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.

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 26th

February 26th……..“HOW DID YOUR FARMER FATHER GET LARGE TASKS DONE? WHAT WAS HIS METHOD OF PAYING NEIGHBORS FOR THEIR HELP?”

Corn silage being blown up into a silo.

Some tasks, on our farm there in south central Minnesota, were just too large for our father, alone. Filling our very tall, cement silo with chopped up corn silage for winter feeding, was one of those major tasks that needed many bodies to accomplish. There was a code of brotherhood, among farmers, that, written in their hearts was the wording that if someone had a need, you stepped up and helped out. Then, if you had a need, that agrarian brotherhood came to your aid…….all out of love and caring. Sometimes, dollars were exchanged for work done, but oftentimes, a few hearty meals and gallons of coffee, water, Kool-Aid or milk was payment enough. Of course, part of the payment was the gold received in farmer fellowship during such an operation, too. This poem will share about “payment” to our friendly farmer heroes.

POEM – “Bib Overall Heroes” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Reminds me of, The days back when,

Our farm table was, Surrounded by men.

In from the field, And hungry for,

A good home meal, That our mom had in store.

Mom’s cooking “army”, Had soldiers more,

As they labored in love, In “The Happy Food Corps”.

There was Mrs. Stiles, And Beverly June,

Who soon would be wed, To Gene real soon.

And Grandma Amanda, With “Little Lowell Blue”,

Who helped set the table, As good farm boys do.

Whether putting up silage, Or baling hay,

They all showed up, To save the day!

A grand farm meal, Was just one of the means,

Of showing love to heroes, In bib overall jeans! ;o)

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

February 25th…….”HOW DID A MOVIE IMPACT YOUR MOTHER’S YOUNG LIFE AS A CHILD WHILE GROWING UP ON THEIR FARM NEAR SCARVILLE, IOWA?”

Little Clarice enjoying some loving from her Aunt “Etty”. Circa 1921.

The year 1921 brought the delightful squeals of “Aunt Etty! Aunt Etty!” which came from the happy face of a little toddler, Clarice Arlone Sletten. Her still unsure, two year old legs brought her wobbling on a run from their farm house near Scarville, Iowa. “Etty” was actually Esther Rogness, the youngest sister of Clarice’s mother, Amanda Margaret Rogness Sletten. Born a mere ten years earlier than Clarice, in 1909, Esther became more of a “sister”, in heart, to her tiny Norwegian niece rather than her official title of aunt. With a bow in her hair, and a smile a mile wide, the now 12 year old Aunt “Etty” ran towards her pixie of a niece and swept her up in her big girl arms for a smothering of kisses as they settled to the lush green grass under the shade trees on that perfect Iowa day. Timothy grass and alfalfa fields, freshly cut by Grandpa Martin Sletten’s team of horses, lent a perfume that floated on air and wrapped about them as Clarice and Esther exchanged loving cuddles there on that lawn of the family farm near their village of Scarville.

Aunt “Etty” with her handsome new husband, Oscar Bidne, on their wedding day in 1927.

A camaraderie and kindred spirit flourished between these two Norwegian young ladies that melded and welded them close through those foundational years of little Clarice’s life. Yet, like the passage of time itself, the only thing consistent in life is change. With passing years, Esther was now blossoming into a very lovely young woman and eventually garnered the attention of a local young man by the name of Oscar Bidne. As Esther grew in her courting friendship with Oscar, she became acquainted with his immediate and extended family. Some of the Bidne family girls, that she was building a relationship with, were similar in age to young Clarice. Little Miss Sletten, though, not receiving the regular adoration of Aunt “Etty” that she had been accustomed to, felt slighted and those feelings brought her to the conclusion of telling herself a sad story. Amanda, Clarice’s mother, was drawn one day to the sound of a little girl wailing. Standing at their bedroom doorway, Amanda confirmed that it was her little Clarice, laying on her bed and flooding her pillow with tears. Noticing her matriarch nearby, she ran to her beloved mother. Short-statured, Clarice buried her face in her mother’s apron and sobbed, “Aunt Etty won’t love me anymore now that she has those other girls to be friends with”!!! Amanda comforted and stroked the hair of her eldest child as she lovingly gathered some of her apron to wipe away those little girl tears. Mrs. Sletten, in that tender moment, assuaged her daughter’s fears and assured her that Aunt “Etty” would always have a special place, reserved in her loving heart, for her tiny niece, Clarice.

