Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..September 8th


Eighteen year old Oscar Urstad climbed aboard a sailing ship much like the ones seen here in the harbor of Christiania (soon to be Oslo), Norway.

A vanquished, yet virulent last blast of a late Nordic winter’s wind careened down the streets of Christiania, Norway. The year was 1888 as the timid season of spring was trying to get a foothold of warmth around the harbor of this grand city in the land of the Vikings.

In their native Norwegian tongue, Hans Urstad called out to his eighteen year old son, Oscar, to close the front door to their business as the brisk winds were upsetting some of the gentler merchandise in their store window displays.

Norway’s Christiania Borger School was where Oscar Urstad received his early education.

Eighteen years earlier, on December 24th of 1870, the Urstad family not only called out “Gledelig Jul” (Merry Christmas)!!!….but also gave a loving welcome to their handsome baby son, Oscar Herman Urstad.

As was true in most Norwegian households, Oscar’s mother, Thrine, was the queen of the kitchen when it came to creating the aromatic delights of tasty enjoyments like lefse and kringla. Young Oscar would gleefully ask his mother to pack these treats as desserts, along with other food, in his lunch box. With a full head of little boy “steam”, he energetically trotted down the city’s streets to Osterhaus Gate 22 and the Borger School where knowledge was dispensed in his early days of learning.

In 1888, Oscar was aboard the United States Steamship Alaska which was bound from Liverpool, England across the Atlantic Ocean and to New York City, New York in America.

Now, at the age of 18, an exuberant wanderlust had captured young Oscar’s imagination as he heard stories of America and her grand opportunities for anyone who was ambitious and energetic enough to work hard to make their dream come true in this new land called the United States. America was calling and this young Scandinavian answered, “YES!!” 😉

One can only wonder what may have been coursing through Oscar’s young, eighteen year old heart as he boarded a ship in Christiania’s harbor for the first leg of his journey to America. Possibly, these poetic words may have been his own………“I took my meager luggage to the dock, From where I’d soon depart. But leaving all my loved ones, Nearly broke my Norwegian heart! And as my ship moved from the shore, Floating slowly to the bay, I was seeing my last glimpses, Of my native land, Norway.

White handkerchiefs that waved a last farewell.

I looked intently, Towards the shore, In my mind the picture preserved. T’was etched into my memory, The sight that I observed. The last thing I remembered, As here now I can tell, Was the sight of those white handkerchiefs, That waved a last farewell!!!”

The future Dr. Oscar Herman Urstad.

Tearful as it was to part with his beloved family and his native Norway, Oscar’s youth and positivity towards his new adventure propelled him onward in this first leg of his journey to America.

Docking in the port of Liverpool, England, Oscar disembarked from his first ship and got his ticket purchased for passage aboard a four-masted, twin-funneled steam/sailing ship called the “USS Alaska” which was owned by the “Guion Shipping Lines”. Without a doubt, while on his voyage, the late March and early April Atlantic seas must’ve tested Oscar’s sea-legs and stomach along the watery way.

Lady Liberty greeted Oscar Urstad on the morning of April 16th in the year of our Lord 1888.

Any oceanic suffering that may have been inflicted on Oscar in his journey to America was well worth it when, on the sunlit morning of April 16th, 1888, “Lady Liberty” greeted our young Norwegian lad as the “Alaska” steamed into the harbor of New York City in Oscar’s new land of America!!!

What an amazing metropolis lay before him. This gigantic city of street cars and overhead rail systems along with telegraph wires and spidering power lines crisscrossed the air above him for as far as the eye could see. Once Oscar had drunk in the sights and sounds of this immense city, it was then that this young Norwegian had achieved the next goal in his saga and bought himself a ticket on a train bound for the State of Iowa and eventually love.

At a whistle stop in Mitchell County, Iowa, it’s possible that Oscar heard other Norwegians chatting at the train station. That was good enough for this young man to plant his roots working for a Norwegian farmer nearby for the next couple years. There he was on their expansive, rolling farmlands that were the very opposite of the sky-high mountains in Oscar’s native homeland of Norway.

