August 21st………“SHARE A STORY, GRANDPA, OF WHEN YOU BEGAN TO FEEL GROWNUP AS FAR AS BEING ALLOWED TO DO SOMETHING YOU’D ONLY DREAMED OF ON YOUR FARM NEAR KIESTER, MINNESOTA”.
The gleaming, glamorous grillwork gloatingly grinned at me that first day of school as big sister, Rosie, Cousin Lyle and First Grade me posed in the doorway of our old 1950 Ford F-1 pickup truck. Chalk it up to my vivid imagination, but I felt it was as if our old Ford had the platitude of an attitude against me of …..”Nyah, nyah, little twerp, you’ll never be old enough to ever drive ME”!!!
Our sweet mother, Clarice, had trotted after us that morning to snap our photo for this special occasion. Mom was the family “princess of photography” in capturing so many moments of our clan’s life on film. This shot was to be one of them. It seems, though, that my eyelids never could co-ordinate in harmony with a camera lens, thus, when she pushed the shutter of her 1931 Kodak camera, I appeared to be asleep before my first hour of school had even started.
The cold, killing crispness of fall had come early that year and the treed windbreak around us was quickly loosing its canopy of leaves. The resultant brisk chill in the air caused Cousin Lyle Noorlun to hunker down his head as low as possible into the pulled up high collar style of shirts and jackets that were popular and the “in thing” of young men’s fashion during the era of the early 1960’s.
Once us passengers were inside this black, bumpy “bus”, the metal passenger door was popped shut and Lyle trotted around and hopped into the Ford’s driver side. To the right of the pickup’s steering column, Lyle twisted the ignition key to the right for electrical current to the starter in the engine, then on the left side of the steering wheel, our cousin’s finger found and depressed the starter button to bring that 239 cubic inch Flathead V-8 to life. What was left of the old muffler system below us let out an audible growl as we rolled down the bevel of the south driveway and onto the gravel road towards Kiester and school. Being the tiny rider in the center of that pickup’s bench seat, I had to keep my legs spread wide and clear to allow my cousin enough room to shove in the foot clutch and go through the floor shift gear patterns. Sure didn’t want Lyle, with his intense wild shifting, to cause any YOWSA’s to my “private property” down yonder!! 😉
Our handsome Norwegian farmer father had come from and deeply appreciated the beauty and power of farming with horses. From his youth in northern Minnesota up to and including when we first began farming this land in 1946, Dad used and enjoyed God’s original version of horsepower. Yet, when it came to our black, 1950 Ford F-1 pickup, our father had to admit that a convenient 95 “horses” were his for the asking right below the hood of the truck. That faithful old Ford was well used for everything on our farm from A to Z and then some. When winter’s ferocious weather layered our farm yard with two or three feet of snow………on went the heavy-link tire chains and Dad just kept on grinding away at hauling everything from hay to wood to feed from our Purina store in downtown Kiester.
With a year or two “under my belt”, some growing had occurred and my day had finally arrived. It was time for me to prove my mettle to that metal, gloating old Ford. Dad’s voice was like music to my farmer boy ears when he said, “Elliott, with your brother in the Air Force now and your Cousin Lyle gone back to the “Cities” (Minneapolis/St. Paul), I need you to learn to drive the Ford and do some chores for me around the farm. Ya think you’re up to it”? Like a miniature cowboy I let out a YEEHAWWW…….errr, um….“Sure, Dad”!!! 😉
I had been transfixed over the years as I watched Dad and brother Lowell and Cousin Lyle drive the Ford. I had the basics fairly down to a science, yet, this was to be the real deal and I was no taller than a hiccup in comparison to my elders. With Dad alongside me, to the passenger side, I slid behind that black steering wheel that was so gigantic, it felt like I was trying to steer the outer rings of Saturn. Even with my little boy butt cheeks on the very edge of that bench seat, I could just barely depress the clutch deep enough to the pickup’s floor to allow me to shift gears. I was scared and thrilled at the same exhilarating time.
My fine farmer father was very patient with me as I went from popping the clutch (and killing the engine) to forgetting to push in my foot clutch deep enough to the floorboards and ended up grinding the transmission gears. Over time, though, for a little squirt, I got more and more adept to running that Ford as good as anyone else.
Pretty soon, I was so confident driving the Ford, I felt like the wild-driving actor, Robert Mitchum, in the 1958 movie, “Thunder Road”. My favorite chore had to do with feeding hay to our dairy herd. There was an old wagon that rested in the center of our muddy cow yard. No longer usable in fieldwork, it was to be the happy hay haven for feeding our cows. The pasture land was still too wet to graze the herd that spring, so, our Holsteins got exercise roaming the yard and were fed at the old wagon. It was early spring, so Dad still had the tire chains on the Ford for traction in the mud and quickly melting snow cover.
Loading the truck bed with bales of hay, I brought my black chariot up to the swing gate by the barn and drove through into the muddy morass, quickly shutting the gate behind me. It didn’t take too long to toss some hay bales into the old wagon and cut the twines. While our bovine beauties bunched and crunched away, it was my time to play.
On the edge of the bench seat and barely able to look over the dashboard, I slammed that floor shift into 1st gear, revved the engine and popped the clutch. YOWSA how that 239 responded with my tire chains spinning gleefully while they began slinging mud pies 20 yards behind me!! I was gaining enough ground speed in that marvelous mansion of mud to be able to clutch and hit 2nd gear………now we were really “making hay” (wellll, o.k……..MUD)!!! The slime n grime below me was allowing me to “spin cookies” in gliding 360 degree truck circlings while my wild-eyed gleeful gaze drank in the fun while causing some mini-mayhem in the bog of bounteous bouncing fun!! I was in kid heaven, that day, with my very own power plant of boy joy beneath the happy bouncing butt of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