July 23rd…………“WHAT WAS AN OLD-FASHIONED FARMING PRACTICE THAT OUR GREAT GRANDPA RUSSELL USED TO HELP A NEIGHBOR IN NEED ON THEIR NEARBY FARM”?
Serious sweat slid in surreptitious swirls before launching off of Russ Noorlun’s nose as he and burly-chested Chet Ozmun labored side by side on the south rises of the hilly farmland that belonged to Chet’s parents before him.
Chester Sidney Ozmun, born in 1909, was still, in the 1950’s, carrying on a good share of his father’s type of farming with those immensely handsome and massively powerful teams of Belgian Draft Horses.
On that marvelous, late Summer’s morning, there was a farmer’s song in the musical jangling of a melodious marriage of leather, metal and wood as Mr. Ozmun wed his handsome harnesses to the bodies of those gentle Belgian giants that would be pulling his Oats Binder through his fields. There was a warmth of golden light from that eastern sunrise that, skidding horizontally, lit up the treed gateway that led west out of his farm yard and over to the Oats Binder waiting in the windbreak of trees. His team seemed to welcome Chet’s soft, “Chirrup”! command (and a “Click, click” sound coming from the side of his mouth) as their master gave a genteel slap of the reins upon their backs. The three of them (a man and his horses) walked off in a rurally regal promenade through that canopy of green that arched above them.
In comparison to the early days of farming, this Binding Machine was a mechanical marvel for farmers to behold. Although true it was, that many farms in the Kiester, Minnesota area had moved on to gas tractors and such; this day was to be a gentle return to the ways of yore in this particular farm’s setting. And, at Chet’s request of assistance, our beloved farmer father, Russ Noorlun, was more than glad to be of assistance and blessing to his fellow farmer in loving need.
As those muscular, equine powerhouses pulled forward, the Oat Binder Machine began to cut a swath (roughly 5 or 8 feet across) of oats that then laid down upon a moving conveyor belt that brought enough oat stalks up and together that were mechanically rope-tied into what was known as a sheaf and dropped onto the ground to one side of the Binder. It was a far more efficient method of harvesting oats (or wheat, etc.) than using the antiquated, large, hand-operated Whip Scythe that both Chet and Russell Noorlun’s ancestors had to use for harvesting in the olden days.
Our Norwegian daddy gladly assisted his German farmer brother with the oats binding process until that sun-bathed hillside was “shaven” of oats and what was left were neatly tied bundles in rhythmed rows that brought both of these hard-working men back onto the field as a team to take those sheaves and begin “shocking” them together.
Modern readers may be led to think that “shocking” would have something to do with electricity, right? Not in this case. Working in a sweaty tandem, Chet and Russ walked along grabbing between 7 to 12 sheaves of bundled grain and arranged them into a standing teepee, of sorts. Chet may have been taller and bigger than Russ, but this wiry, slender Norwegian neighbor was not about to be outdone as he maintained his speed in this field work and, thanks to the challenge at hand, sometimes even out-worked his much loved German-heritaged neighbor.
Creating these shocks of oat grain (sometimes referred to as “stooks”) provided a number of benefits to the crop just harvested. #1. With the grain heads to the sky, they could continue to ripen and dry until another process came along called, “threshing”. #2. The shocked gatherings of oats were created to shed some of the rain that may occur after the harvest. And, #3. It made the grain a little less accessible for the local vermin (field mice, etc.) to reach and eat too much of the grain’s kernel heads.
As the Minnesota sun lengthened its shadows of a pending evening, Chet insisted that Russ join he and his sweet wife, Violet, for a lovingly made, good old farm house suppertime. The last of the oats were now in picturesque teepees that dotted the Ozmun field as if a community of special Indian guests were camped upon that hillside that caught the last ticklings of sunlight fading into night.
Pork chops smothered in caramelized onions, baked potatoes, and peas smelled heavenly on the breeze just outside the Ozmun home. To these famished farmer friends, these aromas were better than any fragrance France had ever created. The Belgians had been “put to bed” and these two fine men scrubbed up to enjoy a wondrous meal together. These were the good old days when Axel Challgren, our town’s local butcher, would leave all the fat on the pork chops. Chet had carved off the pork chop’s fat at the beginning of the meal and, at the delectable end of the plate being almost empty, Chet had saved that fat for last, and savored each bite of pork fat, as if it was just like his own version of dessert.
It was going to be a late night of milking our cows, once Russ got back home to the Noorlun farm that lay just to the north of Chet’s place, yet, these were the days of brother farmers following the Christian tenets laid out by our Lord Jesus, Himself, in gladly “going the extra mile” (from the New Testament Book of Matthew Chapter 5 and Verse 41) to show love for a neighbor and their families …….including this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.