December 8th…“AS A FARMER BOY IN YOUR FARMING TOWN OF KIESTER, MINNESOTA, WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE FARMER STORE TO BROWSE IN?”
Wrapped in the arms of agriculture since I was a babe in the shadow of a barn, I have always been in awe of the tractors our father used to cultivate and glean abundant harvests from the onyx-black soils of our fertile part of the world.
In an anti-climactic vein, our mother even tells about how a tractor was almost the cause of my near death as a toddler. Being the tiny tike I was, I was blithely oblivious to the danger at hand as I saw my daddy coming back from the fields to our yard on his tractor. I loved Daddy and I loved tractors, so I put my little legs a runnin’ and headed straight for my dad. When Mom looked up from her work, there I was, running towards my father who was rolling into our farmyard pulling a load of hay with his tractor. With arms flailing the air above her head, my mother streaked after her toddler in jeopardy. Unable to see me, in his blind spot out in front of the tractor, Dad could have easily crushed me to death. Guardian angels must’ve given our mother, Clarice, extra loud screams that scared Dad and got his attention to stop just in time and,……. here I am, still alive to share these stories with you 😉
All it took was for Dad or Mom to lift my tiny being up and place me in the seat of a tractor and I was “hooked”. Like a happy addict, I just couldn’t get enough of tractors and was a fan of the highest degree.
I was magically entranced by these massive metal monsters so gigantic in size, yet able to be tamed by the prowess and know-how of my farmer father or big brother who possessed the knowledge to push on foot pedals, pull levers and yank gear shifts accordingly to call this mechanized marvel to do their bidding.
International Harvester Company made a small utility tractor called the Farmall B. Big brother, Lowell, became so adept at operating that tractor that it was amazing for this little brother to watch what my elder brother could accomplish. One day, in the very muddy Springtime, Lowell had managed to get the “B” into the cowyard and hooked it up to a very full, and heavy, manure spreader implement near our barn. When he let out the clutch to start pulling the manure spreader, those chevron-treaded tractor tires began to spin in the slime and were getting buried in the mud. Keeping his cool head, big brother made use of the independent left and right brakes on the tractor. By alternating left brake, then right brake, Lowell was able to let each tractor tire grind down to solid ground beneath and he, in essence, “walked” that manure spreader right out of the mud and it followed him out to the field so he could spread the load of “moo goo” for fertilizer on our fields.
There were, and I’m sure still are, tractor loyalties from farm place to farm place back home in our Minnesota days. For the most part, our father, Russell, was loyal towards and preferred to farm with International Harvester brand tractors. During that era of agricultural history, the “IH” Company had a model of tractors called the Farmall. For our family, we owned a small Farmall B, a bit larger tractor called the Farmall H and our muscle tractor was the big Farmall Super M. Dad owned an older Farmall F-20 that he kept inside his two row corn-picker and we also owned a Massey Harris Model 44 tractor. Teasingly, it may sound almost sacrilegious to other Farmall owners, but Dad, at one time, even owned a John Deere Model 70 tractor, too. So, with the ownership of a “green machine”, this is where the story today takes on the sharing of my enjoyment of where I enjoyed shopping in town during that era.
During the tenure of time when Dad owned that John Deere 70, he’d occasionally need parts or supplies. Those were the days when I’d literally beg our father to allow me to go with him into our grand little village of Kiester on one of his buying trips. “Sure, Son, come on along!”, Dad would respond to me. Excitedly, I’d run over to our old ’50 Ford pickup and jump in. Windows rolled down, pickup engine purring; Dad let out the truck’s clutch pedal and away we rolled towards Kiester and the well-known business called “Sime Equipment Company”. Along the way, Dad would light up a “Camels” cigarette and had it captured between his first and middle fingers that draped over the top of that black steering wheel. There was a manly “coolness” to observe Dad’s cigarette smoke being trifled with by the wind in the cab as we drove along. Other farmers, approaching us on the road, would meet us heading to the west (as we headed east), my dad rendered the traditional country courtesy of a two or three finger wave to fellow farmers as we drove along with the Summer wind flowing through the truck cab to cool us.
In a short while, we arrived and parked in front of the stately building where John Deere green was KING!!! As we climbed out of the Ford, I could feel a magnetism pulling me towards my farmer boy utopia, my “kid heaven”. The entry bell over the door jangled as we stepped inside “Simes”. I asked permission to split company with Dad as he was heading for the parts counter. MY “counter” was made up of a wide shelf that ran the entirety of the length of the store’s giant picture window. On that shelf, just waiting for my boy toy imagination was just about every conceivable John Deere toy tractor and accessory toy you can dream of. I was on a veritable “Cloud 9” of childhood ecstasy and began making “putt, putt, putt” sounds as I touched as many of those fun-time toys as time would permit me. I hoped that Dad’s business lasted hours so that I could “overdose” on fun here.
Nearby the toy window, at least one or two full aisles were stocked with John Deere toys that were for SALE, too!! In my little boy heart, I imagined how magnificent it would be for my dad to purchase all of these amazing toys for me to take home and play with! But, alas, money was not easy to come by for folks who tilled the land for a living. Dad and Mom had taught us about the priorities of life in feeding our family, caring for our farm and other essentials. Even though Dad could see the whimsical wishes on my yearning face to own every John Deere toy ever made, he also had taught me the value of obedience. And true, I was grateful that I had so much fun playing along that broad expanse of toyland along that picture window. Yet, when our father said, “It’s time to go, Son.” I knew that obedience superseded toys any day for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.