another hymn.
Even as a little boy, there in our church worship time, I loved to sing the traditional classic hymns of our Christian faith. Most of all, I enjoyed listening to our mother’s fine singing voice as we stood together and sang praises to our Lord Jesus Christ. The timeless nature of those hymns, with their regal melodies and majestic lyrics, tell the beautiful story of our Savior, His love for us and the ultimate sacrifice He made for us at Calvary.
The benediction was then given by Reverend Utzinger and we often left the church worship center singing “Blessed Be The Tie That Binds”. Now, it was time to head back home to the farm and enjoy the mid-day meal, which us Minnesota folk called, “Dinner”. After Mom’s delicious Sunday meal, sister Candi and I would wash and dry the family dishes while Mom and Dad often enjoyed a nice Sunday afternoon nap.
When our parents woke up from their relaxing nap time, it was fairly common to enjoy this “day of rest” by taking a drive to visit family or friends in a neighboring town, or, just let the car take us on a leisurely drive through the rich farmlands of southern Minnesota or northern Iowa. I, for one, was tickled with delight when our Sunday drives would end up on the Minnesota/Iowa border at an A&W Drive In Restaurant. In those days, a waitress (better known as a “car hop”) would trot out to our car and take down our food and drink order. While the food was being prepared inside, our family would chit chat as we watched other cars roll by on the highway. Soon, our waitress was walking back towards our car with a tray laden with delicious food. The tray was made to hook onto the top of Dad’s roll-down window and he’d then begin handing food, ice cream, etc. to the rest of the family. The biggest treat on that tray, as far as I was concerned, were those big, frost-covered glass mugs of A&W Root Beer. YUMMM!
There were some Sundays when Dad and Mom would wait till chores and the milking of our dairy herd were completed before doing something special as a family. On those balmy Summer Sunday evenings, our red and white 1956 Chevrolet would amble through the miles of our local countryside’s gravel roads. Our family relished the cooling breezes that floated through the rolled down car windows. As the sun would be setting in its splendor, that one single light was replaced by what seemed to be millions of lights blinking in the tall grasses of the wide ditches and into the expansive crop fields around us. Lightning Bugs (also known as Fire Flies) were like “glitter from God” as they would blink and wink at us driving by their grassy domains. We would be in awe, taking in the twinkling presence of these tiny creatures that made the culmination of a Sunday most memorable for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.