Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..January 11th


#300=Elliott with farewell cake at Glenwood; 1981
The misadventures of Elliott.  This cake was actually a prophecy of sorts.

Ignorance is not ALWAYS bliss.  Especially when my extent of automotive mechanical knowledge is putting gas in the tank, saying a prayer, and hoping the fool car starts when I twist the ignition key.   Another old adage comes to mind when I stroll back into the “humble pie” history files of my life; there is a saying that goes, “Be careful for what you wish for, you just might get it!!”   Not only was I gonna “get it”, but another co-worker was really gonna get it when he became involved with me in a mishap one day on the job.

#187=Elliott by refinished sign in front of GHP; circa 1982
Elliott loved working outdoors in the flowers.

My first 13 years of life, on our farm in southern Minnesota, gave me a great love of diggin’ in the dirt and seeing what I could accomplish with my own two hands.  Upon my family’s arrival in the Pacific Northwest, in 1967, I guess that farmer’s blood just kept coursing through my veins as I learned to enjoy seeing what I could do in helping with the upkeep of our yard’s landscaping there in our new hometown of Battle Ground, Washington.  I relished the opportunities to attend Home & Garden Shows in nearby Portland, Oregon and just loved our family’s excursions to numerous landscape nurseries in our Clark County area as we bought and planted more lovely flowers and trees for our yard.  When I eventually took over the Head Custodian position at Glenwood Heights Elementary School, in July of 1976, I jumped into the joys of turning the surrounding school flower beds and lawns into, what I felt were, the best looking grounds in the entire District.  So, when a job opening presented itself, in 1981, to take over the Lead Groundskeeper position for our Battle Ground School District, I thought……..”Here’s my chance!”   NOT!!!!

2NFS 1.11e
Such an EXPLOSIVE occasion!!

Taking care of flower beds was truly my forte.  And, being the idealist that I was, I thought I could really showcase my talents in this new position…….as well as make some extra dollars.  In my greenhorn ways, though, I completely overlooked an important aspect of moving into my new working scenario with the District.   The greatest majority of our equipment, from tractors to trucks, was motorized and prone to break down, from time to time.   And yes, it was part of my responsibility to fix those mechanical monsters…..if at all possible, before asking for a mechanic’s help.   How could I have been so naive as to not face the reality that I was, basically, illiterate in those facets of work life??!!!!

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Ruff n tough Ron Yates!

On one of those fateful days, as Lead Groundskeeper, I was to drive a, District-owned, mid-1970’s Ford pickup into an area of Vancouver, Washington to pick up some parts for a piece of equipment that had broken down.  Now I knew that that pickup had dual fuel tanks, but what I didn’t know, was that there was a dashboard switch AND a floor mounted twist-lever valve switch for the second fuel tank.  Sure enough, on my my way into Vancouver, my Ford ran out of gas as it sputtered dead while I rolled it to a stop alongside the highway.  “Oh”, I thought, “I’ll just flip this dashboard switch over to the second tank and be on my way, right?”  WRONG!  No matter how many times I twisted the ignition key for the engine to try to run…..it refused….. no life.  I was stumped.  Cell phones, in those days, were basically either non-existent, or a luxury of the rich.  So, I ended up hiking for over a mile, or more, till I found a phone and called the District Maintenance Shop to send Ron Yates to find me and fix my truck.

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Poor Ron didn’t know he was dealing with a mechanical moron

In his younger days, Ron Yates had led a very rough life.  He was almost like a local version of the Hell’s Angels, to me, but I could also sense that a tender heart resided inside that almost toothless mouth (most of his teeth had been knocked out in drunken barroom brawls).  After walking all the way back to the dead pickup, I waited until Ron showed up on scene.  Granted now, he’s ASSuming that I actually know what I’m talking about, mechanically……..that made both of us an ASS as time went on.

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Poor Ron.  He popped open the hood and played with this and he played with that.  He even ran over to the local parts store and bought a new fuel pump and installed that.  STILL no start!  Remember now, he also ASSumed that I had already turned the gas floor valve in the ON position, which ,at that time, I didn’t even know existed.  We both walked about a half mile to a local gas station and found an empty glass Coca-Cola bottle in the trash.  Filling the bottle with gas, we hiked back to the “sick patient” on four wheels.  Climbing up into the engine compartment, and hovering over the carburetor, Ron was going to “prime” the carburetor by pouring gas directly into the device while I cranked the engine.  Dooofus me was about to pull a doofus stunt!!!  While Ron is pouring dribbles of gas into the carburetor, and I’m cranking the engine, I notice this unmarked valve handle on the floor next to the truck’s door.  “Heyyy Ron, I wonder what this is for?” (as I then turned the switch valve).

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A mad ball of flame erupted at Ron!

