February 20th…….“HOW DID YOUR FATHER KEEP WARM WHILE DRIVING THE TRACTORS ON YOUR FARM IN THE WINTERTIME?”
Wind-driven needles of ice, laced with ground-up corn feed, scoured father’s face in the darkness as he valiantly forced open the “Dutch” door of our barn from the inside. It was as if a maleficent winter sprite had cracked his whip of wind to harass our father’s efforts as that screeching howl shrieked around that dark corner on purpose. In just the time it took to milk our herd of Holsteins, and complete other chores, the gale-force blizzard winds outside had whipped up small snowdrifts, against that corner of this animal edifice, that attempted to block us inside the relatively warm repose of our family barn. Dad’s goal, that evening, was to step outside the barn to gather some bushels of ground corn feed from the little granary building that had been pulled close to the barn door during that past summer. A rectangular red panel, in the roof of that “corn cottage” allowed for Mr. Aske, who ran a grinding service from our hometown of Kiester, to come out to our farm occasionally and grind more corn that was then augered into the “corn cottage” via that roof opening. That evening, the corn was a type of dessert, so to speak, for the cows to enjoy before we, ourselves, were to head for the house and our own warm supper waiting in Mom’s kitchen. With metal, five gallon buckets next to him, the metallic “kasheenk” sound of Dad’s aluminum grain shovel filled repeatedly with corn feed from every muscular throw of his sinewy Norwegian arms. With mission accomplished and our cows gently lowing their approval, we flicked off the barn lights and plodded our way through the snow drifts as the amber glow from the kitchen windows beckoned us to the house for supper.
The next morning, “Jack Frost’s” spirals of ice art graced our kitchen window panes as Mom ignited the gas (and wood combination) stove before getting her family up and filled with one of her classic farmer breakfasts. The percolating coffee aroma drew Dad, like a hooked fish, from their bedroom that was right next to the kitchen. With that hot cup of coffee and a piece of his favorite burnt toast in his tummy, our farmer father layered himself well with winter wrappings for the trip to the barn and the morning milking of our 15 head of Holsteins. Without a doubt, that coffee and toast were merely a “tide-me-over” until he could get back to our farm kitchen for his favorite meal of the day…….breakfast. 😉
Limpid lengths of bacon were laid to Mom’s searing skillet and immediately began their “snap, crackle and poppin'” to life; Mom wanted those “pork pieces” to be crispy well-done for her Norwegian hubby’s food favored fun. On another burner’s frying pan, sizzling, yellow-eyed eggs “stared” back at our mother as they crisped to perfection, just awaiting Dad’s heavy doses of pepper to heat them up for his pepper palette’s pleasure. Burnt toast was one of Dad’s favorites, so he had at least a couple more pieces of that unique culinary treasure, too. Matter of fact, Dad loved to tease our girl cousins that eating burnt toast would “put hair on your chest”!!!! Ohhh how they’d squeal about THAT!!! 😉 Those tasty breakfast ingredients were just the beginning for Dad. He usually also polished off a grapefruit, bowls of cereal and slurped down more coffee, juice and milk, too. Our father, Russell, used to say he could skip the other meals of the day, if he had to, as long as he enjoyed his big hearty breakfast, first and foremost.
With our daddy’s “internal furnace” fueled with good food, it was now time to dress for the winter outside and tackle some tractor-related chores like spreading manure, etc..
Out of the five Noorlun sons of our grandfather, Edwin Noorlun, Russell was the only son who chose to follow in his father’s footsteps to agriculture and a love for livestock. In an earlier era, Grandfather’s “tractors” stayed in the warm barn at night, for you see, Edwin did all his farming with horses. Alas for Russ, though, that morning, as he approached his Farmall Super M, he found it was ice-encrusted and, seemingly, petrified by having had to reside in the frigid outdoors overnight. We didn’t have the luxury of a machine shed to house our tractors. So, with care not to slip on icy metal surfaces of the tractor’s frame, Dad carefully climbed aboard and hand-swept the snow from the tractor’s seat before sitting down. After pre-checking his machine, Russ hoped against hope that all fluid levels within his farming machine were still relatively viable, and not frozen solid once he hit that starter switch. Russ likely coaxed, “Come on old battery, give me a burst of energy to turn this old girl over and make that engine purr………brrrrrr”!!!!
With ice-induced grunting, at first, that trusty old Farmall Super M engine decided to sputter to life once again; much to the smiling delight of our farmer daddy!!! High tech, mechanical innovations, such as heated cabs with power-steering, etc., were still too far in the future for our parent’s generation of farming. For our father, one way of surviving the bitter cold of driving tractor in winter was to attach a heavy, canvass shroud (also known as a heater housing, etc.) that covered the side openings of the tractor’s engine compartment. The shroud enlarged in girth as it flanged back and surrounded the area of the tractor seat. Many of these devices even had a windshield which truly did shield the frigid winds from hitting you directly in the face.
In winter tractor driving, my father, and myself as well, relished the momentary relief from the painfully penetrating winds of winter as we’d hunker down in the tractor’s seat to catch some heat from that engine. How did that heat get to us back there? Well, at the front of the tractor was a radiator and a strong fan blade that pulled air through that radiator for keeping it cooled. The blessing for us in winter was the fact that that same fan pushed air in great volumes along that shroud and forced the hot engine-generated air past whoever was driving that Super M at the time.
With another winter’s day behind us, we put that tractor to bed and the animals, too, and headed into the cozy kindness of our little farm home. So nice to know that there was more than one way to stay warm on the farm of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. ><> 😉