With the majestic “Broadway” on the left, this was the scene that Clarice looked upon as she arrived in Albert Lea, Minnesota with her Aunt Esther and Uncle Oscar Bidne in 1929.

The years, like water, flowed by until mid-summer of 1929. Esther, now Mrs. Oscar Bidne, once again cemented in Clarice’s young heart just how much she relished their special familial heart connections by inviting Clarice, now 10 years old, to a movie with her and Oscar in the big city of Albert Lea, Minnesota. As newlyweds of only two years, the Bidnes rolled into the Sletten farm yard on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. Before the dust could even settle around their Dodge, Clarice burst out of the family’s farm home in sheer and abundant joy as she bounced around the Bidne car.

This film was released to U.S. theaters in June of 1929.

Any time, in that agrarian Norwegian culture, it was customary, out of love, to invite guests arriving at your farm home to come in for some coffee, sandwiches and maybe some lefse before bidding them “God Speed” on the next leg of their journey. With hugs all around, food in their tummies and well wishes, Oscar fired up that ’27 Dodge Sedan while Clarice received permission to climb into the back seat. The Sletten’s herd of dairy cows must’ve sensed something special, too, as they trotted alongside the barbed wire fence as the Bidne car picked up speed on the gravel road which would, eventually, lead them across the border into Minnesota. With each bump of the gravel road, summer winds fluttered profusely through the open windows of Uncle Oscar’s car. Zigzagging through the gravel roads of beautiful farm land, the three musketeers eventually crossed the State Line and entered Minnesota. Now it was the short jaunt up the highway to Albert Lea and see the recently released movie called, “Noah’s Ark”.

The majestic Broadway Theater had been built in 1903 and lauded itself as “Southern Minnesota’s Most Beautiful Theater”. Originally, plays and musicals had been performed on its stage, but now, with the advent of film, movies were shown upon the massive screen to enjoy. The actual film that Clarice and the Bidnes were about to view took place in two time periods. It began with a story based around World War I (One). The film though, did a flashback into the time of Noah’s Ark. Actors and actresses took on double rolls from the modern World War I story and then those same players played the part of Noah and other Bible characters of ancient times. Toward the end of the epic film, those biblical characters once again returned to their modern counterparts as they saw World War I coming to an end and thus the grand finale of the film itself.

Ten year old Clarice knew that safety and life was to be inside that Ark.

In the first book of the Bible, from Genesis Chapter 5:32 through Chapter 10:1, Clarice had heard the story of Noah’s Ark from her family Bible readings as well as her Sunday School times at Lime Creek Lutheran Church. As she sat transfixed in the movie theater that day, it wasn’t the World War I segment of the movie that captured her 10 year old heart. It was the vivid and terrifying scenes of the film where people who had rejected God, and His servant Noah, were left outside the Ark to drown in the ever increasing flood waters around them. Clarice’s tender spirit was forever impressed that she, too, wanted to be like Noah; to be obedient to her God and to be saved safely on the inside of that ark of rescue and “not left outside that door”. Eighty years later, now in her 90’s, our beloved mother STILL would produce tears and her voice would quiver with emotion as to the amazing impact that movie had on her life as a Christian way back in 1929. What a gift of inspiration Aunt “Etty” gave to her Clarice, the mother of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

Clarice (L) with Aunt Esther (R). Kindred spirits throughout life. Such love!!

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

February 24th……...”AS A YOUNG BOY, ON YOUR FARM, DID YOU NEED TO HAVE BAD BEHAVIOR “CORRECTED” WITH A GREEN WILLOW SWITCH”?

POEM – “Not A Stitch, Plus A Switch” by N. Elliott Noorlun

Now I suppose all of you, Were perfectly born,

With nary a worry, Without any scorn.

But I’m here to tell you, I, perfect, was not,

As a matter of fact, I had little kid rot.

It’s not I was evil, Or badly inclined,

I just had a way, Of trouble to find.

So there came, one day, When my dad had a fit,

And so my backsides, Were made not to sit. 😉

A buddy and I, Were up to no good,

And doing kid things, That no one kid should.

Now when word got to Dad, We were up in haymow,

Soon both of us goons, Would learn about “OWWW”!!!

Dad found a nearby, Willow tree,

And cut him a “switch”, Of a foot length of three.

Dad quickly climbed up, That barn haymow ladder,

And minused my drawers, For the “switch” to feel badder. 😉

So there I was, No pants, not a stitch,

As I felt every whoop, Of that green willow “switch”.