Unknowing, I had innocently turned on the gas flow from the second tank and KAHPOWWW!!!  An enormous ball of flame erupted right into poor Ron’s face.  The explosion literally blew him out of the engine compartment and into the nearby field!  His eyebrows had been burned off and part of his massive beard was on fire.  Knowing of his past, wild, motorcycle lifestyle……I was scared stiff that he would rise up and kill me, for sure!!!   As he’s slapping his face to put out his beard fire, I came out of the pickup truck to profusely apologize for what I had unintentionally just caused to happen.  Other than some VERY colorful language, Ron allowed me to live another day.  Such were the UNmechanical adventures of this Norwegian Farmer’ Son.

#635=Elliott working, last day at GHP; 1981
This was Elliott’s last day of custodial work, at Glenwood Heights Elementary School, before leaving for the Lead Groundskeeper position.  He should have STAYED sweeping floors!! Hehehe 😉

Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..January 10th


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Elliott was “downbarn” rather than “Downtown” like this song. 😉

Our dusty, old barn radio was belting out the new 1964 hit tune by Petula Clark called, “Downtown”.   Only thing is, I was the antithesis of that song title as my young 10 year old body strode through the dutch doors and I was “downbarn”, instead!  😉

My 4th Grade school classes in Kiester were done for the day and our good old school bus had recently dropped us off along the gravel road that ran past our lovely little farm (well, at least to US it was lovely).  Like Superman outta the phone booth, I ran upstairs and was transformed, as far as clothing goes, from “mr. fancypants” to “nitty gritty farmer kiddie” there in my bib-overalls and farming clod-hopper boots.

#94=Elliott watering flowers on farm, 1963 maybe
Elliott waters flowers before heading to the barn for more chores.

Jumping into the afternoon I realized that, even though our wonderfully giant Lilac bush was in wondrous bloom during that time of Late Spring, those delicious blossoms just couldn’t quite compete and reach the confines of our barnyard.  The overpowering aroma of cow doodoo and pig peeyoo emanated from our busy farm life.  But, as Daddy used to say, “That’s the smell of money, Sonny!!”……so it was a perfume that kinda grew on ya, over time.   Dad’s philosophy on the smell of a farm even has a Biblical parallel.  In the Old Testament, the Book of Proverbs tells us in Chapter 14 Verse 4….”Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes from the strength of the ox.”   So, to keep up the strength of our “oxes” and “oxettes”, it was one of my chores to grab buckets and “bushel baskets/tubs” and begin feeding out corn silage, grain and special meal supplements to our various livestock.

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“Angel” and Elliott….good buddies.

Bovines, like humans, each come equipped with their own personality traits.  Some Holsteins in our barn were real fussy females that were easily startled and jumpy.  And, when you get over a thousand pounds of “jumpy” happening around you, you’re either gonna get stepped on or squished by their big bodies as they’d push together against you.  For me, I always gravitated to stall number 15 in our barn.  There lived a sweet cow we all called, “Angel”, because of her gentle disposition about life there in our barn world.  The stanchion (holding device) she was held in was at the very end of the line of cows.  Along “Angel’s” right side were railings made up of strong 2″ galvanized piping.  Sister Candice and myself petted this sweet cow daily.  She seemed to enjoy the attention.

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Sure, let’s give it a try. 😉

On television, I had seen cowboys ride the backs of bulls at rodeos.  And, like any kid, I had seen cowboys ride on the backs of horses.  “Hmmmm, thought I, I wonder if “Angel” would allow me to sit on her back?”  Since our dad, Russell, was the boss of the farm, I asked him first if I could try my stunt.  He just cautioned me as to what MIGHT happen if she didn’t like me on her back……I MIGHT just get bucked off!!   So, using those side-rail pipes as a ladder, I climbed up to where I could gently throw my leg over “Angel’s” back and sat down gently on top of her.  Low and behold, she didn’t seem to mind a bit having a 10 year old little Norwegian as a new resident upon her back.  I was a good little rider.  I didn’t jump, or dig in my heels.  I just sat there up high with a new perspective of barn life down below.  I will say though, that her sharp backbone cut right into the backside of this little Norwegian Farmer’s Son!! 😉

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Another little farmer boy enjoying the boney back of riding a cow. 😉







Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..January 9th


POEM – “His Memories Were Truly No Picnic”  by N. Elliott Noorlun

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Henry was at a church picnic

There sat old Henry, In his webbed lawn chair,

While shaded winds tousled, His silver gray hair,

And into the distance, Beyond us he’d stare,

To the memories still fresh, In his heart of care.

It was our church picnic, With fun all around,

The fresh scents of food, And children’s fun sound,


When somehow the topic, Turned to soldiers on ground,

And the horrors of war, That Henry had found.

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Henry Wiehl may have worn a similar German uniform, like this one, during the “Great War” between 1914 – 1918.

So young he was, During World War One,

A tall handsome German, Someone’s sweetest son,

For the Kaiser, He fought, With his comrades were one,


Till they lost the war, And all came undone.

