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Swede Andrew


We have a special Memorial Day story for you today. It’s the story of a boy named Wayne Wickoren and an old man named Andrew Anderson; they lived in McLeod, east of Lisbon in Ransom County.

Although Anderson’s name had a Norwegian spelling, people around town called him “Swede” – Swede Andrew. He was a bachelor who lived in a one-room, tarpaper shack on the east edge of town. Other than a few drinking buddies, Swede Andrew had few friends; one of the few people who showed him kindness was his neighbor, Johnny Engbloom.

Because Swede Andrew was different, he routinely caught the attention of pranksters, including young Wayne. Wayne wasn’t sure how Anderson made a living. “He must have done odd jobs and a bit of carpentering,” Wayne wrote. “He did own a carpenter’s tool kit, but there weren’t very good tools in it. I recall seeing it once when he was uptown doing a little celebrating, and several of us kids went sneaking to look in his shed that was fastened to his (house).

“There wasn’t a lot to do for kids in those days,” he said, “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. Some others filled it with water that tipped all over the place. 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. “He owned a big white stallion that he traveled on with a one-man cart, breeding mares,” he said. “That stallion was pretty wild, and when you threw stones at Swede Andrew’s barn, it would rare (sic) up and kick the boards off of the barn... The closer you stood, and the bigger the stone, the wilder the horse got. I was the youngest and the smallest, and got caught the most... Once when Swede Andrew nearly got me, my Aunt Inga came to my rescue just in time.”

Wayne says that on a hot summer day around 1938, Swede Andrew fell and broke his leg. He had a hard time making it home, and Wayne recalled he and his friends didn’t make it any easier for him. When Mr. Anderson didn’t come around for the next few days, his neighbor, Johnny, checked on him and found Andrew had developed gangrene. He died in Lisbon.

Wayne and his friends had trouble sleeping when they learned what had 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 and went home early that night.

The following Memorial Day, Wayne went to the cemetery with a crepe paper rose, expecting to be the only one to decorate Mr. Anderson’s grave. But when he got there, he discovered several others already on the mound. “I remember looking at those several roses and wondering if anyone had ever given him a flower as long as he lived,” he said.

Wayne said that in his own way, Swede Andrew contributed a great deal to his education in McLeod. Wayne grew up to become Reverend Wickoren, a Lutheran pastor who never married, and for many years, whenever he visited McLeod on Memorial Day, he laid flowers on the graves of the bachelors, including Swede Andrew’s.

Source: McLeod Centennial (book), 1986, pp 83, 84, 176

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm