This was the farm that belonged to my grandparents. It was located on the hill above Gribbin Valley near the small town of Whalan, MN. It was the second place on a dead end road. The first place belonged to my great grandparents on my Grandfather’s side. We would drive up the long driveway to get to the first farm, drive between the house and the barn and other buildings to drive down a longer driveway to my grandparents. I remember having to stop to open and close gates and drive over the rough cattle grates to get there.
My great grandfather had purchased the farm and some of the children had lived there after they had married. My grandparents actually started out somewhere else in the area as my aunt remembers them talking about her starting to walk at the other farm. But when one of my great uncles turned down the offer to buy the farm, my grandparents bought it. My mother and her younger brother where raised from babies there.
Times were hard and life wasn’t easy, but the families worked together to get the crops in and harvested. In the early years, most of the work was done by hand and with the use of horses. The crops raised were hay, corn, oats, wheat, and barley.
Mom and Lorraine talked about getting new straw in their mattresses at harvest time so their mattresses were fuller again. Lorraine said that it was a heavy fabric on the outside cover and it never felt scratchy.
The children had to walk to a country school that taught up to the eighth grade. It was the old one room school house. Of course having been raised in a Norwegian family, the children also had to learn to talk in English at school. Up to this point, everything they spoke was in Norwegian. It was a long walk to school and I think there was some of the uphill both ways.
Mom and my aunt, Lorraine shared some of these school memories:
Once, Mom’s box of crayons fell on the floor. The crayons fell through the grate in the floor and into or onto the furnace in the basement. The flames shot up through the grate in the floor. Of course, Mom ran out of the school. Then later in the day, Mom and Lorraine sat and broke Lorraine’s crayons in half so they each had crayons. They only got one box a year, so they had to make do. Of course two little girls could only do this so long before they got the giggles and got in trouble for that too.
One of the first Christmases at school, they sent Mom and Lorraine out to walk around the school house. Unknown to them, Santa Claus was also outside walking around the school the other way. But they didn’t know anything about Santa Claus and got scared and run away from him.
Having to walk to and from school, they also saw snakes. And they weren’t little ones either. I think the bull snakes they saw were the six to eight foot long. Mom got so scared one day, that she ran away, loosing one shoe as she did. I don’t think that they ever found the shoe back either.
My Mom and Aunt both thought that they might have been left handed but writing with your left hand was not allowed by the teacher. Some of the things they do, they tend to use their left hand rather than their right hand.
Continuing school after the eighth grade was an option but they would have to go to Lanesboro to complete their high school. To go to Lanesboro High School, would have meant finding a place to stay in Lanesboro during the week as there wasn’t any other way to get to Lanesboro every day.
To get a drivers’ license, all you had to do was to go to Preston and sign a piece of paper stating that you knew how to drive. The building was next to the Montgomery Wards store. So if someone was insulting your driving ability, they would ask if you got your license from Montgomery Wards.
As children, we enjoyed visiting Grandma and Grandpa Erickson. One of the drawbacks was that unless they were talking to us children, they only talked Norwegian.
Grandma did all kinds of craft things. She craved horses and made wooden wagons for them too. She had a couple bookcases with glass fronts that had all sorts of things to look at. There were souvenirs and horses and wagons she had carved or made from kits. But we always had to go to look at them. And it was a look but don’t touch. We didn’t touch the things behind the glass, but I can’t guarantee that the glass didn’t have finger prints left behind.
They never had indoor plumbing or central heat. You could fill your glass with water with a ladle from the pail in the wash room. You could also wash your hands in the basin. But you were taught not to waste the water.
The restroom was the “Outhouse”. When I was little, all we had at home was an outhouse too so it wasn’t so strange. But we got indoor plumbing about the time I was in sixth grade. That was also about the time, we learned Grandma had killed a rattlesnake by the outhouse. After that, you probably didn’t use the outhouse unless you really had to.
In the summer, we usually had a family picnic down by the creek in Gribbon Valley. It was spring feed, so it was cold. But every year, us kids would look forward to the picnic. We would roast hot dogs, eat hot dishes and salads, and wade in the ice cold creek. In one spot it was about waist deep, so every year, my dad would blow up and patch inner tubes, tie them together with twine and pull us though the few feet of deep water until our lips turned blue. Then we had to get out to warm up and probably roast another hot dog.
The little house you see in the farm photo was the summer kitchen. It was build shortly before my parents were married. It replaced the older summer kitchen which was the original log cabin used before the house was built. With the older summer kitchen, you didn’t want to drop anything on the floor as it would probably fall through the cracks in the floor and never be seen again.
In the early seventies, the State of Minnesota came through wanting to buy the valley land of the farm. My grandparents refused to sell unless they bought the whole farm. As they were buying up the whole valley, they bought the whole farm. My grandparents had an auction and moved to Caledonia close to my uncle.
My parents bought a tractor, some cows, and the summer kitchen which they moved to our farm. Now my parents’ farm is going to be sold, and I am hoping to get the summer kitchen moved to our hobby farm.
All that remains from this building site, is the one new shed that was behind the barn. All the other buildings were gone by some time in the 1980’s. Some of the flowers may still come up and bloom in the summer. Some of the field land is rented out to the neighbors to raise crops on. The state went through and planted trees on the building site and both upper and lower pastures. So between the trees and the weeds, you can no longer drive by the lower pasture in Gribbin Valley and see the creek zig-zag through the valley.