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For Henry, the roads that led back to Germany were littered with the dead bodies of both soldiers and fine faithful horses.  He expressed deep sadness regarding the carnage he saw.

Henry spoke of the carnage, That war did cause,

For the blood of man, And animals he’d pause,

To reflect on the loss, Oh if only there were gauze,

To assuage the suffering, From war’s ghastly clause.

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Defeated World War One soldiers begin the long journey back to Germany and what was left of their homes and land.  Henry Wiehl (pronounced “wheel”) was one of those weary lads.

Back home towards Germany,  Defeated troops trod,

T’was nary a patch, Of untouched sod,

Just bombed out craters, Stiff bodies like a rod,

As demoralized soldiers, Their footsteps did clod.

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A new chapter of life for Henry.

With World War One over, Henry made the fine choice,

To sail for America, And find his new voice,

New land, new work, And a time to rejoice,

And his marriage to Rose, Who was like a Rolls Royce!

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Listen and honor the memories of a soldier.

So, when you see, A soldier old,

Start up a visit, And be so bold,

For inside each one, Is a story to be told,

Of times in their life, Waiting to unfold.

Happy old man3



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


#894 Edwin Noorlun & friend. Circa 1914
Edwin A. Noorlun (standing).  Circa 1914.

Breviloquence was Grandfather’s hallmark in life.  Born in 1888, Edwin A. Noorlun was usually a man of few and gently spoken words.  That mindset of Grandfather’s was cemented into reality for me when my father, Russell, shared the following scene.  Early in the 1930’s, as a young teenager in their farm home near Fosston, Minnesota, Russ witnessed his mother, Marie, the “live-wire” of the marriage, attempt to engage Grandpa Ed in an argument.  There at the family’s dinner table, Grandfather Edwin would be quietly ensconced behind his newspaper reading, while his rotund wife, Marie, would be in a tirade about something that had transpired that riled her matronly shackles.  All the while he was behind that newspaper, Grandpa Ed knew full well of Grandma Marie’s intentions to get him embroiled as a participant in her ravings.  So, as my dad would later relate to us kids, Grandpa Ed slowly lowered his newspaper and said to Grandma Marie (in Norwegian), “Ya sure, you’d just like me to argue, wouldn’t ya?!”  At that instant, up would go the newspaper in front of his face, and he’d return to his quietness while Grandma Marie exploded in an ever heightened fit of rage!!! 😉

2NFS 1.8c
Storyteller Grandpa 😉


There were the times, though, when grandfather’s quiescent jaws became lubricated whenever he and our father, Russell, came together for father and son fellowship.  You see, our dad was the only child (out of 8 siblings) of Edwin’s that followed his paternal parent’s vocational footsteps, as far as becoming a farmer like his daddy was.  Of course, without a doubt, I am of the conviction that Edwin loved ALL his children dearly, yet, there was an extra level of kindred spirit that I sensed, even when I was a little boy, that whenever Grandpa Ed came to visit our farm near Kiester, Minnesota, there was a special glow between Ed and Russ.    From the moment his yellow, 1949 Ford pulled into the farmyard driveway, I could pick up on the mutual camaraderie of father to son and farmer to farmer as those two Norwegian kinsman walked and talked together.

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Curling smoke and stories.

It was on one of those special farm visits by Grandfather Edwin, that I was a transfixed participant to one of his story-time moods.  While the sun settled to the horizon, and with Grandpa by his side chatting away, our dear farmer father finished milking our fifteen Holstein dairy cows.  After the milking machines had been sanitized and put away for the night, fresh straw bedding was fluffed up under our milking “ladies” and this mini-farmer watched Dad snap off the lights in the barn as the three of us made our way up to the house for supper while the black silk of evening wrapped around our agricultural world.  With a Mange Takk (many thanks) to mother for her fine victuals, pipe smoke and/or cigarettes were lit up as a type of menfolk dessert after the meal.  The blue, curling ascension of pipe smoke rose in dream-like mists towards the ceiling light of our farm kitchen.  The very ambiance of that smoke embellished the story telling of our father and grandfather as they visited their respective remembrances of life in northern Minnesota in the old days.

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A mystery creature!

Father and myself listened while Granddad began to share of when he was a young buck.  He had ridden his horse into town to a meeting, with other farmers, at the local Grange Hall.  By the time the meeting had adjourned, the sun was beginning its last descent into the edge of the world, casting long, golden shadows as Ed rode along the gravel road towards home.  To his left, and down in the very high grass of those shallow road ditches, there was something loping alongside Ed as he, and his faithful steed, rode along.  It was a creature of some sort, yet it was only a silhouetted shadow between the setting sun and Ed.  Whatever it was, it was breathing hard.  If Ed slowed the horse down, the massive creature slowed down, if Ed chirruped the horse to a trot, the shadowy creature, partially hidden in the shadows of the tall grass increased in speed as well.  All the while, the frightening silhouette even rivaled the nostril-ed snorts of Ed’s horse.