After my paddle, I was sent down the rungs,

Of haymow ladder, With howls out my lungs.

And then the same, Happened to my pal,

And for history’s sake, His name was NOT “Al”.

At the time, it hurt, Yes, that’s so true,

And for a day or so, I felt really blue.

But, I knew my dad loved me, There never was hate,

He cared what I did, Even cared what I ate.

Both Mom and Dad, Were in love with God,

And strove for His will, While on earth they did trod.

Proverbs 22:6, Was their guiding light,

To raise their children, To do what was right.

The key is to sandwich, Discipline with love,

When we know we are loved, It’s a gift from above!!! ><>

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 23rd

February 23rd………“SHARE A WAY THAT YOU EARNED MONEY AS A TEENAGER WHEN YOU WERE STILL TOO YOUNG FOR A REGULAR JOB”.

The much loved neighbor, Mr. Chuck Gross, who lived next door to Elliott’s home. Circa 1972.

Knuckle knocks, on our solid core front door, came in “code”. In August of 1967, when our family “landed” in our new hometown of Battle Ground, Washington, we were so blessed to have #1. A brand new home that, just recently, had the last nail nailed in place. And, #2. We were so blessed with the most loving neighbors anyone could hope to ask for. For the first year or so, we enjoyed living next door to Richard and Roberta Dunning and family. Richard, and his brother, Ernie, were the contractors who built our lovely new home on what was then known as Hawthorne Street, there in Battle Ground. When the Dunnings moved to a new home, we had the joys of welcoming Chuck and Jeri Gross, and family, as our new neighbors. Chuck and our father, Russell, became like brothers from another mother. The “code” of knocking, that I spoke of earlier, had to do with the same, consistent pattern of knock that Chuck would deliver to our front door. It usually had the rhythm of the old adage tune……….”Shave and a haircut, two bits”. Whether Dad was reading a western novel in the immediacy of the Living Room, or sitting clear across the house at the table in the Dining Room, Chuck gave his “code” on the door and our dad would holler, “Come on in, Chuck”!!!!

Tall Roger Carter.

To the east of our new home resided our other super sweet neighbors, Roger and Sue Carter, along with their lovely family. Roger also had a “code” to his knuckle knock on our front door. “Come on in, Roger”!!!!!, Dad would holler and in waltzed Roger’s tall, friendly face!! Roger was a hometown boy and had graduated from Battle Ground High School. He was employed, by the Battle Ground School District, as one of the excellent team of mechanics that kept the very large fleet of busses running for our large school district. Like any young father, with a family to feed, Roger also was diligent to create as much extra income for his family as he could in the form of doing what was known as “Custom Farming”. He often baled hay for local land owners that either didn’t have the time, energy or equipment to do it themselves. The amazing thing was, Roger had allergies to contend with in life. He took medication to control those ailments, yet it must’ve been a struggle. I’d heard him say that if he failed to take those medications, he’d have such bad allergic reactions to all the hay pollen that his whole being seemed to want to swell up and shut down everything from his eyes to his very breathing. I was always impressed with his tenacity to do what he had to do to make ends meet.

It was on one of Roger’s visits to our home that he actually came to see ME!!! Being about 14 years old, at the time, I was still too young to hold down a steady job (that was usually only available when you were 16). Roger needed a hired hand to help him do some hay baling and I was to be paid for my efforts. Money in the pocket was a great motivator to say, “Yes sir, I’ll be glad to help”!!! 😉

Midwest style of baling hay.

I was soon to find, though, that farmers in the Pacific Northwest sure did their hay-baling differently than we did back home in Minnesota. Back home, we had a “flat rack” wagon hooked right up to the baler machine so that every time a bale emerged from the baler, we hooked it and immediately stacked it to the wagon bed. Over and over we did this until we had a tall, full load of bales on the “flat rack” wagon. That full “rack” was unhooked and an empty “rack” was bolted to the baler, in its place, and then baling continued. The full “rack” of hay was hooked to a tractor and was taken to the barn for immediate lifting into the haymow.

Metal hay-baling sled.

In contrast, these Northwesterners were about to show me something very different! As Roger and I arrived at the field to be baled, he showed me a device that lay flat on the ground and was hooked up to the back of the hay baler machine. It was made of wood and appeared to be some sort of a sled. I asked, “What is this for”? Roger began to explain that I was to ride on that sled with one foot on each “blade”; kind of like skiing, in a way. As each bale came out of the back end of the baler, I was supposed to stack it at the back of this sliding apparatus, with the first layer crossways to the sled. I would then cross-stack the bales with each layer until the stack was about six feet high. At that point, I was supposed to step to the ground, between those wooden sled blades and push my weight against the stack of hay bales. The sled would then pull out from under those bales, due to the forward motion of tractor and baler, and I would then run to catch up to the sled and we’d do this again and again till the field was finished.