From 1890 to 1892, another door had opened in Wisconsin as a store clerk and then love brought Oscar back to Winnebago County, Iowa. A grand young lady had entered Oscar’s life as he joined in marriage to Thonette “Nettie” Lee on May 22nd of 1895.

It was while working at a drug store in Lake Mills, Iowa that Oscar had the inspiration and aspiration to focus the rest of his life in becoming and serving his fellow man as a doctor. With the loving blessing and support of his young wife, Oscar traveled, in 1896, to receive his medical training at the “Central College of Physicians and Surgeons” in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The O.H. Urstad Hospital located at North Main Street in Kiester, Minnesota. Circa 1913.

What better scenario could there be for a new doctor than to be drawn to a new town. Kiester, Minnesota hailed her birth in the year of 1900….the same year Dr. Urstad received his degree in medicine. Kiester saw the Urstad family build a handsome, two story home for their enjoyment and residence. The Urstad’s new hometown received her name in honor of the well-respected Senator, Judge and Attorney by the name of Jacob Armel Kiester.

Looking south down Main Street of Kiester, Minnesota shortly after the turn of the century. The O.H. Urstad Hospital, in 1913, would be located near the three-windowed building in the foreground just south of the church with steeple.

Dr. Urstad, and his dear wife, Nettie, came to love this brand new farming community that had sprung up next to railroad tracks of the Central & Northwest Railroad.

This close-knit town, made up of mostly Scandinavian folk, were reciprocal in their love to the Urstad family as well. So much so was this familial love for their doctor, that they urged and called him to serve as one of the town’s first mayors for several years. Dr. Urstad, in turn, saw to it that this young village grew to be progressive and business friendly under his administration.

With his Norwegian enterprise and determination, Dr. Urstad saw to the construction and completion of Kiester’s very first hospital in the year of 1913. How modern and how comforting it must’ve been for farm families who lived in the untold miles around this village to know that you could receive the most modern medical care of the day in this new facility located to the north end of Main Street.

What love and compassion dwelt within the heart of this naturalized citizen of America who’s Norwegian roots still flavored every aspect of his daily life here in this new land he called home.

The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once said, “The only thing consistent in life is change”. In the year 1920, after two decades of faithful medical care to the families of the Kiester area, it was time for that change in the life of Dr. Urstad and his family.

In 1921, just a year after starting his medical practice in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Dr. Urstad came down with Encephalitis Lethargica. After he managed to recover from this illness, it was suggested that a milder climate may be better for his overall health.

Stanwood, Washington became home for the Urstad family and he began another practice in that fine community until a heart attack, in 1927, brought this fine, upstanding man, doctor and civil leader to the end of his days here on earth.

The Urstad family had worshipped at “Our Saviour Lutheran Church” over the years in Stanwood, so it was fitting that this former Son of Norway be laid to rest in the earth of his new country. Both America and Norway could be proud of the enterprise and abilities, coupled with love and compassion that brought this fine young doctor to the boyhood town of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.


Robert Ledreu Johnson.

At the conclusion of this story, I’d like to take the opportunity to honor another Norwegian gentleman. Mr. Robert Ledreu Johnson (December 14th, 1923 – January 2nd, 2017) who was better known by his playful stage name of “Uncle Torvald”. Robert, along with his cohort in laughter, Red Stangland, toured the entire Midwest over many years and appeared at as many Scandinavian festivals as possible to tell Norwegian jokes and sing silly Norwegian songs. In my story above, I paraphrased an excerpt from a poem he wrote called, “White Handkerchiefs”.

Vol.2…Norwegian Farmer’s Son…September 7th

September 7th………POEM – “A Winter’s Worship” by N. Elliott Noorlun. Created January 31st, 2019.

Farm and faith, So sweetly seen,

Within this scope, Of a winter’s scene.

Chickadees, Will lend their song,

As farming families, Soon will throng,

To this place of worship, While winter’s rest,

Gives thanks to God, For providing His best.

As through the seasons, His fecund soil,

Provided harvest, For farmer’s toil.

