A Hartlander in a suit raises suspicions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 17, 2001

I live on a farm near Hartland, Minnesota.

Wednesday, January 17, 2001

I live on a farm near Hartland, Minnesota. You don’t see many people around Hartland wearing suits outside of church. It is just not something that a Hartlander does.

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And there is a good reason why he doesn’t often wear a suit. A fellow wearing a suit in Hartland anywhere but within shouting distance of a minister, usually hears the same thing: &uot;Will the defendant please rise?&uot; This kind of thing can put you off suits entirely.

My father, who was a farmer, had one suit. It was a nice suit that he had owned long enough that it had gone in and out of style several times.

He had some beautiful ties, with paintings of such things as cattle skulls on them, which he wore with his suit.

He had a lovely pair of wing-tipped shoes. Nice leather that he babied. He polished those shoes before he ever put them on his feet. Then he would clean them up before they were once again relegated to the confines of the closet.

Dad looked good in a suit – or as folks said, &uot;He cleans up real good.&uot;

One time, my family was invited to a wedding of a family member in Iowa. It was a wedding that my father could not get out of going to. We finished the morning chores and then we all got slicked up. Dad and I were wearing our only suits and Mom was attired in her posh dress. Wearing a necktie restricted my childhood activities some. I always felt as though I were tied to a fencepost.

My father was on a bit of a mission this day. He had discovered the existence of a tractor for sale not far from Algona, our wedding destination.

He worked things out with my mother so that we would drop her off at her sister’s place in Algona an hour or two before the wedding and then Dad and I would venture out to have a look at the tractor.

Things went as planned. We dropped Mom off at my Aunt Helen’s and then Dad and I motored to the farm place offering the Allis-Chalmers tractor for sale. &uot;Fine condition, no reasonable offer refused,&uot; read the ad in the Algona newspaper. Dad liked Allis-Chalmers tractors and he loved reasonably priced tractors.

The owner of the tractor had given my father directions to his farm and we found it without any problem. We drove down the driveway leading to the man’s house. The drive was lined with pieces of machinery in various states of disrepair. In the midst of the rusting hulks were a number of dogs – all looking mean and not the least bit trustworthy. Dad parked our old Pontiac and we dePontiacked with some caution, keeping an eye on the mangy canines eyeing us back.

We made it to the shadows of the old house with our limbs all still intact. We knocked on the door and a large, unshaven man wearing a torn and stained T-shirt, covered with a pair of bib overalls, with only one strap fastened, came to the door. &uot;Yeah?’ he grunted in not the most friendly manner as he eyed the two suits at his door suspiciously. Dad explained that he was the one who had called about the tractor. This lessened our host’s uneasiness only slightly. &uot;What day of the week is this?&uot; he asked. We told him it was a Saturday. &uot;It is, huh?&uot; he replied, distrust creeping even deeper into his voice. &uot;Are you a banker?&uot; he asked my father.

My father said that all he could do was to wish that he were one. &uot;Are you a lawyer, then?&uot; came the man’s next question. My father assured him that he was not and showed that he had a hand in his own pocket as proof that he was not an attorney.

&uot;Don’t tell me you’re the new minister? My wife said you might be stopping out. I’ve been meaning to get to church, but I was out of town, then I came down with the flu that I just couldn’t shake, and I’ve been awful busy. I promise that I’ll try to make it next Sunday or maybe the Sunday after next.&uot; Dad told him that he was not the new minister.

&uot;Then how come you’re wearing a suit on a Saturday?&uot; asked the big man in the bad overalls. My father looked the man squarely in the eye and said, &uot;It’s not every day that a man buys a tractor.&uot;

Hartland resident Al Batt writes columns for the Wednesday and Sunday editions of the Tribune.