May 4th……….“DID OUR GREAT GRANDPA RUSSELL ALWAYS EAT HIS MEALS IN YOUR FARM FAMILY’S KITCHEN”?
It was 1949, and like a Norwegian sombrero, darling little Rosemary toddled around our small, cozy farm kitchen with her straw hat on. All excited she was as she intently shadowed our mother, Clarice, while she was busy creating a farmer’s “Dinner On Deck” (deck being another word for the ground). This was to be a “Dinner On Deck”, instead of in our kitchen, because of the importance of getting the field work done that day. It was far more appropriate for Mom to take the noon meal to Dad in the field so that he could be nourished, have his thirst quenched and get right back to baling hay.
Our hard-working farmer father, Russell, truly lived up to the old farmer’s saying that went, “Ya gotta make hay while the sun shines”!!! And a shining it was that fine summer Minnesota day. Dad had lit out from the earliest cockadoodledooos of our chickens that morning and was out on the west acreage of our farm land baling alfalfa. Generically, when we cut and dried the alfalfa, we called this crop “hay”, but this plant, wealthy in nutrients, was truly part of the legume family of plants and is actually called “Lucerne” in most parts of the world.
The scrumptious fragrances of food in our kitchen that day competed with the rustic aroma of large amounts of coffee that were percolating to perfection and would be carried out to the field in Mom’s ginormous, white porcelain coffee pot with a carrying bail. Fried chicken was sputtering away in its glory to fill the tummies of Dad and his hired hands. Homemade potato salad was on the menu, as well as Mom’s homemade bread with sweet cream butter. Dessert came in the form of Mom’s crisscross-pressed homemade peanut butter cookies or, one of our family’s favorites, a pan-baked chocolate cake with white “plastic frosting”. 😉 Well, o.k., at least that’s what Mom teasingly called it. Mom would cook that frosting on the stove top and then beat the ever-lovin’ daylights out of the frosting with a spoon before ladling it all over the top of that, still warm, chocolate cake. By the time the whole pan of cake got out to the field to feed our dad and crew, that frosting had hardened over to make itself almost like a hard-shelled candy. Once in the field, Mom cut the pan of cake into good, man-sized squares. Of course, we’d have to eat the cake first, but usually us kids would peel off that “plastic frosting” in one big piece to savor it, like the candy it was to us, at the end of eating that piece of cake.
With such a delightful feast for our men, Mom enlisted little Rosie (at 3 years) and bigger brother, Lowell, (at 6 years) to help her haul this farmer’s feast out to the family’s 1937 Chevy that sat just outside the back porch kitchen door. Once safely laid on the flat surface of the car’s trunk floor, our momma and her two youngin’s climbed in, pushed the starter button to bring the engine to life, and rolled out our graveled yard for as gentle a ride as possible and out to the field to feed our well-deserving crew of menfolk.
With the Chevy’s windows rolled down for summer ventilation, Clarice could hear the sound of twin engines as they approached the crew in the alfalfa field. One engine was Dad’s handsome Farmall Super M tractor. The second engine Mom heard was the pulsating motor on our family’s hay baler. It’s motor was pulsating to compensate for the powerful plunger that repeatedly rammed the alfalfa into the compactor section of the baler which eventually tied and then spit out a solid, rectangular hay bale. Hooked up to the baler and tagging along behind was what our farming culture called a “flat rack” wagon that had a series of back boards to stack the bales up against as they came out of the baler.
There may have been plenty of gasoline in the fuel tanks of Dad’s tractor and baler, but Dad and his helper’s “gas tanks” were empty and ready to enjoy Mom’s great food, coffee and even large quantities of ice water and Kool-aid. Oftentimes, Mom’s happy food “customers” would find coolness in the shade of the tall load of haybales on that flat rack while brisk prairie winds cooled the men’s sweaty bodies. Now was a time of food and fellowship as our farmer father and his menfolk could enjoy each other’s company and good home-cooked food at the same time. Later in life, after I was born and came of little boy age, I, too enjoyed the productive prairie picnics that included this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