So here in winter’s, Blanket of snow,

With fields at rest, It was natural to go,

To worship together, With the family of God,

Having grateful hearts, As they’ve tilled His sod.

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..September 5th


Mr. Ralph Vincent “Smitty” Smith and his Morgan mare project at Washington State University.

The skrinch of saddle leather sounded out as Smitty stood in his stirrups, trying to get a glimpse of what was causing such a powerful noise nearby.

A Lockheed P-38 “Lightning” fighter plane.

It was the summer of 1944 and America was still engaged in World War II while this young buck was doing some cow-hand work along the mighty Columbia River Gorge on the high plains of eastern Washington State. Not wanting to miss the intriguing moment, Smitty gave a right rein to his handsome mount and the two of them made a gallop towards the precipice of the cliff that dropped straight down hundreds of feet into the Columbia River Gorge.

Pulling his faithful steed to a sliding stop at the vertical edge of potential doom, Ralph Vincent Smith was captivated by what his eyes beheld. Far below him, the twin, 1600 horsepower, Allison engines of not just one, but two Lockheed P-38 “Lightning” fighter planes were flying wing-tip to wing-tip just a matter of a few feet above those blue waters of the Columbia River. The immense, propeller-churning sound of those four powerful engines bellowed like a megaphone off both the Oregon and Washington gorge cliff facings. The young horseman was in awe of all of the sounds plus the derring-do of those two United States Army Air Corps pilots. They gave Ralph a thrill as he watched these two warbirds then begin to climb back up into the azure blue of that Northwest sky and split off like two blithe spirits heading to their next war destination.

The Smith boys. L to R: Third born – Robert, Fifth born – Keith, Fourth born – Ralph. All five of the Smith children were born in a snowstorm and even though Ralph was born in May, he received the same snowed-covered reception at his birth!!! 😉

Like those two P-38 “Lightnings”, Ralph “Smitty” Smith was to experience his own version of a wild ride while flying low and high in his life’s conquests.

The slap on Ralph’s bottom from the attending physician caused the first gasps of air and a wail heard round the house for the Smith’s fourth-born child on May 24th, 1926 on the family ranch near Cheney, Washington (which is just south of Spokane).

Smitty at about the age when a bullet stopped him in his tracks.

Life on the Smith ranch, during the “Great Depression” years was about as much of a cowboy existence as you could get. The Smith brothers learned how to ride horses and tend to the chores that were a quid pro quo of family expectations as they gleaned their very existence by caring for the land and the livestock that grazed upon it. With each passing year of youth, Smitty’s love for horses (and all animals) grew exponentially. He was even a blessing to meet his parent’s needs by helping to man-handle a sixteen-horse hitch that pulled their wheat gleaning machine over the rolling hills of fertile eastern Washington.

When you put three rowdy brothers together that were only a couple years apart from each other…….well, sometimes exuberant sibling rivalries boiled over into downright donnybrooks of a fight, now and then. It was during one of those heated brother altercations that the elder brother, Robert, got ahold of one of their father’s firearms. Whether Robert knew there was a live round chambered in that gun, or not, he pointed that “thunder stick” at younger brother, Ralph, and pulled the trigger. The slug and report of the gun’s blast dropped poor Ralph to the ground in less than a blink as the bullet tore into his flesh. Mom and Dad Smith scooped up their son’s almost lifeless body while someone went to fetch the doctor. Young, thirteen year old Ralph’s life lay on the edge of eternity’s door, but, praise the Lord………..he pulled through; although the wounds he received plagued him for years and left him unable to serve during World War II. He carried the souvenir bullet of that incident which nearly punctured his pericardial sac, for the rest of his life.

Here, in the 1944 Cheney High School “Pine Cone” yearbook, are brothers Keith and Ralph Smith.

When it came to education for two of the three Smith brothers, academic life was to be a “double-delight” in that both Ralph and his younger brother, Keith, enjoyed being Cheney High School Seniors and graduates together in 1944. Chronologically, Ralph would have graduated a year earlier, but was held back due to recuperation time from the shooting incident he had suffered at the hands of his elder brother, Robert. Even though younger by two years, Keith became his big brother’s advocate and protector as Ralph was eventually able to, once again, re-enter daily school life. Keith and Ralph continued as a team in that they both attended Eastern Washington University as well as Washington State University.

