August 11th………..“IT’S BEEN SAID THAT FIRST-BORN CHILDREN ARE KNOWN FOR THEIR LOYALTY AND FAITHFULNESS. DID YOU SEE THAT HONORABLE TRAIT IN YOUR BIG BROTHER, LOWELL”??
My hero came home to “save the day” for our parents and our farm!!!
The eldest of we four Norwegian siblings, our big brother, Lowell, entered the world’s stage during a howling blizzard in February of 1943. His “coming out party” was destined to be a home-birth within a small cottage on the Wally & Genevieve Mutschler farm northwest of Kiester, Minnesota. In those days, our parents were hired as farm workers for the Mutschler family (whom we love deeply to this very day) and the use of the cottage was part of their payment for their labor. Being their firstborn child, Russell, on behalf of his beloved, Clarice…….braved the frozen tempest of snow-clogged roads to travel the 27 mile round trip to Scarville, Iowa to fetch a wonderful midwife named Martha Throntveit to assure the blessed arrival of our brother into this new life.
That coming summer, Dad steadied his tiny baby boy on top of the Sletten family picnic table so Mom could record the moment with her 1931 Kodak box camera. Little did they know then, that twenty years later, this itty bitty baby boy would, in a sense, don a “Superman’s Cape” to “save the day” on our farm.
Even though I was a full eleven years younger than my brother, my human perceptions of life around me were just as keen, from a tiny perspective, as any adult as I drank in our daily farm and family life around me.
All the key ingredients of hero worship were manifested in my elder brother. Big brother was handsome, strong, made me laugh, showed his great generosity, sacrificed and thought of others before himself, even going the extra mile when inter-family dynamics were not always in his favor. And what mattered the most……….Lowell invested precious amounts of his time in my little boy life and gave me the sense of having value. I saw him as my “young father”.
In the blink of an eye, the years flew by and soon my hero brother was out of High School and itching to see the world. To energize that adventure, Lowell joined the United States Air Force. November of 1961 was bittersweet for my family and especially for my little sister, Candi, and myself as we watched Lowell climb aboard that Greyhound Bus in Blue Earth, Minnesota. He was now in the hands of “Uncle Sam” as his next destination was for Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
Although we missed big brother deeply, he was always reaching out to us in gifts that he’d send back home from his travels as he rendered service to our nation. The Air Force was very good to our brother. Lowell was thrilled to travel, meet new friends, get his food, lodging, clothes and even money in his pocket!! 😉 With such a mutual admiration happening between our brother and military service……Lowell was actually looking forward to making it his career choice……..until. A fateful day, in July of 1963, saw our farmer father badly injured and sent to the hospital in critical condition. Even when Dad was finally released to go home, there was to be a lengthy period ahead needed to convalesce for full healing to take place. Who was going to help our mother keep the farm going now? Lowell was stationed way up in Alaska, at the time.
Here’s where the first-born loyalty and faithfulness of our brother came to shine. When Dad and Mom communicated the gravity of their needs to our eldest sibling, it was an open and shut case and Lowell was mature enough to know that family came first. Together, they would seek and secure an honorable “family hardship” discharge so our brother could come home in our time of need for his young muscle and energies. Even though Lowell was thoroughly enjoying his life in the Air Force, his love of family and farm superseded all else. Pretty soon, our brother was boarding an air tanker flight from Alaska to Minot, North Dakota. From there, “Uncle Sam” sent him by train to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota and from there, a Greyhound Bus brought him back to Blue Earth, Minnesota (where he had first left us) and home to our farm to “save the day”. Truly, my big brother, to this very day, is a hero to this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!!