Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 23rd

December 23rd…“DID YOUR FAMILY GO TO A SPECIAL CHURCH WORSHIP TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS?”

NFS 12.23d
Black velvet sky graced with large, white snowflakes = Christmas Magic!

Christmas took on an almost mystical aura when cloaked in the black velvet of a snow-laden sky.  From that ebony expanse above us effused a trillion flakes of snow that daintily floated down past the street lights that illuminated our Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church in Kiester, Minnesota.

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Viewed from the dark outdoors, each color was resplendent in the church’s stained glass window.

The snow-chained tires of our Chevrolet came to a crunching halt against the frozen curb of drifted snow.  As we popped open the four doors of that humble chariot, our family ventured into the near zero degree temperatures regaled in all our Christmas finery.  Tenderly watching our steps against the ice, we were rounding the sidewalk to the east side of the church entry when I was sweetly stunned by the warm, rich coloring of the enormous stained glass window that dominated that portion of our worship center.  The lighting from within the church house had set off the intricate patterns and rich colors in the leaded glass “painting” of our Lord Jesus carrying a lamb.  Other families were arriving at the same time and, as we offered “Season’s Greetings” to our friends, our breath emanating from our mouths became visual gifts as it transformed into condensed vapor upon the frigid night air around us.

#972 Dixie Ballweber EUB organist
Our organist, Dixie Ballweber.

Our talented church organist, Mrs. Dixie Ballweber, brought an elegance to each Christmas carol that was sung by the saints in attendance that evening as candles were lit upon the Communion Table to let the congregation know that our celebration of Baby Jesus’s birth was about to begin.

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See the wooden chairs behind the Communion Table?  That’s where Elliott and the rest of the children’s choir sat on that evening family celebration just before Christmas.

The wooden chairs behind the Communion Table was known as the Choir Loft where our Children’s Choir would assemble and sing praises to the Lord for His greatest gift of all…..his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ here on this holy holiday in December.  Even though our attempts at singing were shaky and munchkin-like, we strove to do the best our little voices could do on those happy nights at the church.  But, even in our immaturity, one could easily see our juvenile efforts were welcomed and visually enjoyed by many a smiling parent’s face as their little ones sang God’s Christmas praises in our local church assembly of His saints.

#967 Mike and Jessie Iverson..EUB Church..Kiester, MN
A very toothy grin was given to all who entered our church by Mike Iverson, who, along with Harold Kinder, made us all feel welcome each Lord’s Day.

A lasting imprint upon the mental tablet of my happy memories was the ever faithful and loving ushers in our church.  Mike Iverson and Harold Kinder were a team with one goal in mind, to be ambassadors for Christ as they stood by those grand entry doors every Sunday morning and especially for this special evening Christmas occasion.

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Each apple was like a ruby jewel to Elliott, and they came all the way from Washington State, too!! 😉

As the last “Wise Man” left the platform and after a serene version of “Silent Night” was sung, our pastor gave the last “amen” to the evening and our congregation began filing out of the worship center as you could hear “Merry Christmas” greetings being exchanged among God’s people.  The church’s twin entry doors were now open to the very brisk Winter’s night as our dear ushers stood next to boxes of “Snoboy” apples that were given out as gifts to all who desired their ruby red deliciousness to enjoy on the way home.   Those tender-hearted ushers, Harold and Mike, were like godly elves of Santa as they handed these apple gifts to each child walking by.  Gifts, in the sense that each apple was wrapped in lovely blue crepe paper, as if getting another Christmas gift, only THIS gift was super sweet to eat and had been shipped all the way from Washington State.  As my little boy voice said, “Thank you!!”, these kindly Christian men responded with a hearty, “Merrrry Christmas!!” as they saw their sweet-tasting apple disappear into the tummy of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

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Mike Iverson and Harold Kinder (our church ushers) took positions on either side of those handsome entry doors, on that Christmas Program Night, to hand out apple “jewels” to old and young and greet all with a hearty, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!”  😉

 

 

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Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 22nd

December 22nd…“TELL ABOUT CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS AT A RELATIVE’S HOME DURING YOUR CHILDHOOD.”

