June 18th…“WHEN ON YOUR FARM, DID YOUR FATHER HAVE A PLAYTIME WITH YOU THAT STOOD OUT FROM ALL OTHERS?”
Long and heavy icicles speared the snowbanks below as I knocked them off the roofline of our old green chicken coop with a stick. Having been warned of their deadly points by my parents, I kept a respectful distance as those ice javelins came plummeting to earth and disappearing into the snowbanks. The chilling power of “Old Man Winter” had slowed down the pace of life on our farm considerably. Therefore, being freed from the rigorous schedule of farming by Winter’s chill, Dad had some time to spare and was about to treat me to a thrill ride that, in my opinion, rivaled any mechanical ride at the local Faribault County Fair.
“Grab your sled, Son, let’s have some fun!!!”, said our handsome Norwegian daddy. Being used to his usually hectic farmer’s lifestyle, any time spent with Dad was like GOLD for me. Grabbing our family snow sled, I happily obliged him and followed as he trudged through the snowdrifts towards our old, green chicken house. After reaching the snow-choked doorway, we used our rubber Winter boots to kick snow from side to side to reach the door itself. The antiquated aperture was partially frozen to the chicken coop’s frame, so Dad gave that wooden gateway a mighty yank and we stepped inside. Our parents had built a larger chicken house nearby for our growing brood of laying hens, so this old building was now the home for our horse, “Biscuit”. While Dad saddled up this full-sized hairy equine, our conversation hovered in the air around us in the form of white vapors due to the frigid temperatures of this crystal clear Winter’s Day.
In the process of watching Dad saddle that tall animal, I had gotten too close to Biscuit and that humongous horse picked up his front leg and lazily plopped his heavy hoof on top of my rubber Winter boot toe. My response was immediate and LOUD as I flailed my little boy fists against his horse body and yelled, “GET OFF MY FOOT!!!!” The ginormous gelding looked down at me, nonchalantly, and slowly lifted his heavy, hairy hoof off of my throbbing toe with a look that seemed to say, “Ohhhh, did I do that?”
With bridle and saddle mounted on our steed, Dad led Biscuit outside into the diamond-sparkled world of a snowy Minnesota day. Putting his boot to the stirrup, our father swung himself into the saddle as that riding gear sang out a creaking leather “song” as Dad settled into place for the ride. Taking a long length of strong rope, Dad tied one end to my sled frame and the other end of that strand to the “horn” of his saddle. With giddy abandon, I launched myself happily aboard our sled as Dad gave a “chirrup” sound with his mouth that made Biscuit move out for my sled ride. With each lurch of the horse’s pull, the rope to my sled would snap taut and I was in kid heaven as we’d slip, slide n glide around our farmyard together.
Dad decided to up the degree of fun as he reined Biscuit out of our farmyard and towards one of our empty, stubbled cornfields. Now we’d REALLY have a sled ride to remember!!!! (For Grandpa’s young readers information……after the Fall harvest of field corn each year, there were shorts stubs of corn stalks still left in the ground after the corn picker machine had chopped them off at a length of six or eight inches high. Those stubbled plant remnants were left on top of ridges of dirt. Therefore, there would be a hill and valley and a hill and valley; kinda like a wavy washboard effect.)
Once Biscuit pulled us down to the former corn field, Dad turned in his saddle with a look towards me that was ignited by his own boyhood Winter memories. He called out, “Hang on tight, Son, here we go!!!!” Squeezing the horse in its flanks with his legs, that hairy equine of ours took off across that old cornfield like a streak and the wild ride began! I hung on extra tight as my sled jumped from row to row of corn stubbled hills n valleys. Many times, the lurching had me literally flying in air as my sled reconnected to earth with a whump of wildness and glee for me!!!! It was truly a happy, hectic and horsey Winter FUN time for my father and his Norwegian Farmer’s Son.