November 12th…“WHAT WERE SOME OF THE FUN WINTER GAMES AND ACTIVITIES YOU ENJOYED ON YOUR FARM THERE IN SOUTHERN MINNESOTA?”
I owned my own jewelry store, because “diamonds” sparkled in the snow all around us as sub-zero Minnesota temperatures turned our farm world into a crystalline play palace of Winter pleasures. With our precious mother, Clarice, ensuring our many layers of warming clothing were in place, we’d explode out into the wonderment of our farm outdoors and a myriad of kid delights. All it took was our imagination station to be turned up to full throttle and giggles in profusion erupted from our cherry cherub cheeks.
“Jack Frost” had sent his “wind brooms” along with the snow fall that previous evening. The “wind brooms” swept the snow so smoothly that there was a perfect table of new, level snow between our farm house and the large chicken coop (house) that sat up against the windbreak treeline. The black blizzard clouds had been shooed away and replaced by brilliant blue skies that reigned supremely over us…..perfect playtime weather! By shuffling our winter boots in the snow, like a choochoo train, we created a giant round circle. Again in the snow with our boots, we then shuffled as we split the circle in half, then made pie size intersections after that. One person was chosen as the “fox” to chase and try to catch the “geese”, but, during all the wild chasing melee, all players had to stay within those lines previously created. From there, various families played the game in their own way……..but it was sure FUN!!!
Even a busy farmer father, like ours, liked to mingle work with pleasure. In roughly 1953, Dad had an idea that my, then 10 year old, brother was all in favor of. The work, in this instance, was that our Dad had to take out a load of cow manure to spread on the fields with our manure spreader machine pulled behind our tractor. The FUN, was to tie a looooong rope to the back of the manure spreader for my brother, Lowell, to get a wild ride on his sled in the snow. Now, before my readers jump to a wrong conclusion……….the manure spreader gears were NOT engaged to fling the stinky cow doodoo back towards our brother 😉 Brother DID say, though, that the bovine bowel blasts, wafting from that manure spreader, WERE quite fragrant as he hung on super tight while Dad’s tractor yanked him and his sled over rough terrain out in the field. It was at the END of the field when our daddy stopped the tractor, rolled up the rope, put Lowell on board the tractor, stashed the sled somewhere and THEN turned on the rotors of the manure spreader as they “worked” their way back towards the farmyard emptying out that ooooey, goooey cow stuffins peeeyoooey.
When winter weather conditions were just right, we’d either borrow Mom’s metal dustpans or Dad’s square point shovels, or both. Our goal? Build a snow fort…..or two. We’d cut a snow block, haul it to the fort, tamp it down in place and trim it off square…..then it was repeat and repeat until our white castle walls were big enough to hide behind when snowballs started to fly like white bullets. I remember trying to build an igloo once, but had no idea how the Eskimos made the roof of their igloo; our attempts just resulted in the blocks of snow falling down on us. So, we’d just get creative and use some old boards on top, covered in more snow.
Even though we were often anything BUT angels, it was still a chilly childish challenge to drop backwards into a soft-landing snowbank and begin to flap our arms and legs as we made a butt-wrinkled, “angel” self-portrait in the snow beneath us. Before we knew it, you could almost hear fluttering of wings as “angels” appeared all over our fluffy white farm yard. Being youngsters with plenty of energy to burn, back then, flailing our arms and legs, in that happy snow time, was easy to do as we brought those little “heavenly harp heralds” to life with our joy.
The handsome sound, coming down towards us from the north, on a frosty frozen morning, also brought a handsome young man into our snow-bound yard as neighbor Louie Heitzeg came rolling onto our farm property with his green n yellow John Deere 730 tractor. The classic PUTT PUTT PUTT of that great John Deere engine was going to provide the power to raise and lower the front loader bucket that was attached to Louie’s tractor. With scoop after scoop of heavy snow, our dear farmer neighbor cleared out our yard of excessive snow and created “mountains” of white marvel for us kids to enjoy! As soon as those heavily chained tractor tires scrunched their way out of our yard and Louie headed back to his farm just north of us, we kids “attacked” our new mountain in raucous squeals of delight.
Now the real thrill of us midget mountaineers began as we’d climb and explore our very own white “Mount Noorlun” of joy!! “King of the Hill” games, sledding down the slope, sitting on Dad’s grain shovel and flying down the “mountain”……these were just a few of the ecstatic fun times we enjoyed. AND, when the snow in our “mountain” had settled, after a few weeks, we then could use shovels to dig out and enjoy our very own snow cave. Pure delight was ours!!
Why pay Disneyland, or other amusement parks a fee to experience a wild ride when all you had to do was climb aboard our family car or pickup truck in the wintertime. Frozen ruts in the farmyard and on the gravel roadways made for a bucking bronco, amusement ride experience for all passengers being jostled around inside our vehicles. Before I was born, our mother, Clarice, told of a hilarious time of “just desserts” for our father, Russell. This incident occurred in March of 1951, with plenty of snow still in command of our farm yard. Dad was going to drive into town, along with our sister, Rosie (who was 5 years old, at the time). Mom had cautioned her husband, “Russ, you’d better chain up the Chevy if you’re gonna navigate all the snow to town and back!” “Nahhhh, not necessary! I can do it without chaining the tires!!” Next thing Mom hears are the whirring, rubber sounds of car tires that were STUCK in the snow. Dad was not only stuck, but had “high-centered” the bottom frame of the car onto the heavy snow that was under the vehicle. Our dear mother still spoke of how she laughed Dad to scorn, in her “GOTCHA moment”, for his misjudgment, and ran outside with her old Kodak camera to capture the moment of “poetical justice”! 😉
Even during a blizzard, there were fun times. Peaceful fun times, I’ll say, for even though howling winds were loud, in decibels, inside of me was a peaceful solitude of enjoying the raw power of the Winter that encompassed about me on all sides. Bundled to the utmost, in winter clothing, I’d oftentimes would go for a solo walk during a winter’s gale along the barbed-wire fence-line that paralleled the north/south gravel road of our farm property. With each boot-step crunching knee-deep into the snow’s crusty top layers, I could hear a “song” to my left, as high velocity winds actually made the barb-wire fence “sing” to me in sounds that rose and dropped in tones, depending on the the wind speed. This loud, yet quiet, repose within me was only shortened by necessity as I began to lose the feelings in my feet from those sub-zero temperatures and figured I’d better get my near-frozen appendages back to our farm house to thaw them on our free-standing furnace in the family Living Room.
Trudging back towards the amber glow of our farm house lights, I pulled open the back-porch door and stepped inside to pull off the many layers of jackets, sweaters, gloves, mittens, etc.. Brooming the snow off of my snow boots, I removed them and then opened the door to our quaint family kitchen. An aroma of utter ambrosia delighted my senses as my lungs drew in the delectable delight of another of Mom’s delicious batch of homemade breads just coming out of our oven. With rich, creamery butter slathered over those warm slices of “love”, I couldn’t imagine a more delightful way to end a day of winter joy for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!!!