June 14th………..POEM – “He’d Farm From Dawn Til Dusk” created by N. Elliott Noorlun 6/28/2014. Here, on the actual Father’s Day of 6/20/2021, I share another tribute poem to honor the life of our patriarch.
June 13th……...”GRANDPA, DID YOU HAVE AN ORCHARD ON YOUR FARM THERE IN SOUTH CENTRAL MINNESOTA? WHAT KIND OF YUMMY, TASTY TREATS GREW THERE FOR YOU TO ENJOY AND EVENTUALLY STORE FOR WINTER USE”??
The tasty trifecta of a boy, his belly and a baler came about one fine Summer’s day on our farm northwest of Kiester, Minnesota.
As the back-porch screen door of our farm home slapped shut behind me, the next sound I heard was the bellowing, massive, “Wisconsin” brand, onboard motor of Dad’s 1948 “New Holland” baler. My little farmboy “radar” ears zeroed in on the sound coordinates of a west/southwest bearing that was filtering towards me through the orchard of our family farm. Our handsome Massey-Harris 44 tractor was faithfully pulling the “New Holland” along as the self-sufficiency of that baler engine pulsed with every downward, packing throw of the thrusting arm mechanism. That, coupled with the baler’s horizontal, plunging hammer-head, packed the alfalfa into tight, perfectly rectangular bales that inched their way out of the rear chute of the “New Holland” with every forward roll of this haying operation.
I had been drawn to that farming sound and, on “Shank’s Horses” (my legs), had just arrived at our family orchard. Since I was still too young to be part of the baling crew, I figured the next best thing would be to enjoy a double delight; I’d “supervise” with my eyes and fill my belly with orchard wonders at the same luxurious time. 😉
With Dad and big brother busy baling and stacking bales on the flat-rack, I played “straw-boss” and shinnied like a squirrel up to the top of one of our apple trees in the orchard. From those high, breeze-blown branches, the cotton clouds above me skidded along on those cooling prairie winds. Now, I could now relish each pass of Dad and the baling operation while I chomped merrily on our apples that were still a bit green, but ohhh so tasty!!!
With plenty of room still available in my tomboy tummy, I saw my next tasty target in the pear tree that was next door to my current pleasant perch. “Mr. Gravity” almost got the best of me on the way back to ground level that day, but, aside from a bark abrasion on my arm, I was a rarin’ to head for the heights of the pear tree and continue my feast there. Mmmmm, GOOD were those pears as they ooozed their liquid gold around my choppers as I bit into and consumed each one with the gusto of boy joy!!
With my “hollow legs” somewhat satisfied with apples and pears, it dawned on my miniscule memory that Mom had instructed me earlier that she wanted a harvest of some of our rhubarb that dwelt in a type of cool hedgerow that ran east to west on the northside of our orchard. Trusty pocketknife at the ready, I scrambled down from that perfectly playful pear tree and sauntered over to the rhubarb plants that grew flavorfully under a “roof” of elephant-sized leaves that crowned and shaded the tart, celery-looking red trunks below. A quick slice at the bottom freed each red trunk from the ground and another quick fling of my knife blade beheaded the green elephant-eared crown.
It was a good thing, that day, that I had brought along one of our metal, galvanized pails to carry these organic treasures back up to Mom and her great skills of making delicious rhubarb “sauce” and rhubarb pies.
One last thing on Mom’s “shopping list” for our orchard that day was for me to cut and bring her a large portion of asparagus from our patch that rested at the west edge of our grand orchard. As the distant drone of Dad’s baling operation sounded from the far corner of the farm acreage, I was one blessed boy in the richness of that provisional orchard that was planted long, long before us by the Thompson, Santmaier and Holstad families who were the original pioneers of our farm land. I can still vividly recall the simple joys of that terrifically tasty time for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.
June 11th………“GRANDPA, WE SEE THAT YOU HAVE TYPED ALL OF THESE STORIES. DID YOU TAKE A TYPING CLASS WHEN YOU ATTENDED BATTLE GROUND HIGH SCHOOL? WHO WAS YOUR TEACHER”?