2NFS 1.8f
Was it him?  Or not?  😉

Grandpa Edwin perceived that his horse was becoming very agitated as it sensed the danger that lurked down in those ever-darkening high grasses of the ditch.   Ed was not about to be attacked by whatever lurked below in that ditch so with heel digs to the horse’s sides and a loud, “Heeyaaah!!”, Ed urged his mount to a full gallop as they sped away from the area and the safety of their farm home a few miles or more down the way.   Now safely home on their farm and far away from whatever was in that ditch, Ed pulled the saddle from the sweaty horse, rubbed him down for the night, and headed into their house.   The family’s radio was playing in the Living Room (no television in those times) as Ed settled his nerves with some supper and a newspaper.  A news broadcast came on the air saying that a nearby circus had suffered the escape of one of their gorillas.  Was THAT the creature that Ed and his horse had encountered that evening????  Who knows???  I’ll tell ya one thing though, that story sure got the attention of THIS Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉2NFS 1.8b



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


2NFS 1.7a
Elliott’s daddy, Russell, walked ONLY three miles to and from school.

POEM – “There Was No Bus for Russ!”  by N. Elliott Noorlun

Needles of ice, In the wind whipped his face,

Yet, it only caused Russ, To pick up his pace.

For ahead, three miles, The school bell would ring,

But for now, The wind in the trees did sing.

2NFS 1.7l
One room school house in the long ago, where Russ and siblings used to go.

With brother Doren, And sisters, too,

Through snowy paths, Their little legs flew,

To one room school, Near Fosston town,

Where they could finally, Set their school books down.

#1096.1 Russ, Doren, Doris Noorlun
Elliott’s father, Russell, is boy on bottom(2nd from right) with black cap (snow on brim).  Boy, bottom center(also dark cap), is Elliott’s Uncle Doren.  Girl far left is Elliott’s Aunt Doris Noorlun.  Timeline for this photo is roughly 1931-32.

After Readin’ n Writin’ n ‘Rithmetic,

It was recess time, To play in snow thick,

So outside they’d climb, Upon the wood pile,

To stretch those young bodies, With fun for a while.

2NFS 1.7v Russell Noorlun - 7th Grade, 1932 - Miss Thorson
Elliott’s father, Russell, carries a buddy in his arms.  Elliott’s Uncle Doren is the upside-down boy in photo.  Elliott’s Aunt Doris is far right in this photo of playtime at the school near Fosston, Minnesota.  1931-32 school year with a Miss Thompson for their teacher.

Little brother, Doren, Was always the clown,

Even enjoying snow, In the upside-down.

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Cuddled around Miss Thompson, and the pot-bellied stove, it was back to the books.

Recess was over, Now back inside,

To warm up by stove, And thaw out their hide.

Cuddled around teacher, And near to the stove,

It was time for new knowledge, As in school books they dove.

2NFS 1.7g
Russell was scared of the howling Timber Wolves.

With school day behind them, And sun setting quick,

There was three miles back home, Through forest so thick.

As the shadows of evening, Began to prevail,

Russ heard in the distance, A Timber Wolf wail.

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Footsteps got faster!

Were they coming his way??, His heart skipped a beat,

As Russ gave command, To his scared, booted feet.

“Let’s run for the farm!!!, And security of home!!”,

“And out of these woods!!!, It’s no place to roam!!”.

So Russ, with his brothers, And sisters they flew,

To protection of home, That was finally in view!

2NFS 1.7x School Pic - Russell, Doris, Doren and Ray (1)
Four of the eight Noorlun children at school.  Elliott’s father, Russell, is behind and to the right of the girl with glasses.  Arrows point to Russell, Doris, Doren and Ray.  Other siblings were Ileen, Erwin, Gaylord and Lillian.








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


2NFS 1.6c
Forrest “Pete” Herrick (at left) watches while his fellow barber, Arnold Hamren, cuts a young man’s hair in their original Barber Shop on Main Street in Kiester, Minnesota.  Circa mid 1950’s.

It was the late 1950’s.  Spring was in the air and Easter was just around the corner for our village of Kiester, Minnesota.  A gorgeous, sparkling Saturday morning found my father, with this tiny son of his in tow, as we walked down Main Street and towards our town’s barber shop.