#384.1=Slettens and children in Albert Lea, MN; circa 1943
Uncle “Del” Sletten, United States Army 1943

Quiet heroes live among us all.  They gently live out their daily lives in an elegant, soft-spoken manner that befits the tender soul they are, yet each of those quiet heroes has seen and endured much for the sake of survival of their own life in combat and for the betterment of this great nation we live in called America.  One of my many heroes, in this realm of honor, was my mother’s brother, Marcus Delmaine (“Del”) Sletten.  Of course, on both maternal and paternal sides of our family, I hold other uncles who also are treasured as heroes to this little boy’s memory, but for this story, we’re going to hold up Uncle Del.  Delmaine Sletten served gallantly, during World War II, with Company A of the 351st Infantry Regiment of the 88th Division of the United States Army.  With distinction, he and his fellow warriors fought tenaciously against the entrenched German invaders in the mountainous areas of Italy.  Uncle Del, and his fellow soldiers, fought so fiercely, that their German enemies labeled this American fighting unit as “The Blue Devils”…..and the name stuck, like the badge of honor it was.  Uncle Del’s Regiment fought so courageously, that they earned a coveted “Unit Citation” for bravery from our President, at that time, The Honorable Franklin Delano Roosevelt for “fearlessness, heroic determination and aggressive fighting spirit that brings honor to the armed forces of the United States”.   So, when it came to Christmas at Uncle Del’s, little did this tiny guy realize, back then, what our gracious host had gone through to keep America free and by that sacrifice, entitled us to celebrate Jesus’s birth in a world of peace and tranquility and with an aluminum tree, even 😉

#473=Delmaine&Ilena Sletten's wedding; April 12, 1953
Home from the War, Uncle Del marries Ilena.

Once home from the War, Uncle Del found love, marriage and the opportunity to build a very handsome home for his new family to be born into and grow up enjoying.  From stories my mother told us, her brother was a very talented man in many ways.  Even building a quaint cottage for his parents to comfortably spend the rest of their lives within, just down the road from him, in the city of Albert Lea, Minnesota.

#407=Russ N. at Del's home in Albert Lea, MN; Circa Dec. 1956
Our dad, Russ, could never pass up a tease or a good joke to bring laughter among us all.

At Christmas, or any other time of the year, for that matter……..whenever you put Norwegians and Germans together, add lots of coffee with sugar-laden desserts, it’s the recipe for fun and laughter.

Our father, Russell, had a vein in his body made just for teasing, tricking and causing laughter to whoever was nearest him.  Anything might pop out of his mouth (or other places) to create a moment of convivial joy and raucous laughter.  Such as, telling our prepubescent girl cousins to,  “Awww, eat that burnt toast, it’ll put hair on your chest!!” 🙂  To, passing gas at the dinner table and then swing around in his seat as he’s blaming it on the dog…..“Darn dogs, how’d they get in here??!!!”

 

NFS 12.22a
Magical, was Uncle Del’s aluminum Christmas tree and color light!

Without a doubt, one of the effervescent moments for me was to step into Uncle Del Sletten’s lovely home and behold his sparkling, modern, aluminum Christmas tree that was ablaze in an ever-changing rainbow show of color from a spotlight showing through a primary-colored plastic wheel that went round and round by the power of a little electric motor.  First, the tree would be aflame in RED, then fading to a GREEN, then fading to a BLUE and then a golden YELLOW in wonderful repetition that had me frozen in happy wonderment for what seemed hours as I saw the aluminum branches catch and reflect sparkling hues of spectacular Christmas prisms of joy.

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Elliott’s cousins had, what seemed to be, every toy ever made by man.  A virtual TOYLAND in their bedroom.

Like all happy families, we treasured our times of laughter, food, colorfully wrapped Christmas gifts, Bible story time and singing of Christmas carols.  What usually captured this boy’s attention, though, was the cornucopia of a veritable “toyland” that existed in my cousin’s bedroom.  It was a boy toy “heaven” to me.  I’d often just lose track of time itself when we’d come visit as I’d ride their spring-loaded plastic pony, or play with any myriad of toy choices within that boy’s lair.

