The Barn at Longfurrow Farm, Dennison, MN

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There were work related injuries however. Before our father's marriage and before hay slings he had a hay fork to elevate loose hay from the wagon to the barn's mow. One time when it was returning to the wagon after releasing its load in the mow, the heavy steel apparatus came loose from its moorings in the rafters and plummeted to the floor piercing my dad just below the kidneys. He could easily have been killed but Dad fully recovered to the surprise of many, especially one of the Finseth uncles. Family lore has it that he arrived at the farm to pay his respects to a grieving family and was astonished to be met at the door by my father.

Another serious accident on the farm happened when my younger brother Paul was in high school. Every night I forked the loose hay from the mow into the long vertical chute that went to the cows in the basement and at times a large fork full of hay would clog the narrow chute. Sometimes the addition of a small fork of hay added enough weight and the entire heap would slip down. In other instances we had to climb down the chute and shove the lodged hay with one leg while standing precariously on a cross board and holding on to other cross boards.

When one is young and agile easier and more daring ways come to mind. I would leap into the chute with both feet and my full body weight would dislodge the hay and clear the chute. In my rapid descent I would reach out and grab a cross board in the chute to stop my fall and enough hay would be caught between the boards to cushion me as I'd slam against the chute wall. Paul had watched me do this.

One time when Paul was putting down hay, he only put one forkful into the chute so there was too little resistance to slow him down. Also, he hadn't left his hay fork behind. As he jumped he plummeted through the chute for about 26' and was unable to grab onto one of the cross boards. Paul let go of the fork at the beginning of his fall and hit the concrete floor with only that forkful of hay to cushion his fall. He hit feet first and toppled to the side. The pitch fork followed him tines first. Because Paul rolled from directly under the chute, the tines of the fork missed his head and upper body, but seriously injured him in the knee.

Great competition, enjoyment and camaraderie developed in the hay mow. I remember driving the horses that pulled the slings of hay into the mow. I had a healthy fear from warnings that if the wood eveners which connected the heavy pulley rope to the harness broke, they could come flying back and kill me so I should be sure to walk to the side. Or, the manila rope itself could break and lash out and kill me. So walk out of reach!

One had to control the horse as the sling reached the top of the barn so the catch would latch in the carrier. If the loaded sling hit the carrier too hard it wouldn't latch properly and could plummet to the wagon below; the result was the same if the rising sling snagged on a cross beam and broke the manila lifting rope.

We tied the horses to a box elder tree between hay loads. This was when I would climb on the horses' broad back or even unhook one and imagine I had a western saddle and was in the West, instead of riding a harnessed work horse in a farm yard.

I never imagined in my youth that someday I would ride 3500 miles on the long Continental Divide Trail that passes through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. I began the ride in 1983 after completing a term as governor and rode the entire distance on my Appaloosa gelding, Spanish Bull in six-week installments over nine summers. I consider this ride my greatest challenge and greatest satisfaction, and have recorded it in Riding the Divide.

Another time I incurred the displeasure of my father by hooking the old surrey to the team and driving as in the days before autos.

I liked to hold the horses while standing at their heads although Dad said that was a dangerous place. However, I felt more secure at their heads than holding the lines from the rear because I could communicate better.

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