August 17th…………“WAS ANYONE YOU KNOW EVER INJURED DURING A CORN HARVEST IN YOUR AREA OF KIESTER, MINNESOTA”?
Vociferous, flying V’s of velvet-winged Canadian Geese flirted with the early morning full moon above our farm. In the frosty chill, their untold hundreds above us trumpeted what seemed to be their goose approval of what was about to transpire on our family’s acreage below. Honking along to each other’s song, these large, majestic waterfowl could have stopped by for some snacks of our corn crib’s contents, but, instead, they were drawn to the anticipated luxury of a cozy winter’s comfort in the more amiable reaches of our warm, southern United States.
It was early fall and Dad had fired up the old Farmall Model F-20 tractor whose muffler was near non-existent. As a result, when the old beauty came “alive”, staccato reports of noise from that old engine could be heard all the way south to the Chet Ozmun farm and north to Charlie Heitzeg’s farm, too. As the F-20’s years of service came and went, during its early years for our family, our father was blessed to now be in possession of enough tractors to allow the F-20 to take residence and stay attached to his two row, International-brand corn picker.
Once that trusty old tractor’s engine had warmed up, the pulling power of 20 horses moved that machine and our farmer father out to the ripe, golden cornfield to begin picking that year’s crop of field corn. Pheasants chattered with anxiety as they leapt into the sky and out of the way of this human and what they saw as his noisome nemesis. This two row mechanical marvel, though, was truly a miracle blessing to Dad in comparison to the fact that, in earlier years, our corn crop had to be picked by hand, one ear at a time and thrown against the high-sided “bang board” of a wagon pulled by our draft-horse team, “King & Colonel”.
As our Norwegian Farmer revved up the F-20’s engine, he pushed levers and let out the tractor’s foot clutch. The tractor’s power-take-off (PTO) created a clankety, rattle, chain-driven roar that emanated from the metallic machine as it became a corn-thirsty “beast”. Chain-driven teeth “ate” the cornstalk, ripping it from the root ball at about 6 inches above ground . The cornstalk was then pulled through “snap-rollers” whose pass-by clearances were so narrow, the ears of corn were snapped (more like POPPED) from the stalks and sent through the machine and elevatored up and into a wagon following the cornpicker.
I would surmise that farming and combat during a war could’ve almost gone hand in hand when you think of the potential danger and death that could await you as a farmer. Especially when you take into account one military person’s perspective of combat being “Long periods of monotony, punctuated by sharp moments of sheer terror and pain”.
Such an occurrence of pain actually happened to our beloved “other grandpa” Harry Bauman. In the past, during one of his early years of running a similar cornpicker, cornstalks had become clogged in the “snap-rollers”. With the machine still running, Harry had attempted to free the clog, only to have his hand yanked into the “snap-rollers” when the cornstalks flew through. He painfully lost most of two fingers with only stumps for the doctor to sew up.
Numerous wagons, burgeoning to their brim with our elongated ears of that year’s golden corn harvest were pulled by tractors to our three, tall, wire-framed corn cribs to hold and dry the corn to perfection.
A very long, vertical transport device, known as a corn/grain elevator, was cranked up high into that early fall sky and positioned at the top of the corncrib’s metal roof hatch. The elevator was the means to lift the harvest from the wagons up and into the corncrib.
Our tried and true Farmall Model H tractor was driven nearby the elevator and a very long, wide pulley belt was attached to a spinning drive wheel from the tractor to the elevator’s gear mechanism. As each wagon load of corn was backed up to the active elevator’s hopper (catch basin), the farm helpers began to disgorge wagon load after wagon load until each wire corn crib was filled to its peak.
No matter what operation was being carried out by Dad and our faithful neighbors, our beloved mother, Clarice, was always constant to see that everyone’s tummy was chock-full of delicious home-cooked food and coffee whenever there was a break in the harvest action. Whether the crews came into our farm house to feast around our modest kitchen table, or Mom took the meals out to the field, either way, Russell Noorlun’s lovely bride was a yummy part of the total success of the harvest day that God received our praise for.
Now, with the corn safely sheltered into the tall corncribs, we stepped back to feel the prairie winds begin to whip through those cribs to begin a thorough drying time so that the corn would be ready for the next phase of harvest; that would be shelling the kernels off their cobs before hauling it to market.
What a delight it was to live in those dear days of farm life. We were not rich monetarily, by any means, yet we were wealthy in treasures that were beyond a bank calculator’s abilities. God is to be praised for that golden corn and those golden years that enlarged the grateful heart of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.