#293.1=Gene Smith, Del Sletten&Russell N.; Christmas 1956_edited
Elliott’s father, Russell, (on the right) has pulled on his great coat for the trip back to our farm.  Dear Uncle Del is center and our kindly Uncle Gene Smith is to the left.

Eventually, though, when our daddy pulled on his great coat over his handsome Christmas outfit of shirt and tie, we kids knew it was time to put away our cousin’s toys and prepare for our trip across the snowy roads and back to our dear farm.  There’d be hearty handshakes among the men and our ladies would be giving season’s greeting kisses to each other on the cheeks as we climbed into our modest, motorized chariot for the trip home.  For, as a farmer, Christmas or no Christmas, those Holstein cows back at the farm needed to be milked and were getting hungry for their Christmas “dinner”, as well.  Such is just a taste of one of the Christmas joys, in the past, for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

The Red Bull in the Winter Line
Forever grateful to Uncle Del, and his fellow warriors, for purchasing our freedoms so we could enjoy our Christmas in peace in the next generation to come.

 

 

 

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 21st

December 21st...”DO YOU EVER WONDER ABOUT WHAT CHRISTMAS TIMES WERE LIKE BEFORE YOU WERE BORN, OR A LITTLE TINY BABE?”

POEM – “Christmas Before I Was Born” by N. Elliott Noorlun

#395=G&G Sletten home, Albert Lea, MN; August 1963
Our Grandparent’s cottage in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

In Christmas times, Before I was born,

Before my bottom, Had diaper worn,

It must’ve been special,

The time for our clan,

To Grandma’s or Uncle’s,

House they ran.

 

 

#254.1=Lowell&Mom at G&G Sletten's home; circa Christmas 1951_edited
Big brother, Lowell, shadow boxes with a new pair of boxing gloves.  

In days long before, Electronic device,

Instead were books, And other things nice,

Like boxing gloves, For my big brother,

While sitting near, Christmas tree with Mother.

#363=Russ N.@G&G Sletten's in Albert Lea, MN; circa 1947
Our father, Russell.

Or Father reading, The local news,

While big sister, Rosie, On couch would snooze.

Or Yuletide times at, Our Uncle’s house,

With family around, And my Uncle’s spouse,

 

 

#258.1=Singing Christmas songs, Uncle Del's; Christmas 1954
Our clan of children singing carols while Uncle Del’s wife played piano.

Playing piano, While little ones sang,

Christmas carols, Oh how they rang!

#127 Del's for Christmas. 1954.12.25
Elliott in a Christmas swing…1955

When ’54 Christmas, Came rolling round,

Cousin Marc and I, Lent our sound,

To the old-fashioned holidays,

That had come before,

T’was now our turn,

To enjoy many more.

 

 

#928 Christmas in Albert Lea at Uncle Del's
The legacy of four families gather round our maternal grandparents, Clarence & Amanda Sletten at Christmas time.  Circa 1958.  Elliott is front & center with Winter cap on and shielding his eyes from Uncle’s bright light bar used for his 8mm movie camera.

 

 

 

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 20th

December 20th…“WHAT CHRISTMAS EVENT, IN YOUR TOWN, WAS A FUN ONE FOR PARENTS?”

NFS 12.20a
Every Saturday at 9pm, the town fire siren would blow for “Lucky Bucks”.

POEM – “Lucky Bucks In The Christmas Snow” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Blizzard
With our world covered in a blanket of snow, a trip to town was the place to go.

For Lucky Bucks, In the Christmas snow,

Our dear hometown, Was the place to go.

For Saturday fun, To fill your quota,

T’was found in Kiester, Minnesota.

NFS 12.20f 001
At 9pm, on Saturdays, you could step into any store that you were near at the moment.  Noticed the Christmas bells in Jim Hanson’s windows? 😉

The merchants in, Our humble village,

Had ideas, While Winter’s tillage,

Saw farming land, ‘Neath blanket of snow,

So town was the logical, Place to go.

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Old and young enjoyed Christmas shopping in our village of Kiester.

The family could do, Some Christmas shoppings,

In hopes they’d win, Some dollar green “toppings”.

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Even though our town was small, we had some grand Christmas lights on our streets….similar to these.

