June 9th………“WHAT WAS A MACHINE THAT YOUR GRANDFATHER OWNED THAT YOU FOUND TO BE FUN IN TRYING TO OPERATE”?
I reckon Daniel Boone must’ve smiled down, from those golden streets of Heaven, to see his own son, Nathan, scout out the town where my maternal grandparents eventually lived. It was the year 1835 as these brave souls rode their horses upon on the limitless prairie lands of what was still considered part of the Louisiana Purchase that the United States procured from France in 1803. What we know as southern Minnesota wasn’t even considered a territory until the year 1849. A topographer, assigned with Nathan Boone’s United States Dragoons, by the name of Mr. Albert Lea, did the actual surveying that eventually set up a town that would be named after him.
Mr. Albert Lea, in his handsome moustache and goatee beard, later served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and would never know how much our maternal grandparents, Clarence and Amanda Sletten, enjoyed the lovely, green city that he helped to found by his surveying talents. As the pleasant prairie town grew out towards Fountain Lake, there was a gracious neighborhood built around Abbott Street and that’s where my maternal uncle comes into this story.
Fast forward to the late 1940’s and our handsome Uncle Marcus Delmaine (Del) Sletten was home from World War II. Uncle Del had served valiantly with the United States Army “Blue Devils” of the 88th Infantry Division in the rugged mountain warfare of Italy. His Army Division fought not only the dug-in Germans, but also battled against the sheer treachery of the vertical Italian mountains themselves. Such dogged determination did not go unnoticed and Del’s fighting force earned the honor of receiving The Presidential Unit Citation for bravery by then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Having contributed to America’s successful fight for freedom and our way of life, Del could now focus on the needs of his aging parents who were so grateful for his multi-faceted talents in building them a small retirement cottage there on Abbott Street. Uncle Del gave them counsel as they bought a corner parcel of land just below a tall land berm that supplied a roadway for a railroad line that ran past their property.
What originally started as a garage, morphed into the cutest little retirement cottage this side of anywhere. Clarence and Amanda Sletten had been blessed with four wonderful children and this particular child of theirs, our Uncle Del, was one very talented son who saw to it that his dear mother and father had a cozy home to finish out their years on earth in comfort.
Sunday afternoons, after morning worship at our church, our family’s car often seemed to have a northeast magnet that pulled us towards Albert Lea and our mother’s parent’s home on Abbott Street. In the 100 plus years, since Mr. Lea had surveyed this town, a cool, leaf-crowned canopy of trees cooled us as our ’56 Chevy rolled down the streets and lanes that eventually put us in front of this darling cottage for an afternoon of fellowship with our maternal elders.
It didn’t take much exploring, on my part, of Grandpa Clarence’s tool shed, to come across a machine that we did not have at our farm near Kiester. It was called a push reel mower that Grandpa used for cutting his lovely lawn area. I found it fascinating because there was no engine. Me, myself and I were the engine as the machine came to life by my pushing that reel mower. As the drive wheels went round and round, they, in turn, used a gear system that spun a spiral series of blades that snugly ran across a cutting bar at the bottom of the mower. As the grass “got in the way” of those spinning spiral blades and the cutting bar, it was cleanly cut off and lay on the ground behind you. Well, that was supposed to be the way it worked.
In those days, being that I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I must have given the adults lots to laugh about as I struggled valiantly in Grandpa and Grandma’s front yard trying to get my short, midget stature to find enough UMPHH!! to get that contraption to move fast enough and far enough to actually cut the grass.
Imbued with the exuberance of childhood, though, I had more fun in the journey of this adventure, rather than the “arrival” of actually cutting Grandpa’s lawn. Sometimes, I’d even flip the mower to an upside down position just to have the joy of watching those spiral blades spin into a whirring blur as I huffed and puffed along. It was the joy of the moment that intrigued and gave a happy little boy smile to this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