My great-grandfather Ole Sivertson was born in Norway and immigrated with his wife to Minnesota in the late 1800s. Garrison Keillor once said that the Norwegian immigrants came to Minnesota having forgotten that they left their homeland in search of something better. What they got was pretty much the same as what they left - long, sub-zero winters. Grandpa Ole (yes, every man born in Norway is named Ole) and his wife Berit settled in central Minnesota and started dairy farming. My grandpa Olaf was their 12th and youngest child. Their farm house and barn survived long after the family had grown up and gone. When I was a kid, we'd drive over to the old place and walk around it. The barn had a huge stone foundation that reached almost halfway up the walls. It was awesome. The house was small, with a living room and kitchen downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. It was recently moved onto a historical site in Dalton, MN, and is set up with pictures of the family. It's very cool. Next time I'm there I'll get some pictures to share with you.
Grandpa Olaf married Corinne Jorgenson and started a dairy farm of their own. My dad, Owen, is the oldest of their 9 children. Here he is with his mother and younger brother, Dad is the little boy standing by grandma, and wearing some great coveralls.
Dad is the in the center in this picture. His father is to the right (look how much they look alike), and the his brother is on the left.
Dad loved his childhood, and always said that it was the perfect lifestyle for him.
My grandpa lived on that farm until he died, so we spent a lot of time there when I was a kid. My cousins and I played in the barn and fields, sometimes Dad would walk around with us and tell stories. They really had a wonderful way of life, one that is practically gone now.
Not too many years ago when I was home, we went to the cemetery where my grandparents are buried to visit their graves. Dad and I walked all over the grounds, and he knew the names on almost every stone, and could tell me something about them. It was emotional, not that there were tears, but more that I could feel his respect for those people and for his home. That place is as much a part of him as his bones and blood are. It's taken me my whole life to understand that, but I'm starting to. People in those communities lived a pretty hard life; so much work, tough work, and harsh winters. But they worked together, and created a bond that still exists in those who lived it.
Dad is a smart man, and could have done many things with his life, but farming is his love, and so that's what we did. He met mom in Wichita, Kansas while stationed there with the Air Force (in those days all young men were required to serve some time in the military), and after finishing his time there they went back to Minnesota. We lived a few different places before settling on the 12 acre plot where I grew up. We had cattle, pigs, goats, geese, chickens, horses and mice. Not all at the same time, and we didn't want the mice, didn't have much of a choice. We also had a huge garden. Many acres of garden. Man did I complain about working in that garden. When I look back on it now, though, there's something that stands out, and that is that Dad was usually working with us, and often we'd stop what we were doing and talk. I remember one afternoon in particular. We were hoeing weeds. We stopped, I put my foot on the blade of the hoe and leaned against the stick, and talked about the Korean war and Vietnam. Sounds like a strange thing to chat about, but a lot of our conversations were historical or political. Of course I didn't have anything to add, I just listened, but what a great way to spend the afternoon, standing barefoot in the cool black dirt listening to my dad.
One more thing to mention, and I think that I've talked about this before, Dad read to me. We read a lot. At night he would sit on my bed and read something. Or, I'd sit on his lap in our big rocking chair and read. That was the beginning of my love for books, and I am so glad to have it.
Dad taught me lots of things, to many to put here. I'm really grateful for the way I grew up. I'm grateful for what farm life gave to me and to my siblings. I'm grateful that my parents joined the Church and raised us with it. I've had a good life.
Happy Father's Day, Dad! I love you very much.