In evening round, The time of Nine,

Jovial holiday, Lights did shine,

From lampposts on, The festive street,

Where friends and family,

There did meet.

NFS 12.20c
The fire siren, in our town, was used to tell time, as well as call folk to put out fires.

A fire siren, On top of tower,

Told us all, The “drawing” hour,

Had come for us, To find a store,

And see who’d won, Fifty dollars or more!!

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One of the many stores Elliott’s parents could step into at 9pm to see if they’d won the “Lucky Bucks”!!

Stepping inside, A business close,

The crowd went opposite, Of verbose.

Each merchant announced, The lucky farmer,

Whose name had been picked,

To be the charmer.

NFS 12.20h
“Uh Ohhh, guess I should have been in Kiester last Saturday night!” 😉

If that weekly winner, Was not present,

He must’ve felt, Like lowly peasant,

Cause fifty MORE buckohs, Went into the pot,

And after some weeks, It grew to a LOT!!

It all made the season, Much more exciting,

To see winning smiles, Under Christmas lighting!! 😉

NFS 12.16e
There at least nine businesses in this painting of Elliott’s hometown Main Street.  Parents could step into any store at 9pm, each Saturday night, to hear if they won the Lucky Bucks!  I LOVE my childhood hometown!! :o)

 

 

 

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 16th

December 16th…“AS A CHILD, DID YOU EVER MEET SANTA CLAUS?”

NFS 12.16b
Bart Curran was the beloved host of a children’s TV show that aired out of Mason City, Iowa.

Santa works in mysterious ways, and for me, that meant seeing him for the first time on a local children’s cartoon program called “Bart’s Club House” that was broadcast daily out of a television station in Mason City, Iowa.  Up until that moment, I had only heard of Jolly Old Saint Nicholas via oral stories and books.   By the modern marvels, at that time of my little boy life, the tall television antenna, that extended high above our farm house roof line, “caught” the TV airwaves from Iowa.  It then mysteriously sent a myriad of cartoon joys down to our little black & white television set that sat in the corner of the Living Room of our near century-old farm house.  Mr. Bart Curran was a kindly gentleman that gave us kiddies a steady diet of fun cartoons during the entire year, but here, at Christmas time, there was something special for us to look forward to.  A big, special television set was brought onto the club house studio set.  I think there was even a sign on the TV that said something like, “SANTA-VISION”.

NFS 12.16h
Slowly, through the TV “snow”….there was Santa!!!

In my little boy imagination, I figured that somehow, those amazing television magicians must’ve created an antenna tall enough to send and receive a signal all the way to the North Pole on top of the world.  At least, that’s what this Kindergarten or First Grade boy thought.  Anyway, a “Popeye” cartoon had just finished up and there was “Bart” walking over to that “Santa-Vision” set.  Fidgeting with knobs and buttons on the TV, Bart would start to talk to the screen….“Calling North Pole, Calling North Pole!!!  Santa Claus, come in, please!!”  In little boy amazement, I began to see an image slowly start to materialize on the screen through the electronic “snow storm” at the North Pole.  Another few seconds and THERE HE WAS, good old St. Nick, himself.  Santa and Bart would chat back and forth about all the gifts that were being made by the elves and how fun it was for St. Nick to get all the boy’s and girl’s letters, etc..  As far as this tiny guy was concerned, if you see something on TV, it must be real, right?  I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be grand to meet Santa in person someday?”   Little did I realize that that wish was about to come true in just another day or so.

NFS 12.16f
See Santa waving at you from the back of that pickup?  This is one of many lovely Christmas times in my hometown of Kiester, Minnesota.

A fine, frigid Saturday dawned with a full, thick blanket of snow over the sleeping farmlands that surrounded our farm home.  There were going to be special Christmas events in our hometown village of Kiester, Minnesota that day, so we bundled up and slogged our way from the house, through the snowdrifts, and into our family car.

#105=Elliott's first day at Sunday School; 1959 maybe
Elliott was still small enough to easily zip through the passenger window of the family’s 1952 green Chevrolet to meet Santa Claus that day.

