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

March 8th………“AS A LITTLE FARM BOY, IN KIESTER, MINNESOTA, WHEN AND WHERE DID YOU SEE YOUR FIRST COLOR TELEVISION? WHAT PROGRAM WAS ON THE AIR THAT DAY?”

With the masterful downstroke of his conductor’s baton, our honorable Mr. Milton Leland Glende brought the Kiester High School Band to begin playing the strains of the majestic musical composition called, “Pomp and Circumstance”. Here, in 1961, and since the turn of the century, this broad and moving piece of orchestration has traditionally signaled various pageantries, king coronations and especially, the gallant march for High School Graduation ceremonies across our great state of Minnesota and America, overall. There, in our handsome school gymnasium, all visiting hushed in respect as these young graduates were about to be honored. The parents of these fine young men and women, having themselves grown up through the Great Depression and World War II, passed on a distinct elegance to this Graduating Class of well-deserving young people.

Unlike the slovenly, uncaring young generation of today, these young ladies and gentlemen of Kiester High School showed the utmost respect for this solemn and celebratory occasion by dressing in their very finest attire. Graduation gowns of the “Blue & White” were gracing young ladies so beautifully, many of who wore the traditional white gloves along with their best dresses. Senior graduation gowns on the young men of that fine class were worn over their handsome suits and ties, with new formal dress shoes adding that special panache to this culminating occasion that marked all of their education up to this point in their lives.

Even as a young observer to all this, I was of the conviction that, thanks to the Christian ethics that permeated the highest percentage of farming folk of our area; no matter how distant our farms were from each other, we all saw each other as connected families. When a nearby farm family was hurting, your neighbors came to call to do chores for you, or make meals for you because, as brothers and sisters in Christ, it was better to give than to receive. In this case, graduation was a time of happy celebration and it was a joyful thing to be invited to local farm homes to rejoice for their graduating Senior, bring cards, gifts and food to mark this elevated achievement in their young life and pray God Speed to whatever life’s next chapter would be for them.

There, in the late spring of 1961, it was one of those wonderful times to help celebrate someone’s graduation from Kiester High School. Not only did our handsome brother, Lowell, graduate that year, but our farm neighbor, Charlie and Mabel Heitzeg’s daughter, Carol, also was a member of Lowell’s graduating class. Since Sunday was a traditional day of rest for most farm families, the Heitzegs had invited our family to their home that evening to join in the party for Carol. Their welcome to us was always buoyant with smiles and kindness as we arrived. The happy aroma of coffee permeated the house as young and old milled around their spacious home and visited with one another. For me, though, something caught my little boy eyes that I had never EVER seen before. In the 1950’s and early 1960’s, a farm home was glad to have maybe just ONE television in the home and that TV had only a black and white picture tube. Our dear daddy was a big fan of the western TV show called, “Bonanza”. And, since this was Sunday night, “Bonanza” was “on the air” at Charlie and Mabel’s, too. BUT, the Heitzegs had one of those fancy television sets that, if certain shows were available, played the programs in COLOR!!!

I was stunned and captured by the awe of it all!!! There was “Hoss” and “Little Joe” talking to their father, “Ben Cartright”…….and they were IN COLOR!! Even though their faces were green and the grass was blue…..heyyyy!!! the main thing is they were in COLOR!! I was thrilled! Being a hometown man, Charlie had likely purchased his handsome COLOR television set from Ralph’s Radio Shop in town. In those days, farm families supported local businesses first and foremost.

What a grand series of celebrations: not only to see our handsome brother graduate High School and his neighbor friend graduate High School, but to also see my very first COLOR television set playing our family’s favorite western show, “Bonanaza”!!! That was truly a triple treat for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..March 7th

March 7th…….“IN CONTRAST TO TODAY, WHAT WAS IT LIKE, AS A LITTLE BOY, TO GO SHOPPING FOR SHOES AND CLOTHING WITH YOUR PARENTS IN YOUR SWEET HOMETOWN OF KIESTER, MINNESOTA?”

A cheery “ching-a-ling” sounded above our heads as Mom and I pushed open the glass-paneled door of Kraus Department Store. In my mini-boy mind, I could tell that that tiny brass bell, hanging from that wooden door frame, was just plain happy to see us. “Mr. Bell” had announced to the owners that we had arrived at their family-owned establishment. Like all good farm families, we patronized this fine, hometown store for our family clothing needs. Since 1952, this brick edifice of commerce sat elegantly on the north end of Main Street there in our beloved hometown of Kiester, Minnesota. As was typical of countless other Main Street storefronts of American culture, in that era, this department store had massive “picture windows” that brightly displayed various fashion wares and accessories to folk passing by on the sidewalks of our lovely village. Long before giant malls, our town’s sidewalks were the boulevards upon which these owners hoped their displayed wares would catch the eye of local farm families who came into town on a regular basis to provide the clothing and shoe necessities for moms and dads and children, too.

Elliott, “the test pilot” of wearing out shoes and clothing.

If ever there was a “test pilot” for clothing and shoes, well, that was ME!! Instead of the honorable Captain Chuck Yeager breaking the speed of sound (in 1947); from 1954 on, I was an infamous test pilot in my own right as I was breaking the speed of how fast I could wear out blue jeans, shirt elbows and shoes!! With a blur of my racing feet, I could “slide into home plate” on our graveled farm yard and do major damage to any fabric I was wearing from head to toes. Then, there were the “Mount Everest” adventures of climbing every type of tree I could get my energetic hands on; only to get near the top of said tree and then lose my grip as I’d “pinball” my way back towards the earth with broken branches tearing a shirt to shreds on the way down. I was even “religious” when it came to clothes and especially shoes, cause instead of holy, I was HOLEy in the way I could wear down the soles of my shoes till you could see “daylight” right through to my socks. Or, on an even cuter version, my worn out shoes would start “talking to me” when the glue came undone as the sole came away from the toe of the shoe. The shoe looked like a mouth opening and closing with each footstep!! 😉 During the dry times of summer, I’d just carry on with my “HOLEy” shoes, but when the wet weather of fall and winter came along, or going back to school, it was time for a trip with Mom to Kraus Department Store.

Iowans by birth, Chuck and Jean Kraus lent the flavor of their lives to the weave and beauty that made our village of farm families so special. Marlys “Jean” Stavely married Charles J. “Chuck” Kraus on June 26th, 1949 in Traer, Iowa. By September of that same year, Jean achieved the honor of becoming a registered nurse. Chuck had honorably served our great nation as a Corporal in the United States Army during World War Two. Somehow, destiny brought them to the community of Kiester, Minnesota and together, they were a grand team that brought over thirty years of love and dedication to providing shoes, clothing, dry goods and accessories to the precious farming community we all called home.

A “Brannock” shoe measuring device on floor next to a sloped shoe stool.

To this fidgety, fun-minded, frolicking farm boy, each life experience in those early days of life were accentuated by sounds, fragrances and the nuance of people’s personalities around me. Unlike the audio barrage of unwanted, canned music in stores of today, Kraus Department Store was blissfully quiet as we walked in. Pleasant conversations could be heard nearby as Jean Kraus was meeting the need of other shoppers. For Mom and I, though, we were in the market that day for some new shoes for my rambunctious feet that seemed to melt each pair with wear from all my fast-paced, farm fun festivals. To that end, the two of us began our clickety-clack descent down the tiled steps of the large stairwell that took us into the leather fragrances of the shoe department downstairs. We were met with a smile from the very tall Mr. Kraus who instructed me to take off my current shoes and sit on a stool with a slanted ramp on one end. A fascinating metal contraption was pulled from Mr. Kraus’ sales desk called a “Brannock” Foot Measuring Device. I was captivated while Chuck Kraus snuggled my little boy’s foot into this shiny, metal creation and started moving sliders towards my big toe and another slider in from the side to measure the width of my ever-growing foot. Mom shared her little boy’s style needs and price range with our friendly business man and, from there, our tall friend disappeared around a corner into the myriad of shoeboxes that lined his store’s walls. With a stack of boxes in his grasp, our smiling shoe man returned to us and brought out his short, shiny metal shoehorn. He helped me slip on one pair of shoes after another. I’d get up from that ramped stool and walk around a bit in those leather luxuries while our dear mother, Clarice, and Mr. Kraus commented on how the shoes looked on my little appendages. Of course, there were the cursory questions to me of “how do they feel”?, too. Other than being stiff, in their brand-newness, I would give my humble little boy opinion and then away we went to the old-fashioned cash register that went “Ching, Ching” with a sale to this midget male 😉

Jean (left) and Chuck (back center) served Elliott’s church as well as their community in those dear days gone by.

