Over the Handlebars, Sweden 1947

Note from Editor/Daughter: This story, which dates back to just after World War 2, is from my dad’s journal of memories. 

Just before I was laid off from my tobacco harvest job I bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle 1930 model.

After some training on the farmer’s fields I passed the driving test and got my license so it was back to Sweden to dig up the sugar beets I had thinned earlier on.

I worked for awhile tipping sugar beets out of the ground. But that fall was a tough time, the days getting short and roads slippery. Towards the end of the season, while driving to the cookhouse, I hit a muddy patch on the road and I went over the handlebars hitting the road pretty hard.Dad with his HarleyI took the bike back to my quarters and took a bus to town where I went to the emergency. There I had my right hand put in a cast as the wrist was cracked and the thumb bone split lengthways in to the joint. And with my arm in a cast I couldn’t do any more fieldwork.

My brother Knud was also in Sweden, working in a forest camp in southern Skaane and a few weeks later I went there to join him. It was an even larger estate then Nygaard with 13000 acres, mostly covered in a forest of Oak, Maple, Alder, Elm, Beech and Birch, and some planted Fir and Pine.

That same forest had been used for training 3000 volunteer Danes as commandos to be dropped behind German lines in case Hitler attacked Sweden. They would have done their best, sabotaging the German supply lines in Denmark.

I was somewhat ambidextrous and worked with my brother Knud for a while using my left hand only. Later, after I got the cast off, I worked on my own, and Knud and two others took off for Dalsland near the Norway border

I had heard about a job at the castle and went there instead. It was a large castle with a moat around it and the farm buildings outside the moat. I got a job there working in the greenhouses, run by a Lithuanian former soldier and nurseryman who had been captured by the Germans during the war and spent time as a slave labour in France and Germany.

At the greenhouse I worked by day, hauling manure to hotbeds, rows upon rows, and at night I stoked the big greenhouse furnaces.

The greenhouse had a horizontal chimney running the length of the greenhouse and when a late cold snap hit I slept there with my clothes on and an alarm clock near my ear. Every 20 minutes I would get up and load the furnaces with four-foot-long logs and kept them going full blast. It was by the skin of our teeth only that we got through that cold snap.

As the weather warmed up I wanted to go north to join my brother in the forest camp in Dalsland. My employer was very unhappy about me leaving, so got Richard, another logger who was working by himself in the forest camp, and had me train him to drive the horses. My employer was still growling that Richard was not much of a soldier even though he had served in the navy and should be familiar with discipline.

Once Richard was trained and the weather was warm enough, I hauled out my bike. My boss even filled up my gas tank and said, “If I didn’t have a wife and kid I would go with you.”

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