 

Having mounted good old-fashioned link chains on the tires, Dad fired up that ’52 Chevy and churned his way out of our farm yard and out onto the snow-covered country roads that led to town.  Little did I know, sitting in the back seat, that those festivities included Santa………in the flesh!!

NFS 12.16c
This is almost exactly the type of sled that Elliott rode on that day with Chet Ozmun and Santa Claus.

About a mile or so from the village city limits, our Chevy was fast approaching a long box sled being pulled by a handsome team of BIG Belgian draft horses.  Our father recognized the man driving that team of horses as our very kind neighbor, Chet Ozmun.

NFS 1.21a
Mr. Chet Ozmun.

Chet Ozmun was a “bigger than life” kind of a man.  Tall, burly and rotund, this mountain of a man was a blessing to our family many times over the years.  Recognizing our family rolling up alongside him, Chet pulled back on the reins of his beautiful Belgians and brought them to a halt as Dad pulled the car alongside the rustic farm sled.  Quicker than an elf can blink, my little boy eyes popped wide open as I perceived that next to Chet was none other than the red-clad Jolly Ol’ Man Himself………SANTA CLAUS!!  We cranked down the passenger side car windows as Dad and Chet visited a bit and exchanged “Season’s Greetings” to one another.  Then, Chet asked, “Would Elliott like to ride in the sled with us for the remainder of the journey into town?”

NFS 12.16i
Elliott’s view as he sat between Mr. Ozmun and Santa Claus.

I joyfully burst out, “WOULD I EVER!!!…….YES, PLEASE?!!!”  Still young enough to be just “knee high to a grasshopper”, I zipped across Mom’s lap in a wink and began to exit the car via the rolled down window.  Chet’s powerful arms reached down from his sled seat to snatch me up and flew me through the air to land my tiny bottom right between him and Santa.  I was beyond thrilled to the point of being downright giddy!!  Chet and Santa fluffed up and brought down a heavy lap robe that cozied me in for the sled ride of a little lifetime.  As the rest of our family drove ahead on the way into Kiester, I heard Chet give a soft “Heeyah!”, with a gentle slap of his reins, to his team of massive horses as they came to attention and obeyed their master while they leaned into the harness.  This Santa “sleigh” lurched forward and on to this magical glide of a ride.  With every muscled bounce of these equine giants, their silver harness of sleigh bells sounded out in singing harmonies of holiday cheer as they transported the three of us the rest of the way into town.

NFS 12.16d
Elliott and Santa pulled up in their long box sleigh right in front of the “Kee Movie Theater” for the free Christmas movie that children enjoyed every year.

I was on top of the world, literally, with Santa to my right, Chet to my left and those mighty Belgians “singing”, in a way, with their harness of silver bells going “ching a ching a ching” as we eventually approached the “Kee Movie Theater” for the yearly free Chrismas movie put on for the benefit and joy of the children of our village.   Santa visited our town each year at this time to hand out bags of hard ribbon candy and peanuts to all the children after our free movie and cartoons were finished.  THAT was one VERY special moment of meeting Santa Claus for this tiny Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

NFS 12.16e
Elliott’s heart will always glow with the delightful memories of twelve Christmas times in his beloved hometown of Kiester, Minnesota.  This is an artist’s rendition of our Main Street at Christmas (based on an actual photograph).

 

 

 

 

 

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 3rd

December 3rd...”TELL A WINTERTIME STORY ABOUT YOUR DOG ON THE FARM.”

#68=Barn in Kiester, MN...looking SW
A single yard light, on a tall pole to the left (out of frame), was the only illumination on that dark Winter’s night as Elliott walked towards their barn.

Tranquility reigned supreme over the coal black skies of our southern Minnesota farm yard during a midwinter’s evening.  All was well…….for the moment, that is.   Not a whisper of wind was to be heard or felt in the frigid air that surrounded our farm and a stealthily silent snow fell from the ebony sky in a dreamlike descent that lent to the  absolute quietness that was almost palpable.

