September 10th……..“WHAT WAS ONE OF THE WAYS OUR GRANDPA RUSSELL GOT FROM ONE END OF YOUR FARM ACREAGE TO THE OTHER FOR REPAIRS OR JUST PLAIN FUN?”
Mourning Doves took their musical cue from the dawning sunlight that crested Charlie Heitzeg’s hill to the east of our family farm. Gentle in grace and manners, their pensive, melancholic melodies floated on the cool morning breeze from a high perch in our Maple tree and sifted through the upstairs window screen of our eleven year old brother Lowell’s bedroom.
It wasn’t only the Mourning Doves that jostled Lowell awake on that early Summer’s morning of 1954. All the way downstairs, he could also hear the wailing of his new baby brother, Elliott, howling in his crib. Lowell did his best to climb out of the “valley” of his very old bed that consisted of a sway-backed mattress and springs while visions of possible fun times danced around in his young thoughts while pulling on clothes and shoes for the day ahead.
Lowell’s ebullient eleven year old enthusiasm was evident as the magnetic aroma of Mom’s bacon and eggs drew his energetic legs to fly down those creaking wooden stairs to our family kitchen and “inhale” some delicious “fuel” to spark another day of adventure there on our family farm northwest of Kiester, Minnesota.
These were the days before we owned our Ford pickup, so, for our farmer father, “necessity is the mother of invention” was his mantra to this agrarian lifestyle he lived. Dad was seeking a type of vehicle that needed to be easy to get on and off of and still able to do some hauling for him, too. There eventually came the day that Dad was able to procure an old Ford Model A car and the idea struck him to create his own “jeep” for farming chores and even some fun. Russell’s brother, Doren, had a welding business nearby in our hometown of Kiester, so, between the two them, using acetylene torches and welders, they took the old “A” apart, shortened the frame, put a little platform/box on the backend and “PRESTO” there appeared a utilitarian vehicle we affectionately called “The Jeep”.
That morning, while Lowell was helping Dad milk our herd of Holsteins, there came a new tune from the barn radio that was popular in 1954…… “I Am A Happy Wanderer”. Right through the dust and cobwebs, that clung to that radio, sang out that catchy tune that incited Lowell to wanna be a “happy wanderer” and ride along with Dad in our “jeep” while he drove our farm’s fence lines to check for needed repairs.
Dad had the option, on that ’29 Ford, to use a crank to turn over the engine or give a push of the electric starter button on the floor. Either way, that old “jeep” came to life with a “POP” and a “WHEEZE” and almost a human “Yahoo!, let’s GO!!” kind of a report from its almost non-existent muffler.
A brisk west wind tousled the hair of our farmer and his son as they bumped and careened over the fecund, onyx soil of our farmland. The old, former Model A Ford ( now with chains on the back tires for better traction) even managed to drive right down an embankment and into the waterway bed of Brush Creek that ran west to east along our south property boundaries. Wherever there was a broken stretch of fence on our land, or a need for a new fencepost, our Norwegian dynamic-duo would jump off the “jeep”, grab tools and supplies from the back platform and make repairs. Some fun always ensued whenever Dad found soggy ground to “spin out” with or churned his way out of the Brush Creek bed itself…….ohhhh, how the mud could hit the sky with those chained tires spinning away!!! 😉
With Dad’s teaching, Lowell’s young 11 year old legs were able reach and work the floor pedals as he became quite adept at boogying around the farm property in the “jeep” as well as the gravel road that ran past our farm.
Along came the day that Dad’s brother Erwin (and family) came for a visit from Colorado. Erwin had been a Staff Sergeant during World War II as a member of the Army’s 17th Airborne Division. During the final phases of the war, he and his fellow Paratroopers were heading for Japan in 1945 to parachute their forces in a land invasion of the Japanese Mainland itself. That mission was gratefully called off thanks to the atomic bomb being dropped and Japan’s surrender.
“Come on, Uncle Erwin, let me take you for a spin in our “jeep”!!!” invited Lowell. Having survived World War II and being a man of adventure, Erwin thought, “Sure, why not!!” and took a seat on a large tool box of Dad’s that sat where a passenger seat would have been. With Lowell’s foot punching to the floorboard starter button, the “jeep” happily snapped, popped and jerked to life for this fun ride. Lurching forward, Lowell and Erwin rolled down the south sloping driveway as Lowell rolled the steering wheel and banked right as they headed onto the county gravel road with the throttle wide open. With bugs and wind whipping their faces, all was fine and dandy until Lowell took a side road towards the Kephart farm and decided to turn the jalopy around in the width of that gravel road. Our big brother almost had the “jeep” turned around when he mistook 1st Gear for Reverse. Lowell revved up the engine, popped the clutch and ……...KAZOWEEE!!!…..Uncle Erwin, Lowell and the “jeep” shot backwards down the road embankment and right through the Ozmun family’s barbed wire pasture fence!!! Needless to say, our dad’s brother must’ve thought he was back in World War II again with all the mayhem going on around him. With a stern face and voice, Erwin took command of the situation and poor brother Lowell was demoted from being driver to passenger as Erwin managed to rev up the engine, climb the ditch embankment and headed that old “jeep” back to the farm of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!!! 😉