July 14th…“AS A YOUNG BOY ON THE FARM IN MINNESOTA, DID YOU EVER WANT TO BUILD UP YOUR MUSCLES? WHO INSPIRED YOU TO TRY AND HOW DID YOU DO IT?”
“Well boy, at least ya SMELL strong!!!”.….That was the ribbing I’d get from my dad as he squatted next to the cow and the milking machine that was removing her milk to sell at our local creamery in Kiester, Minnesota. Dad was referring to how I’d climb a ways up the wall ladder in our barn and then leap over to the ceiling-level, metal railing of the manure removal system. From that hanging position, I’d then grunt and try to complete at least ONE “chin-up” repetition, but was usually too weak to pull my chin up and over the railing bar. Only being able to hang for so long, I’d drop back down to the barn floor in defeat. On another day’s attempt to make a chin-up, Dad would also tease me by saying, “Yup, it’s pretty bad when ya can’t even pick YOURSELF up!!!” His counter-inspiration spurred me to prove him wrong someday…..and I did!
Ohhhh to have big , bursting, bruiser biceps that would be rippling in veined glory and rampaging power! Well, at least that’s what I always dreamed about after watching enough movies of my strong action heroes that thought nothing of lifting a giant boulder off of their darling maiden fair. Or, if she were in the clutches of a dastardly villain, our bounteous bicep boy wonder would crush that filthy creature into submission by heroic unbounded energy. 😉
Just then, muscle-building inspiration came to live with us on our farm in the form of my Cousin, Lyle J. Noorlun. He became family with us, there for a time, in the early 1960’s. Lyle, like all of us, had his weaknesses in life, but my Cousin had a strength that fired up my little boy attention and admiration. Since big brother Lowell had moved downstairs to his own bedroom, Lyle and I bunked together in a comical-looking swaybacked bed upstairs. Silly as our sleeping accommodations were, when it came time to get out of that sorry excuse for a bed each morning, Lyle was faithful (almost in a religious way) to “hit the floor” every single morning and begin to do, what seemed to be, a zillion push-ups. From my supine position under the quilts, little pimple-armed me was in awe of Lyle’s strenuous regimen of exercises that garnered him powerful, puffed out pectoral muscles and a set of behemoth bulging biceps. Eventually, Lyle left our southern clan to return to his home and family in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. With handsome Cousin now gone, I began to wonder to myself, “How can I begin to achieve more muscles on this frail frame of a boy?”
Even though curiosity “killed the cat”, my curiosity one day netted a muscled treasure in the form of some body-building lessons. At the top of the stairs, and behind a curtained entry, resided a storage closet that, with it’s sloped ceiling, held everything from our dad’s old love letters for our mother, to something that was right up my alley. Stooping low, so as not to hit my head on the slanted ceiling above me, I snooped until I came across twelve, blue, triple-folded “Health & Strength” lessons by a man named “Charles Atlas”.
When I questioned our mother about these lessons, she shared that our daddy had purchased them many years earlier, when he was a young man, and searching for an overall way to build up his muscles. I was fascinated, so after receiving permission from her, I began reading through these thick pamphlets (with photos) to see why and how Charles Atlas became known as “The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man”.
Mr. Atlas ( his birth name was, Angelo Siciliano) was a skinny and rather sickly young man and didn’t like how he was treated by mean-spirited, bigger and stronger men. Although he had tried some weightlifting and gymnasium workouts, it wasn’t until he was visiting a zoo, one day, that he realized that the lions, and other powerful beasts, didn’t lift heavy weights and such; they gained their strength by working one muscle against another muscle in their body. From that discovery, Charles Atlas then devised a system of exercises that did the same thing to build his own body up to tremendous levels of power.
The animals, in that zoo that Charles Atlas saw, had something in common with this farm boy……I didn’t have any fancy weight set either. What I DID have, though, was the will to try out this system called, “Dynamic Tension”…….pushing/pulling one muscle group against another. Charles Atlas, via one of his twelve photographed lesson plans, showed me how to take two chairs and set them at a width that would allow my torso to go between them. I would perform deep-reaching push-ups so that my chest muscles were stretched and I’d have to work them harder to bring my body back up to the starting position once again. Over time, I did see some muscle gains, but I never achieved the rippling body that is seen in the muscle magazines. I was still grateful, though, because I DID begin to feel stronger and overall healthier.
Of course, nowadays, the only exercise this old grandpa gets is “jumping to conclusions” and “running amok”……hehehe 😉 But, be that as it may, such were the dreams and aspirations of a wannabe body builder known as the Norwegian Farmer’s Son.