Norwegian Farmer’s Son…November 2nd


#792.a El BD 1.14.77
Sweet “Grandma” Nell Thacker.

“Ohhh, Elliott, if I were 30 years younger, I’d be after you!!!”  The twinkle in “Grandma” Nell’s eyes matched the demure way she cocked her head of perfectly coiffured silver hair as she shared her happy heart with me.  Though Nell Thacker held no bloodline connection to our clan, her genuinely kind soul and pleasant ways about her were a magnetic pull that eventually brought me to call her “Grandma”.  This dear lady, of quiet elegance, and I got along famously as we’d visit or enjoy a light lunch together there in her home on what was then called Hawthorne Street in Battle Ground, Washington.  It was roughly 1974 and with her grandsons, Greg and Jeff, in college or busy, I had been approached to work for her, and her lovely daughter, Mary Ann Peck, as a yardman.   Seeing that our Noorlun home was just across the street, all I had to do was saunter across the cul de sac each week to see that Nell’s lawn was mowed, flower beds were kept clean and perform other landscape related tasks like planting trees or flowers.   It was convenient for me to help Nell and Mary Ann out as a yardman, seeing that my regular job with the Battle Ground School District was as a Swing Shift Floor Scrubber.  That left my daylight hours available to make an extra dollar this way.  But, more importantly, I had the joy of kinship with this delightful woman who was the essence of gentility and kindness in her dealings with me.

S81 Shirley Cass
Shirley Jo Cass circa 1975.

Likely through a neighborhood Bible Study, Nell Thacker had become sweetly acquainted with Mrs. Thelma Cass and family who lived just three houses, or so, to the west of the Peck/Thacker home.   It was only natural, as two proud matriarchs, that Mrs. Cass and Mrs. Thacker likely had many a happy occasion of discussing the love for their respective families and what each were accomplishing in life at that time.  Mr. and Mrs. Cass had two daughters and two sons.  The eldest daughter was named Shirley and was a mere year and nine months younger than myself.

Having always had an affinity towards respecting and enjoying “The Greatest Generation”, I delightfully discovered not only a neighbor in “Grandma” Thacker, but a kindred spirit on so many topics.  On more than a few occasions, I was Nell’s invited guest to have a bite of lunch with her while we discussed a myriad of issues and nostalgic trips down memory lane.  Nell knew that I was not dating or courting any young ladies at the time, so pretty soon, she garnered the courage to begin suggesting that I enquire regarding a “date” with Miss Cass.

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Nell, the “Matchmaker”

As the weeks passed into months, “Grandma” Nell would put in a “plug”, like any good Matchmaker, that I should take that cute Shirley Cass out on a get acquainted excursion somewhere together.  In gentle retort, I would come up with excuses why Shirley wouldn’t be interested in little old me.  “Well, “Grandma”, Shirley will likely want to date and marry a PK (preacher’s kid) someday, seeing how every time the door is open at Battle Ground Baptist Church, she and her family jump in that big Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station-wagon and head down there.”

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Elliott gathered his courage on the phone.

It was mid-May of 1975, while working in her yard one day, that “Matchmaker Nell” snuck up on me, in a sense, while we were chatting at her doorway.  “You know, Elliott, if you don’t call that nice Shirley Cass up for a date soon……..I WILL!!!”  Of course, her words were laced with tenderness and powered by her loving and well-intentioned heart.  “O.K., O.K., “Grandma”….I’ll call her tonight while I’m on my lunch break at my Floor Scrubber’s job at Chief Umtuch Primary School.”

My station of trepidation that evening, was sitting behind the secretary’s desk at Chief Umtuch Primary School (since torn down and a Middle School now sits in its place) in Battle Ground, Washington.  With the school’s location at the very end of that town’s boulevard, I had a perfect view down the length of Hawthorne Street from the school secretary’s desk.  Thanks to the street lights dotting each side of that quaint length of neighborhood, I was sure I could see the Cass house in the distance.  With mustered courage, and the phone book flopped open to the “C” section, I found and dialed the Cass family’s phone number.

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“Sure”, said Shirley, “I’ll go to the Coast and Fort Clatsop with you.”