Keith Smith, Lt. Gen. United States Marine Corps. (1928 – 2012)

While Ralph’s heart was drawn, by his love of animals, to his hoping for a degree in Veterinary Medicine, younger sibling, Keith, was eventually drawn to the Marine Corps and became known as “A Marine’s Marine” with the rank of a three-star Lieutenant General. Even one of Keith’s sons followed his father into the Marines. Sadly, though, that son, Marine Corps Captain Vincent Lee Smith was one of the 220 Marines killed during the terrorist bombing of the Beirut, Lebanon Marine Corps Barracks on October 23rd, 1983.

In the mid to late 1940’s, wheat harvesting in Eastern Washington State was still done with large teams of horses like those pictured here.

Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Smith. 1956

With his various time investments into college life, Ralph garnered a Livestock Degree as well as a Judges’ Certificate for rating livestock in general.

It was May of 1956 when love bloomed in the hearts of Ralph and Miss Patricia Ann Collins. From their union, two lovely children came into the world in the form of Robin and Nolan Smith.

In the mid-1950’s, Ralph Smith went from riding horses to riding the wind while going to work for the Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle, Washington. Starting as early as 1954, Boeing had been conceiving and designing what would eventually become America’s first jet engine passenger airliner………….the Boeing 707. Part of Ralph Smith’s new job, in this jet liner design phase, entailed his team creating a wooden mock-up of the aircraft to study its design characteristics. To be better suited in his new line of work, Ralph began attending the University of Washington and Seattle University to gain his credentials in Architecture, Drafting and Industrial Drawing. Little did he know, at the time, that this knowledge would open up a new world of his teaching those subjects as a staff member of the Battle Ground School District in Battle Ground, Washington.

It’s the 1971-72 school year and Ralph Smith teaches the rudiments of a surveyor’s sextant to students (L to R) Michael Jackson, Cindy Sutton and Tom Johansen.

It was here, in my student years at Battle Ground High School, that the juxtaposition of my life and that of Mr. Smith intersected. I was both trepidatious and excited as I settled into the venue of learning the very basics of what drafting was all about. Mr. Smith commanded respect and admiration from his students for his high standards as a teacher and person.

In those days, there were no fancy digital electronics to make your lettering for your blueprints and daily draft work. Mr. Smith taught us well the importance of proper pencils to use, types of lettering fonts, etc. Even Mr. Smith’s young daughter, Robin, when she was done with her own school campus for the day, would come over to her dad’s classroom and marvel at the intricate work he and his students achieved. There on the wall of her dad’s classroom was a magnificent pencil drawing of a handsome railroad train trestle. Robin’s young memory of gazing at that three-point, landscape perspective drawing stirs her heart’s appreciation for her father’s vocation to this very day. 😉

Once again, due to health issues, our good Lord closed the door on Ralph Smith’s teaching career, but He knew, good and well, that Smitty still had a great love for horses and also aspired to the reaching of young people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To this end, in 1978, Ralph and his lovely bride, Pat, were the first “Horsemanship Directors” for the newly established “Royal Ridges Retreat” Christian Horsemanship camp in the lovely forested hills near Yacolt, Washington. It was both a challenge and a delight for Ralph and Pat to impart both the knowledge of horsemanship and share the Good News that Jesus loved every camper that came under their care for a week of fun, learning and life changing times.

In 1987, while on a hike with his wife, Pat, Smitty suffered a stroke and was taken to the hospital. It was determined that surgery was needed to correct Ralph’s leaking heart valves. But, while on the operating table, Ralph had yet another stroke that was so severe, it robbed him of the ability to swallow (among other issues). It was at this juncture, in my former teacher’s life, that I had the opportunity to get to know him closer as a brother in Christ. Since it was hard for Ralph to get out and about in those days, three or four of us men from Battle Ground Baptist Church would drive out weekly to the Smith home and have a Bible Study together.