2NFS 1.6h
A booster seat for Elliott

Approaching the building, it was plain to see that the town’s tavern (known by most as “Forever Berma’s”) shared the same entry door with the barber shop.  All patrons, intending to do business, entered the same doorway……to the left, for those wanting to purchase a beer at “Berma’s”; or, to the right for a shave and a haircut in the Barber Shop.  Of course, since my parents didn’t want a shaggy little boy walking through the doors of Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church on Easter…..Dad and I obviously made the right turn into Pete’s Barber Shop.   Classic, masculine fragrances greeted my nostrils each time that door swung in on its hinges.  Manly mixtures of powders, shaving lotions, after shave and colognes filled the air with a pleasant maleness about them.  Even as a tiny boy, I felt clean before it was even my turn to get that haircut.  So tiny a customer was I, that Pete would pull out an upholstered “booster seat” that went across the barber chair’s arms just for me.   That way,  when he hoisted my little self up in the air to the “booster seat”, he could easily reach my head for that special, snazzy clean haircut that I was about to receive.

2NFS 1.6r
Comic book heaven at the barber shop!

For purely selfish ulterior motives, I always urged Dad to get his haircut first.  Why?  It’s easy to figure, that way I could become happily lost in the giant cardboard box FULL of comic books that Pete kept along towards the end of the line of customer waiting chairs.  Various cartoon heroes as Richie Rich, Popeye, Casper The Friendly Ghost, and others kept me entranced in a little boy’s world of color and imagination while snipping scissors and electric barber shears could be heard behind me.   Barber shops, in those sweet days, were also hubs of manly socializing; even beyond when the cutting of the hair was completed.  Many men, including our farmer father, Russell, often maintained conversations with fellow farmer neighbors in the waiting chairs, as well as those in the barber chairs.  Topics of chat ranged from the growth of new crops or maybe the latest methods for getting your hens to produce more eggs.  And, like the forever debate between Ford and Chevrolet lovers, there was always good-natured ribbing about the latest new tractors being sold at the Sime’s John Deere dealership or the local International Harvester dealers selling Farmalls.

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The Herrick family had their roots in Kiester since 1912, when Pete’s father came from Webster, Iowa and purchased this clothing, dry goods and grocery store.

Little did my young mind comprehend that the kind soul of a barber, that was cutting my hair on that fine day, was truly a hometown boy, himself.  Born the same year as our mother, Clarice, (in 1919) Pete Herrick grew up in our wonderful village there in south central Minnesota.   His father, M.J. Herrick (along with Pete’s uncle) had come from Webster, Iowa, in 1912, and purchased a grocery, dry goods and clothing store in our town.  Having graduated from our local Kiester High School, in the late 1930’s, Pete was ready for what life had to offer him.  When World War II broke out, in 1941, Pete answered his nation’s call and became a Seaman First Class in the United States Navy.  Coming back to his beloved hometown after the war, Pete eventually went into partnership with Arnold Hamren and kept the menfolk of our village always looking sharp and fashionable.  I was thrilled, as a little boy, to even enjoy Pete, and his beautiful family as they attended worship at the same church we Noorluns attended……Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church.   And as a testament to the integrity and honorable nature of her fine parents, I saw and enjoyed seeing the same loving ways of Pete in his daughter, Lynn, who was in my same grade level during my years at Kiester Public School.

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Elliott would never have made a good barber! 😉

With my new haircut looking so sharp I “could’ve cut myself” (tongue-n-cheek), Pete would reward us little guys for being all grownup as we sat still in his barber chair so that he could carry out his “art form” undisturbed.  Out would come some sticks of gum (Teaberry or JuicyFruit were my favorites) or a stick of black licorice as a treat to say, “Thanks for being a good boy!”.

Men of kindness and integrity, like Forrest “Pete” Herrick, maybe never knew just how magnanimous they were in the daily lives they led in front of us little ones.  Men of noble character, like Pete, were a common thread among the townfolk of our village of Kiester, Minnesota.  Personally, in my own humble opinion, I sincerely believe that as they themselves were raised in God-fearing, Christian homes, they too, naturally exuded those Christ-like attributes to others in their daily life among us.  Together, as a whole, those godly men and women of our town created an aura of a loving and peace-filled community;  living together as “each other’s brother’s keeper”.

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Until The Resurrection Day, may you Rest In Peace, my childhood hero. ><>

In the Old Testament, in the book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, Verse 1 and 2.  “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the Heaven.  A time to be born and a time to die;……”  For the well-loved man we all knew as “Pete The Barber”, that day came on April 19th of 1968.   Complications of a blood clot ended Pete Herrick’s life at the young age of just 48 years.   Sad as his loss was for his dear family and our community, I can rejoice that his legacy lives on in the wonderful lives of his children and grandchildren.  And, I can assure you, there will always be a place of honor for Forrest R. “Pete” Herrick in the heart of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

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This photo shows Pete Herrick in his new location that was across and on the east side of Main Street.  Just down from the former Bloom’s Variety Store.  





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


#266=Picnic at Noorlun farm; circa 1950
To the far right is the “Pump House” that pumped water for the Noorlun farm.  It also was the place for the family’s “Bucket-Power Shower”. 😉  Elliott’s father, Russell, (at center) leans against a tree, during a family picnic in the shade, on a lovely Summer’s day.  Circa 1948-49.