Later on, that day, we’d return to the field with either a tractor and “flat rack” or a pickup truck and move those little stacks of bales, again, onto the “rack” or pickup truck. Once at the barn, we’d then have to move the bales yet again to the haymow or storage area. I must admit, I was really scratching my head as to the rationale of this, seemingly, inefficient way of farming. I felt that the Midwest way of handling this type of agricultural operation was much more efficient. But, as an ignorant teenager, and not wanting to “bite the hand that feeds me”, I kept my silence and adjusted. It was my respect to Roger, and being grateful for his dollars gracing my pockets, that sure made more sense than trying to rationalize their way of farm life.

This bale by bale type of earning money was really earned during summertime employment by another area farmer near Dollar’s Corner. It wasn’t just a pickup truck or a wagon we loaded to from those bales in the field……..it was a ginormous old Ford dump truck whose “bed” was super high to begin with. With each bale lifted, every one of them seemed to gain at least ten pounds, as far as I was concerned. What absolutely amazed myself and my two other teenage working buddies, was the phenomenal strength of the short, stocky employer farmer that hired us. Towards the end of the day, we could hardly get those bales up onto the tailgate of that dump truck, say nothing about getting them to the top of the load. Short, stocky “Phil”, he really humbled us teenagers as he, from ground level, literally threw those bales to the top of that dump truck load.

For that dump truck farmer, not only did we get paid cash for our super sweaty job that day, but we also received the blessings of as much as we could eat at the very well-known food stop called, “O’Brady’s Drive-In”. The last load of hay bales had been stacked and “Phil” told us boys to enjoy the cooling wind as we rode in the empty dump truck bed to the little berg called, “Dollar’s Corner”. The heavy tailgate had been left open in the chained flat position. “Phil” spun into the drive-in’s parking lot and threw the transmission into reverse. As he quickly rolled backwards, towards all those giant glass “O’Brady’s Drive-In” windows, the look on the staff’s faces were priceless!!!! It appeared he was gonna put that truck’s tailgate right through their windows, but he slammed on the brakes just in time. We guys all had a good laugh and a good meal and some good money in the pockets of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 22nd

February 22nd…….“WHAT WAS THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT YOU LEARNED TO PLAY AS A YOUNG FARM BOY IN MINNESOTA DAYS?”

With intensely pursed lips, the clarion cavalry call of the bugler on horseback brought good old John Wayne, followed by massive columns of blue-uniformed cavalry, galloping over the dust-covered ridges of Monument Valley. Racing their steeds down sloped ravines, with guns blazing, one could hear their whooping battle cries. The brave soldiers charged into the glories of rescue as their beleaguered comrades below, bloodied and almost beaten by the enemy, cheered the horse soldiers on while still being urged to duty by that bugled blast of brass wonderment. Enraptured I was!! The small black & white television, in our farm house Living Room, transported me back in time that day to the Wild West. Being the impressionable little farm boy that I was, I brought a closed fist to my mouth to become my impromptu bugle mouthpiece as I pantomimed my own muted version of a bugle so that I, too, at least in my vivid imagination, momentarily became the valiant bugler of that heroic cavalry troop.

Uncle Gaylord Noorlun. Circa 1942

Little did I realize, that day, that about 20 years earlier, it was at least partially possible that my very handsome and favorite uncle, Gaylord Lloyd Noorlun, would make a musical dream of mine come true. Born in northern Minnesota in 1931, Uncle Gaylord was one of the five sons of Edwin and Marie Noorlun. Sitting behind a birthday cake of about 11 candles, Gaylord was at the prime age for Scouting around 1942. Strikingly handsome, even from an early age, Gaylord grew up in the heyday of the Scouting era. Scouting’s founder, Sir Robert Baden-Powell enjoyed the fervid following of over 3.3 million boys in the ranks of the organization during the years that our own Uncle Gaylord may have been one of them. Since Gaylord, and most of his generation, are now gone, it is merely an assumption, on my part, that he actually was in Boy Scouts during the early 1940’s. What I DO recall, though, is being told that the old Boy Scout bugle that we possessed on our farm, near Kiester, Minnesota, was a gift from that handsome and much loved uncle.