The reserved, yet friendly voice of Mrs. Cass picked up my call.  Shirley was summoned to the phone and greeted me kindly.  Even though I was a nimble 21 year old “buck”, at the time, you’d think I was a “bull in a china shop” the way I stumbled all over my tongue and words that evening.  From a distance, I had always been impressed with this lovely young lady who’s long, auburn hair was like a regal mane of beauty as it flowed almost to the small of her back.  It was only recently that I had seen that she’d had those long tresses cut and now sported a “bobbed” short hair style.  Amazingly, Shirley accepted my invitation and our “date” was set for June 1st, 1975.

#573=1972 Malibu; pose 2
Elliott’s 1972 Chevrolet Malibu

Unbeknownst to me, during our chat that evening, on the phone, I learned that Shirley and her family had recently moved to a new home just north of our town.  Sunday, June 1st 1975 crested as a perfect day in every way.  I found the Cass family’s new country home and with customary greetings to her parents and family accomplished, Shirley and I pointed that 350 cubic inch Malibu chariot in the direction of the gorgeous Oregon Coastline.

#2007 6.1.75 First date at Ft. Clatsop
Shirley Cass stands in front of a replica of Lewis and Clark’s Fort Clatsop near Astoria, Oregon.  The replica was built in 1955, the year Shirley was born.

With the Malibu’s throaty mufflers purring plenty of power, we made our way up the Interstate 5 freeway to Longview, Washington.  After crossing the sky-high Longview Bridge from Washington State into Oregon, the Columbia river teased us with its views as we paralleled it on our way to the Coast of Oregon and some fun.

#590=Elliott at Ft. Clatsop, OR; June 1, 1975

Through our conversations that day, both Shirley and myself realized that we two had many similarities to the early American explorers Lewis and Clark.  The Cass family, like Lewis and Clark, had traveled to a “new land” from Montana, just months before my family had traveled to the same “new land” and explored our way from Minnesota.  It was amazing how both of our families had found the same destination of the same town and even took up residence on the same street.

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It was a perfect day, in every way, for two to play….and get acquainted.

From the Fort Clatsop National Memorial Park, we made aim to the fun coastal resort town of Seaside, Oregon.  My lady friend, Shirley, and I enjoyed everything from playing arcade games, eating till we about busted a gut, hunted through unending souvenir shops and drank in the sunshine that could sometimes be fleeting on the Oregon Coast.  Venturing out onto the warm sands of the Pacific Ocean’s shoreline, we could see, in the distance, Tillamook Rock Lighthouse that, since 1881, still stood solidly upon its basalt rock foundation fully a mile off of the coastline.

#2008 7.10.76 Mrs. Nell Thacker with El n Shirley 001
Our loving Nell….Matchmaker Supreme

With the June sun beginning to acquiesce to the ending of a perfect day, that yellow orb was being pulled down into the misty waves of the distant Pacific Ocean’s horizon.  The time had come to slide ourselves onto the bench seat of that Malibu and make our way back inland to Battle Ground town and our respective homes.  We ended that first date with a handshake that night, but a spark had been lit by our Matchmaker Supreme (Nell Thacker) and on July 10th of 1976, “Grandma” Nell was a very special guest at the wedding of Shirley Jo Cass/Noorlun and this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.











Norwegian Farmer’s Son…November 1st



POEM – “Did You Ever See A Symphony Fly?”  by N. Elliott Noorlun

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Elliott had lovely music every day as a farm boy!!

Did you ever see, A “symphony” fly?

Upon a cloud-laced, Summer sky?

A feathered fanfare, Sent from God,

To sooth we folk, Who worked the sod.

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Meadowlark in the middle of making music! 😉

A Meadowlark, As I walked the field,

To me his warbled, Song he’d yield.

Glissando trill, From high to low,

As about my daily, Path I’d go.

His yellow “vest”, With black “bow-tie”,

Led me to admire, This handsome guy.

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Red-winged Blackbird

Then came this sparkling, Ebony sir,

To show me when, His wings would stir,

His gold n crimson epaulets,

Upon his shouldered, Wings of jets.

Red-winged Blackbird, Was his name,

And bold his song, Colored full the same.

