*The Swede from North Dakota (new material)

Recording by Elisabeth Skoglund: 

Sung to the tune of “Reuben and Rachel.”

Elisabeth Skoglund’s text is similar to, but somewhat shorter than, the version published by George T. Springer in Yumpin’ Yiminy: Scandinavian Dialect Selections. In that 1932 book it is calls “I Ban Svede from Nort’ Dakota.” This version is also found in Archie Green, editor, Songs about Work: Essays in Occupational Culture for Richard A. Reuss,published by the Folklore Institute of Indiana University 1993. The text is found on pp. 261-262 of the essay “Farm, Forest, and Factory: Songs of Midwestern Labor” by James P. Leary and Richard March. They note on p. 260 that Minnesotan Carl Bruce thought he had learned the song in Minneapolis in 1904.

Another Minnesota version is found in James Taylor Dunn, The St. Croix: Midwest Border River, p. 258, who had it from the Rydberg Manuscript in his possession.

Heritage Songbook VersionI’m a Svede from Nort’ Dakota,
Vork on farm for half a year,
I vent down to Minneap’lis
All to see da big State Fair.

I vent down to Seven Corners
Vere Salvation Army play,
Dere a voman come up to me,
Dis is vat the voman say.

She say, “Vill you vork for Yesus?”
I say, “How much Yesus pay?”
She say, “Yesus don’t pay notting.”
I not vork for him today.

I voke up da very next morning,
In da town dey call Saint Paul;
I voke up vit’ an awful headache;
Tink I got some alcohol.

Elisabeth Skoglund’s textI ban a Swede from North Dakota
Work on da farm for about two years
Tank I will go to Minnesota
Take a look at the big state fair

Buy me a ticket, buy me a bottle
Dress me up, clean out of sight
Yump on Yim Hill’s little red wagon
Feel so good, I feel like a fight

Waking up the very next morning
In the city they call St. Paul
Yump on the streetcar, go to Minneaplis
Tank I’ll find some Swede mens dere

I go down to Seven Corners
Walk into saloon for fun
Dere I meet this great big Swede girl
Slap me on the shoulder, say ‘Hello Sven!’

And we drink and we feel yolly
And we start to dance and sing
And I say to the other Swede fellows
“I will pay for the whole blame thing!”

Waking up in yale next morning
By this fellow they call da bull
And he says “Ten days or dollars –
Cause you ban so awful full”

I look through all my pockets
I can’t find no money for bail
Nothing’s left for this poor Swede man
But to spend ten days in yale

I’m going back to North Dakota
Get a yob on a farm somewhere
And all you people in Minnesota
Go yump in the lake with your big state fair!

Excerpts from Rydberg MSGreat big Swede from North Dakota
Worked on a farm for about a year,
Think he go to Minnesota,
To take a look at the Big State Fair

[Verse 2 generally similar to Elisabeth’s verse 2]

Jump on Jim Hill’s great big wagon,
Had me along mine alcohol,
Woke up early the very next morning
In the city they call St. Paul.

Walking along the streets of St. Paul
Couldn’t find any Swedesmen there;
Jump a street car go to Minneapolis
Bet your life there’s Swedesmen there.

Walk along the streets of Minneapolis,
Go to Stockholm* just for fun
Great big Swede girl slapped me on the shoulder,
And she says, “God dagar, Sven.”

I turned around and looked so funny,
Never seen this girl I think,
I ban foxy, say, “Hello Tille,
Wouldn’t you like to have a drink?”

[final verse loosely similar to Elisabeth’s verse 5]

* reportedly a reference to Minneapolis’s Stockholm Cafe.

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