March 15th………“AS A LITTLE BOY IN MINNESOTA, DID YOU EVER PRETEND TO BE A FARMER, LIKE YOUR DADDY, AND MAKE A MINI-FARM WITH YOUR TOYS?
A “murder” of crows cawed and cackled from their heights of heckling in the tree tops of the windbreak that surrounded our farm there in south central Minnesota. Likely, they were teasing me that they could see our farmer father, Russell, out in the field, better than I could. The deep-throated roar of our dad’s Farmall Super “M” tractor could be heard as it filtered through the thick, treed windbreak. He was using the “M” to beautifully finish off the onyx-black soils of our farm in preparation for planting soybeans on that acreage just west of our homeplace. Of course, there was first the plowing of the land, and then disk harrowing of the field. But, in order to fine-tune the soil surface, Dad oftentimes would pull, what we called, a “drag” in a diagonal pattern across the field to smooth the soil to perfection and make contrary field markings in the dirt so it would be easier for him to see his guidelines when Dad began planting those beans.
The Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde, once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness”. And, since I thought our farmer daddy was pretty great, why not emulate my admiration for his choice of vocation, right? Right!!! I’ll build my own mini-farm!!
Since I was still just “knee high to a grasshopper” and too young to drive those massive, real tractors, I’d do the next best thing to be like Dad; I’d pull out my very modest collection of farm toys and go make my own farm down yonder in the shade of our massive Elm trees south of our farm house. I had to admit, I wasn’t rich in dollars to own the fancy farm toys of those days, but I was rich in my imagination station, between my ears, and so I began to conceive what my perfect farm would look like.
Gathering up every farm toy I could muster, I headed to the big airplane tire swing that hung, in its magnificence, beneath the tall, shady Elm trees that bordered our south, U-shaped driveway. The over-sized airplane tire was a gift from our Uncle Doren Noorlun and Dad had created a swing from that big tire. He cut away the upper parts of rubber to reveal “handles” for us to hang on to while we sat in that wide tire seat. It was a blast to swing on!!! Over the years, with each pendulous swing pass, our kid feet had pulverized the soil beneath the swing to an ideal powder consistency. This shady spot would be the choice location for my farm. For this kid moment to be unobstructed by that hanging tire swing, I gathered the suspending swing ropes together and threw the tire swing around the trunk of the Elm tree to hold it out of the way.
As I set in place my toy barn, Barn Swallow birds, in the Elm tree’s branches above me, chittered their approval. It was truly a sublime playday as a warm, Minnesota wind coursed along ground level to cool me as my little boy body was splayed beneath the shade of that handsome tree. To enhance the aura of this playtime, those same happy winds picked up the heady fragrance of the blooming and delightfully large Lilac bushes nearby and wafted those perfumes right past my “farm”. It was the kiss of little boy bliss!
Alright, so far so good. I had my tractor and various implements (like plow, disc, etc.) all lined up to “work my fields”. My barn was ready for the little collection I had of toy cows, pigs and sheep, etc.. Hmmmm, I needed a fence to hold my cows from running away; how will I create a fence-line? I know!!! I’ll break off short sections of little branch twigs and push them into the dirt!! Yuppers, that worked perfectly! Piece, by happy piece, my farm started coming together as I envisioned what my “perfect farm” should look like. Dad had just finished grooming the west acreage for planting and had unhooked the “drag”. From my green, serene supine spot, at my little toy farm site, I raised up on one elbow to see Dad driving the “M” into our yard and up to the house for one of our mom’s delicious noon meals, which we called “dinner” (supper was our family evening meal). I pondered upon the question, in my mini-farmer mind, if Dad maybe had played at creating his own mini-farm in his childhood days?? Of course, he wouldn’t have had a tractor toy on his mini-farm, since my grandfather, Edwin, exclusively used only the big draft horses to farm with in those days. Either way, I enjoyed each and every play day as a young and imaginative Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