His tunes were sparklers, They appealed to me,

As he sang a tune, Sounding “Conga Lee!”.

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American Robin

Next musical member, Of symphony’s fling,

Had been with us, Since snows of Spring.

American Robin, Saw our hopes rise,

When each Spring he returned, From southern skies.

Even his music, Those sweet warbled notes,

Sounded to me, Like these words in quotes.

“Wake up, it’s Spring, The snow melts away!”

“Wake up, it’s Spring, Come out to play!!”.

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Robin eggs and new members of the “symphony”.

If you were lucky, And able to find,

The robin’s nest, You had to be kind,

For secure in their casings, Tiny eggs of blue,

Were future members, Of the “Symphony”, too.

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Mourning Dove

Often in, The morning’s hush,

Before the school bus, And busy rush,

A “symphony” member, In our woods you’d find,

With song both sad, And plaintively-lined.

As if her lover, Had left her scorned,

And so, In her song, She sadly mourned.

The heart-rending song, That spoke of no love,

The song of our local, Mourning Dove.

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Ring-necked Pheasant

Just then, From our cornfield, Excitement did vent,

As a kitty-cat scared up, A Ring-necked Pheasant.

Brilliant colors displayed, In rainbows of hue,

As he landed to corn patch, And hidden from view.

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Color and song……all year long!!

Needless to say, No dime was spent,

God’s music was mine, Where’er I went.

No need of radio, Or stereo speaker,

Besides, man’s music, Is usually weaker.

For I’ve many times seen, A “symphony” fly,

Above our farm, In His musical sky!!!

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Norwegian Farmer’s Son…October 31st


POEM – “Halloween’s Quirk”  by N. Elliott Noorlun

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Back in the day, As a wee little squirt,

It didn’t seem to matter, It didn’t seem to hurt,

To scare the bahjeebers, Out of fat or lean,

Each day, Once a year, On the night, Halloween.

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“Now I lay me down to sleep…..”

For the rest of the year, I was taught to be good,

To do all the things, That I knew I should.

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“Peek a boo, I GOT you!!!”

But here, On this night, T’was o.k. to blast,

With screams n goblins, And ghosts from the past.

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Just broomin’ by in the sky!

I never had really, Given much thought,

Of this holiday’s genesis, Till I sought,

To know more about, Why each gal and guy,

Would look for witches, On brooms in the sky.

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To celebrate all saints (true believers) of the Christian faith.

I found that some churches, On November one,

Would celebrate saints, Who believed in God’s Son.

The night before, All Hallow’s Day,

Was All Hallow’s Eve, Set aside to pray.

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It was not what All Holy Evening was intended for.

All Hallow’s Eve, Became Halloween,

But a dark side came out, For all to be seen.

God’s children on earth, Were called a saint,

But what happened in darkness, Seemed to taint,

The first intent, Church Fathers had hoped,

But centuries later, Society’s still doped,

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Into thinking if we, Dress up the kids,

In costumes so cute, Folks’ll flip their lids.

And hand out candy, Then wave goodbye,

It seems to gloss over, The reason why,

To make ghosts n goblins, Of each little squirt,

Just confuses life’s issues, Within Halloween’s quirk.

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Norwegian Farmer’s Son…October 30th


#1096 Russ, Doren, Doris Noorlun
Elliott’s prankster father, Russell, is to the right, in dark cap with snow on brim.  Russell’s brother, Doren, is bottom center with dark cap.  Russell’s sister, Doris, is far left, smiling with eyes closed.

A glint of pixie dust sparkled from the corner of young Russell’s eye as he and his fellow scalawags reconnoitered their plans for some upcoming Halloween night shenanigans.

#744 Russ n Marie
Russell with his mother, Marie.

Russ was a mischievous boy in nature and never hesitated to employ those playful powers.  He likely inherited those jokester genes from his Grandfather Ingebrit Tollefson who passed them on to Russell’s mother, Marie, and then on to our father, in 1918, when he was born.