Like so many in our sweet, farming community, Chuck and Jean Kraus were vested in, not JUST their business, but they lived out their Christian principles in serving the Lord as giving members of “Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church” there in our hamlet of Kiester. Growing up, I have such tender memories of Jean Kraus being one of my Sunday School teachers as well as being a leader during our church’s summer Vacation Bible School Week!! In 1982, after serving the Lord and our community via their store and church ministries, Chuck and Jean bid farewell to Kiester as they retired to Lakeview, Arkansas. In July of 2001, this wonderful duo returned once again to Minnesota. Only this time, it was to Winona, Minnesota to live close to their family. Sadly, Jean was slipping into Alzheimer’s Disease and would eventually leave us in January of 2005 at the age of 76. Although missing his beloved Jean, Chuck enjoyed his children for another nine years, passing into the arms of the Lord in June of 2014 at the age of 93. As you can see, there was so much more than “just” buying a pair of shoes as a child for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. ><>

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

March 6th……..“WHAT KIND OF MUSICAL INSTRUMENT ON YOUR FARM DIDN’T COST EVEN A PENNY”?

POEM – “Musical Grass For Each Lad n Lass” by N. Elliott Noorlun

While walking down in our orchard, Or along our country road,

A feeling just came o’er me, A musical kind of mode.

A wide blade of grass, Snatched from where I’d stand,

Became my very own, Green country band.

Captured between, My thumbs it would fit,

While to the soft earth, I’d give body a sit,

Then thumbs up to mouth, With little gap in between,

I’d give it a blow, Causing a musical scene.

Ahhh, sweet were those days, Much simpler back then,

When with a grass whistle, You could sound like a Wren!!! 😉

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

March 5th……….”BEFORE THE DIGITAL AGE OF TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY, HOW DID YOUR FARM FAMILY STORE, ORGANIZE AND SHARE FAMILY PHOTOS”?

POEM – “Memories Sung By A Rubber Band Band” by N. Elliott Noorlun

From old family photo shoebox, Our memories sang so grand,

Their tunes were held together, When sang by a rubber band band.

Mom grouped our pics into little stacks, Each rubber band held so neat,

So when our family’d gather, We were in for nostalgia treat.

So after our supper was over, And dishes were cleared from table,

Our clan would draw near for photos so dear, For every Esther, Amanda and Mabel.

The aroma of coffee, for all to enjoy, Emanated throughout the room,

As the music of memories, began to emerge, Resulting in song’s full bloom.

The lyrics were written, for each memory’s song, On the back of each photo there,

Each rubber band stack, Never failed to lack, Sweet music for young and gray hair.

The rubber band stacks, of memory’s songs, Were passed to each person round,

And the stories that flowed, while each heart glowed, Were among the sweetest sound.

Before digital age, became all the rage, This was how our memories were shared,

By a rubber band band, that sang songs so grand, As photos showed how we all cared.

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

March 4th……..“DID YOU EVER DO SOMETHING FUN AND SNEAKY DURING A CAMPING EXPERIENCE DURING YOUR DAYS IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST?”

“BUSTED BABY BOOGER BUBBLES”!!!! Such was the gross sounding yell made by someone onboard our old church bus full of 5th and 6th Grade boys. We were bouncing along in that old bucket of bolts as we made our way from Battle Ground Baptist Church, in the southwest corner of the state, all the way out to the lovely Washington State coastline and “The Dunes Bible Camp” located near Ocean Park, Washington. As anyone can tell you, boys of this age level are not prone to being young gentlemen at this era of their lives. Matter of fact, when it came to passing gas, burping, picking your nose or giving your buddy a “wedgie”……these 5th and 6th Grade boys were like young bulls set out to pasture, they loved to “kick up their heels” and have fun!!!

