Norwegian Farmer’s Son…November 20th


This poster was displayed all over southern Minnesota and northern Iowa to advertise our family’s farm auction in 1967.

The wooden slap of our porch screen door sounded behind me as I stepped out into what was to be the most epical day of my young life up to this point in time. The date was July 22nd, 1967.

Here I was, in the central point of my first year of being a teenager and a magnanimous moment had been handed, by God, to our beloved parents in the form of prayers being answered. They had set out “Gideon’s fleece” to see if it was the Lord’s will for a new chapter to begin in our family’s life. The word of the hopeful sale of our farm went out via the local farmer’s grapevine, realty services and whatever other venue could be employed to see if someone was in the market to purchase the 120 acres that belonged to our beloved parents, Russell and Clarice Noorlun. By the hand of Providence, a local farmer by the name of Mr. Gerald Dahl came forward to purchase the land and farm buildings from our parents. Now came the next hurdle for our progenitors to conquer as in how to sell all the belongings of life that resided INSIDE our house and farm buildings. Keep in mind, our sweet dad and mom began to “set up house” when they married back in 1941. This was now 1967, and that made 26 years of accumulating the tools and items that made a farm and family run smoothly. Truly, there was a veritable plethora of things that had to be sold, given away, or incinerated at the burn-pile in our woods.

Roy B. Johnson, future auctioneer, is the boy with glasses on left. Elliott’s mother, Clarice, is top left in a satin high-neck blouse. As classmates, they reunited for the Noorlun farm auction, in 1967, on the family farm that was located 3 miles northwest of Kiester, Minnesota.
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The auctioneers can be seen in cowboy hats standing on a stage in Elliott’s front yard. Canning jars, furniture, etc. are waiting to be sold.

The “cattle rattle” of a well-trained auctioneer pierced through our large lilac bush and tickled my teenage ears as I came out of our farm house that day. His staccato delivery of the “auction cry” was unique and something I had seldom heard in my young life. I was intrigued how his quick business banter could even be understood by the crowd, but folks in attendance seemed to know just how to respond to the auctioneer as he was trying to sell a particular item that they were interested in purchasing.

Be it an incident of fate, or their ongoing friendship; our wonderful mother, Clarice Noorlun, was well-acquainted with this fine auctioneer that she had known since the days when they attended their Scarville, Iowa High School Class of 1937. “Colonel” Roy B. Johnson was one of those fast talking, bid calling auctioneers on our farm property that day. He and his “Thorp Sales” associates called out to the giant crowd of farm neighbors, friends, family and even strangers that had traveled from miles around for this major selling event. You see, other than what we could pack into a pickup truck and three cars, everything else that our family owned had to be sold off on this exciting day or be discarded.

#259=Cars along road on day of farm sale; July 22, 1967
Elliott’s farm neighbor, Louie Heitzeg, took this photo on the Auction Day to show the very large crowd that attended. The Noorlun farm’s tree “windbreak” is up ahead on the right.

I was caught up in a classic quandary that momentous day. Ever since our Washington State relatives had shown us slides of the lovely Pacific Northwest, I felt that I was about to become a 1967 version of the explorers, Lewis & Clark, as we’d make the trek westward to new territory I’d never seen before. Yet, there was the farm boy side of me that mourned the thought of leaving this wonderful farm life that had been the only known way of existence for me since my birth in 1954. All of our loving aunties and uncles that attended the auction that day were a comfort to see as they supported us in helping haul innumerable items from our home and buildings to where the auctioneers could focus on selling them. Even our local farm neighbors were a joy to see as they came to be with us as our “extended family”, of sorts. Actually, the “burr under my saddle” was all the strangers. They troubled me as they marauded and “invaded” these pleasant acres that had once been exclusively ours.

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An unknown father and son peruse furniture for sale that day.

“SOLD!!!”, cried out the final call of Roy B. Johnson as the new owner of our family’s dining room table n chairs was lifted into their pickup truck and driven off down that gravel road to its new home. There was a pang within me, because these were all items I had grown up with, sat upon, enjoyed with family…….and here they were disappearing from our lives with each hammering crack of the auctioneer’s gavel. As each hour of the day rolled by, I saw piece by piece leave our home and leave our life into someone else’s possession. By late afternoon, the Noorlun family home was becoming an empty shell………literally. Between the lovely slideshow we had seen of Washington State, to this tumultuous moment, I was experiencing the “cost” of what this life changing move was all about.

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“Colonel” Roy B. Johnson

I will admit, a bright spot to this dizzying day was the buoyant and people-loving personality of our auctioneer, Mr. Johnson. Turns out, over the years, this outgoing man had conducted over 6,000 auctions in his day. He achieved the title, “Colonel”, as a token nomenclature for anyone who is associated with selling a gathering of goods. Later in life, I learned that the etymology of the title “Colonel” came from the Civil War era. After a battle, the winning side would gather all the personal belongings and military spoils of their vanquished enemy. Only someone with the rank of Colonel, or higher, could then auction off the belongings of the former enemy to the victorious soldiers who would bid for items they desired for their own possession.

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“One dollar bid, now two, now two!!”

During that hectic day, I just had to “get away” from the pell-mell crowds on our property. I was confused with all that was happening so fast around me. I headed for the green chicken house that sat at the north end of our yard and bordered right up against the beautiful wooded “windbreak” of trees there on our farm. My lithe, young muscles made an easy climb for me as I shinnied up and onto the long, sloping roof of that chicken house. As if I was an old-time Indian scout, I stealthily made my way up to the pinnacle of the roof-line and lay on my stomach peering over the roof to the crowds below that were systematically “carrying our farm away”. I lay there for the longest time, looking down on the armada of “invaders” that saw to it that, by the end of the day, most of what was………was no more. Yet, even as unnerving as that day was for us all, I knew in my heart, that new adventures awaited me in Washington State for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

NFS 11.20a
A reunion for the Scarville Class of 1937. Auctioneer, Roy B. Johnson, is seated, 3rd from left. Elliott’s mother, Clarice, is standing, 2nd from right.

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