Not only was frost on the pumpkins in northern Minnesota that Fall, but it also gave an icy glaze to the toilet seats of many a farmer’s outhouses, too.  Back in those days, indoor plumbing was mainly a luxury of the rich.  The greatest majority of farm families “answered nature’s call” by going out to a tiny building usually located in their perimeter wooded grove of trees that encircled those farms in what was known as a “windbreak”.  Now, whether the genesis of this silliness was handed down from our dad’s parent’s generation, or, they may have conjured up this idea on their own………either way, that night, Russell and his “Crap Cottage Commandos” were about to engage their stealth in hunting, as a pack, for their victim neighbor farmer and his outhouse in the windbreak woods.  Time for the classic PUSH OVER THE OUTHOUSE AND RUN prank!!!

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Outhouse target spotted.



For those too young to remember or know what constituted an outhouse, it was basically a deep pit that was dug into the ground.  A small house was built over the pit with either one toilet seat inside, or two.  With only “chamber pots” inside the common farm house, many families used this outdoor structure to rid themselves of human waste that each of us produce.   Yes, it was very odoriferous and the antithesis of clean, but like old sailors used to say……”Any port in a storm is GOOD”, especially if that storm was brewing inside your lower bowels 😉

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Distant timber wolves howled under a black onyx sky as the boys and our young Russell neared an unsuspecting farm yard.  The only illumination to be seen was dimly lit window light as it shown from the farm house that they quietly approached for the “kill”.  Sure enough, target in sight, there was the family outhouse nestled in the speckled shadows of the October moon above them.  With their young adolescent muscles this “bulldozing over” of that outhouse should be a cinch.  Getting a foothold in the darkness on one side of that “crap castle”, the boys began to push against the side wall.  There was some movement of the “poop parlor”, but not quite enough as the “potty perch” rocked back onto its foundation.  With another frenzied mass of muscles from Russ and the boys, the outhouse gave way and “TIMBERRRRR!!”, over it went with a crash.


All of a sudden, sheer pandemonium erupted as the farmer who owned that property came storming out of his house with a double barrel shotgun loaded with rock salt shells (those wouldn’t likely kill ya, but they’d hurt like the dickens if they connected with your behind)!!!!  KABOOOM!!!  That fiery farmer fired off a massive explosion of a shot into the air as fire belched from the muzzle into that frigid night sky.  Russell and his gang went wild and in all directions as they tripped over each other in their pell-mell attempts to escape or be caught by one VERY mad farmer.

Illustration of a man falling into a pit. Vector illustration. L

In the absolute bedlam of that crazy moment, one of those poor hooligans became completely disoriented in the darkness and, rather than running away from the scene, he actually ran right INTO the “poop pit” that used to be covered by that outhouse!!!  That lil culprit was stuck in human “goo” clear up to his “whatevers” and was screaming at the top of his lungs to be rescued.  Young Russell, and his buddies, however, thought the plight of their fellow “stinker” fit him quite well as they laughed hysterically while they fled from that farmer’s wrath and back into the cloak of darkness.  Something tells me that the poor schmuck in that fecal fallow likely now had a new nickname……..”Brownie Boy”!!!  So surmises this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

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Norwegian Farmer’s Son…October 29th


POEM – “My Friend With The Most”   by N. Elliott Noorlun

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What is it, With this time of year?

When most folk actually, CHOOSE to fear?

Rather than turn, To the Friend with the most,

Our Triune Third, His Holy Ghost.

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Another way, To say His name,

Is Holy Spirit, He’s just the same.

Given to, Each Christian with love,

From our caring Father, In Heaven above.

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As Christ was baptized, In Jordan’s brook,

The Spirit descended, In sweet Dove’s look,

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And each day hence, While on this sod,

Each believer in Christ, Has this gift from God.

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To guide us in, Each step we take,

To live for Him, And for God’s sake.

#577.1 EUB Church, Kiester, MN
Elliott’s boyhood church in Kiester, Minnesota

Now as for “house”, Where saints did meet,

T’was located on, A tree-shaded street,

There in my boyhood, Town of “gold”,

From birth until, 13 years old.

