I was born in Minnesota of predominantly Swedish descent with a quarter or so of Scotland blood mixed in. Both my maternal and paternal family lived and farmed in Minnesota for generations. My great grandfather was the first game warden in the state of Minnesota. My paternal ancestors moved to Northfield, Minnesota in 1876 which is the same year that the James-Younger gang made their ill-fated decision to rob the bank in Northfield. Somehow, before realizing that my ancestors had lived in Northfield, I wrote this poem about a Swede with poor judgement and tied it all in with my ancestry and rich, Minnesota heritage.
Swede's Last Drive
Sittin' here in town this mornin'
Watchin' "Tin Lizzies" drive by
Reflectin' on my last cattle drive
Twenty years ago, man time sure does fly
My partner, "Swede", was head wrangler
Pushin' them horns to Deadwood
Dear God, what I wouldn't give
To live those days again if I could
Swede was from Northfield, Minnesota
So Too-Tall up and asked him one night
Was he there when the James gang robbed
Did he get involved in that fight?
"Vell yah sure I vas der alright
The town blew 'bout like a powder keg
So I yoined up in the ruckus
Fact is I shot Frank Yames in his leg"
"Den I yoined the town posse
Vee chased dem a veek or two
I tink vee captured four of dem robbers
But dem Yames brothers escaped vitout a clue"
"Dey yust disappeared for sure
Ve heard dey'd been seen down Dakotas vay
But that might'a yust been talk ya know
Who knows vhat people vill say"
Swede and I became close friends
When we hired on in 1883
The Pitchfork was just getting started
So, in the bunkhouse it was just him and me
I loved hearing him talk
It was almost like he was singin'
The way he upped and downed his words
He was great tellin' stories and word slingin'
We all have our weaknesses
And Swede, well his was the ladies
He knew it too and often said
"Dem gals vun day vill send me to hades"
Sure enough in Deadwood
Ol' Swede fell for some soiled dove
At the end of that drive in 1885
He swore his heart had finally found true love
Still, old habits are tough to break
Even though he was to hitch the next day
He was tempted by a redheaded darlin'
Who sure 'nuff swept him away
His fiance found he'd been dallyin'
Partakin' with a so-called friend of hers
So she chased him down with a vengeance
Shot him and raked him head to toe with his spurs
Is there any angry passion
Worst than jealousy and a woman's rage?
Oh heavens she done him ugly
'Looked like he'd fought a catamount in a cage
I found him next mornin'
He'd crawled back on his horse alive
"I reckon dis is so long Pard
Ve've done finished our last drive"
I thought he'd gasped his last
When his head had rolled to the side
"By golly that redhead vas someting though!"
Then he kicked off a boot and died
I expect there's a moral to his life
Comin' so tragically to a close
You can be a good friend and top hand
But in the end, a man reaps what he sows
by Rik Goodell
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This painting by Andy Thomas tells a story of it's own.
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