Elliott (L) with Brian Epp (center) and a fellow camper buddy from Battle Ground Baptist Church.

“I may be getting older, but I refuse to grow up” is a slogan that I’ve enjoyed living by for most of my years. So, when it came to volunteering as a camp counselor for this Junior Boys Camp at “The Dunes”, I jumped on board the bus that day and was a “big kid” among the young kids. The jibber jabber among buddies, echoing off those metal bus walls, was almost deafening as we rolled down the highway that paralleled the mighty Columbia River. I pulled out my guitar and led some singing on the bus while hawks and seagulls did their own singing as they flew overhead and escorted us all the way to the beach.

Dear Fred and Sadie Cyphers who donated their home and land for what would become “The Dunes Bible Camp”.

Fred and Sadie Cyphers had retired to their quaint little lighthouse-looking home, during the 1940’s, that sat right on top of what they called “Lily Dell Dunes”. With a glorious view of the Pacific Ocean, this godly couple had a vision to see their property eventually given for the purpose of “reaching boys and girls for Christ”. In 1954, Fred turned the property over to the Conservative Baptist movement and, after some next door property was added, the first Bible-centered camps began in 1957.

Russ and Myrtle Watterberg served the Lord as Camp Directors for over 50 years.

A very fine young pastor named Russell Watterberg (with his dear wife Myrtle) were originally from the Battle Ground, Washington area. Russ had even graduated from Battle Ground High School in 1945. When “The Dunes” began, Russ was still pastor at the nearby Seaview Baptist Church. As the camp ministry began to grow, Russ and Myrtle moved their young family into a home on the campgrounds in March of 1959 and thus began a ministry of 50 years of service for the Lord there next to the majestic Pacific Ocean.

Elliott’s FIRST PLACE campers took home the prize for their Pepsi sand castle.

Our bus rolled in to “The Dunes Bible Camp” that day beneath a sparkling Northwest summer sun. Once registration was complete it was time to line up in the Dining Hall for some welcome snacks and then outdoors to the expansive lawn area for assigning cabins and campers to their leaders. The years have fogged my memory as to the names of each of the boys in my cabin, but the main thing is that we all became big brother/little brother for that coming week. On one of our camp outings, we all boogied down to the shoreline for the ubiquitous sand castle contests between all the cabins. At that time, in the advertising world, the famous soft drink, Pepsi, had a slogan that went, “Pepsi’s Got Your Taste For Life”! Well, when it came to conjuring up sand castle ideas, the boys and I came up with a Christian twist to that promotional slogan and we created a giant, horizontal Pepsi can made of sand that said, “Jesus’ Has Got Your Taste For Life” and we WON 1st Place!!!!

Kevin Epp (R) with his buddies were the inspiration for the FLASH fun Elliott had with his campers later on.

Whoever has the most fun, WINS…..as far as I’m concerned, so I decided to re-create some fun that I had had with my boys in our AWANA kids club back at Battle Ground Baptist Church. At that time, I owned a 35mm Pentax camera and, to provide light for photography, I also owned a BIG professional-grade Honeywell Strobonar flash unit. The flash it emitted was like a lightning strike……..especially in a nighttime setting or a blacked out room. I gathered a bunch of campers around one day and said, “Heyyy guys!!! Ya wanna have some fun”??? “Come with me”!! Into the camp’s large, gang shower room we went. Once all the boys were in there, I told them that when the light goes out, I want you to make the ugliest face you can think of and even add body gestures. Prepped for fun, I had someone shut off the lights. It was so pitch-black, you could not see the person that was a scant one foot away from you. I asked, in the dark, if the boys were ready and they all yelled, “YESSSSS”!!! I took that Strobonar flash unit of mine and pointed it up at the ceiling and “pulled the trigger”. FLASH!!!!! and for one white second the lightning blast of light “took a picture” of hilarious boys in so many grotesque faces and positions. Besides, as the flash disappeared, their nearby buddy’s images were captured for an instant in everyone’s retina as the room faded once again to pitch blackness. The boys LOVED the experience and howled with laughter at what every other buddy looked like for that split second. “You guys ready for another one”? “New face and position, K”? “Yeah, yeah,”! they all shouted. “POOOF” went another flash followed by more howls of laughter!!!!