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And the only place, That I would “haunt”,

Is when I’d take, A happy jaunt,

To read God’s Word, And learn even more,

Of what God’s Spirit, Had in store,

For this young lad, Who need not fear,

Cause my “Friend With The Most”, Is always near!! ><>

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Norwegian Farmer’s Son…October 28th


POEM – “Droopin’ From Hoopin’ ”  by N. Elliott Noorlun

#404.2 Christmas 1959
Elliott’s hero was big brother, Lowell (Left), who was 11 years older than his little brother.

Eleven years older,  And mature beyond me,

I followed big brother,  With awe and glee.

Whatever he said, Was the coolest joy,

So I was his shadow, This farmer’s boy.

#39=Lowell with cow (circa 1960)
Behind the cow and Elliott’s brother, Lowell, is the Granary Building with the basketball hoop mounted up high on its side wall.  This was Elliott’s sky high target to try to make a basket.

Up high on the side, Of our Granary House,

Where many a cat, Caught many a mouse,

There hung a basketball, Hoop up high,

To me, t’was as high, As the clouds in the sky!

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A “Benjamin Franklin” 50 cent piece was the wager for Elliott IF he made a basket at the Granary House.

And when you are, A tiny tot,

Any coinage of money, Was really a LOT!

So brother called me, One day in the barn,

And began to give me, A money-laced yarn.

“Since you are so little, And not very tall”,

“I’ll bet you can’t take, This basketball”,

“And make a basket, Through Granary hoop”,

“Cause if you do, I’ll downward stoop”,

“To give you a Franklin, Fifty cent coin”,

“When you make that basketball hoop go BOING!”

A boy playing basketball
One tiny boy + One tall basketball hoop = One zillion shots to make a basket.

The bet was on, Or so I thought,

As this mini-Munchkin, Fought and fought,

To get that basketball, Higher and higher,

Towards that 50 cent piece, I did aspire!

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The ouch of a wild basketball!

The ball hit the building, And bounced off of my head,

I was huffin’ and puffin’, Beginning to dread,

That that 50 cent coin, Would never rocket,

Out of my brother’s, Protective pocket.

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Finally, Elliott made a basket!!

Then out of the blue, My ball hit the hoop,

Round n round, It made the loop,

Then fell through the net, And touched every stitch,

“Hooray! Hooray!, Now I’d be rich!”

I ran to the barn, To get my cash,

But then my face, It turned to ash.

Jokester brother said, “No bet did we make.”,

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“Cause to seal a bet, You always must shake!”

A lesson for me, Before coinage can turn,

Shake hands on a bet, Oh that I DID learn!!!

Some may look on this story as a trick played against Elliott, but his love and admiration for big brother Lowell is ever stronger with each passing year.



Norwegian Farmer’s Son…October 27th


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What to wear?  What to wear?

Fall, in her frigid personality, had flung her mantle of frost over the farmlands of southern Minnesota once again.  Not only was there a silver frost on the pumpkins in our garden, but the hoarfrost on the cornstalks out in our fields almost had a tinkling sound effect with the gentle, arctic breezes that blew by.

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One of Elliott’s favorite cartoon shows

Like many a youngster, of the early 1960’s, I was happily addicted to Saturday morning cartoons.  One of my favorite animation classics, on our black and white television set, was “The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show”.  Like another very popular animation series, (“The Flintstones”) “The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show” had great writers that incorporated cultural and current political themes of that day, coupled with great “one liners” of humor, that kept the whole family interested and smiling.  “Bullwinkle” was my favorite of the cartoon characters, in that series, because of his good-natured, yet doofus comebacks to his energetic flying squirrel compatriot, “Rocky”.

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Yum yums by the bag full!!!! 😉

The season of Fall was progressing now towards October 31st and the ubiquitous practice of Halloween and “Trick Or Treating”.    Like any sugar-loving kid, I envisioned buckets full of Halloween candy that would be so heavy, I’d need to hire a truck to get them all back home to our farm.   Hmmm, o.k., if we’re gonna go “Trick Or Treating”, that means we’d need a costume to wear.   Of COURSE, of course, I’d temporarily become my cartoon hero, “Bullwinkle” the moose!!  And, my cute little sister, Candice, would become, if I recall, a princess.  Our dearest mother, Clarice, somehow horns-waggled some precious dollars to secure those costumes for us and we were now set to try to get some treats, hopefully without having to carry out a trick against a neighbor.