POEM – “The Bucket-Power Shower”  by N. Elliott Noorlun

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Only a bathtub inside the house.

Back in the days, Of cleaning clime,

Our farmhouse had only a tub.

So when mud-n-grime, Said, “Cleaning Time!”,

You jumped in for, A scrub a dub dub.

#908 Lillian &amp; Lowell. Early 1960-61
Elliott’s Aunt Lillian is center.  Up on the roof of the “Pump House” (to the right), you can see the tank that provided the hot water for the shower head that was inside the “Pump House”.  Brother Lowell is carrying a bucket in the distance here in this photo.

But if you smelled sour, At around cleaning hour,

An option was there to be had.

But it took some muscle, A ladder and tussle,

To clean either gal or lad.

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Buckets of hot water were carried up a ladder to the roof tank for a shower.

Our dad, Or Lowell, Had to pay the toll,

By taking hot water from barn,

And carried across yard, They’d wear off the lard,

It’s true!  And it ain’t no yarn.

#668a Aerial of Kiester farm 001
It was a LONG way for brother Lowell to carry HOT water from the barn (on left), to the “Pump House” roof (little building, in center, along fenceline).

Up wooden ladder, Be he happy or sadder,

The roof tank had to be filled.

And one had to be careful, For if not awareful,

On YOU the HOT water got spilled!

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Hot water scalding wound

For there came a day, Poor brother did pay,

With pain and hot scalding fit!

For his bucket he dropped, And up the hot popped,

Scalding chest, his arm and armpit.

2NFS 1.5e
Be grateful!

So the next time you shower, Give thanks for the power,

Of this convenience that comes through your pipes.

For our brother knows well, With the oweees to tell,

When a shower cost him painful stripes.

LG cell 4.12.14 3403
Elliott’s handsome brother, Lowell, who made showers happen, the hard way, in the family “Pump House”.








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


2NFS 1.4n

Barn Swallows came by the droves and fluttered down to roost on the high-tension electric power lines that ran from pole to pole in front of our farm.  There, along that gravel road, these regal little birds were like a richly colored honor guard; all festooned in their rich, orange neck and breast with a “topcoat” of navy blue feathers.  The greatest majority of these dainty “soldiers” were facing eastward in order to get a glimpse of what was about to transpire down below on that gravel road.

2NFS 1.4c
“Billy RoadGrader”

In the farming culture of south central Minnesota (and likely across the majority of our nation), agricultural roadways that crisscrossed our “checkerboard” land sections were made of crushed rock called, gravel.  These types of travel-ways were ideal for bearing up under the immense weight of farmer’s heavy tractors, machinery, trucks, etc..  In order to provide material for those gravel roads, our local Kiester, Minnesota area was blessed by the contracting firm of “Kinkade and Godfrey” that crushed rock from nearby quarries and sent gravel out via their fleet of large dump trucks to evenly disperse their loads of gravel to keep our farming commerce on the move.

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Winter and Spring could make the gravel roads a terrible mess.

Anyone who ever grew up in the rural countryside of southern Minnesota can readily attest to what the wild Winter and soggy Spring could do to those graveled country roads.  The freeze/thaw, freeze/thaw of Winter resulted in what my father called “ice boils” (humps).  And, come the warm weather and Springtime thawing, roads could become miles of grueling mud bogs.  Us youngsters, of those days,  can all recall the “bucking bronco” effect of riding in the backseat of the family car, or becoming “airborne” from our school bus seats when our bus driver hit those muddy ruts and pot holes.

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Another type of “Billy RoadGrader”.

Cognizant, or not, those earlier mentioned Barn Swallows were about to take in the performance of a local hero.   His name was William Lester Otterstein.  Born into the wilds of South Dakota in 1892, Mr. Otterstein eventually settled in the northern Iowa area and married his dear wife, Minnie Marie Jensen Otterstein.   Before Mr. Otterstein was ever a hero to this little farmer boy, he was truly one of our American heroes, in that he served our nation as a Private in the United States Army during World War I.   I have always been so thankful for each and every veteran who signs away their own personal sovereignty for the duration of their enlistment in order to serve a cause far greater than themselves.   Home again from the “Great War”, Mr. Otterstein moved on with his life and that brings us to my happy memory.

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Elliott was fascinated by the giant motor grader machine and how “Billy” ran it so well!