Like a BLAST of lightning!!! 😉

After a delicious supper and evening worship time in the camp’s chapel that night, we leaders gathered our brood of boys and headed them down through the pines to our boys cabins that rested side by side. Once inside, the kids of my cabin were still commenting on how much fun it was to see the flashing faces in the shower earlier that day. All of a sudden, the idea sprang up among us to “flash” our neighbor cabins during the night. Like midget Marines, we quietly snuck out of our cabin and crept silently up behind another boys’ cabin, just under their only window. Being the stinker that I am, as perpetrator, I held up the Honeywell Strobonar unit to the window pane and “pulled the trigger”. KERFLASH!!! The shock of light was immediately followed by screams of the boys inside that cabin and hollers of “WHAT WAS THAT”???? My boys and I silently giggled amongst ourselves as we moved to the next cabin window with the stealth of “Green Beret” soldiers. Up, quietly went the flash unit and KERPOOF!!! went the lightning flash. Only this time, not only were there screams, but some scared boy inside decided to throw his shoe at the flash and broke the window. YIKES!!!! We didn’t plan on THIS!!! My boys and I melted into the night as we boogied back to our own cabin. The fun was done, and I owed Mr. Watterberg the price of a new window. At times, there is a little stinker that resides within the fun ideas of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉

Kevin Epp (blue baseball cap) witnesses how the campers proceeded to bury one of their own while having fun at “The Dunes”.

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

March 3rd………..”TELL US ABOUT WHAT REPORT CARDS WERE LIKE WHEN YOU WERE A FIRST GRADER IN THE KIESTER, MINNESOTA PUBLIC SCHOOL.”

POEM – “Never Fear With Mrs. Wiehr” by N. Elliott Noorlun

A two-story, wooden school house stood this ground before construction started on this stately building in 1923. First classes were held in 1924 in the new school.

I got off the bus, With nary a fuss,

As I stared at that tall brick abode.

This First Grade boy, Was thrilled with joy,

As my school supplies I towed.

First room on the right, And, ohhh what a sight,

Right next to those massive stairs.

Which carried “big kids”, With brains under lids,

Upstairs to sit in big chairs.

After Pledge Of Allegiance, Our teacher so sweet,

Had a show-n-tell from each child.

To share who we were, And the past summer’s blur,

I was smitten, For our teacher was mild.

As the school year progressed, I took First Grade tests,

For my alphabet, Colors and such.

And because of her love, That was sent from above,

I loved Mrs. Wiehr ohh so much!!!

A very happy Elliott is in first row on far left. His wunnerful 1st Grade teacher was Mrs. Loretta Wiehr on right.

She showed so much grace, To my little boy face,

That when our report cards came,

I took them all home, Under sweet family dome,

To show Mom and Dad with no shame.

Though I wasn’t the brightest, I felt not the slightest,

Digress from the love that she showed,

No matter the subject, That year was the best,

And her loving allegiance I’ve owed.

A reminder to all, When dealing with small,

Little children, Your heart motives counts,

After many a year, Our dear Mrs. Wiehr,

In this old “First Grader’s” heart still mounts…..with love!!! 😉

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

March 2nd…….“DID YOUR COWS HAVE THEIR OWN SPECIAL SPOT IN THE BARN ON YOUR FARM IN MINNESOTA?”

Every cow knew their spot in the stanchion line up.

