February 12th…..“HOW DID YOUR PARENTS, RUSSELL AND CLARICE, COME TO MEET EACH OTHER?”
Clarice’s clement and youthful footsteps could be heard against the country gravel road beneath her. The sultry summer of 1938 had her on a mission, that day, to purchase milk for her Sletten family table there in the tiny hamlet of Scarville, Iowa. The village, named after a pioneer known as Ole Scar, nestled within the northern boundaries of central Iowa and was a mere mile, or so, from the Minnesota border. Being just a year out of school, since graduating with the Scarville Class of 1937, Clarice’s slender Norwegian frame enjoyed the journey to the K.M. Knutson farm just outside and down the road a bit from her hometown’s city limits.
As if cheering her on towards her task at hand, a myriad of Meadowlarks fluted their happy songs to Clarice from the pastureland on one side of her and reciprocated to the green and vibrant cornfields that stood at attention upon the other side of that country lane. Meadowlarks were a favorite among many country folk because of their brilliant yellow breasts that could only be outdone in color by the summer sun that radiated above Clarice as she walked along. Coupling their winged-beauty with their bright song; these little harbingers of joy must’ve made Miss Sletten’s walk all the more pleasant as she approached the handsome farmstead of Mr. Knutson and began to relish the cooling shade of his tree-lined driveway.
In her possession that day was a metal, capped, one gallon milk can with a bail handle for carrying her “white delight” back home to their house in Scarville. Stepping through the Knutson barn’s “dutch” doors, Clarice caught the fragrance of alfalfa being fed to the herd of Holstein cows. Reminiscent from the days when her family had their own farm, another familiar sound could be heard down the line of bovine bodies. It was the sound of someone hand-milking a cow. A liquid-metallic zinging sound could be heard as the “hired hand”, Wilford Ulve, shot milk from a firm squeeze on one cow’s teat and then the other. Pretty soon, that liquid-metallic zing just became a creamy zlosh, zlosh, zlosh, zlosh as that milk level climbed higher in the milk pail that he had firmly placed beneath the large, milk-laden cow’s udder.
Wilford Ulve (and his lovely wife, Alice) was a “hired hand” that worked for Mr. K.M. Knutson on his farm there. Since being widowed, and now alone, Mr. Knutson needed and appreciated the youthful strength and companionship of the Ulve’s to keep his farm going. Clarice had come to know Wilford and Alice as good friends, over her many trips there for milk, and she enjoyed Wilford’s teasing ways as they’d banter back and forth with every visit. Today’s visit was to be enticingly different. “Heyy, Clarice, I’ve got this handsome cousin by the name of Russ Noorlun. He’s really nice, too! How’s about meeting him, blind-date style, and you two can go with us to a free movie night they’re having in Leland, Iowa?” Well, free was a good price, in those hard days of the 1930’s, and if this cousin was as good lookin’ and fun as Wilford was…….sure, why not! Mom’s answer was, “Sure, sounds fun!!!”
The magic date night had arrived when, banking into the Knutson farm driveway, a 1929 Chevrolet came rolling to a stop in front of the farm house. Out of the driver’s seat stepped a fellow Norwegian by the name of Russell Conrad Noorlun. Wavy dark hair, combed to a curled perfection, graced the head of this handsome young man. He was bedecked in a white shirt and tie, up top, and bell-bottomed corduroy slacks that made for a handsome spectacle of possibilities in the new friend/romance department.
Their blind date is no longer blind, now that introductions have been made by the host and hostess, Wilford & Alice Ulve. Full of good spirits, it was time for the four of those young folk to climb inside that ’29 Chev and enjoy the late afternoon drive through the gravel roads and croplands down to Leland, Iowa for the free movie night.
If Clarice would have her druthers, she likely hoped for seeing a movie that starred her two favorite movie idols……Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald. Projecting on silver screens across the nation, in that summer of 1938, was the musical, “Girl Of The Golden West”, starring Clarice’s favorite duo. During that film, Nelson Eddy, being empowered by his masculine, baritone voice sings the song, “Who Are We To Say?”. Whatever the free movie that night may have been, there is pondering, on my humble part, that maybe Clarice and Russell may have asked themselves, “Who are we to say? Maybe this friendship will lead to something more!” Like the old adage says, “To make a long story short”…………a friendship was sparked from that first date that eventually led to marriage for Russ and Clarice and the birth of four little Norwegians…….one of whom is this Norwegian Farmer’s Son! 😉