August 27th……..“TELL US, GRANDPA, ABOUT THE KINDNESS OF A VISITOR WHO CAME TO YOUR FARM, OCCASIONALLY, TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOUR FATHER”.
There it flew, off the heights of Ozmun’s hill!!! It was a falcon. Living up to its reputation, it flew so fast and so close to the ground that it caused horizontal curlicues of dust to spiral into the sultry Minnesota summer air behind it. The only thing was, this wasn’t a bird, it was a super-charged Ford Falcon and its driver was making a beeline for the raised berm of the “Central & Northwest” railroad crossing just south of our farm.
Deathwish or not, at that same, tension-building moment, there came the ground-rumbling feel and sound of a mighty locomotive of the “Central & Northwest Railway” approaching from the west and coming to make its lumbering crossing of that same spot. What could have been a disastrous intersecting of car and train was adeptly avoided as said Falcon had the upper hand and shot up the incline of that gravel road berm; literally flying across and “catching air” as it catapulted across the railroad tracks to the other side. Those Falcon winds buffeted me in its passing while I stood near the bridge over Brush Creek. To me, even though I was now cloaked in gravel dust, it had been a win/win moment. Win number one was…the Falcon survived and continued in his “flight” to the north past our farm a half mile away. Win number two……this little Norwegian “Indian Chief” still had time to get a wave back from the locomotive engineer as he saw the danger pass and poured more power to his iron juggernaut that continued pulling a hefty string of freight and grain cars to the east and our dear hometown of Kiester.
The reason I was able to capture that Falcon and train moment was because Brush Creek was my little boy’s home away from home. Our farm’s south pasture land was bordered by the creek line. No time-clock could ever track the untold number of hours I enjoyed along that narrow, miniature river that ambled sweetly along, eventually joining the immense Mississippi River to the far east. It was in this blissful, farmboy Shangri-La that my bib-overall boy being could lay on the creek banks for a nap, hunt for schools of tadpoles to take home in a jar or test my fast reflexes to catch those speedy crawdads lurking in the shadowy depths of the creek. Matter of fact, on some of those ultra-humid and hot summer days, I’d even strip naked and skinny-dip in the hidden bends of that languorous waterway that fueled a little farmboy’s imagination.
There was a essence of purity to the quiet that held reign across the country miles in those farming days of long ago. Other than our blessed bovines lowing to one another in our pasture next to me, my little boy ears could only detect the distant “johnny-popper” sound of Louie Heitzeg’s John Deere 730 as he cultivated some soybeans to the east of me. As a result of that quaint quietness, I heard and could see that our farm was about to get a visit in the form of a handsome old Chevrolet cattle truck that was now shifting down its gears to make the turn into our north U-shaped driveway.
Ohhhh boyyy!!! I had a hankerin’ that I knew who this man was and didn’t wanna miss out on what was going to happen back at the farm. Jumpin’ aboard my trusty little 20″ bicycle, I began to pedal furiously in our farm’s direction. Sure enough, as I banked my bike into the south driveway, I realized that it was that super-nice gentleman who our farmer father employed from time to time to haul cows or hogs to auction. My little sister, Candi, had the same inclination that I did that fun day and appeared from the house as I rolled up on the scene. “Well, well, you twoyoungsters look familiar”!!, said our farm guest as he popped open the driver’s door and off his truck’s bench seat. “And you’ve both gotten taller, too”!!!, which brought a growing-up smile from the both of us. “When I get some cows loaded for your dad, we’llcelebrate with some gum, o.k.”?? inquired our kind visitor. We kiddos were salivating already! 😉
With his big old Chevy box-truck backed up to our loading ramp, our dad and this trucker man had his animals mooing onboard and ready for their trip to market.
Wiping his brow, the trucker said, “Whew!!!, now that that’saccomplished, how’s about you twoand I celebrate with at least a couple sticks of gum”?? Candi and myself employed our parent-taught manners and said a number of “Thank You So Much” offerings to our benefactor who gave us our choice of at least two sticks of either “Teaberry”, “Black Jack” (licorice), “Beeman’s” (pepsin), or “Clove” chewing gum. If only I could remember the name of this sweet soul of a man who made our day a chewing ambrosia for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.
