July 29th………….“WHAT WAS ONE OF THE WAYS, ON YOUR MINNESOTA FARM, TO HAVE FUN AND WORK AT THE SAME TIME”??
A blasting, blistering, blue-flame blew, from Uncle Doren’s torch nozzle, as it cut into the framework of an old dilapidated Ford Model A chassis. Protected behind the dark blue/green glass of welding helmets, Doren, along with his brother, Russell Noorlun, had plans to shorten the length of this old classic vehicle and create their own farm version of the World War II utility vehicle known as a “Jeep”/jalopy.
Sparks flew and grindings threw their metal dust to the floor of Doren’s welding business on the south-sloping end of Main Street in our grand little hometown of Kiester, Minnesota.
In this mechanical “surgery”, so to speak, the “patient” had no anesthetic, so the old Ford cried out in metallic agony as sounds of sheet metal skrunched and skronked while the upper body assembly of the Model A was cut away and lifted off to be taken over to Elmer Simonson’s Junk Yard later.
After shortening the frame and drive-train, what was birthed that day was a short-framed, “Jeep” jalopy with a flat bed behind the makeshift driver’s seat. That “driver’s seat” usually consisted of anything handy, like a wooden fruit box or Dad’s big metal tool box. The “flat bed” was ideal for a farmer’s needs. It could hold fencing supplies and any other gizmos or whatchamacallits that needed to be buzzed around our farm yard or property.
Lowell, being the eldest of this Norwegian farm family, was coming of age (barely 12 or 13 years) and was thrilled to see how fun the new “Jeep” jalopy was to drive. Not only did he ride with Dad on fencing projects, but he witnessed how seemingly indestructible this little former Ford could be. A hefty set of tire chains on the back wheels were excellent to get a grip on almost any terrain around the farm. One day, down in our cow pasture along Brush Creek, our Norwegian farmer father drove down a slope and right INTO the creek. What transpired was pure FUN as this father and son enjoyed life’s antics while they literally drove and splashed the length of Brush Creek in the late Summer’s low ebb of water.
There came the day, though, while Lowell was burning trash in the open clearing of our treed windbreak, that he could distinctly hear the piercing calls of Charlie Heitzeg’s peacocks on their neighboring farm. These gorgeous Indian fowl had a unique trumpeting (heard for miles) that almost sounded like a human crying for, “HAALP!!! HAALP”!!! Big brother was gonna need some that day………HELP, that is. Jumping on board the “Jeep”, Lowell brought that old former Ford to life and headed off to the south from our farm yard to the pasture that bordered Brush Creek. Figuring to himself, “Well, gee, if Dad can drive this thing right along the creek bottom, I should at least be able to cross the creek”!! Right? Aiming to go straight across the creek, our big brother got bogged down by the steep terrain of the far side of the creek bank and with every punch to the gas pedal, the “help” he got that day was from the strong tire chains on the back wheels that churned in the mud and water making geysers of mud brown spray that covered Lowell and his little “buggy”. But, with numerous angles and attacks, that old jalopy finally climbed to the far bank.
With a growing sense of confidence in his driving skills, Lowell was now ready to show off his “Jeep” prowess when another of our paternal uncles arrived at our farm for a visit.
“Come on Uncle!! Hop on and I’ll show you how good I can drive this thing”!!??!! Ready for the challenge, our uncle piled aboard this little hotrod and planted his buns on a wooden apple box for his passenger experience. With his “young pup” of a nephew in command, our uncle must’ve remembered riding many an Army jeep during World War II, so…….here goes!! Down to the end of our south driveway, Lowell brought the spunky jalopy to a pause as he checked for cars coming. With his young eyesight sensing an “all clear”, Lowell hammered that old girl into gear and revved up the engine and popped the clutch. Those tire chains on the back end chewed up the road gravel and shot it behind them like a machine gun barrage!!! Away they flew to the south and crossed the bridge over Brush Creek. Two heads of hair were wildly flying that day, just like the old jalopy!! Lowell made the corner that sent them up the gravel road that ran up to the Clayton Kephart farm. Along the way, big brother was gonna try to do a U-turn in the gravel road when he misjudged the turning radius and ended up rolling down into the shallow ditch and right through a barbed wire fence!!! YOWSA!!!
Poor uncle!!! He must’ve thought he was back in the War as the two of them had to untangle themselves from that barbed wire mess before Lowell could, once again, drive back out of that ditch and head them back home to our farm.
Sometimes, a little humble pie is the food needed for all of us to learn, laugh and enjoy life on the farm of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.