May 29th………..“PLEASE SHARE WITH US, GRANDPA, ABOUT SOMETHING YOU DID ON YOUR MINNESOTA FARM THAT BOTH SCARED YOU AND WAS EXCITING AT THE SAME TIME”.
“STOP THE TRACTOR!!!! RUSS, STOP!!! YOU’RE GONNA CRUSH ELLIOTT”!!!! Mom’s dress and apron were like Superman’s cape as she was on a full run towards the shallow ravine near our barn. She was screaming at the top of her lungs while flailing her arms up and down in hopes of catching Dad’s attention on the tractor before he would be fatally too late and crush my toddler body to death!!!!
Being tinier than a bellybutton’s burp, I had such a love for my daddy and for the tractors that he drove. As a blissfully ignorant toddler, I had no qualms of running towards the sound of Dad coming in from the field pulling a full load of haybales on the flat rack behind him. Like any toddler, I was completely oblivious to the life-threatening dangers that could have spelled my early death. All I knew was that that sound of a tractor was like a magnet to me and it meant I could see and be with my daddy. The roar from the muffler of the Farmall “H” engine added to the wildness of the moment, for, like any focused farmer, Dad was busy glancing back and forth to the load of hay behind him and was unaware that down below the narrow front end of his engine, his itty bitty son could have been killed, unawares!!! Thankfully, the good Lord, in His mercy, had other plans for my life, so Mom’s wild, protective antics paid off and our dad hit the brakes JUST in time to have her scoop me up into the air and into her arms away from imminent death.
I completely and joyfully idolized my farmer father and all that he represented in our days there on our family farm northwest of Kiester, Minnesota. From the way my Dad walked and talked, to the way he wore his striped, bib overalls like a knight of old wore his shining metal armor. As a little sun-bleached blonde boy I especially was entranced by Dad’s command of those metal steeds (tractors) that obeyed his every working whim. Those red, Farmall marvels were so gigantic in comparison to my minuscule, mini-manhood that I fell in love with all that they represented. Power unlimited, power in their mufflered roar, to the wonders of gears and hydraulics that lifted and lowered heavy equipment with the touch of a lever……….the list of amazements were unending for this boy who yearned to someday sit on one of Dad’s red metal machines and drive it for my very own. I was barely 3 years old when Mom tenderly placed me on the driver’s seat of our little Farmall “B” tractor one day and took my photograph. I was in kid heaven, for sure!!! 😉
I tenderly recall, on more than one occasion, hearing Dad’s Farmall engine “call to me” from out west of our farm yard. I’d saunter out towards the field and walk up along the evergreen trees that helped populate our treed windbreak there. In between the trees were loads and loads of blackberry and raspberry bushes laden with tasty orbs of delectable delight. I’d pick handfuls of those ruby morsels and sit there in the cooling tall grass to just sit for the longest time as I’d gaze out across the field to see our father and his Farmall silhouetted against the late afternoon’s golden sun while he’d make diagonal passes back and forth across the field to prepare it for planting that year’s crops.
As my wonderful years farm life came and went, I eventually was given the training and resultant responsibility of driving all of the tractors on our farm in various tasks of daily life there. At the age of 11 years young, which was 1965, Dad had taken our Farmall Super “M” to the International Harvester dealership in Kiester for some repair work to be done to the tractor. The Super “M” was the most powerful tractor in Dad’s lineup of mechanized mounts and so what happened next deeply impressed this growing farmer boy. It would have been just as easy for Dad to have taken our mother, Clarice, with him to the dealership that day and had her drive the pickup truck home and he could have driven the three miles back to our farm, himself. But no, the responsibility of handling that massive tractor on the highway that day would be given to ME!!! To say the least, I was both honored and scared to death!!! 😉
In those formative farm years, Dad had taught me well regarding the rudimental runnings of all our farm tractors, including the Super “M”. With paperwork signed and the bill paid by Dad inside the dealership, I climbed aboard the handsome frame of the “M” and felt my body weight cause the spring-loaded seat to give me a welcoming bounce or two. Once I had brought that powerful tractor’s engine to life, I pushed in the clutch as far as my young legs could reach and settled the gear shift into 1st gear. A slow lift of my foot from the clutch gently set the tractor in motion as I steered out of the IH (International Harvester) holding yard. So far, so good as I rolled down the street towards the bowling alley and West State Street that led out of town towards our farm. Our Super “M” was a model that had a wide front end tire setup. All our other tractors at home were the traditional tricycle-type narrow front wheels set together under the engine frame. Turning the “M” around the bowling alley’s corner, I began going through the gears from 1st, to 2nd to 3rd and now 4th gear. As I emerged from the “city limits”, I realized it was now time to shift into 5th gear (or what we termed as “road gear”). After only experiencing slow gear travel around our farm yard, this “road gear” feeling was both exhilarating and frightening at the same time. The throttle was wide open now as the engine roared and the large, chevron-treaded tires to each side of me began to sing their song as they whined and slapped the paved highway below. The wind in my face was at a velocity this farm boy had never experienced and I learned quickly to keep my mouth shut to keep out the bugs that now began to pelt my face in the 25 miles per hour speed that I was flying at.
I felt mighty grown up that day as Dad shadowed me from behind inside of our 1950 Ford F-150 pickup truck. I couldn’t help but ponder, even then, that this tractor trek that he allowed me to experience was quite possibly his way of slowly introducing me to young manhood and going through the rites, so to speak, of showing that I could shoulder more and more responsibility there on our farm.
Our father and son tractor/truck caravan had just passed the Clarence Johnson farm when it was time for me to shift down and gently apply the brakes as we both made the northward banking turn onto the gravel road that would take us north past the Chet Ozmun farm and our own farm that was now seen in the distance. Upon reaching our home place, I throttled down the engine speed and shifted down to a safe gearing as Dad and I made the banking left turn into the south driveway and the beloved farm home of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