As a fearsome, frantic, festinating Freshman, I hustled towards the impressive entrance of Battle Ground High School with a sense of shock and awe!!! Above and beyond the school, towering, white, cumulonimbus clouds were set off against an azure blue Pacific Northwest sky which accentuated the handsome beauty of this impressive new High School of mine.
In 1967, our former farming family had moved from Minnesota to this new State and our new life chapter here in Battle Ground, Washington. I had just come from my quaint small town in southern Minnesota where I was used to a grade size of a little over 40 classmates. So, as I entered my 8th Grade school year, I was aghast to see how large this school was in comparison to back home. Battle Ground High School, in the 1968-69 school year of my Freshman 9th Grade was even more amazing to see when I found out that the head count of my grade level had grown to just under 300 classmates. Needless to say, overwhelmed is how I felt, to put it mildly.
Upon entering those broad High School entry doors, and just off to my right, in the first classroom on the corner, I can still recall hearing an almost Marine Corps-like cadence being called out in an austere lady’s voice that carried with it every bit of an authoritarian aura of “Do what I say, and do it NOW, please”!!! Turns out, the classroom that drew my attention that morning was the domain of the school’s typing class and was under the adept command of Mrs. Mae Harmon. I found the Typing Class, that day, to be, like all other things in my new life, a bit too much for a frustrated Freshman to handle. Maybe next year I’d reassess taking that class.
As my Freshman year came to its conclusion, I realized that I did NOT want to always be a one finger typist and, as classes were offered for my Sophomore year, I decided that I would put myself under the tutelage of Mrs. Harman and her Typing Class.
I was both excited and scared upon entering Mrs. Harman’s Typing Class that first day of my 10th Grade Year. Yet, I had a peace within as I found this educator to be in full mastery of her teaching subject, well respected, and that, through time, she had honed the skills necessary to impart her wisdom of typing to any and all that walked through the portals of her educational castle.
As my inquisitive eyes perused the classroom, I noticed that half of the machines were old-fashioned, manual typewriters and half were the relatively new IBM Selectric electric typewriters that had just been introduced to the marketing public in 1961. For whatever her selection criteria may have been, I was to be assigned as the half of the class that would start the school year on the old manual typewriters.
With that Marine-like cadence I had heard in the past, Mrs. Harmon got our attention with .“Ready students?!! Feet on the floor and sitting up straight in your chair?Let’s begin”!!! , said our sage, learned lady before us. “And….. F-R-F. F-T-F,F-V-F”!!! And so the drills began.
Long before digital word processors were part of the typing culture, when you made a goof on a manual typewriter, it was a BIG DEAL!!! For one thing, the rest of the class were click, clacking away around me, but the blatant mistake on my typing page had to be corrected before I could try to catch up with those more efficient classmates. Out would come the combination eraser “wheel” and brush. I’d have to roll up the mistake to access the boo-boo with the typing cylinder knob and then rub out the mistake with my eraser. Then I had to use the brush to clean away the eraser residuals, roll the cylinder and paper back down to its original position to begin typing again and just HOPE I didn’t make another mistake too soon in the near future………which I usually DID!!!! 😦
Needless to say, the more I’d fret over making another mistake, sure enough, I’d make another mistake!!! I must’ve worn out at least three eraser wheels in that first semester of Typing!!!
Yet, good things come to those that wait, ya? On the first day of the 2nd Semester, Mrs. Harmon made an announcement. “Students, today we’re going to make a change. I want all those who have been on manual typewriters, since the first day of school, to move over to and choose an IBM “Selectric” electric typewriter to sit by. And, vice versa, you students who have been on the electrics will now move over and choose a manual typewriter for the remainder of the school year”!!! Ohhhh joy!!! I was now in “typewriter heaven”!!! The difference was like night and day to us who had battled the old machines for that first half of the school year. These “new” electrics were amazing. It was like driving a car with power-steering for a change!! And, the electrics were even supplied with a correcting ribbon that pulled your mistakes off the paper like magic…….no more wheel eraser!!! My fellow “electric typists” and I also got some giggles from listening to the kids on the manual typewriter side of the room complaining loudly how they now had to strike the keys with full force (instead of tip-toe-touch like ours) to make their machines work. From that day on, I was a happy typist and a very happy Norwegian Farmer’s Son.