#69=Home in Kiester, MN...looking NE
Usually, Elliott would see “Spotty” waiting for him as he’d step out the back door of their farm home; but not THAT night!! 😉

During the daylight hours, my faithful canine friend “Spotty” and I had enjoyed our usual romping, stomping and “play fighting”.  Wintertime’s cold temperatures saw to it that I was clothed with layers of everything from LongJohn underwear to coats and I’d have either thick mittens or gloves on.  In our happy warfare, I would clench my fists and allow “Spotty” to attack and gnaw on my fists as we’d wrestle; he’d then “break off” to run frantic circles around me barking all the way.  He’d hop from side to side, planning his strategy of attack, then, of course, he’d lunge at me and we’d go at it again and again.  It was lots of fun and we both enjoyed each other’s company immensely!

NFS 12.3e
A single yard light illuminated “Spotty’s” attack.

I seem to recall that Dad had gone back down to the barn to finish evening chores and milking while I finished my supper.  Now, re-layered for the night time walk to the barn, I stepped out of the warmth of the house and into the almost eerie silence of the night as I had described earlier.  To set the scene of what was to happen next; about three fourths of the way to the barn, we had a tall yard light that was our only outdoor illumination and it was toward that source of light I began to walk.  On most occasions, “Spotty” would be waiting for me just outside the back door of our house as I exited our domicile.  That dog buddy would usually be a waggin’ his tail and happy to see me, but tonight, he was strangely absent and nowhere to be seen.  Rather strange, I thought.  With just the soft kathud of my rubber boots against the packed snow, I started out and had almost traversed my way to the yardlight lamp pole when suddenly to the right side and behind me, I heard the staccato and rapid “pocketa pocketa” paw hits to the snowy ground of a fast approaching animal of some sort.

NFS 12.3a
Elliott caught “Spotty” in midair as he leaped with his play “attack”!!

I spun around and SHAZAM!!! ……it’s “Spotty” who has launched himself in midair for another play attack on his master!!  The little stinker had been hiding in the black shadows of the farm yard to sneak up on me for “the kill”!  Well, even as a youngster, I can tell ya that my heart about jumped right outta my chest, but after the initial shock, he and I had another good time wrestling again before I finished the rest of the trek to the barn and helped Dad with the last of the evening’s chores.  Such were just one of the many dog adventures for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

NFS 12.3d
“Spotty” made farm life fun for Elliott!! 😉

 

Norwegian Farmer’s Son…December 2nd

December 2nd…“AS A YOUNG FATHER, DID YOU EVER HAVE A NEAR DISASTROUS CHRISTMAS HAPPENING?”

NFS 12.2c 001
Ignorance, on Elliott’s part, ALMOST burnt the house down.

POEM – “Pyrotechnic Presto Power!”  by N. Elliott Noorlun

Pyrotechnic Presto Power, On the Eve of Christmas time,

Exploded in the Living Room, T’was Elliott’s ignorant crime.

NFS 12.2e
One or two logs is fine, but NOT five (or more) stacked on each other!!! :-O

Wanting to increase the fun, Of Christmas even higher,

“Let’s pile up more of the Presto Logs, And make a brighter fire.”

Glass doors were closed to the fireplace, As we enjoyed the view,

And went about to open gifts, Of every color and hue.

NFS 12.2f
Mom and the kids were as shocked as Elliott with the ensuing explosion of glass!!!!

But after awhile the bottom logs, Of sawdust had burned through,

And crumbled underneath the weight, Then bid their place adieu.

The upper Presto Logs aflame, Now tumbled ‘gainst screen glass,

And caused a scare as the fire there, Made a dread from Dad to lass.

NFS 12.2h
The glass fireplace door exploded from excessive heat!!!

KABOOM!! went that old fireplace glass, With too much heat KERPOW!!

Chaos erupts within the room, Dad’s really done it now!!!

I jump outside the front door quick, And yanked in garden hose,

“Gotta get this flame and smoke put out,  Gonna be a mess, here goes!!!”

NFS 12.2g
Ornery little flames!!

If Santa had tried to chimney down, Our fireplace that night,

He’d laugh me to scorn, cause I was forlorn, For the mess within my sight.

To this very day, our kids will say, “Way to go, Dad, we recall”,

“The mess and the smoke, as a ribbing we’ll poke,

“When dad made the Presto logs fall!!!”