June 23rd………….“SHARE A STORY WITH US ABOUT OUR GREAT GRANDPA RUSSELL DURING HIS CHILDHOOD ON THEIR FAMILY FARM IN NORTHERN MINNESOTA”.
A benign blow of Belgian boogers blasted out of the soft, fluttering nostrils of that enormous equine stallion whose immense head towered like a mountain above little Russell Noorlun.
That animal, having been bequeathed with a title suiting his good temperament, “Sugar” lived up to his name. This gentle giant of a muscular Belgian draft horse stood in placid obeisance as Edwin Noorlun, Russell’s farmer father, systematically began to disconnect and pull the impressive leather harnessing off of his beloved work horse.
“Cane” was “Sugar’s” working partner, there on their family farm, and had already been relieved of his harness and was now enjoying great slurps of water from the stock tank nearby. Since his birth in 1888, Edwin had learned to firmly, but gently, train and drive these massive draft horses. He also passed on his own gentle spirit as he inculcated traits of mutual respect and obedience from all his animals, especially these mighty giants who were the backbone of success in the heavy field work of their farm in the wilds of northern Minnesota.
Edwin’s son, Russ, was one energetic Norwegian little boy in his 10th year of life there in 1928. School was out for Summer Vacation and this gave Russ the opportunity to gladly be his beloved father’s shadow there on their farm just outside of Mahnomen, Minnesota on the White Earth Indian Reservation.
Earlier that morning, Russ had experienced the thrill of pretending to drive his dad’s team of “Sugar” and “Cane” as they plowed some acreage near their farmyard. Although Edwin confidently held the long reins of the team’s harness, he allowed his young son to grab the plow’s handlebars and walk in the cool earth furrow that the plow in front of him created with every rolling slice of sod that was carved from the earth’s surface and laid over to be later tilled and planted.
By the time mother, Marie, rang the dinner bell at noon, this father and son team were already guiding the team back to the homeplace; all the while admiring how Mother Earth had now polished that plowshare to a sparkling mirror finish from that good soil scouring the metal surface smooth.
Both “Sugar” and “Cane”, having now been released from their working harness, were finishing the quenching of their thirst and enjoying their own noon meal. With the inviting aroma of fried chicken, potatoes and corn coming from the family kitchen, Ed and Russ joined the rest of the family inside for a wonderful noon family feed.
It was customary for Dad and Mom Noorlun to take a restful nap in the early afternoon which gave young Russell an idea. Trotting outside and through the lush White Birch woods, Russ came to the boarded fence line of the pasture where “Sugar” and “Cane” were now relaxing their day away. Climbing to the top rail of the board fence, Russ called to “Sugar” to come over and get some sugar cubes that were in this young man’s bib overall pockets. As “Sugar” snuggled up against the fence line to get his sugar, Russell took his opportunity to climb on board the wide, expansive back of this gentle behemoth. There was Russ, on top of the world, both figuratively and literally. “Sugar” didn’t mind his rider one bit and went back to a leisurely stroll around the pasture looking for more green goodness to eat while Russ enjoyed the perspective of a little king on his thrown. Since his own parents were napping inside their farm house, Russ thought, “Why not, I think I’ll take a sky high nap myself”. That little ten year old boy laid back, closed his Norwegian eyes and fell blissfully asleep. It was quite a serene scene as he lay across the back of this Belgian draft horse stallion known sweetly as “Sugar”. With every equine footstep as he grazed, “Sugar” was rocking his little human rider to sleep on a journey to a kingdom called Slumberland and the province of Sweet Dreams. What a peaceful afternoon that was for the father of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