April 22nd……….“TELL US ABOUT A SPECIAL EVENT ON YOUR FARM IN SOUTH CENTRAL MINNESOTA THAT REALLY STOOD OUT TO YOU AS A LITTLE BOY”.
With a mind-numbing, Norwegian nescience, my little farmer boy eyes were frozen in a stare at the behemoth land-leviathan that had just crossed the Brush Creek Bridge and was lumbering north in the direction of our farm. Lazy clouds of gravel dust billowed and curled as it traveled along, much like the dragons of yore in their smoking ways.
Sure enough, that snorting diesel engine, of the immense truck tractor, down-shifted and the smoke stacks belched out the back pressure of the engine as the combination tractor and low-boy trailer made the banking turn into our farm’s south graveled driveway and pulled that gigantic monster up the knoll and into our farmyard.
Our handsome daddy, Russell, had an equally handsome cousin by the name of Wilford Ulve (which means, to my limited knowledge, “the wolf” in Norwegian). After the last choking chug, chug of the truck’s engine came to quietness, down from that tall vehicle’s cab climbed Wilford with all the bravado of a highly virile Norwegian man. Wilford’s garrulous personality effused happily from that mile wide grin that he gladly brandished in all of his daily affairs. Stepping out from the corner of our barn’s “Dutch” (split top/bottom) doors came our farmer patriarch and, as their eyes met, these two familial brothers, in their classic bib overalls, lit up with smiles and hearty handshakes with slaps on the back and laughter.
With only three years separating these handsome cousins (Wilford in 1915 and Russ in 1918), they had enjoyed many a manly adventure in their younger days. Such as the time, in the late 1930’s, when they both attended a local dance down in Iowa. A common prank by mischievous young men, in those days, was to hang around cars in the darkness of the evenings, and urinate on some poor guy’s tires………just like a dog would do. Well, Wilford and Dad were NOT about to let those hoodlums get away with that nasty habit. They had contrived and created a wire from the rear tire’s metal rim to the battery with a flip switch along the wire’s route. When, out of the corner of his eye in the side mirror, Russ saw a prankster starting to “whizz” on his tire rim, Dad would flip the switch and send a powerful electrical charge to the metal tire rim which, in turn, shocked the perpetrator so intensely that it literally knocked him off of his feet. So while the bad guy rolled on the ground in agony for having his privates roasted, Dad and Wilford would howl in well-deserved laughter!!! 😉
On this agricultural occasion, Wilford was going to use his prowess in big machines to help our father with a normal problem that plagued many a farmer in the Spring thaws after all that Winter snow had melted. Portions of our farm land would get excessively wet from ground water that just couldn’t dry fast enough to allow our dad to get his plow (and other equipment) into the ground to prepare soils for later planting. Wilford’s massive machine, with shovels that mounted around a giant circular frame, would dig a long trench from the wet areas of our land towards Brush Creek to the southern border of our property. Hard-fired, clay/terracotta cylindrical tiles would then be laid in that trench to allow excess waters to drain away from the acres involved so that the soils would dry faster and crops could be planted sooner.
With all the confidence of a knight in shining armor, Wilford climbed aboard that yellow “dragon” of his and, with a push, pull and yank of levers, brought the beast to life. As if angered by its master, the trenching machine spewed to the skies a frothing black cloud from its muffler as that engine revved up in readiness for slicing a path into our soils. Those caterpillar tracks began to slowly bring the trencher off of the lowboy trailer and it laboriously clamored out to the west of our orchard and to its targeted area of work.
Our father and Wilford collaborated as to the best route for the tiling to travel and thus was the plan laid into action. The beast-sized trencher started its monster wheel of attached scoop buckets going round and round while Wilford hydraulically pushed the bucket wheel down deeper into the soil. While the trencher brought up soil from the deepening trench, that soil was thrown to the side of the trench by conveyor belts.
To fine-tune the cleanliness of the trenching, Dad employed a treasured tool that had belonged to his father called a Tiling Spade. The narrow and deep blade of this implement worked perfectly down in the narrow slit to true up the surfaces for the clay tile tubes to lay end to end correctly.
In conjunction with the machine digging our trench, a team effort was employed to spread out a supply of the clay drain tubes along the way. The overall operation was fascinating to observe as man and machine worked like the tick tock of a clock in creating the trench, laying in the tiles and covering the trench at the finish.
For a little farmer boy, like I was, this was very impressive to see our father, along with his grand cousin, accomplish a task that would make our land even better for growing crops to make our farm successful for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