April 10th…“RELATE A FAVORITE SPRING MEMORY”
Having been encapsulated in a world of frozen white for up to five months each year, it was a genuine treat just to be able to see good old brown dirt again as warmer spring temperatures began to melt the snow and ice away from our Minnesota world. The phenomenon of the season changing was an indicator to this farm boy that we were, once again, being released from the grip of “Old Man Winter”. Day by wonderful day, the temperatures around our farm were slowly climbing and staying above freezing. As the snow and ice receded, I could see a dark patch of dirt here, and then there as hope rebounded in me that spring was truly going to come to this land of my youth once again.
To this farm boy, who had been accustomed to “normal” temperatures being BELOW zero degrees, it was a pure pleasure to see the thermometer “peek a boo” into the mid 30’s or even low 40 degree ranges now. These new temperatures, of course, resulted in my happy peeling of the layers of coats and sweaters that had confined my body over the former frigid months. Heck, I even took off my longjohns underwear now that Spring was here!!
The happy harbinger of springtime came via the melodious songs of the American Robin. From inside the cozy warmth of our house, there was a marbling effect of trying to see through our old house windows AND the layer of storm window glass. Yet even with this impediment, from the Living Room I could see flashing by, the orange breast of the first Robin arriving for the spring. It was a happy challenge to be the first one in the family to see this herald of a new season, and even more thrilling was to hear her song as Miss Robin sat in the snowy branches of our dormant Lilac Bush and let us know that warmth and greenery was on its way. Her song confirmed that life was returning from the icy grasp of the deadness of Winter.
Now as any boy, in general, and a farm boy specifically, I enjoyed a fun component of this new season……namely MUD!! The warmth now enveloping our world on the farm turned all that snow into the classic mess of mud. The soil could only absorb just so much moisture before we began to get the gobs of gooo everywhere and in everything. Even though I was as happy in the mud as a piggy in a puddle, our dear father did not adhere to the same mindset as his little boy. Poor daddy, he had to deal with the tractors and equipment getting stuck, in those Spring mud bogs, as he tried to carry out the daily duties of our family farm.
The Olympic-sized mud arena of fun for this farm boy was the fenced in area around our barn, known as the “cow yard”. It was basically a place for our animals to get some sunshine and exercise. So, with four legs each, times fifteen milk cows, and many younger livestock, that exercise meant that the mud in the “cow yard” was deep and gooey for me to enjoy. This venue was where mud and manure reigned supreme! Barefooted boy that I was, and now in shorts thanks to a new springtime, I jumped at the chance to dive into the brown and black goo that squirted up between my toes. I could, and DID, sink into the muck clear up to my thighs in that oooey gooey place of slime. There were a few times that the suction of the mud around my little Norwegian appendages nearly captured me for good, but, eventually, I’d be able to somehow wiggle or roll out to freedom once again.
As the Minnesota spring winds swirled around me, my mucky mud legs eventually dried those layers of mud to the point where it looked like I was walking around with dry sea crustaceans for legs. I wore that caked mud layer as a badge of boy pride around the yard and got a kick out of its crusty coolness as a reward for all the exploring I had done. For some reason, though, my mother saw me coming towards the house and would block the door of the house with her body and forbid me any entry until I had washed off my badge of crud from my boyhood legs. I can still hear her chiding admonishment as she’d say, “STOP RIGHT THERE, YOUNG MAN!! You’re NOT coming in THIS house like THAT!!” Alas, being the queen of our castle, her regal announcement was LAW. Vainly, I would challenge her concerns, like a young knight at a castle drawbridge, but to no avail. Out would come the garden hose and scrubbing commenced.
Unlike today’s smooth ways of travel, paved roads were in a minority where we lived. The melting snows turned gravel roads into mud-mangled motorways of mess. The local use of those roads by tractors, cars and trucks resulted in deeply grooved ruts, mires and mud puddles. If the family had to drive somewhere (church or visiting), I looked forward to the drive. For, to me, as a kid in the back seat, it was an adventure of fun that was akin to a cowboy riding a bucking horse as our family would slog, slime and slide from one road rut to another as we bumped along down those gravel/mud roads. I was always impressed with Dad’s driving skills as we’d almost get bogged down and stuck, but he’d hammer down the gas pedal and that powerful V8 engine would send mud flying out the back of our car like a jet engine spewing exhaust and soon, we’d be on our way once more.
Getting to school, in the springtime, was an adventure in itself. Marie Meyer, bless her heart, was one heck of a bus driver on those mud-mangled roads. She would plow and pound that yellow banana of a school bus through those road swamps , causing us kids to jolt and jump in our seats as the bus was catapulted from one road rut to another. At times, we even became “airborne” towards the bus ceiling when she’d hit a particularly bad patch of deep puddles. It was like being at the Faribault County Fair, once again, riding the rides and we didn’t even have to pay to get on.
Spring had truly sprung, and I loved every minute and aspect of that wonderful time of life for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.