We have a special story for the Memorial Day weekend. It’s about a boy named Wayne Wickoren and an old man named Andrew Anderson in McLeod, in Ransom County.
Andrew Anderson went by the nickname “Swede.” He was a bachelor living in a tarpaper shack. Other than a few drinking buddies, Swede had few friends.
Because Swede was different, he routinely caught the attention of pranksters, including young Wayne Wickoren.
“There wasn’t a lot to do for kids in those days,” Wayne would later write. “and each age group has its own set of stories of what they did to tease poor old Swede Andrew. There was one set of brothers who put corn flakes and syrup in his bed. I joined my cousins and got him wild and angry to the degree that he threw a pitch fork…and just missed me. It would have served me right to have it hit me.” Wayne said Anderson never caught any of them, but they had to do some fast running. Swede owned a big white stallion, and when the kids threw stones at Swede’s barn, it would rear up and kick the boards off the barn.
Wayne recalled hot summer day around 1938 when Swede Andrew fell and broke his leg. He had a hard time making it home, and Wayne recalled that he and his friends didn’t make it any easier. When Swede didn’t come around for the next few days, his neighbor checked on him and found Andrew had developed gangrene, which led to his death.
Wayne and his friends had trouble sleeping when they learned what happened. Because Anderson had no family, his body was on view at the town hall, and after the funeral, he was buried next to the graves of other bachelors. All of his young tormentors attended his funeral.
The following Memorial Day, Wayne went to the cemetery with a crepe paper rose, expecting to be the only one to decorate the grave. But when he got there, he discovered several others already on the mound.
Wayne said that in his own way, Swede Andrew contributed a great deal to his education. He would grow up to become the Reverend Wickoren, a Lutheran pastor, and for many years, whenever he visited McLeod on Memorial Day, he laid flowers on the graves of the bachelors, including Swede Andrew’s.
Dakota Datebook by Merry Helm
McLeod Centennial (book), 1986, pp 83, 84, 176