Little Bossy Betty Bovine was like a Freshman girl entering Holstein High School for the first time. As humans, many of us recall that almost terrifying feeling, too, of wondering, “Where in the WORLD is my Homeroom”? “Which hallway and direction do I turn so that I can get settled and on with school work”? In a cow’s world, all the Sophomore, Junior and Senior cows already knew their place in the “High School” barn each morning and evening as Dad would prepare to milk them. But what was it gonna take to teach the new “student”, Bossy Betty Bovine her way? Well, it would be up to our dear farmer daddy, Russell, to be her teacher and acquaint this young Holstein “lady” with the way barn life worked. Little Betty had been a young heifer gal (not yet having given birth to a baby calf) up to this point in her life. But recently, she had given birth to her first, cute little baby bull calf, so now, she was beginning to “freshen” (as farmers call it) and, like any other Holstein cow, she began producing large quantities of milk. Dad saw to it that she was allowed to feed her little guy as much as he wanted to suckle each morning and evening, but Dad also could begin “harvesting” her remaining surplus milk to bring in money for our daily life on the farm.

Cow stanchions held each animal in place while being milked.

As a parallel to this story, many a preacher, as he looks out over his congregation on a Sunday morning, has said (lovingly, of course) that, “People are like cows in a barn, they always go to their same stalls/stanchions every Sunday morning”. Matter of fact, I know some preachers that could check “attendance” on Sundays by seeing who’s “not in their stall/stanchion” that Lord’s Day 😉

It was very common, from one farm to another in those days of long ago, for their herd of cows to automatically go to their own special stall/stanchion every time the barn door was opened for morning and evening milking times. I was always impressed, as a little boy, to see our “Angel” cow come inside our empty barn and she’d head to one stall, and one stall only….her very own #15. The other cows would follow suit by heading for their special stanchions, as well.

Young Bossy Betty Bovine.

On this day, though, it was up to our hard-working farmer father to be the teacher, and Bossy Betty Bovine was gonna be the reluctant and scared “student” in the hallways of this unfamiliar “school”. By milking time, our herd of productive Holstein cows were hungry and happy to get into the barn for food and to be milked. Their udder bags below them were burgeoning with the pressure of gallons of milk, so they were happy, not only for their food and water, but also for the relief they’d feel as Dad would use his vacuum-powered milking machines to suck out that “white gold” and relieve the cows of that milk pressure in their udders.

Elliott called the bottom drawing the “Farmer’s Squash” 😉

As Dad opened our “Dutch” (top and bottom) barn door that day, he saw to it that all of his “regular ladies” could enter the barn and head for their own stanchions where they began their joyous munching and crunching. The food was usually corn silage, grain and even a vitamin-rich powder concentrate we sprinkled over the top of each “meal”; which they treated like a dessert. Betty Bovine was trying to get in the barn door with the rest of the “girls”, but Dad would shoo her away……..at least for the moment. Once the regular herd were inside their stalls, Dad then went between the cows to lock their stanchions shut on each side of their necks to gently hold them in their spot while he milked them. Sometimes, poor Daddy encountered what I call, “The Farmer Squash”. For some strange reflex reason, as he’d try to step out from between two cows, they’d squash together and trap Dad with their soft, big bovine bodies. After a few slaps, though, they got the message that Dad needed to get out and they’d separate.

Our father’s strategy was this……..our barn had the capacity for fifteen milking stalls. Fourteen of our cows were now secured in place for this evening’s milking, but there was ONE open stall in position #8 that was reserved for Bossy Betty. Hopefully, when Dad opened that barn door to let her in, she’d get the hint and make a beeline for that open #8 stall, right? NO!!! That ornery little “Freshman” tried to squish her way into every other spot in that cow-loaded barn EXCEPT for stall #8. “Teacher” Dad had to back Betty out from between cows that had to be wondering to themselves, “What’s this youngster up to”? Up and down the back alley of the barn she and Dad went. It’s like she couldn’t SEE that stall #8 was WIDE OPEN and just WAITING for her with yummy food and water. Finally, after what seemed an interminably number of screwed up efforts, Betty actually found her new High School Homeroom and began eating while Dad came up alongside her and locked her stanchion into place. Whew!!!!! There were some lively cow adventures that transpired on the farm of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉

Elliott’s big brother, Lowell, stood guard by the “Dutch” barn door to keep Bossy Betty Bovine from coming into the barn too soon.

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..March 1st

March 1st……..“TELL US A STORY ABOUT HOW YOUR FARMER FATHER GAVE EXTRA LOVE TO HIS ANIMALS ON CHRISTMAS EVE.”