Like any of us on this earth, Ralph had issues in his past that plagued him deeply. I remember, on more than one occasion, when Smitty would say to us. “Ya know, fellas, in the New Testament, 1st Timothy 1:15 says, ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief”!! Smitty continued, “And if the Apostle Paul called himself the chief of sinners, well, that makes me second in command”.

True, each and every one of us, in this life, have our failures and victories, our friends and our enemies. I, for one, saw this dear man realize his shortcomings. He was humbled by the Grace of God and strove to live a godly life by God’s mercy and love. I like what his gravestone says………“Truth Has Set Me Free”.

I look forward to Heaven someday and rekindling the fellowship of Ralph Vincent Smith, who was not only a fine High School teacher of mine, but a brother in the Lord to this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..September 6th

September 6th………POEM – “The Angels Giggle” by N. Elliott Noorlun. Created January 11th, 2014.

I’ll bet the angels giggle, Whene’er I exercise,

To see such spirited movement, From my flabby thunder thighs!!!

When trying to enhance my view, By simply sitting up,

I cry-n-whine, and wish to dine, Just like a chubby pup.

Of course this “glorious” figure, Did not happen overnight,

It took ice cream and “training”, To put my toes outta sight!

It’s scary, I know, That when my toe, Doth touch the bathroom scale,

The springs go “BOING”!!, And the screen starts glowing,


Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..September 4th

September 4th………..POEM – “Follow Me Back” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Elliott’s sister, Rosemary, came back to her alma mater, in the fall of 1964,, to crown the new Homecoming Queen….Ruthie Gilbert. Sharon Zeller Meyer (left center in white dress) is one of the elegantly dressed royal court. High School life was so mature then.

Follow me back, To 1965,

When farming, our school, And town did thrive.

When young folk still dressed, With style and flair,

T’was a sign of good parents, Who raised them with care.

Notice how all the tools, for the most part, in Mr. Parker’s shop were hand tools and not electric. He taught us all with high standards of discipline.

We looked to our teachers, With respect and pride,

For they were our mentors, Towards our future they’d guide,

Our thoughts and our actions, All tempered with care,

For they knew soon we’d face, A bold world out there.

Rewards were forthcoming, To bolster our soul,

And inspire us to greater, Achievements as goal.

And even for fun, Future Homemakers would note,

Their handsomest choice, For Chapter Dreamboat! 😉

This is Burdette Courrier, the 1965 Kiester High School Future Homemaker’s of America’s choice for “Chapter Dreamboat” that year! 😉

Our young folk were raised, To be honest and sound,

So even in death, Much love could be found,

To honor the life, Of their custodian friend,

By seeing that their yearbook, To his memory would lend,

A reminder that celebrated, This veteran and dad,

Who cared for that building, Of each young gal and lad.

Yes, the blue and white “Bulldogs”, Of this “Rambler” tome,

Are fondly remembered, In many a home!!!

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..September 3rd

September 3rd……….POEM – “Hog Stylin’ “ by N. Elliott Noorlun. Created 12.27.18

Well now you know, Young guys n gals,

Where your nose-ring style was born.

It came from the pigs, To slow down their digs,

Or else our fence would be torn.

So take it from farmers, Those old rural charmers,

A ring in the nose is no treat!

A style? Maybe so, But when boogers must blow,

Cleaning slime off that ring is a feat!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..September 2nd

September 2nd………POEM – “Look Into My Heart” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Don’t look on the outside, Look into my heart,

Where a youth-filled child still dwells.

Where fragrances, dreams, Each nuance of life,

Is vibrant as memory swells.

Though trapped within, This frailness of frame,

So that stumbling and faltering tells.

Within I’m still young, With songs still unsung,

And eternal youth still rings its bell!!!

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..December 25th Part II

Here on Christmas Day 2021, I played “Santa” to myself.

This Norwegian Farmer’s Son was born in January of 1954 in Blue Earth, Minnesota. For the next 13 years of life, I had the great joy of calling Kiester, Minnesota my beloved hometown!

