April 25th…….“WAS THERE EVER A TRIUMPH, IN YOUR MINNESOTA FARM BOY DAYS, THAT EVENTUALLY LED TO A PERSONAL TRAGEDY”?
What better way to start the last day of Sixth Grade, at Kiester Public School, than with my best buddy in the whole world…..Davey Mutschler!!! We were just a couple months apart in age, there in 1954 when we were born. The two of us farm boys were interwoven, even at birth. Davey’s beloved grandparents, Walter and Genevieve Mutschler (along with their entire clan) were loved by our family as if we were blood-related. In 1946, when our family moved onto the Morten and Tina Holstad farm, just a half mile south of Mutschler’s farm, it was Wally and Genevieve who borrowed us a number of pregnant sows who then, by their birthed brood of piglets, gave us a start of our own sounder of hogs. Coupled to this farmer’s gift of love came many other gifts of heart from Davey’s sweet grandparents over the many years that we enjoyed them to the fullest. With such abundant love, it was only natural that our two farm families gathered often for fellowship from simple cookies and coffee times, to us two boys celebrating each others birthdays in fun-loving style!
Like any little boy, with only pennies in my pockets, I dreamed of having cool toys to play with. Alas, those boy toys cost MONEY, which I had very little of. Until the day came when I was wrapped up in a Richie Rich comic book and saw an advertisement from a company called, “The Junior Sales Club Of America”. My eager eyes hungrily poured over that advertisement that showed a veritable plethora of toys and treasures that could be earned by just selling their greeting cards to family and friends. Each grand toy had a different quota of boxes of cards that had to be sold to earn that specific prize. My eyes were set on one of the most expensive prizes………..a handsome Schwinn 26″ three-speed bicycle. Retail value of that bike, in the mid 1960’s, was around $80.00. Those same $80.00 in 2021 (time of this story) would equal $668.00. In order to “win” my bike prize, I would have to sell at least 60 boxes of Christmas cards. During that scorching summer heat of 1965, I saddled up “Little Lady” (our Shetland pony) and rode for miles in every direction of our farm. At each farm (or house inside the Kiester City Limits), I’d have to answer the same lady’s question at each home where I’d knock on their door…….“It’s 90 degrees outside, why are you selling Christmas cards in this heat of summertime”??? I should’ve carried a tape recorder to play back to them all that I needed to sell my quota before the Fall season so I could send in the orders and get the cards back in time for Christmas mailing.
Low and behold, I was finally successful and triumphed in achieving my prize for selling all those Christmas cards. Of course, I should’ve given my mother a dozen roses, too, for all the kind-hearted bookkeeping she did to make sure my orders were correct and writing one check to the card company.
I’ve heard that in the United States Army, there’s a saying that goes, “Hurry up and WAIT”!!!! That edict was employed in my case, because even though I had achieved the sales quota back in early Fall of 1965, I had to wait until late February or early March of 1966 for my handsome new bike to arrive at our farm!! I was beyond elated to have this two-wheeled “Cadillac” beneath me and wanted to show off my “hotrod” something fierce.
As the last day of the 1966 school year came closer and closer, Davey and myself would make plans to ride our bikes to school that day to show off my new bike and have some guy time fun. I seem to recall that Davey’s dad gave him, and his bike, a ride down to our farm for our pedal into town. You see, Davey’s farm was about 2 miles north of our place and even as a youngster, that would’ve been a mighty long ride for my buddy. Extra bright and early that day, the two of us bikers made the three mile journey into Kiester and made it in record time to enjoy all the festivities of that final day of class.
What had began as a Last Day Of School Celebration, evolved into a painful and humbling moment on our trip back to my farm that day. For those not familiar with a Minnesota winter and subsequent spring thawing, gravel roads were sometimes pushed up and down, in places, by strong, heaving frost “boils” (for a better name of it). Those heaving frost boils often manifested themselves in a “washboard” or wavy effect from one side of a gravel roadway to the other. When cars or tractors rolled over those areas, it would make the car jump and shudder from hitting all those rises in the roadway.
In celebratory moods, Davey and I had just turned off of the main, paved highway (now known as 35th Street) and were going to race our bikes down what was then known as the stretch of Ozmun’s Hill (now 560th Avenue).
My new bike and I had just flown past the farm driveway of Chet and Violet Ozmun when my brand new “Cadillac” and I hit a series of those frost boils on the gravel road beneath us. After some violent bouncing, the handlebars and front wheel “jack-knifed” (went perpendicular to travel path) on me and I was thrown forward into the air. I can still see that ugly gravel roadway coming up towards me as I literally face-planted and slid for some several feet on my face.
Davey brought his bike safely to a stop and then ran over to help me get up off of the roadway. I was nothing but blood from my hairline to my chin and had received some serious “gravel burns” to my hands and lower arms, as well.
My new bike was now a twisted mess of metal and I was sort of in shock as we both walked the rest of the way up the gravel road, pushing our bikes, and to my farm place. Mom saw us coming and came out our back porch door asking if I had had a nosebleed? I facetiously replied, “Yeahhhh, at 60 miles per hour)!!! 😉 It turns out, not only was I a bloody mess, but I had also incurred a diagonal break off of three quarters of one of my front teeth.
To literally, and figuratively, “save face”, our sweet mother gave our local, and well-loved, dentist Dr. Pirsig a phone call. He recommended and installed a silver cap to go over and cover my slanted, broken tooth. Bless his memory!! Now I could be like “The Lone Ranger” and call out “HI HO SILVER” for this shiny Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