Similar to a mother covering her children at bedtime, the Minnesota sky gently drew her blanket of darkness over our snow-laden farmland on that Christmas Eve. Yet, before that quilt of darkness fully descended, golden rays of the setting sun pierced the dust-covered windows of our barn. Fine particles of straw dust rode upon those sunbeam rays of gold as their light illuminated a Holstein mother and her baby calf. One could surmise it was almost like the Christmas Star above the manger in Bethlehem, only in a bovine sort of way.

Elliott’s father, Russell, gave extra loving to his animals on Christmas Eve.

Inside our farm home, the Christmas tree was bedecked with decorations and colorfully illuminated by the warm glow and quiet type of Christmas tree lights that were common in the 1950’s. Mom’s delicious cooking filled the whole house with the aroma of everything from honey-baked ham to her famous homemade bread. It was our family tradition to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve. Mom would usually read the Christmas story from our Holy Bible in the New Testament book of Luke Chapter 2, verses 1 – 7. Then we’d begin the joys of opening presents that beckoned to us from under the glorious Christmas tree. Before all that could happen, though, Dad was giving some “presents” of his own to all the animals of our farm.

From the chickens, to the pigs, to our Shetland pony and especially to our herd of Holstein dairy cows…….every creature got extra food and extra amounts of clean straw bedding on Christmas Eve; a gift from their farmer owner who loved them all. Like his beloved farmer father before him, our daddy respected and loved every animal that God had graciously given to our family on that farm. And, one wonders what the animals may have “said” to one another on that special night of nights.

Dad, now happy that his livestock were taken care of with love, made his way to our farm house for the remainder of the evening with our family. With these tasty Christmas “gifts” in front of them and extra fresh straw bedding below them, one never knows if maybe that momma cow and her baby may have began to speak to each other in the language of “Holsteinian”. Daddy Harry Holstein was off in his special pen at the southwest corner of our barn enjoying his extra grain and bedding. With a happy spirit, he moooed a “MERRY CHRISTMAS” to Henrietta Holstein and their new son, Horace Holstein across our barn. With only winter’s starlight now coming through the barn windows, Horace asked his mother, “Mom, why does Mr. Noorlun give us extra of everything on this night”? Henrietta nuzzled her soft nose into her young son’s neck as she responded, “Well, son, this is Christmas Eve and our farmer, Mr. Noorlun, is a Christian”. “Every year, at this time, Christians around the world celebrate the birth of the Son of God in Bethlehem of Judea in a land called Israel”. “I like to think that our farmer owner wants to celebrate the birth of his Savior with these presents to us, just like the Wise Men brought presents to young Jesus to celebrate His birth long ago”. With all that milk in his tummy from his mother and extra grain, Horace was getting sleepy in that warm barn and settled his little body down into that soft, new straw below him. Saying with a yawn, “Well, Mom, if I were a little human boy, here at Christmas, I’d sure be saying MERRY CHRISTMAS to all and I’d thank God for being a Norwegian Farmer’s Son”!!! 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 28th

February 28th……...”WERE THERE DOOR TO DOOR SALESMAN THAT CAME TO SELL THINGS TO YOUR FAMILY ON YOUR FARM NEAR KIESTER, MINNESOTA?”

The Watkins Man drove a tired, blue ’54, just like this one, when he came to Elliott’s farm.

Dappled diamonds of daylight, from our farm’s treed windbreak, tried in vain to reflect off of the dust-encrusted panel wagon that rolled down the gravel road towards our farm driveway. Just a minute earlier, to the north of our place, I had watched that long-framed, 1954 Ford Courier Panel Sedan pull out of Charlie Heitzeg’s farm driveway. It began to churn up its own cloud of gravel dust as it meandered its way south for its next stop to our farm. I could see impressive, bold-painted lettering on the sides of the blue panel’s exterior. There were flamboyantly flourished wordings that announced that this was the “Watkins Products” man.

I could hear the “Watkins Man” give ‘er the clutch as he shifted down that manual transmission to a lower gear so he’d be able to safely bank into our north driveway. Now in “granny gear”, there was a lumbering sound in the roll of that big, blue beast. Guiding it along, he drove behind our farm house as he brought his Ford to stop right by the back porch door. Having chased after him, for the fun of it, I saw those classic round red tail lights go dark as the driver shut down his chariot and lifted his foot off the brake.

