June 6th……..“THIS TIME, MY CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN, GRANDPA’S GOT A RIDDLE FOR YOU. WE HAD A “BANK” ON OUR FARM, BUT IT DIDN’T HAVE GREEN DOLLAR BILLS OR EVEN COINS IN IT. WHAT WAS IT”?
Our corn was young and so was I as my bouncing boney boy butt did a jig upon the axletree of Dad’s little Farmall “B” tractor.
With his cornfields in their infancy, our farmer father had the wisdom that “too much of a good thing, isn’t good” when it came to the type of tractor that he decided to use for cultivating the ubiquitous bane of weeds that grew between the corn rows. Later in the growing season, when the corn was much taller, Dad would likely use his larger Farmall “H” or “Super M”, but the “B” was today’s better choice of power. Snatching a handful of Mom’s scrumptious cookies, fresh out of her oven, Dad gave Mom a wink and a smile as the two of us farmer fellows headed out to the cornfield aboard our smallest tractor, the “B”.
With every passing year of growing up there on our farm, I saw it as a graduating honor each time Dad included me in one of his farming operations. It was like he would silently say to me, “Elliott, you’re growing up to the point that I can share this agricultural experience with you now”!!! I was elated!!
Considering that 50 or 100 years prior to our dad and son day together, farmers had to hoe the weeds from their corn by hand. Eventually, in the late 1880’s, someone invented a horse-drawn, riding cultivator that could clean two rows of crop at at time. As to that day for us, in the early 1960’s, I found our cultivator on the “B” to be fascinating since it not only cleaned the weeds from between the corn rows, but also had shovel/shoes that came behind and re-dug the soil where the tractor tires had gone.
From my perfect perch on the iron “seat” of the axletree, I enjoyed watching Dad as he mechanically lowered the plowshoes of the cultivator into that fecund, ebony soil that enriched our farmer lives. With a little pull to the throttle, for speed, our Norwegian farmer daddy let out the clutch and we productively moved forward down our first of many swaths that dug up weeds and aerated the soil near these corn “children” below us. A happy prairie wind skipped across the young corn plants that made their young, green arms “wave” at us in their rows, just like a classroom of children would wave at their teacher as she’d walk by their rows of desks.
That was one perfect Minnesota day to be alive and thrive on this acreage that we called home! I had so much fun just watching and learning as Dad handled that tractor and its mounted cultivator like it was an extension of is own arms and legs. As we’d reach the end of a row, our handsome patriarch would quickly yank the digging shovels out of the ground and use the right or left brake of the tractor to make that little rig “spin on a dime” just in time to drop the cultivator back into the soil for the next “cleaning” swath. On the return swath, I remember looking in prideful amazement at how gorgeous our field appeared with weeds all gone between those finished rows and the soil basking in all its black, fertile glory.
While learning and loving our father/son time together, I noticed that there was some acreage alongside of us that was not planted in a crop that year. Inquisitive as I was, I leaned into Dad’s ear (so’s he could hear me above the tractor’s engine noise) and asked him, “Hey Dad, why don’t you plant crops in that field, like you did here”?? Dad responded with the answer, “Because, Son, that’s called SOIL BANK”!!! Hmmmm???, the only “bank” I knew of was The First National Bank in our hometown of Kiester. As we brought the “B” back to the farm yard for our noon dinner time (as Midwesterners call it), Dad was able to talk more freely without competition from the tractor’s engine. “You see, Son, The United States Department Of Agriculture knows that we American farmers are some of the world’s best producers of food, etc.. Sometimes, we even produce a bit too much product to the point of what’s called a surplus on the market. So, “Uncle Sam” (our government) decided to pay farmer’s something called a “rental payment” for a certain percentage of acres to allow some of our land to take a rest for a year or two. They call this program “Soil Bank” because it reduces some of that excess product, still brings in some money for farmers and their families AND allows the soil to rest for a while to kind of regenerate rather than being worked every single year”. My, my, my …….little did this farmer boy know that we had a BANK right there on the property of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