June 9th………“WHAT WAS A MACHINE THAT YOUR GRANDFATHER OWNED THAT YOU FOUND TO BE FUN IN TRYING TO OPERATE”?
I reckon Daniel Boone must’ve smiled down, from those golden streets of Heaven, to see his own son, Nathan, scout out the town where my maternal grandparents eventually lived. It was the year 1835 as these brave souls rode their horses upon on the limitless prairie lands of what was still considered part of the Louisiana Purchase that the United States procured from France in 1803. What we know as southern Minnesota wasn’t even considered a territory until the year 1849. A topographer, assigned with Nathan Boone’s United States Dragoons, by the name of Mr. Albert Lea, did the actual surveying that eventually set up a town that would be named after him.
Mr. Albert Lea, in his handsome moustache and goatee beard, later served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and would never know how much our maternal grandparents, Clarence and Amanda Sletten, enjoyed the lovely, green city that he helped to found by his surveying talents. As the pleasant prairie town grew out towards Fountain Lake, there was a gracious neighborhood built around Abbott Street and that’s where my maternal uncle comes into this story.
Fast forward to the late 1940’s and our handsome Uncle Marcus Delmaine (Del) Sletten was home from World War II. Uncle Del had served valiantly with the United States Army “Blue Devils” of the 88th Infantry Division in the rugged mountain warfare of Italy. His Army Division fought not only the dug-in Germans, but also battled against the sheer treachery of the vertical Italian mountains themselves. Such dogged determination did not go unnoticed and Del’s fighting force earned the honor of receiving The Presidential Unit Citation for bravery by then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Having contributed to America’s successful fight for freedom and our way of life, Del could now focus on the needs of his aging parents who were so grateful for his multi-faceted talents in building them a small retirement cottage there on Abbott Street. Uncle Del gave them counsel as they bought a corner parcel of land just below a tall land berm that supplied a roadway for a railroad line that ran past their property.
What originally started as a garage, morphed into the cutest little retirement cottage this side of anywhere. Clarence and Amanda Sletten had been blessed with four wonderful children and this particular child of theirs, our Uncle Del, was one very talented son who saw to it that his dear mother and father had a cozy home to finish out their years on earth in comfort.
Sunday afternoons, after morning worship at our church, our family’s car often seemed to have a northeast magnet that pulled us towards Albert Lea and our mother’s parent’s home on Abbott Street. In the 100 plus years, since Mr. Lea had surveyed this town, a cool, leaf-crowned canopy of trees cooled us as our ’56 Chevy rolled down the streets and lanes that eventually put us in front of this darling cottage for an afternoon of fellowship with our maternal elders.
It didn’t take much exploring, on my part, of Grandpa Clarence’s tool shed, to come across a machine that we did not have at our farm near Kiester. It was called a push reel mower that Grandpa used for cutting his lovely lawn area. I found it fascinating because there was no engine. Me, myself and I were the engine as the machine came to life by my pushing that reel mower. As the drive wheels went round and round, they, in turn, used a gear system that spun a spiral series of blades that snugly ran across a cutting bar at the bottom of the mower. As the grass “got in the way” of those spinning spiral blades and the cutting bar, it was cleanly cut off and lay on the ground behind you. Well, that was supposed to be the way it worked.
In those days, being that I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I must have given the adults lots to laugh about as I struggled valiantly in Grandpa and Grandma’s front yard trying to get my short, midget stature to find enough UMPHH!! to get that contraption to move fast enough and far enough to actually cut the grass.