A Minnesota-born enterprise, the Honorable J. R. Watkins founded his company in Plainview, Minnesota in 1868. He first concocted a liniment made from camphor (derived from pine trees) and capsicum (from red peppers). Mr. Watkins set the example for future company associates by, in the beginning days, personally selling his own products door to door. His business began to thrive and he eventually moved the company to its current world headquarters in Winona, Minnesota. Over the years, Mr. Watkins became equally, if not even more, famous for high quality baking ingredients and spices; such as vanilla extract, pepper, etc.. As a matter of fact, in 1904, J. R. Watkins assured his customers, far and wide, that “When you deal with a Watkins agent, you patronize a reliable man”.

I’m sure our Watkins Man was “reliable”, but he climbed out of his Ford “wearing the road”, that day, on his shirt and pants. He really had no choice in his appearance because of the need to have his vehicle windows open for some type of cooling as he drove along those country roads. Air-conditioning was very rare, if even in existence, in those old ’54 Fords and besides, that would’ve cost his company extra money to provide that type of transportation. Our salesman, on that muggy summer day, could only afford 2/50 air-conditioning………two windows rolled down at 50 miles per hour.

The Midwest heat, that he endured, had soaked that poor fellow’s shirt to the point that his sweat “cologne” was rather distinctive when mixed with the massive selection of spices that he carried to sell in the back of his Ford. “Is your mother home today, sonny? Can I speak to her please”?

This lovely lady was, at the time, Miss Janet Ozmun. She came to Elliott’s farm to visit his big brother Lowell and big sister, Rosemary, in 1950. The back porch door, you see in the background, was where traveling salesmen would knock and say HI to see if Mrs. Noorlun may need something for home or kitchen usage.

As he asked about our mother, the gentleman walked around behind his delivery panel and swung open that large back door. Those creaking hinges, of that older model sales wagon, were like a trumpet fanfare that revealed treasures within. Inside that Ford resided almost any type of goodie a farm wife could wish for. Whether a homemaker was cleaning or cooking, there were big “doctor bags” of samples opened up with all their little cavities filled with colorful bottles of powders, liquids and other nick-nacks and paddy-wacks that could make a farm wife’s cooking or cleaning that much better.

Orange was o.k., but Elliott’s favorite flavor of drink was Wild Cherry!!! 😉

What really caught this little farm boy’s eye was the delicious looking types of Watkins version of a Kool-Aid beverage drink mix!! Wild Cherry was my favorite flavor as I drooled over the yummies before my little boy eyes! Shaking myself back to reality and being obedient to our guest’s earlier request, I made a beeline inside to get Mom and brought her out through our back porch’s screen door to greet our salesman. With courtesies having been exchanged in greetings, Mom and the Watkins man chit-chatted about what her current home and kitchen needs were. Since Mom was an excellent baker, she almost always bought a bottle of the Vanilla Extract. Once business was concluded, Mom often invited our sales guest into the house for a friendly cup of coffee and a cookie before sending him on his way to the next farm down the road. Pleasant were the tasty memories of the Watkins Man for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

Many good folks made their livelihood by selling Watkins products to neighbors and friends.

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 27th

February 27th……..“IF YOU COULD OWN SOMETHING TODAY, FROM YOUR BOYHOOD FARM, WHAT WOULD IT BE?”

POEM – “A “B” For Me” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Dear Santa, As you’re flying by,

And look from your sleigh, High up in the sky,

You’ll see this former, Farmer boy,

Who yearns for a former, Farmer boy toy.

The former farmer boy, That’s ME!,

Is asking for, My very own “B”.

Surrounded by presents, And even a bow,

On Christmas morn, The world would know,

That it’s once again time, To be a kid,

With spins from this gift, That’ll flip yer lid.

My Farmall joy, Would be filled with fun,

By your tractor gift, To this farmer’s son! 😉

Elliott on the Farmall “B” at about the age of two years old. Circa 1956.