June 21st…“WHEN GROWING UP ON YOUR FARM, DID YOUR FATHER MAKE YOU ANY SWINGS TO ENJOY AND PLAY ON?”
“It is a happy talent to know how to play”…….so said the great writer and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson. On our farm, there in the beauty of southern Minnesota, our hard-working father must’ve recounted his own “happy talents of play” when he was a youth in northern Minnesota. And, to encourage his next generation to enjoy playtime also, he constructed two very different types of swings for we four siblings to go “flying” upon.
Our first swing, that Dad created, was located in the center aisle of our barn. Now, if you will, I’d like to paint a picture in your mind of our 15 Holstein cows, inside our barn, lined up, side by side, in a long row of stanchions (head holding devices). This arrangement was where they’d stand each morning and evening to get their food and wait to be milked by our father, Russell, or our brother Lowell. In front of these bovines was what we called a manger (a very long feeding box that ran almost the entire length of the barn. That manger, in our barn, had a wooden wall (about 3 feet high) in front of the manger to help keep the hay and grain meals close to the cows so they could eat.
Dad created a wonderful “horse” swing and used heavy ropes to hang our special swing from the barn rafters, in the aisle way, in front of that manger I described earlier. Basically, the swing consisted of a long beam of wood that was the “body” of the horse and then a vertical “head and foot” section, in the front, that was linked into the “body” of the horse by long bolts with doweling pegs sticking out of each side of the “foot” for our feet to rest on. Protruding wooden dowel handles by the “ears” of the horse-shaped “head” were for our hands to grasp as we pushed and pulled to bring this equine toy to “life”.
After my chores were done in the evenings, I could unhook the “pony” swing ropes from the storage nails, next to the calf pens, and let down my “Pegasus” so that I could mount my wooden stallion and “sprout wings” as I’d build up swinging momentum in that aisleway air in front of our cows. My flying “horse” and I would then ride off into adventure land chasing the “Black Bart” scoundrels of the West while our dairy cows continued to crunch their meal in the manger, contented with watching this little human “do his thing”.
My little sister, Candi, and myself, were the “second family” to enjoy the pony swing in the barn. Our older sister and brother (Rosemary and Lowell) had played on that beloved apparatus so much, in their day, that the wooden beam “saddle” that Sis and I sat on had been “polished”, over time, by the countless hours of happiness that our older siblings had enjoyed before we two came along in 1954 and 1955.
My youthful exuberance on that swing sometimes got me into “hot water” with my Dad AND the cows. In joyous abandon, I’d be urging the “wooden warrior” beneath me to swing so very high, that I’d be almost touching the ceiling rafters of the barn with each pendulum of motion. Problem with that, was that the wilder I’d pump that swing, the more “off course” I was from a centralized location. Sometimes, going askew from my course, I’d come into my down swing with a crooked angle and KAHHBAMMM!!!!, I’d land right on top of the manger, or even inSIDE the manger!!!! The poor cows were horrified by my intrusion into their eating domain and would wildly yank backwards against their holding stanchions that held their heads in check. That resultant chaos brought an eruption of a loud rebuke by my father saying, “HEYYYYY!!! CUT THAT OUT, YOUR SCARING THE COWS AND THEY’LL BREAK THEIR STANCHIONS……..OR WORSE, BE INJURED!!!”
Our thanks for the second swing in our playtime lives went to both our Dad AND our Uncle Doren Noorlun, for providing an item that would become our wonderful tire swing. Uncle Doren owned an airplane and when one of his tires became too worn for use, he gave it to our father to use as our tire swing. Our ever inventive daddy used that very large tire to fashion our next “flying machine” that was then hung under our giant Elm tree that graced the southern end of our large, sloped front lawn on our farm. Dad cut away the “top” treads of the airplane tire, but left the tire’s side rims. The remaining “bottom” of the tire was then our “seat” to sit in. We’d use the upper side rims of the tire to use as “handles” to push and pull on as we’d build up swing momentum and height.
During times of reminiscing, our sweet elder brother, Lowell, would share how our father wanted to enjoy an afternoon nap each day after our family noon-time dinner. In order to keep the house quiet for his nap time, brother and sister would exit our farm home and race across the large lawn to see who could be first to the shade of that tall Elm tree and be able to play on that tire swing. Seeing that that swing originated from an airplane, it was only natural to see how high we could “fly” in those cooling Summer time breezes.
In what appeared to be a complete escape from the bounds of earth, we felt we could touch the sky…..or at least a butterfly that floated by as we’d come to meet each apex of flight and each pendulum of positive joy. Ours was the zenith of happiness as we’d either rocket ourselves into the “blue yonder” on that swing, or, in a gentler mood, lazily let our feet drag across the finely-pummeled Minnesota soil under that swing area as we’d wile away the day in the Summertime while a refreshing prairie wind floated through that shady place to cool us in our childhood wonderment. Whoever has the most FUN….WINS and those times were blissfully winning moments for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.