Our gifted bugle was “well loved” over its years of service before it came to our farm. Uncle Gaylord and/or others had obviously taken it with them on camping trips and Scouting Jamborees. “Well loved”, it was, in the sense that I mused on how many times that poor thing had been dropped from a back pack, banged against a sharp rock, fell off the top tier of a scout’s bunkbed or maybe even was sat upon (while tied to a backpack) a time or two; all inadvertently, of course. 😉 The horn no longer glowed with the high-lustered sparkle it once had from the factory. The dull, tarnished brass was the result of a myriad of little boy fingers, over the years, that were laden with dirt, oils and skin salt from sweating for miles as they hiked along. Some of these bugles sold for as “little” as $5.00 when new in the 1930’s. Of course, $5.00 was a whole lot of money in the late 1930’s, compared to $5.00 now. One thing that was still very distinctive, though, and that was the engraved markings I viewed on the “bell tube” that said, “Official Bugle Of The Boy Scouts Of America”. Even the elegant Boy Scout emblem was etched to the surface in its own form of glory.

The straw bales, on the “flat rack” to the left, were Elliott’s “musical mountain” to play bugle from.

Nighttime feeding chores, for this little Norwegian Farmer’s Son, were completed for the evening and Dad gave me his blessings to “go play” while he finished milking our Holstein cows. Grabbing our Boy Scout bugle, I stepped out of the corner Dutch-door of our barn. Cocooned within multiple layers of winter clothing, I confidently stepped out into a perfect Minnesota night. In that frigid clime, a black, onyx sky above me was bedazzling me with its studded diamond stars. They were winking down at my every move towards our “flat rack” wagon with about a dozen straw bales onboard. Maybe I had a little “king of the hill” complex within me that night, but I hopped onto the “flat rack” and then climbed to the top of that stack of straw bales.

With just an audience of the stars above, I raised the bugle to my lips. I first had to breathe some hot air onto the bugle’s mouthpiece to keep my lips from sticking to the brass in the below freezing temperatures. Pursing my lips, I began to “let loose” with some loud “wild moose calls”, at first, just to see what sounds I could emit. It was so fun to get the feel of this legendary instrument that had communicated so many commands, through the years in Scouting as well as military life. Eventually, though, night, after night, I began to feel a bit more confident that I could make a bit of music with this fun brass wonder.

Day by day, and evening by evening, I eventually became fairly adept at making some music come out of that old brass friend of mine. Then, after weeks of practice, another placidly perfect Minnesota night graced our farm yard once more. That particular evening, at the top of my “music mountain” of straw bales, there was still some warming colors of sunset to the west of our farm. I felt a glow inside as I rendered a boyhood version, as best as I could, of the well-known bugle hymn called, “Taps”. As I lowered the bugle from my lips that evening, I felt grateful that Uncle Gaylord Lloyd Noorlun had brought the gift of music, via his old bugle, to this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

Originally written in 1862, during the American Civil War, this tune, and its poignant wording, is played to signal the end of the day for soldiers, the time for sleep and also as a final tribute upon a soldier’s death at burial.

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 21st

February 21st……..”SHARE A SPECIAL TIME WITH YOUR BIG BROTHER, THERE ON YOUR FARM, IN MINNESOTA DAYS.”

Big brother’s “sanctuary”, behind Elliott in this photo, with the Chenille bedspread. Circa 1963; Elliott is 9 years old.

POEM – “The Feel Of Chenille” by N. Elliott Noorlun

I’d squeal for the feel of Chenille,

Albeit quietly within my heart,

For I worshipped big brother, Unlike any other,

A good place for little boys to start.

Like a young father, brother Lowell cradles baby Elliott in his arms in January of 1954.

Eleven years my senior, He was,

A most handsome idol to me.

So when he’d invite me, Into his lair,

This here little boy filled with glee.

A summer night breeze billowed the curtains,

Mourning doves were heard in the trees,

Rasping corn, Nearby in the fields,

Lent a pleasantness that put me to ease.

“Green Leaves Of Summer”, By The Brothers Four,

Softly played from his record player.

The music, Combined with his amber bed light,

Added to this epiphany layer.

As we laid there, Upon the chenille,

Inclusive I was in his world.

As we made plans for fun in the future,

I was thrilled to see magic unfurled.

So if ever you’re born to a brother,

As kind and as special as mine,

You’ll know right away, That the good Lord had sway,

And that you’ll be blessed mighty fine!!!

