November 3rd…“DID YOUR PARENTS EVER ALLOW SPORTSMEN TO HUNT ON YOUR FARM THERE NEAR KIESTER, MINNESOTA? WHAT ANIMAL OR BIRD WERE THEY SEEKING?”
The shrill chill of a Fall wind sliced through the golden-crisp cornfields that encompassed our farm there in south central Minnesota. Our rich soils had once again blessed us with a bumper crop of amber maize (corn) and also a bumper crop of beautiful ring-necked pheasants that feasted upon the millions of corn kernels that awaited their happy pecking. I sensed there was almost a personification of those Fall winds. It was as if “Mr. Fall” was using those brisk gusts like a broom, of sorts, sweeping our Midwest “house” in preparation for Old Man Winter to arrive and move in shortly. Our endless soldier rows of corn were tender and green, just a month or so earlier, but now, those same fields lay brittle and brown, ready for the harvest, as acre upon acre now noisily made a rasping melody all its own as the Piper of the wind moved each stalk in its musical sway.
As reliable as the seasons changing, so also could we annually expect a cadre of pheasant hunting guests that would visit our farm each year. This group of good-natured fellows journeyed all the way down to us from the massive metropolis of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. Working off of a hypothetical assumption, on my part, I’m guessing that these burly, bicep bulging, benevolent bruisers were likely business acquaintances of our Uncle Ray Noorlun who was a mechanic and lived out most of his days in the “Twin Cities”. Either way, this garrulous group of guys were greatly appreciative of our parents, Russell and Clarice, for allowing them to hunt and camp on our farm property. As a means of token “payment” for their hunting privileges, these sportsmen usually brought us some gifts as their way of saying thanks to our family. On this certain year, one of those gifts given out brought my little sister Candi’s eyeballs to the point of bursting with happiness as she was handed her very own “Baby First Steps” doll. She was thrilled, to say the least.
Our visiting “city slickers” began unloading their cornucopia of hunting gear from their various station wagons and pickup trucks. They appeared to have purchased every imaginable gadget for hunting from A to Z and they managed to get it all stuffed neatly in their vehicles. Out came hunting vests, shotgun shells by the boxes full, long-johns to keep them warm, classic “Jones Hunting Caps” and last, but not least, out came their giant shotguns in their wrapping shrouds, etc.. Even in the briskness of that Fall day, our hunting guests became thirsty from all of their activity in unloading of gear. Our handsome farmer father, Russell, sought to slack that thirst and offered the coldest, sweetest water this side of anywhere. He invited our guests over to our little well pumphouse at the center south side of our yard and handed them a porcelain cup that hung on a nail off of that little building. As each hunter guest filled and drank our pure water from that cup, they each raved about how “delicious” our ice-cold water was!!! “This water tastes GREAT!”, they’d each say, of the iron-enriched mouthfuls, and would fill up cup after cup. Having lived in the big city all their life, they had become accustomed to the chemically treated water that was obviously tainted by those same chemicals intended to keep down the germs associated with such close-in city dweller lifestyles.
Like any inquisitive kid, I was captured by the manly aura of these high-calibered friends who visited our farm so I gladly shadowed them as they made their way to the west side of our family orchard and began to set up their encampment of tents, fire pit, etc.. Inclusive, they were, as they allowed this little whippersnapper to take part in the exuberance of their zest for checking their various paraphernalia that was to be essential in having a successful hunt the next morning.
As a ten year old, in 1964, I was in awe of the massive array of shotgun “artillery” that surrounded me that afternoon. Single barrel, over/under barrel and double barrel shotguns were being prepped and displayed to each side of me. These men brought an arsenal of firepower with them that captured my mini-man imagination. To top off my boy joy, these furry-faced, masculine visitors actually invited me to have supper with them and camp out, overnight, in their tents. I was beyond thrilled to be included into their fraternity of pheasant fellowship!!
As the Minnesota sun dropped into the western horizon, so did the temperatures that evening. The tent’s interior fabric walls were getting frosty as they were lit by the glow of a Coleman lantern. That same glow was casting an essence of pleasantness among us compared to the bleak blackness that surrounded our fabric abode in the star-studded ebony sky above us. After a simple meal with our visiting guests, I was invited to experience my first time of sleeping in a fleecy, fabricated device called a “sleeping bag”. Once I slid myself horizontally into that cozy tube, I zipped up the full-length zipper of that contraption and I was as snug as a bug in a rug for the rest of that frosty night. As the eastern sunshine trepidatiously brought it’s weak warmth to a new Fall morning, I stepped outside our tent to realize that one of our hunter friends had braved the elements overnight in his sleeping bag OUTSIDE of our tent. That man’s beard was totally white with frost that had crept up on all things during the night, like a white leopard landing upon its prey.
By the time our hunter friends had scarfed down their breakfast in those tents, the marvelous Minnesota sunshine gained intensity and had chased away the frost with it’s warmth. A perfect Fall day was upon us to enjoy. Pheasants could be heard in the cornfields nearby, as if daring us with a “come catch us if you can” kind of chirruping call. Herein came the anomaly of my association with the hunting adventure that day.
Depending upon the type and model of shotgun our guests were using, a single shotgun shell could contain up to as many as 100 BB’s inside. When the trigger was pulled, the gunpowder exploded, sending those 100 BB’s into the air, in a fanning spread, in hopes of knocking a pheasant from out of that cornfield sky. Antithetically, my firepower, that day, consisted of a little “Daisy” BB rifle that fired one, single, itty-bitty BB out of the end of that little boy air-rifle barrel.
Incongruous as it was, and I’m sure comical to a number of the men that day, nevertheless, there I strode along with my fellow pheasant flushers as our team spread out along the entry rows of a cornfield and began our walk down the crispy, wind-tossed cornfield rows. As a ring-necked pheasant would launch into the air ahead of us, the multiple shotgun cannonry around me was deafening. It is without saying, that the faint “plink, plink” of my tiny BB gun air-rifle was unheard by the men as I also fired off shots at the same targeted pheasant in flight. But, being the puny, pusillanimous, positive thinker that I was, in those days, I was just sure that it had to have been my single BB that brought down that fancy, feisty pheasant that lived on the farm of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