October 25th…“AS A FARMER BOY, WHAT WAS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE HOBBIES THAT YOU HAD THERE ON YOUR FARM NEAR KIESTER, MINNESOTA?”
“You just stop right there, young man!!!”, as Mom, in her skirt and apron leaned out of the partially open back porch door. “There’s no way you’re coming into THIS house with all those rocks!” Our sweet mother, Clarice, seemed to have had her “mom radar sensitivity” turned up high that day as she was obviously alerted to her waddling young boy who approached our back porch screen door. You see, every one of my myriad of bib overall pockets had been stuffed to overflowing with my latest batch of “gems” that I had gleaned in yet another “treasure hunt” up and down the gravel road that passed by our family farm. I must’ve looked like a midget paratrooper ready to jump into Normandy on D-Day with all the heavy bulges weighing down every step I took.
For a little boy, with no money to jingle in my bib overall pockets, the next best thing was to stuff those pockets with the only other valuable commodity that I could think of and enjoyed………ROCKS! Big ones, small ones, colored ones and especially those magical translucent ones of an agate nature. Up against the spot light of the Summer sun, I could see “through” them and enjoy their luster of color and marbling.
Being freed from the rigors of Grade School for the Summer, you could find me, wearing my bibs and sauntering towards the long gravel road in front of our 120 acre farm. The toughest decision for me, in those dear days, was, “Do I hunt for gems to the north towards the Charlie Heitzeg farm? Or maybe find “gold” to the south, towards the Chet Ozmun farm?” There I’d be, happily whiling away the hours, conferrin’ with the flowers, consulting with the breeze on my knees…..as I sifted through successive yards that grew into half miles of roadway rocks. Poor Mom, it’s hard to figure how many new knee patches she had to sew on to my bib overalls with all the crustaceous crawling I did with my rock-hounding hobby.
The musical jingle for a gum commercial used to sing, “Double your pleasure, Double your fun……”. That’s what I did when I combined rock-hounding with playing “commando spy”. When you consider the acute hearing of a child my age, and the placid beauty of a quiet countryside, that means I could hear a car or farm tractor from a long distance. Sometimes I detected them before they even crested the hill north of our farm. My imagination station would take over and I’d change from regal rock-hounder to World War II master spy. In a blink, I’d roll myself off the road and down into the tall, soft grasses of our wide ditch alongside that rural gravel road. The car, pickup or tractor rolling by had no idea they were under my super surveillance. Once my “victims” had passed by, then I’d crawl back up onto the roadway and resume my search for the rock of rocks.
It doesn’t cost anything to dream, so that’s what I did with great abandon as I envisioned selling my gorgeous rock collection and becoming rich just like my comic book hero, “Richie Rich”.
The greatest “gem” in my rock collection, though, actually found ME, instead of me finding IT. The shimmering, glittering “gold piece” was given to me as a gift from the son of my sweet Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Henry Wigern.
Our family visited the home of Maureen and “Hank” Wigern’s farm one evening. Their handsome son, Ray, had recently graduated from High School and was so very kind to this little farm boy. Ray and I were in his bedroom, upstairs, when he brought out this black box with a snap-lock lid cover to it. I popped that snap latch open and then raised the cover to see, what for me was a dazzling sight. As far as I was concerned, it was REAL GOLD!!! In reality though, it was called Muscovite Mica. I thanked Ray profusely (and did so in my heart for decades to come) for sharing the closest thing to GOLD that was ever known by this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.