Elliott with his hero big brother, Lowell, in 2014 when they came for a vacation to Hawaii where Elliott has lived since 2010.

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 20th

February 20th…….“HOW DID YOUR FATHER KEEP WARM WHILE DRIVING THE TRACTORS ON YOUR FARM IN THE WINTERTIME?”

The small building, at the corner of the Noorlun’s barn, held ground-up field corn to feed the cows.

Wind-driven needles of ice, laced with ground-up corn feed, scoured father’s face in the darkness as he valiantly forced open the “Dutch” door of our barn from the inside. It was as if a maleficent winter sprite had cracked his whip of wind to harass our father’s efforts as that screeching howl shrieked around that dark corner on purpose. In just the time it took to milk our herd of Holsteins, and complete other chores, the gale-force blizzard winds outside had whipped up small snowdrifts, against that corner of this animal edifice, that attempted to block us inside the relatively warm repose of our family barn. Dad’s goal, that evening, was to step outside the barn to gather some bushels of ground corn feed from the little granary building that had been pulled close to the barn door during that past summer. A rectangular red panel, in the roof of that “corn cottage” allowed for Mr. Aske, who ran a grinding service from our hometown of Kiester, to come out to our farm occasionally and grind more corn that was then augered into the “corn cottage” via that roof opening. That evening, the corn was a type of dessert, so to speak, for the cows to enjoy before we, ourselves, were to head for the house and our own warm supper waiting in Mom’s kitchen. With metal, five gallon buckets next to him, the metallic “kasheenk” sound of Dad’s aluminum grain shovel filled repeatedly with corn feed from every muscular throw of his sinewy Norwegian arms. With mission accomplished and our cows gently lowing their approval, we flicked off the barn lights and plodded our way through the snow drifts as the amber glow from the kitchen windows beckoned us to the house for supper.

The Noorlun’s workshop, barn and Farmall F-20 cornpicker are shrouded in winter’s grip. Circa 1959.

The next morning, “Jack Frost’s” spirals of ice art graced our kitchen window panes as Mom ignited the gas (and wood combination) stove before getting her family up and filled with one of her classic farmer breakfasts. The percolating coffee aroma drew Dad, like a hooked fish, from their bedroom that was right next to the kitchen. With that hot cup of coffee and a piece of his favorite burnt toast in his tummy, our farmer father layered himself well with winter wrappings for the trip to the barn and the morning milking of our 15 head of Holsteins. Without a doubt, that coffee and toast were merely a “tide-me-over” until he could get back to our farm kitchen for his favorite meal of the day…….breakfast. 😉

Limpid lengths of bacon were laid to Mom’s searing skillet and immediately began their “snap, crackle and poppin'” to life; Mom wanted those “pork pieces” to be crispy well-done for her Norwegian hubby’s food favored fun. On another burner’s frying pan, sizzling, yellow-eyed eggs “stared” back at our mother as they crisped to perfection, just awaiting Dad’s heavy doses of pepper to heat them up for his pepper palette’s pleasure. Burnt toast was one of Dad’s favorites, so he had at least a couple more pieces of that unique culinary treasure, too. Matter of fact, Dad loved to tease our girl cousins that eating burnt toast would “put hair on your chest”!!!! Ohhh how they’d squeal about THAT!!! 😉 Those tasty breakfast ingredients were just the beginning for Dad. He usually also polished off a grapefruit, bowls of cereal and slurped down more coffee, juice and milk, too. Our father, Russell, used to say he could skip the other meals of the day, if he had to, as long as he enjoyed his big hearty breakfast, first and foremost.

Elliott’s father, Russell, is at right on his tractor, while Darrell Mutschler, one of the Noorlun’s wonderful neighbors, is aboard his Farmall with an engine wrap/heater shroud.

With our daddy’s “internal furnace” fueled with good food, it was now time to dress for the winter outside and tackle some tractor-related chores like spreading manure, etc..

Out of the five Noorlun sons of our grandfather, Edwin Noorlun, Russell was the only son who chose to follow in his father’s footsteps to agriculture and a love for livestock. In an earlier era, Grandfather’s “tractors” stayed in the warm barn at night, for you see, Edwin did all his farming with horses. Alas for Russ, though, that morning, as he approached his Farmall Super M, he found it was ice-encrusted and, seemingly, petrified by having had to reside in the frigid outdoors overnight. We didn’t have the luxury of a machine shed to house our tractors. So, with care not to slip on icy metal surfaces of the tractor’s frame, Dad carefully climbed aboard and hand-swept the snow from the tractor’s seat before sitting down. After pre-checking his machine, Russ hoped against hope that all fluid levels within his farming machine were still relatively viable, and not frozen solid once he hit that starter switch. Russ likely coaxed, “Come on old battery, give me a burst of energy to turn this old girl over and make that engine purr………brrrrrr”!!!!

