August 1st…“DID FRIENDS, RELATIVES OR EVEN STRANGERS STOP BY TO VISIT YOUR FARM UNEXPECTEDLY?
Our ears were always tuned to hear the crunch of happy stones under the tires as a car would bank into our driveway from the country gravel road that passed our farm there in south central Minnesota. Our U-shaped driveway wrapped around our humble home, so the sound in our ears meant we’d better run out the back door and see who had just arrived to give us a visit. Back then, there were no blasting stereos, headphones or earbuds to muffle the sounds of the world around us inside our home. Instead, the quietness allowed our ears to pick up the sound of a car or truck engine that was different than our own. “Visitors!!”, is what ran through my little boy heart, as I’d run to see who had stopped by for a friendly “talk story” with we Noorlun folk.
Maybe it’s because we came from a Norwegian heritage or maybe it was just the custom in our part of the world, but we were always glad to have the privilege to welcome guests into our home any time they drove up and knocked on the back screen door.
It didn’t offend us in the least that a visitor hadn’t called ahead to make an appointment for an official visit. Folks just showed up and we loved having them. In our ancestral language of Norwegian, the word for “welcome” is spelled VELKOMMEN (vel KOH’ men). And, true to form, our dear parents, Russell and Clarice, were always happy to welcome friends, family (and even salesmen). Even if they DID just drop by for a visit and maybe a bite to eat. I can still see the scene next to our house, a visitor has just arrived and Mom and Dad greets them at their car. Car or truck windows rolled down, they all enjoy a few minutes of visiting together. Pretty soon, one of our folks would say, “You just gotta spend a few minutes with us and chat, ya? Come on in and have some coffee and cookies…..or maybe a sandwich!” And, rightly so, any dessert or light meal, during that visit, was easily brought to perfection with a great cup of our mother’s fine coffee to wash it down with. The klinking sound of coffee cups on saucers was a form of music to this little boy’s ears in those golden days now gone.
Our parents treated everyone with kindness when they stopped by our farm for a visit. Many were the times when an old-fashioned traveling salesman would just happen along with intent to try to sell Mom their wares. I distinctly recall the local “Watkins Company” salesman who drove an old, blue 1954 Ford panel van that was actually more of a tan color from the thick coating of gravel dust it had gathered from all the country roads he traveled on a daily basis. The Watkins Company had been in business since 1868 and carried a plethora of home products from a Kool-Aid type of drink to spices for cooking, etc.. And, like the Watkins man, there were other peddlers who plied their company’s products, as well……all were welcomed and offered some coffee to “wet their whistle” before rolling down the dusty road to the next farm, and hopeful sales.
Our farmer father often had to ship livestock to the local sale yard. Since we didn’t own a large cattle truck, we had the pleasure of welcoming yet another friendly visitor to our farm. This dear professional trucker man would climb down from his BIG cattle truck and always offer my sister, Candice, and I a tasty stick of gum. His flavors were usually, Black Jack Licorice, Beeman’s Pepsin or Clark’s Teaberry gum. Sister and I just couldn’t wait for the next load of cows to market so that we’d be able to have another tasty gum treat from that kind-hearted trucker man.
Our lovely Norwegian mother, Clarice, was so resourceful for feeding our unexpected guests to the farm. Being from the Greatest Generation, our farming parents always kept a great stock of food on hand for our family AND for any guests who graced us with a visit from time to time. On these happy times of entertaining those guests, Mom would grab packets of Jello, a Jello mold from the cupboard and some fruit or fruit cocktail. Together, she’d mix the ingredients, throw in some ice cubes to make it chill faster and by the end of a visiting session, she’d have a sparkling dessert for friend and family.
Over the years, there on our farm in Minnesota, many friends, neighbors, relatives and even strangers came to visit us on our humble farm. I think my parents would agree with my philosophy………”There are no strangers in my world, only friends I haven’t met, yet!!” Such are the nostalgic musings of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.