Gwen Peterson: Sheepherders come up with idea for giant tribute statue
Two retired Big Timber sheepherders, Sven and Ole, make a daily trek to the Frosty Freez for morning coffee. They join other oldsters and exchange news. In the afternoons, two or three might meet for coffee at the Big T Drugstore.
In hot weather, they sit outside at a wrought iron table. From this vantage point, they can eyeball passersby, chat with some folks and think up new ideas never thunk up before. The drug store sidewalk table is where Sven and Ole were when Ole had a thought and felt obliged to share his vision with Sven.
Ole: “Don’t cha think there’s an awful lotta hoorah-rah-rah ever’where ‘bout cowboys and durn little about sheepmen?”
Ole: “I been thinkin’.”
Ole: “We oughta have a statue of a sheepherder. A big one. 9 feet tall or maybe more.”
Sven: (After a very long pause) “Ole, you’re doin’ way too much thinkin’ lately.”
Ole: “A giant sheepherder statue — that’s what we need. Standing tall, smack in the middle of town, maybe on that vacant lot next to City Hall.”
Sven: (Thoughtfully) “Maybe you got something there. This country was mainly settled by Norwegian sheepmen. Lots of those oldtimers didn’t have family. They died off and nobody really knew ‘em. A statue would be kinda like a tribute to the Unknown Norwegian.”
Ole: “Ya. ‘zactly. ‘Sides that, folks would come from all over to see it. Maybe the statue should have a sheep dog and some sheep hanging around him.”
Sven: (Another extended pause) “You’re talkin’ a whole lotta money, ‘specially if it’d be bronze.”
Ole: “Uh-huh, but I’m thinkin’ it oughta be built out of scrap iron. There’s lots of that layin’ around in piles on the ranches. Betcha ranchers would be glad to get rid of it, ‘specially for a herder statue.”
Sven: “Ya, but it’d still cost a bundle. How you reckon to pay for it? Sellin’ lefsa and lutefisk?”
Ole: “Well, now, think about it Sven. A statue would have to have a strong base. It’d have to be anchored onto a metal or cement floor of some kind so’s to stand up against Big Timber wind. You know how the folks in Fort Benton paid for that bronze of Old Shep, the sheepdog?”
Sven: “Ya mean that dog that met the train every day after his master was taken away in a coffin?”
Ole: “Ya. Townfolk bought squares of the metal base holding up Old Shep statue. Anyone who wanted could pay a fee or just donate money to have their name or brand burned into a square.”
Sven: “See whatcha mean. As long as Old Shep statue lasts, that’s also how long the names will last. Kinda like a historical record that goes on forever.”
Ole: “So, ya think it’s a good idea?”
Sven: “Sure, why not? You gonna start the ball rollin’?”
Ole: “Well, I thought I’d take it to the town Chamber of Commerce fellers. They’re always goin’ on about ‘branding’ the town in order to draw tourists. Maybe they’d get behind the idea.”
Sven: “Now, you’re thinkin’. Put Big Timber on the map with a 9-foot-tall statue of The Unknown Norwegian.”
Ole: “Ya….maybe even 10 feet tall…” ❖
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