Very similar to the Noorlun’s tractor heat shroud.

With ice-induced grunting, at first, that trusty old Farmall Super M engine decided to sputter to life once again; much to the smiling delight of our farmer daddy!!! High tech, mechanical innovations, such as heated cabs with power-steering, etc., were still too far in the future for our parent’s generation of farming. For our father, one way of surviving the bitter cold of driving tractor in winter was to attach a heavy, canvass shroud (also known as a heater housing, etc.) that covered the side openings of the tractor’s engine compartment. The shroud enlarged in girth as it flanged back and surrounded the area of the tractor seat. Many of these devices even had a windshield which truly did shield the frigid winds from hitting you directly in the face.

Hunkering low, was the way to go, to catch heat from that nice hot tractor engine up front.

In winter tractor driving, my father, and myself as well, relished the momentary relief from the painfully penetrating winds of winter as we’d hunker down in the tractor’s seat to catch some heat from that engine. How did that heat get to us back there? Well, at the front of the tractor was a radiator and a strong fan blade that pulled air through that radiator for keeping it cooled. The blessing for us in winter was the fact that that same fan pushed air in great volumes along that shroud and forced the hot engine-generated air past whoever was driving that Super M at the time.

With another winter’s day behind us, we put that tractor to bed and the animals, too, and headed into the cozy kindness of our little farm home. So nice to know that there was more than one way to stay warm on the farm of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. ><> 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..February 19th

February 19th……..“DID YOUR MOTHER, CLARICE, EVER TAKE PART IN SPELLING BEES WHEN SHE ATTENDED THE COUNTRY SCHOOL NEAR SCARVILLE, IOWA”?

Cachinnating kids clamored noisily onboard the old, late 1920’s school bus as it made its multiplicity of stops in their small village as well as numerous farms nearby. The loud, ratcheting “AhhOOOgah, AhhOOOgah” horn from their bus driver brought those agrarian angels flying out of their farm houses with books in tow and boys clipping on their last overalls shoulder strap while still on the run!!!

This daily gathering of youngin’s were on their way to one of the country schools just outside the village. Young Clarice was one of those daily riders who, once aboard, squeezed between pals and onto one of the wooden benches that ran the length on each side of that clatter carriage as it bumped and wobbled across the gravel roads near Scarville, Iowa. Windows, on this educational conveyance, were merely openings that allowed the fragrant Iowa winds to course through and cool one and all while they listened to the flibbity gibbit of engine noise up front. That scenario was fine and dandy in the spring and summer months, but Clarice and her fellow riders had to wear layers upon layers of clothing as fall and winter approached with its bone-chilling drop in temperatures. To keep his riders from turning into human popsicles, their bus driver would either button-snap heavy, see-through vinyl curtains into the window openings, or employ wooden-framed slide-in windows that were slid into receiving slots in the bus frame. Some busses of that era even had a drop-down shade/tarp when unexpected cloud bursts of rain flew in across the farmlands. In those days, one had to be tough and endure such conditions during those chilling drives to and from school in inclement weather.

Day in and day out, of that 8th Grade school year, Clarice kept up with her standard list of studies. That young Norwegian girl emulated the 1907 song called, “School Days”, in that she gladly learned her “Reading n ‘riting and ‘rithametic”. But, where she really excelled was the subject of Spelling. In those educational winter moments, the entire class of that country school relished the emanating warmth and accompanying wood fragrances from the pot-bellied stove in that one-room school. That coziness, in turn, made the recurring in-house Spelling Bees even more fun for Clarice and her entire class.

Clarice, being a feminine sprite of a girl, looked forward to these competitions when the school’s lady educator would call her up, along with her challengers, to the front of the classroom. Like little spelling soldiers, they’d line up in front of the classic, old black slate chalkboard for that day’s Spelling Bee.

One by one, the contenders for the title of “champion speller” would fall beneath the deft capabilities of the spelling prowess of “Queen Clarice”. Guess you could say she was the “Queen Bee” of the Spelling Bee there at Scarville school. Even the local newspaper touted Miss Sletten as the “Best Speller at Scarville”.