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“Bullwinkle Boy!” 😉

Like magic, the day came when Mom placed a box into each of our hands that held our temporary persona for that upcoming Halloween evening.   There lay “Bullwinkle”, staring up at me from below the cellophane window of his shipping box.  Snipping away the little pieces of shipping tape, I gently lifted the cover off of the box and lifted my “Bullwinkle” up into the air.  The costume, in its simplicity, was a yellow poncho with the image of “Bullwinkle” and “Rocky” on the front of it with a moose mask at the top.  I pulled the costume up and over my body as I, simultaneously, pulled back on the elastic band that would slip over and to the back of my head to hold the mask to my face.  What a childhood thrill it was to walk over to the mirror and only recognize my eyes as they peered back at me in the mirror surrounded by this moose face.

#1082 Dixie Ballweber
Dixie Ballweber attended Elliott’s church and also owned “Dixie’s Beauty Shop”.

To wear our new costumes around the house in playtime was one thing.  But, to go out in public, on Halloween Night, AND, to actually knock on the door of an adult home owner and holler “TRICK OR TREATS, MONEY OR EATS!!”………THAT was totally foreign to me!   The farm fields of our area were now cloaked in the blackness of the chilled Halloween night as Mother loaded us two kiddos into the back of our family car and made our way towards our precious hometown of Kiester, Minnesota.  Being the amazing mother that she was, she MUST’VE sensed our trepidation and shyness taking over as we sat quietly in the back seat.  I, for one, contracted an immediate case of “Shy-Guy-Itis”!!!  To my recollection, this was to be my first (and likely LAST) time to formally do the “Trick or Treat” thing.  Sure, I wanted a ton of candy to eat, but it was against what I was taught during the rest of the calendar year as far as “yelling” at an adult to give me something……or else.  Like, what was I gonna do to THEM, ya?  Kick’em in the shins if they didn’t give me any candy?  NOT!!!!

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Dixie to the rescue!

As we arrived into our village of Kiester, the Fall leaves swirled in front of our headlights as we made our way to the north side of town.  Mom, in her godly wisdom, sensed the need to take us to at least one or two homes that she knew would treat us with kindness and understanding.  And, truly for a fact, MANY of our sweet town’s citizens fell into this gentle-hearted category!   Dixie Ballweber, in a way, was a triple blessing to our family.  #1, not only was she the organist at our Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church, but, #2, she ran a business out of her home called, “Dixie’s Beauty Shop”.  Our mother had frequented her beauty shop on a number of occasions over the years.   Being a few months younger than our own mother, Dixie was of that generation whose compassion was of a gentler nature, especially when it came time for children.  Here comes #3 blessing…..Dixie was to become our “victim” as our family car rolled up in front of their beautiful, brick ranch house.  We costumed kids climbed out of the car as Mom almost had to herd us up the driveway, on to their sidewalk and ring the doorbell of the Ballweber home.

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So sweet with her sweets for us shy kids

Dixie’s porch light popped on, over your costumed heads, revealing two very shy farm kids who then managed a forced, quiet utterance of “trick or treats, money or eats”.   Sure enough, Mom was right, Dixie began to compliment us on our costumes and how cute we both looked as she allowed us to pick from her goodies to add some sugary treats to our little paper bags.  Time’s lapsing over the years has completely erased what those sugar treats were, but I’m indelibly imprinted with the generous spirit of our fellow church member and beauty shop operator that allowed two little ones to “invade” her evening with our childish ways of Halloween traditions.  It’s very likely that Mom taxied us to other gentle family and neighbors in our classic hometown who also showed kindness to two timid, treat entreating tikes trying to tag tooth-decaying temptations.

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Dixie was just a few months younger than our Mother, Clarice.  Blessings to her memory as she now enjoys Heaven above.

I find it tenderly fascinating how a cartoon character, a plastic costume and some candy can interweave within the framework of memories that last for a lifetime in a small farm boy (and his little sister) who was touched by the deeper things like………a mother’s love to provide for her children, sacrificing dollars to meet and see their little dreams come true, and a loving lady of our small town who added to the joy of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

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