True, my family entered another chapter of life when we sold our farm and moved to Washington State, but, my heart will always see Kiester as my one and only true hometown.

So, you see, even though I haven’t lived in Kiester since 1967, I have a great love for all those who impacted and contributed to my young life!! So much so, that recently I stumbled across three “Rambler” yearbooks for sale on eBay.

To me they are GOLD and I just had to have them to add to my Kiester history collection of photos, newspaper articles, etc..

There is one website that can make copies of old yearbooks, but they usually charge at least $100 to do so. These three gems were only $30 each.

There’s on old saying that goes……...”One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure”………to me, these are a treasure of memories with many faces I recognize in not only my town’s past, but even for my big brother and sister whose Grade School photos are in these cherished tomes of yesteryear.

I can’t wait to start cruising and perusing through these great old “Rambler” yearbooks.

If any Kiester friends may have lost your “Rambler” over the years, I currently have the yearbooks from 1958 – 1964 and from 1967 – 1972 and soon will have these three hometown memory volumes from 1951, 1952 and 1965. I’d count it a joy to make scans of yourself and/or family members, if you’d like. Just let me know.


Starting tomorrow, I’ll be returning to my usual calendar format of stories and poems using the calendar date of September 2nd (where I left off before doing these recent Christmas stories.

Mange Takk (thank you) to all of you for so kindly stopping by to read this wannabe writer’s attempts to put to paper the gentle adventures of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..December 25th


Elliott has a good scream because he missed Christmas of 1953, having popped into the world on January 14th of 1954.

POEM – “My Oh Me, A Metal Christmas Tree” by N. Elliott Noorlun

On my very first Christmas, I was ready to soar,

Having “popped out” back in 1954.

I could toddle n crawl, With a giggle n coo,

While Mom held my hand, As family waved a “YooHoo”!!

Elliott was a “swinger”, during Christmas of 1954, when he was allowed a ride in his cousin’s baby swing.

So along came Christmas of ’54,

I’m awake and aware, And yearning for more,

Fun as I posed, In my cousin’s baby swing,

I really enjoyed this new Christmas “thing”!!

Christmas 1954 finds Elliott’s sister, Rosemary, and big brother, Lowell, cherishing the joys of gifts they received while at our uncle’s home in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Big sister and brother, Smiled on each other,

As each gift was sweetly revealed.

Just then, though, I saw, Uncle Del’s “magic tree”,

And inside, I just could’ve squealed!!

Tiny Elliott was captured with a sense of awe as that silver tree changed and glowed with four separate colors as the motorized light wheel went round and round.

My, oh me!!!, A metal Christmas tree!!!,

Aluminum glory to behold!!

And plugged in beneath, Was a four-colored wheel,

That a light shown through, So bold!!

Around the wheel turned, As bright light within burned,

From red, to green, to blue.

And as gold came around, I uttered no sound,

I became “lost” in each grand Christmas hue!!

Elliott, sitting on his grandfather’s lap, looks like a little “Santa” dressed up in his red jacket.

Over the years, The Christmas tree cheers,

Came in styles big and small for the times.

But family together, In wintery weather,

Made Christmas the best of all climes!!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..December 24th


POEM – “The Tractor Our Santa Did Ride” by N. Elliott Noorlun. Created December 24th, 2018.

This is the tractor, OUR “Santa” would ride,

Back in those days of yore.

When it came to farming, OUR “Santa” drove red,

A “Farmall” fan to the core!!

Elliott’s “Santa” daddy, Russell, is second from left in this line-up of neighbors who came together to help harvest corn. Left to right: Darrell Mutschler, Russell Noorlun, Russell Hummer, David Mutschler, ?, ?, and George Bauman.

He tried a “John Deere”, Only once in his days,

The chug-chug putt-putt made him sore.

So when Dad had fed, The cows and the sows,

He’d head for the IH Store.

With parts in hand, Our “Santa” felt grand,

And came home through our kitchen door.

He’d plop down for coffee, As his boots would come off,

So’s to relish his “Farmall” Christmas more!! 😉