In the quietness of our rural life, even before he came into view, I could often hear that massive Caterpillar engine on his motor grader machine.  He’d be just over the hill, to our north, and coming our way.  Sometimes, though, if I were busy with something else, I’d hear our mother, Clarice, holler out, “Elliott!!! Candi!!!  Here comes BILLY ROADGRADER!!!”.   We’d make a beeline run for the large expanse of our front lawn so that we could be safely near and sit on the sloping embankment to watch this spectacle of power roll by our farm home.  Like some people comb their hair from side to side, our hero, “Billy RoadGrader”, in a sense…..combed the gravel on the road with that gigantic metal blade of his!!   Where, a moment ago, there had been a nasty pothole or shallow trench, now, thanks to Billy’s adeptness with his Grader blade, there was now a smooth, fresh new roadway again.   Our dear farm had the honor of being one of Billy Roadgrader’s stops along his way.  He relished the very tasty water that came up from the ground to our well-house and would oft-times fill his large water jug with its chilled delight to tide him over on the rest of his dusty journey.   After he’d passed, I can recall rushing out to inspect the fresh gravel and be in awe of the monstrous chevron tread marks left by his rear tires.  Hero worship (or adoration, for another word), in my humble opinion, is partly comprised of being in awe of someone’s talents, but foremost, in my little farm boy’s heart was kindness exhibited to me.  Without a word spoken between us kids and “Billy”, we could see him there inside that dusty Motor Grader cab, like a king on this throne.  Without fail, each and every time he drove past our farm, he’d lift that gloved hand of his and twiggle his fingers at us little ones with a smile as big as the metal blade beneath him.  No words needed to be spoken when love was shown by “Billy RoadGrader” to this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.

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Our hero, “Billy RoadGrader”, stands far right in back row.

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


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Happy “Grandpa” John Madsen

His very thick, “Coke bottle bottom” glasses hung heavy upon the bridge of his geriatric nose, yet they only magnified the gentility of the soul within this dear man our family honored with the loving title of “Grandpa”. He was not connected in bloodline to our family heritage, yet he was intertwined with us in the sweetness of just who he was……someone who savored and relished the absolute simple joys of life. I sometimes have pondered on the origins of his family’s Danish heritage. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he might have even had ties to the profoundly talented Danish author of children’s fairy tales…..Hans Christian Andersen. Why, you ask? Well, maybe it’s because my sister and I adored “Grandpa” John P. Madsen and, like the famous Danish storyteller, we hung on anything John had to say and share out of his kind heart and wisdom.

#987 Candi's Birthday 1960 Illena, Matt, Del, Grandpa John, Russ and Candi
Those super thick glasses on “Grandpa” John are watching Elliott’s sister, Candice, as she blows out those fun birthday candles in the kitchen of their farm home near Kiester, Minnesota.

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In our Bible’s New Testament book of Philippians Chapter 4 and Verse 11, it speaks perfectly to the tenets of how John Madsen lived out his life. And, when you muse upon some of his challenges that he had to face in life, you’d have to agree that John had “learned to be content” in his circumstances. For instance, over the years, John had lost every tooth in his mouth. Now some folk could afford expensive dentures so that they could continue to look good, when they smiled, and easily chew food. Not John. Over time, John’s gum-line receded into sharp ridges, where his teeth used to be, and yet he could masticate almost any food our mother put on that dinner table……..it just took him a bit longer, that’s all. John’s eyesight, over many years, had deteriorated to the point of wearing super thick glasses just to be able to see and get around in his daily life. Did he complain about “Woe is me, I can’t see!!????”……..never.

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The Minnesota Old Soldier’s Home

Some of us have fancy homes with three-car garages, a pool and acreage. John? He had no home, per se, yet was happy as a clam to at least have a room to live in at the Minnesota Old Soldier’s Home near the Minnehaha Falls area of Minneapolis. He practiced that contentment and spent the remaining years of his life there until his passing in 1978. John was the quintessence of how we all should live….with a grateful heart for the myriad of blessings we all take for granted each and every day; like hot and cold running water, electric lights, a roof over our heads with a bed to sleep in, etc.. And, even though our family were as poor as a church mouse, John would often exclaim, “Yah, them Noorluns, they’ve got everything!” To John, we were rich! 😉

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L to R…Sister Candice, Elliott, Shetland pony named “Joker” and Grandpa John

On any given Summer’s morning, there on our farm near Kiester, Minnesota, the heavenly fragrance of lilacs floated through the open window of “Grandpa” John’s bedroom as he’d swing those long, lanky legs across Mom’s chenille bedspread to stand up and start a new day with us. His World War I Army training surfaced once again as he began his routine of calisthenics there next to his bed. Those long arms would swing round and round like a Ferris Wheel, followed by torso twists and then he finished calisthenics as he made the cursory efforts to touch his toes. With his grateful tummy full from one of our Mom’s excellent farm breakfasts, “Grandpa” John (along with myself and little sis, Candi) stepped outside the back porch pantry door. Once outside, John would swing open his arms, draw in a healthy lung-full of fresh air and loudly exclaim, “GOOD MORNING!!!” It was as if he was greeting God, Himself, for there was no one else in the vicinity but Candi and me. What a happy, happy heart.

