September 23rd…“WHEN IT CAME TIME FOR SCHOOL EACH YEAR, HOW DID YOU GET INTO TOWN FROM YOUR FARM THERE IN MINNESOTA?”
A Minnesota morning sun winked its way through the rasping together of untold millions of ripe corn stalks while Marie Meyer, wrapped in her great coat against September’s chill, made her way to her bus. Popping open the vertical bus doors, she climbed aboard and settled into her queen’s throne as monarch of her yellow-metaled kingdom. Obedient to the turn of the ignition key, that International Harvester motor churned to life once again. While the heater took the chill off the bus seats, she readied herself to pick up this little farmer boy and a bus load of other fellow classmates. Her faithful task each day was to ferry us to the brick fortress of the learning palace of Kiester Public School there in our beloved hometown. This scene I’ve described is how I’ve envisioned what a morning may have been like for this dear lady who saw that we all got safely to school and home again.
Our fine family farm was located 3 miles to the northwest of the small town that we loved. And, to a tiny guy like me, those 3 miles may as well have been 300 when seen from a little life in a giant world. Our father, Russell, talked about having to walk 3 miles to and from school in his northern Minnesota days. But for this kiddo, who didn’t wanna walk THAT far, I had two options to get into town and school……..#1. Ride Marie Meyer’s yellow metal marvel, OR……#2. Hitch a ride into town inside our 1950 Ford F-100 pickup truck.
Now the reason that our old black beauty of a pickup was heading to town each morning was because, in those days, when our father milked our herd of dairy cows, the milk was poured into ten gallon metal cans. Chilled overnight, those cans were then loaded into the Ford for the morning’s trip to the Kiester Co-op Creamery for processing and bringing in money for our family. That old Ford pickup was like a horse heading for the barn as it seemed to automatically careen around the corner near the Bowling Alley and soon rolled into the Creamery’s parking lot. Lyle shoved that clutch pedal to the floor and settled the long floor-mounted gear shift into reverse as he brought the truck tailgate up to the loading conveyor of the Creamery.
Being the young strong buck he was, Cousin Lyle hefted those 86 pound cans of milk from the pickup’s cargo bed up and onto the conveyor that took them inside the creamery for processing into Grade A milk, butter, cheese, etc. that was sold in local grocery stores. Our own family enjoyed some of our dairy bounty in the form of receiving delicious sweet cream butter from the creamery once it was made and packaged.
Option #1 (that I mentioned earlier) was the most frequent mode of getting to school. Personally, I enjoyed the Winter and Springtime rides to school the most. Marie Meyer was a very determined woman (matter of fact, she was the ONLY woman bus driver on the payroll). Blasting through major snow drifts on the roadways was one facet of excitement in getting to school, but I leaned towards the sometimes wilder rides of Springtime as being the most fun means to get to and from our local alma mater. As massive amounts of snow melted each spring, our predominantly graveled farm roads became gnarled mud pits that were churned up by tractors pulling farm equipment to fields and family trucks and car usage. If that bus could’ve worn a saddle on top, you’d think it was a metal “bucking bronco stallion” by the reaction of the vehicle being thrown from one side of a mud rut to the other. I’d happily move to the back of the bus on those occasions because we kids became human “popcorn kernels” exploding up and down. I can remember a wheeee of glee as we’d hit a massive rut that literally saw our little butt cheeks leave the bus seat and go airborne. Heck, that was more fun that a ride at the Faribault County Fair. Getting to and from education had its fun times for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