April 28th………“GRANDPA, DID YOU AND YOUR FAMILY EVER RETURN TO MINNESOTA TO VISIT LOVED ONES AND SEE YOUR OLD FARM NEAR KIESTER”?
“Russ, did you get all those blueberries on ice and packed into the Dodge? We need to stop along the way to deliver them to Miles City, Montana”. Mom was excited about helping her brother, Bob Sletten, with delivering some blueberries for him while on our way home to Minnesota for vacation in 1968. Dad’s reply was just as upbeat as we prepared to travel “back home” to see our family and friends there. “Yup, sure did! Good thing that new Coronet of ours has a strong 318 under the hood, cause we’re packed for fun on the run”!!!
The culmination of this past year for our family had been one exciting adventure after another. First, it was the major, life-changing move of selling our farm near Kiester, Minnesota and then loading what we could into two cars and a pickup truck for the 1,720 mile sojourn out to Battle Ground, Washington.
From the time of their respective births in 1918 and 1919, Russ and Clarice had both grown up on their family farms………Mom in Iowa and Dad in northern Minnesota. And, since their marriage, in 1941, our parents had chosen, as a team, to continue the agrarian occupation of farming. As they followed in the footsteps of their heritage before them, they knew full well the multi-faceted cost of farming would be to live frugally and be “on the clock” twenty four hours every day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.
From the sale of our farm, in July of 1967, to our embarking on this family vacation in the Summer of 1968, Dad & Mom had been greatly rewarded for all those years of sacrifice and super long work hours by the selling of our family farm. In a sense, using an old farming verbiage, they were now “living high on the hog”!!! We had a new home paid for in cash. Two cars and a truck, paid for in cash, too. And after all that, they were able to put some dollars into a savings account. AND, Dad, well, he was kinda in a type of “heaven” in that he now only had to work five days a week, had his health insurance fully paid and had earned this paid vacation to now enjoy, as well!!!
I, for one, saw our family as a modern day version of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804 – 1806). We had explored new territory on the way out west and this year, we’d be exploring more on the way back to Minnesota on vacation. Two of the places we Noorluns stopped to enjoy along the way were Hat Rock State Park, in Oregon, and Pompey’s Pillar, in Montana. Both of those sites are recorded in the Journals of Lewis & Clark.
As bona fide members of “The Greatest Generation”, our parents were even frugal in how we fed ourselves as we journeyed eastward towards home and family. We enjoyed many a picnic at roadside parks or even just pulling over off a highway and “chowing down”. Dad, ever the farmer thinker, would take a can of corned beef hash (for instance) and strip off the paper labeling. He’d then wire the can of hash to the manifold of our car engine and then drive for a half hour, or so, till we saw a picnic spot. At our picnic destination, he’d put on his super thick work gloves to remove the HOT can of food to go along with Mom’s other picnic goodies for a tasty meal for all.
It would have taken 26 hours of round the clock driving to have made that kind of trip “straight through”. So, we relished the fun of staying at least a couple nights in motels, usually “The Best Western Motels”, which were pretty common in most bigger cities along the way back home.
After hundreds and hundreds of miles of sage brush and flat land, we eventually began to encounter the gently rolling hills and rich earth of our sweet Minnesota once again. It was this former farmer boy’s joy to once again see the rippling corduroy-type rows of soybeans and corn as they whipped by our car windows while we ever faithfully got closer to our beloved hometown of Kiester and family and friends.
There were so many precious farmer friends that we just had to stop by for a hearty handshake of fellowship once again. Each stop at each farm brought out the memories that had welded our families together over the years. Like, Chet and Violet Ozmun, for instance. Chet had been so fast to respond to our mother’s call when Dad was badly injured in a farming accident. Chet had also offered me employment, as a youth, in picking rocks out of his fields. Mrs. Violet Ozmun had also been so very kind to me in being one of those dear souls who bought some boxes of Christmas cards from me one summer. Then there was Charlie and Mabel Heitzeg, Louie Heitzeg, Harry Bauman and the list of visiting just went on and on.
There, in the northern distance, as we rolled out of the Ozmun’s driveway, was our beloved former farm place. Except for corn now planted in what used to be the cow yard, our sweet home looked about the same as when we had left it a year earlier. We had heard that our old family home was now rented out, so we dare not pull into the driveway as we had done countless thousands of times from 1946 till 1967. Mom’s Kodak Instamatic slide-film camera was always at the ready, so she took a photo of our beloved farm to help keep it fresh in our memories. Our family’s new Dodge slowly rolled past the south driveway and then, like a slow dream, the north driveway as our hearts were a mixture of longing to “be home again” and thankfulness for the uncountable happy memories that had transpired on that farm over our family’s life there.
Our sweet mother, Clarice, felt like a queen when our beloved farmer neighbor lady, Genevieve Mutschler, honored Mom with a luncheon at her handsome farm home just north of our old domicile. The sweetest of memories accompanied the sweetest of desserts as our mother fellowshipped with Janet (Ozmun) Twedt, Barbara (Gries) Heitzeg and Violet (Thompson) Ozmun who joined with the hostess, Genevieve (Heitzeg) Mutschler, as these special souls reminisced with Mom about all the happy days gone by with our respective families.
Of course, our happy travels could not be complete with out taking our mother to her childhood church just west of Emmons, Minnesota. Lime Creek Lutheran Church had been built in 1874 and Clarice, along with her family, attended there throughout her childhood and young adult years. This occasion, though, was to be bittersweet in that here, on this crystal clear Minnesota day, our stop was for Mom to visit and mourn over her beloved mother’s grave. Her mother, Amanda Rogness Sletten, was dying of breast cancer when we had moved to Washington State a year earlier. Clarice and her beloved mother were very close and it tore at our mom’s heart to leave her matriarch in her last days. Grandmother Sletten left this world just weeks after our arrival in the Pacific Northwest. This somber time of remembrance was a hard part of our vacation, but, as Christians, we were buoyed by the Scripture in II Corinthians 5:8 that says, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”. We look forward to that grand reunion someday. ><>
In those two or three weeks, we did our best to hug, talk, fellowship and laugh with all the family and friends that we possible could. It was a time for our hard working parents to bask in the joys of how God had touched them with so many fine Kiester neighbors who continued to remember them and show them love. This was truly some golden moments to enjoy during the vacation of our family and this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.!!!