August 2nd…“DESCRIBE TO US THE ATTRIBUTES OF YOUR MINNESOTA CHILDHOOD’S FAMILY HOME.”
The back door was the front, and the front door was the back. Sounds a bit silly, ya? But, that’s the way our home sweet home was approached each day due to the U-shaped gravel driveway that circumnavigated the house we called home. Folks coming to visit would just naturally follow that driveway around to the back, rather than stop alongside the house, get out of the car, walk across the lawn to the traditional front door and knock.
Though just for a minute, our true front door of the house was used in the mornings when we heard that metallic yellow banana of a school bus pull up out by our mailbox and honk its horn. Like many an American family, we kids would be a hurryin’ and a scurryin’ to finish our breakfast, grab our school books and then our jackets. Mom would pop the front door open and we young whippersnappers would rocket outta the house, across the lawn and straight as a bullet into the open, vertical school bus doors while Marie Meyer gave us her usual gregarious smile and greetings.
The Bible says, in Ecclesiastes 3:2, “There’s a time to be born…”. Even though we’re uncertain of an exact year, we surmise that our farm home was “born” sometime in the middle 1860’s or so. Before the Noorlun family enjoyed this quaint domicile, it was the childhood home of our landlord’s wife. This large, fluffy farm wife’s maiden name was Tina Santmaier (likely a German family). A 1913 land plot map shows a family owning the land, at that time, by the name of S. K. Thompson. Were these possibly the parents of Tina’s mother? Then, by pure conjecture, Tina’s mother grew up to marry Mr. Santmaier and thereby it became the place of Tina’s young days? Only the Lord knows for sure, but just think, when Tina’s ancestors came to this spot, there was nothing……just dirt……only the Indians had known this land up to that point in a time long before the White Man came. All the farm buildings, including our home, had to be constructed from the ground up. What a task that must’ve been for the original homesteading family. As years passed, Tina married Morton Holstad and then they became the caretakers and farmers of her parent’s acreage. In 1946, our parents, Russell and Clarice, heard that Morton and Tina were looking for someone to take over their farm as renters so that they could semi-retire to a home in our town of Kiester, Minnesota. Our parents were elated to begin renting the farm and the Holstads, as our landlords, became yet another loving pair of surrogate grandparents for us young Noorlun children.
It’s true that “Home Is Where The Heart Is”. And, even though our farm home was small and humble, by today’s standards, it was a “castle” for our Norwegian family to gather inside each day and give God praise for a place to stay warm, beds to sleep in (with cozy quilts over us) and even running water!!! Our beloved mother, Clarice, shared that before I was born, in 1954, we didn’t have piped-in water to the house. In today’s America, running water is taken for granted and even expected in a home. Not then. Even when pregnant with this little pre-born farm boy, our beloved mother had to bring water in buckets up from the Well House (also known as the Pump House) where it was pumped out of the ground. She’d then have to lug those buckets inside the house for washing dishes, clothes and for doing her cooking.
In another instance of our farm home’s life, when I was a wee little farmer boy, I vividly remember that our home did NOT have a flushing toilet…….at least not yet. In the bathroom of our house, there was place we kept a white porcelain (or ironstone) bucket known as a “Chamber Pot”. We kept that pot about half-filled with water. When “nature called” (also known as potty time), you’d take the top lid off the bucket and put down a “seat”for your little behind to rest on while you “done did yer duty”. After you were finished with the normal human functions, you’d remove the “seat” and replace the original lid to cap the odor and looks of what was inside the “Chamber Pot”. Of course, like proper boys n girls, then you’d wash your hands and leave the bathroom to enjoy the rest of your day. At least once (or sometimes twice) a day, someone had the task of grabbing the wire bail by the handle and carry the “Chamber Pot”, with its full contents, out of the house, across the yard and over to the “Outhouse” (outdoor potty). Off would come the lid and the odiferous nasty contents were poured down the hole of the “Outhouse” potty pit.
One night, I had the need to go downstairs to use the “Chamber Pot” in the bathroom. Half asleep, I trudged into the bathroom and groggily took the top lid off the pot. What I failed to do, in my almost sleep-like trance, was to put down the “seat” for my behind to rest on. Lost in my hazy thoughts of returning to slumber, I lowered my little bitty butt cheeks lower and lower till they actually touched that icy cold and nasty water. YIKES!!! I was INSTANTLY awake and shot bolt upright to a standing position!! I think I even lost the urge to “go”!!! Hehehehe 😉
Stepping inside our back screen door had us entering the pantry/porch area. We kept a large chest freezer in there for massive storage of meats from our animals, chickens, ice cream and any other food that needed to stay frozen. We also had a milk pasteurizer in there to make our cow’s milk even safer to drink for our family. In the color photo of our house (here in this story), you can see a pink, cement block chimney with a window on each side of it. That was our family kitchen. Mom and Dad’s Bedroom was to the north of the Kitchen. An open archway from the Kitchen took us into our family Living Room (color photo with downstairs window to the far right). A small downstairs Bedroom was to the north of our Living Room. Upstairs were two Bedrooms. Brothers had the small room, sisters had the larger Bedroom.
Although rough-hewn in its rock walled construction, our family home basement was a veritable gold mine, of sorts. There were two entries to this subterranean vault of coolness. One entry was down some open wooden steps that came down from a doorway in our bathroom.
The other entry to our cellar/basement was located on the north side of our farm home. It consisted of two wooden doors that were set at about a 45 degree angle. When opened, they revealed a rock stairway that led down to our cellar/basement. This location was ideal, in that our family garden was very close to this spot and allowed an easier time of bringing the Fall Harvest of food crops down into the cellar/basement for winter storage. I considered our cellar/basement a gold mine because of our beloved mother, Clarice, who would invest countless hours and sweat from her brow each year to “put up” the food harvest into glass canning jars. There would be row upon row of various pickles, fruit, tomato paste, etc. and etc.. Then, thanks to she and our father Russell’s help, there’d be heaping bins full of potatoes, onions hanging to dry, and all sorts of goodies for our family to enjoy before Old Man Winter would once again visit our world with frozen deadness.
As I look back to those days, I can realize why I had such a peace of mind and security. It was because of the fact that our family enjoyed a cornucopia of provisions from those shelves loaded with God’s blessings of delicious foods that He had given for us to enjoy. True, our house was very small and humble, but to me, it was God’s castle for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.