Imbued with the exuberance of childhood, though, I had more fun in the journey of this adventure, rather than the “arrival” of actually cutting Grandpa’s lawn. Sometimes, I’d even flip the mower to an upside down position just to have the joy of watching those spiral blades spin into a whirring blur as I huffed and puffed along. It was the joy of the moment that intrigued and gave a happy little boy smile to this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉
June 6th……..“THIS TIME, MY CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN, GRANDPA’S GOT A RIDDLE FOR YOU. WE HAD A “BANK” ON OUR FARM, BUT IT DIDN’T HAVE GREEN DOLLAR BILLS OR EVEN COINS IN IT. WHAT WAS IT”?
Our corn was young and so was I as my bouncing boney boy butt did a jig upon the axletree of Dad’s little Farmall “B” tractor.
With his cornfields in their infancy, our farmer father had the wisdom that “too much of a good thing, isn’t good” when it came to the type of tractor that he decided to use for cultivating the ubiquitous bane of weeds that grew between the corn rows. Later in the growing season, when the corn was much taller, Dad would likely use his larger Farmall “H” or “Super M”, but the “B” was today’s better choice of power. Snatching a handful of Mom’s scrumptious cookies, fresh out of her oven, Dad gave Mom a wink and a smile as the two of us farmer fellows headed out to the cornfield aboard our smallest tractor, the “B”.
With every passing year of growing up there on our farm, I saw it as a graduating honor each time Dad included me in one of his farming operations. It was like he would silently say to me, “Elliott, you’re growing up to the point that I can share thisagricultural experience with you now”!!! I was elated!!
Considering that 50 or 100 years prior to our dad and son day together, farmers had to hoe the weeds from their corn by hand. Eventually, in the late 1880’s, someone invented a horse-drawn, riding cultivator that could clean two rows of crop at at time. As to that day for us, in the early 1960’s, I found our cultivator on the “B” to be fascinating since it not only cleaned the weeds from between the corn rows, but also had shovel/shoes that came behind and re-dug the soil where the tractor tires had gone.
From my perfect perch on the iron “seat” of the axletree, I enjoyed watching Dad as he mechanically lowered the plowshoes of the cultivator into that fecund, ebony soil that enriched our farmer lives. With a little pull to the throttle, for speed, our Norwegian farmer daddy let out the clutch and we productively moved forward down our first of many swaths that dug up weeds and aerated the soil near these corn “children” below us. A happy prairie wind skipped across the young corn plants that made their young, green arms “wave” at us in their rows, just like a classroom of children would wave at their teacher as she’d walk by their rows of desks.
That was one perfect Minnesota day to be alive and thrive on this acreage that we called home! I had so much fun just watching and learning as Dad handled that tractor and its mounted cultivator like it was an extension of is own arms and legs. As we’d reach the end of a row, our handsome patriarch would quickly yank the digging shovels out of the ground and use the right or left brake of the tractor to make that little rig “spin on a dime” just in time to drop the cultivator back into the soil for the next “cleaning” swath. On the return swath, I remember looking in prideful amazement at how gorgeous our field appeared with weeds all gone between those finished rows and the soil basking in all its black, fertile glory.
While learning and loving our father/son time together, I noticed that there was some acreage alongside of us that was not planted in a crop that year. Inquisitive as I was, I leaned into Dad’s ear (so’s he could hear me above the tractor’s engine noise) and asked him, “Hey Dad, why don’t you plantcrops in that field, like you did here”?? Dad responded with the answer, “Because, Son, that’s called SOIL BANK”!!! Hmmmm???, the only “bank” I knew of was The First National Bank in our hometown of Kiester. As we brought the “B” back to the farm yard for our noon dinner time (as Midwesterners call it), Dad was able to talk more freely without competition from the tractor’s engine. “You see, Son, The United States Department Of Agriculture knows that we American farmers are some of the world’s best producers of food, etc.. Sometimes, we even produce a bit too much product to the point of what’s called a surplus on the market. So, “Uncle Sam” (our government) decided to pay farmer’s something called a “rental payment” for a certain percentage of acres to allow some of our land to take a rest for a year or two. They call this program “Soil Bank” because it reduces some of that excess product, still brings in some money for farmers and their families AND allows the soil to rest for a while to kind of regenerate rather than being worked every single year”. My, my, my …….little did this farmer boy know that we had a BANK right there on the property of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