Clarice’s Grandmother Martha Larson Sletten.

On that grand day, when Clarice was “crowned” the best speller in town, she could hardly contain herself as that clatterbang of her bus meandered through the dusty country roads and deposited her, that late afternoon, in front of her Grandma Martha Larson Sletten’s home. With her spirit soaring, she sprang from that bus and waved goodbye to friends as her ebullient joy of accomplishment propelled her to find her grandmother in the Living Room sewing on her latest quilt. “Grandma, Grandma……. I WON, I WON the local spelling championship”!!!! Of course, Grandma Martha joined in Clarice’s joy and plans were made for the next step of honor of representing Scarville at the County Spelling Bee to be held in Forest City, Iowa within the week.

Clarice Arlone Sletten.

The big day in April of 1933 had arrived. Now it was time for her to represent the town of Scarville, which was one of many farming communities of Winnebago County. This spelling gala was to take place at the south border of the county in the distant town of Forest City, Iowa. Our young spelling whiz was on pins n needles as Grandma Martha helped her pick out her best Sunday church dress for this special occasion. With her hair combed and attire looking its best, they heard a gentle knock on the front door of the Sletten home. The soft features through the beveled glass of the front door revealed the arrival of Clarice’s dear teacher who would drive the town spelling queen to the competition in her sharp looking 1929 Chevrolet.

Oh what must have spun through the head of Clarice as they traveled south on those dusty country roads that day. Gazing out her passenger window, she saw arrow straight rows of field-corn that flashed past her eyes in unending acres in what must have been a dizzying optical illusion of green magic. One could surmise, as she daydreamed, that even the founder of their little village, Mr. Ole Scar, would’ve been proud of what our young lady was about to aspire to.

Over 100 young people, from the many hamlets of Winnebago County, were in attendance that special day. Judges, all official looking, were seated at their tables as adjudicators of the hopeful young spellers before them. And so it began. Contestant after contestant stood and received a given word that needed to be spelled correctly. Some were successful and remained in the competition. Others did not do so well and had to take their seats with the audience since they were no longer in the competition. Clarice had held her own in this conquest of words, so far, and saw about 80 of the former candidates eventually fail in their spelling capabilities. Now in the top 20, she had a chance for winning the competition.

Timothy grass hay.

Having grown up around her farmer parents, Clarice would listen and learn the ways of farming and how various aspects of farming were portrayed and pronounced by her father. Turns out, there was a type of grass hay that her family often raised for their livestock to eat and was known as Timothy Grass Hay. But, in this occasion, and on this day, a word that her father Clarence used all the time to describe that hay, was to be the downfall of our hopeful champion speller. The judge at the table gave Clarice the word TIMOTHY to spell. In her false confidence, Clarice stood and began……“T H I M O T E E”, was what she spelled (for that had been the way her father, Clarence, had always pronounced that word). The judge at the table was a bit taken back and sadly said, “I’m sorry, Clarice, that is INcorrect, please step down and have a seat in the audience”. Clarice was crushed!!! She was so close to taking home the honor for her school and town, but it just wasn’t to be.

Dejected by this humbling experience, the long ride home was a numbing fog for the young lady in our story. She kept going over and over in her head how her daddy, over the years, had always called that grass hay, Thimotee hay. The judges must have been mistaken.

Clarice’s kind teacher tried to assuage her hurt feelings as they quietly bounced along those gravel roads back to Scarville. By the time they neared their little hamlet, the shadows of evening were capturing what was left of the beautiful farm lands around them.

After effusive thanks to her teacher for investing her day and gas and encouragements during this spelling adventure, Clarice bid her goodnight and headed inside her home to grab a big dictionary to vindicate herself on her spelling fail that day. To her shock and chagrin, the judges had been right all along in their decision……….it was T I M O T H Y.

Even though “humble pie” is not fun to swallow, Clarice went on to graduate from Scarville High School in 1937 and a few years down the road, she met a handsome Norwegian young man and became his wife. And, to no one’s surprise, spelling became one of her most fun things for Clarice to enjoy throughout her 98 years and 3 months of life. She excelled in all the crossword puzzles she could find and conquered word games of every type and sort. Matter of fact, her love of spelling and keeping her brain “sharp” always earned her the loving title of being the “Queen Bee” mother of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉

Elliott in the arms of his “Queen Bee” mother, Clarice. January of 1954.