August 23rd…“DID YOUR FATHER ALLOW YOU TO RIDE WITH HIM ON A TRACTOR DURING HIS FIELD WORK ON YOUR FARM?”
Meadowlarks warbled a song in our ears as Dad and I stepped outside the back door of our home and heard the screen door slap shut behind us. Those feathered chirps were coming from our young cornfield that lay to the west of our treed windbreak there on our family farm. The fluted trill of our little ones on the wing was so sweet, it was as if those golden-breasted Meadowlarks were beckoning us to come out there to keep them company. Mom’s excellent breakfast was still warm in our tummies and that new-day Minnesota sunshine was warming the back of our respective bib overalls as we made our way to the Farmall B tractor that had our crop cultivator already mounted and ready to go to work.
This was a very special day in my young boy life, for I had crossed a threshold of maturity where my father said that I now could ride with him on our tractors as he did his field work. Today’s tractor chore entailed cultivating the weeds that were trying to take over in the field-corn.
In a way, farming is like a sport or athletic competition of sorts. Our hard-working father, Russell, was always in competition with everything from time (getting crops to market), to weather (getting alfalfa baled and off the field before a rainstorm hit)…….and, in this case, Dad was competing with weeds that wanted to grow in between the rows of our field-corn.
Our parent’s farm consisted of 120 acres of ebony-rich soil that could grow just about any type of seed you chose to plant in it. How much is an acre? (my young readers may ask?) Well, for those of you who watch football, one acre is the equivalent to almost 3/4 of a football field in size. Now, as an example, let’s say that my father had 40 acres (of his 120 acres) planted in corn. Just think how long it would take him to chop the weeds out of that much acreage by hand? That would be a giant amount of hoe, hoe hoeing, ya? :-O Well, thanks to the invention called a “Cultivator”, Dad was able to attach that four row device to the frame of our Farmall tractor and we were now able to conquer those weeds at many times the speed that it would have taken one person to even try to do the same chore by hand.
A gentle rain, during the night, had moistened our rich, black earth so that it gave off its own delicious fragrance. Dad climbed aboard our Farmall tractor and plopped into that spring-loaded seat. I also climbed about this red chariot and sat down on the axle next to Dad. I was beyond ecstatic to have reached the age where Dad thought I was now strong enough to hang on and to now ride along with him on this “iron horse” as he worked our fields.
With his work-boot pushed to the starter button below, our Farmall B sputtered to life. The gear shift was shoved into 1st Gear, then Dad let out the clutch pedal and the two of us bumped along the graveled farmyard as we made our way out to the corn field. The Cultivator was mounted to the tractor frame and hung above ground. It even jingled a little as the chevron tread of the tractor tires pulled us along the field edge. Digging shovels or “shoes” were arranged so that, when the weight of the implement pushed them into the soil, the V-shaped shovels would pierce below the surface of the soil and uproot any weeds that were growing between the rows of corn.
As Dad pulled the Farmall into the first rows of corn to be “weeded”, he stopped the engine and had a very serious talk with me about safety. Without fail, I was to ALWAYS hold on very tightly to the frame of the tractor at all times while riding along. Farming was oftentimes dangerous work and to “run home” the point for safety, Dad told me the following story. Dad had heard the very sad story of a nearby farmer who’s little boy was riding along on his tractor while his dad pulled a sharp-bladed implement called a Gang Disc. The little boy, in this story, had NOT hung on tight, lost his grip and had fallen from the back of his daddy’s tractor. In the blink of an eye, the Gang Disc had run over the child and killed him by its multiple sharp blades. Needless to say, after that story, this Norwegian Farmer’s Son held on very tightly any time Dad allowed me to ride along upon his mechanized marvel.
With that wise advice shared, Dad turned over the engine, revved up the motor speed, dropped the Cultivator into the first four rows of corn and off we went. We spent a good share of that day hoe, hoe hoeing our way to a beautiful field of corn. I found my gaze fixed on either the spinning lug nuts of the front tractor wheels, or the cleaning action of those many Cultivator shovels as they turned over the weeds and soil in their wake. I thought, “What a time saver this machine is for Dad!”
I felt a new belonging and closer to Dad than I had before. In years past, I was only able to sit in the shade of the treeline along our windbreak and observe our daddy as he plied the fields of our farm back and forth with his powerful agricultural machines. Here, now, I was old enough to be elevated to the honor of riding along with Dad, and would someday be given the task to drive our tractors all by myself. What had transpired that day, under the glorious glow of our Minnesota sun, was a truly grand adventure in the next maturing step of agriculture for this young Norwegian Farmer’s Son.