August 26th……...”WHAT WAS A FUN ACTIVITY IN YOUR MINNESOTA HOMETOWN OF KIESTER THAT MADE YOUR BROTHER, AND OTHERS, YEARN TO BE A PART OF ITS EXCITEMENT”??
The pelvis of Elvis held millions of young girl’s hearts in sway as “The King of Rock n Roll” undulated his virile manhood all over small black n white television sets across the nation in the late 1950’s.
“I Like Ike” buttons had carried the sentiments of our country’s spirits whose enamor for the World War II hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had voted overwhelmingly to place him as our honored resident of the White House and our 34th President of these United States. Yes, there was so much of that American era gone by that was right in our world in those days…….and one of those “right” things was when it appeared that King Arthur, himself, had come to Kiester Park at the north end of Main Street.
For there, below the cooling shadow of our village water tower, began the rhythmic ring of sledge hammers, being thrown in muscular cadence as workmen began sinking iron posts into the soil for anchoring ropes to help hold up the magnificent and immense tent that held all the royal looks of one of those regal tents of King Arthur’s day.
When finished, there in all its roller-skating glory, was a beautiful wooden floor, beneath that fabric-tented attraction, that seemed to stretch on for an oval mile with guard rails and benches along the perimeter for skaters and spectators alike to drink in the joys of skating the day or evening away.
There was magic in each moment that summer once the massive roller rink tent was set up and ready for business.
There was also a palpable charm in the air especially in the evenings after family farms in the surrounding countryside had completed the milking and bedding of their dairy herds. It was time for happy kids and parents to pile into the family car and bring a picnic supper along, and yes, maybe even spin by Flogstad’s Bakery, there on Main Street, for some cupcakes or donuts for dessert. Tempted by the roller rink’s fresh popcorn on the air, Dad n Mom enjoyed the comfort of a large army surplus blanket on the lawn near the rink while their energetic younger progeny popped in and out of the roller rink all caught up in the wonder as they watched big brothers and sisters, with their high-laced roller skates on, making the oval circuit of the “track”. Skaters, amid the wheel roar, enjoyed listening to the hit tunes of the day pulsating from the well-placed speakers in the rafters of the rink. Depending on the song, its tempo and its strong beat, skaters sometimes coursed the rink so fast that a continuous wind gust, fanned by human bodies flying by, made for joy to be had by all as various men’s colognes and ladies perfumes sweetened the summer air.
Big brother, Lowell, was elated that summer, and every summer, during his Kiester High School years, because of the draw in his heart to have some fun with his buddies and skating. He’d even devise ways to find some means to get to the roller rink tent to see his pals and some lovely young ladies, too, of course. 😉 His plans would go into action if the folks weren’t in the mood that evening to go into town. Lowell would just send out a quick phone call or two and BINGO! he hitched a ride to Kiester so he could join the crowd of high-energy youth who fed off the fun vibes of happy songs like Sheb Wooley’s funny ditty….“He was a one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater”!!!
It was 1951 on a chilly November 3rd evening in our small town when another skating era had its Grand Opening inside a lovely, large building located on South Main Street. Some years hence, this handsome facility would eventually become the home of our town’s John Deere tractor dealership, but all was warm and well and festive, that night, as townsfolk stepped out of the cold and into the joy of this new business enterprise of roller-skating. The winter coats came off and roller skates were pulled on for exercise and fun………..and even romance.
The “Kee Roller Rink” that evening was decorated to the max with festooned banners and the ubiquitous mirrored ball for effect to razzle dazzle everyone, including young lovers.
Many a young Kiester youth like Arnold Bauman, Clair Hagen and Leroy Larson were just a few of the young men who tenderly helped lace up the high-topped roller skates of the young ladies with whom they were “head over heels” in love with. Together, these young couples smiled and cuddled as they slow skated, under the spot-lighted mirror ball to love ballads of that era like…..”Because Of You (Tony Bennett)”, “Secret Love” (Doris Day) and “You Belong To Me” (Jo Stafford). Long, happy marriages came to fruition for these Kiester area couples who found love and enjoyed roller skating there in our beloved hometown of Kiester, Minnesota ……..just like, in another era later on, did this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.
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!!! 😉