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With a steep, deadly drop-off, like in this photo, Elliott saw how “Grandpa” John handled fear

Fast-forward now with me to the late 1960’s. Our family now lived in southwest Washington State and “Grandpa” John came to visit us in our new home. Of course, we wanted to show our dear family friend the sights of our new area, so all of us jumped into the car and headed high up into the mountains near us. It was on this excursion that we witnessed how this gentle, kind soul of a man handled the emotion of fear. As our father, Russell, climbed higher and higher upon the small logging roads, we began to see drop-offs of a thousand feet and more right alongside our car windows. The forested view was magnificent, but a little too much for “Grandpa” John. With urging in my voice, I exclaimed, “Heyyyy, Grandpa John!!! Look wayyyy down there!!!” With his eyes glued straight ahead on the road in front of us, our flatland friend responded………….“No, I think I’ll come back and see that tomorrow!!!” His timid response caused all in the car to giggle, including this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉

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



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Brush Creek, looking east towards Kiester, Minnesota.  Elmer Simonson barn to left in distance.

Languorously lumbering along, like a liquid locomotive, was Brush Creek during a Spring-time thaw season.   Tons of water that had been suspended on the fields in frozen white, over the Winter, were now being released by the radiance of a hot Minnesota sunshine overhead.

Inevitable as the march of time, that once frozen water now had to go somewhere in the thaw, and Brush Creek became a turgid transport of that now river as it traversed its way east and eventually to the mighty Mississippi River.  Our farm was blessed to have its southern border run right along Brush Creek.  Our hard-working father, Russell, saw to it that a large acreage of pasture land was fenced off so our herd of Holstein dairy cows could graze away to their heart’s content and drink as much of that clear, liquid nourishment as they needed while it floated by, cool and refreshing.

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Elliott loved mud.

During the Summer season, Brush Creek was your normal, quiet, babbling brook as it meandered its way past our property.  Crawdads and tadpoles frequented the shadows of the Brush Creek Bridge as I played barefoot in the oooey-goooey mud along its banks.  Mud n me added to the glee in those hazy, crazy, lazy days of Summer.  But, here in the Spring-time, Brush Creek was anything but placid.  Water levels, from the robust melting of snows, were at, or over the banks of the creek, at times.  Even a youngster, like myself, knew that to play too close to the edge of that creek could spell danger, and/or death from drowning if one fell in along those precariously unstable soils along its edge.

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Elliott’s cousin, Marc Sletten, in the arms of his mother, Illena.

As I popped into the world scene, in January of 1954, I grew up in the surrounds of agriculture, farming and the outdoors.  Our cousin, Marc, on the other hand, came into this world towards the end of 1954, and was raised as (with pleasant teasing) a “city slicker” in the city of Albert Lea, Minnesota.  Our beloved mother, Clarice, had just as high a standard of cleanliness for her children as any good mother does.  However, she knew farm life could get down-right dirty, at times, so she took into stride the usual muddy clothes and skinned knees on my blue jeans, when she saw me returning from a boy adventure.

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Buick Electra

To the other end of life’s spectrum, whenever our Uncle Del brought their Buick Electra to a stop in our farmyard, I can still hear Aunt Illena pre-scold her three boys, “Now don’t you boys dare get those clothes dirty!! Hear me?”  Maybe this mindset, on her part, was because of her parents owning a laundry business in Albert Lea?  Whatever her reasons, she laid down the law even before those poor kids climbed out of the back seat!……..jeeeesh!!  😉

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There went Marc!!!

With 120 acres of farm land to explore, we kids (and guest cousins) seldom had to worry about boredom.  It was during one of those beautiful Spring Day visits, by my three cousins, that we ended up hiking to the south end of our property and were exploring the burgeoning flow of Brush Creek as it faithfully carried out the disgorgement of the uncountable amounts of snow-melt waters.   I cautioned our dear cousins of the dangers of getting too close to the creek’s edge.  Even while standing there, we could witness the rapid erosion of soil embankments that slumped off, from the strong water flow, and were disappearing into the murky waters.   For whatever reason, Cousin Marc decided to investigate the edge of the creek a bit too closely when, all of a sudden, the ground gave way under him!!  Down he went, up to his neck, and he was now clawing the grassy embankment for his dear life!   As a team, the rest of us kids were able to grab his hands and haul him in to safety.

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Marc was mud from neck to toes.

In all the ruckus of “reeling him in”, our poor cousin was pulled through all the oooo n gooo and was now slimy mud from neck to toes.

In an ironic twist of humor, I couldn’t help but smile as I observed the next scenario.  Here Marc was inches from drowning;  yet, as he stood there dripping with mud……walking all the way back to our farmyard, Marc kept lamenting, “Mom’s gonna kill me!!  I got dirty!  And Mom’s gonna kill me!!!”   You think he’d be thrilled to just be ALIVE!!!!   It was truly a scary, yet funny moment for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! 😉