SD man donates handmade farm equipment for Sandhills Cancer Fund |

SD man donates handmade farm equipment for Sandhills Cancer Fund

Swede Lolley has crafted different models of wooden tractors, including this John Deere.
Courtesy photo

Valentine Livestock Auction will be auctioning off more than just calves during its special calf sale Nov. 7. When Jim Lolley of White River, S.D., sells his calves at the Valentine, Neb., sale barn that day, a one-of-a-kind wooden toy semi, built by his father, Swede, will also be on the auction block. The semi is being auctioned as a fundraiser to benefit the Sandhills Cancer Fund.

Like many others, the Lolley family is aware of the devastating effects cancer can have on a family. Jim’s son, Tanner, spent the first 30 days of his life in the Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. “My son and his wife were working for a rancher, and they spent that whole month there with their little baby. His neighbors took turns doing his chores so he could keep getting a paycheck,” Swede said. “Today, my grandson is a healthy, strapping young man. I am proud to live in the Midwest because there are still people here who care about other people, and not just themselves. This is my way of giving back to those who need it,” he said.

This donation is far from Swede’s first. He started donating his handmade toy art pieces a few years before he retired. “I have a really good friend who put on bull riding events in South Dakota. He had his finals in Sioux Falls and held a Make-A-Wish fundraiser during the event. He asked me if I would be interested in making some type of little toy to auction off to raise money. I was more than willing to do that,” he said.

He continued making a toy each year for the event until it was no longer held. “A few years later, I was taking therapy at the hospital and heard about the Sandhills Cancer Fund. They asked me if I would be interested in making something for it, and I wanted to know how many people above them were getting their hands in the pie. They told me absolutely nobody. Everything is donated, including their help, and nobody is paid. They work their hearts out, and it did my heart good to be able to be a part of that,” Swede said.


Swede makes one-of-a-kind toys that he spends countless hours crafting every detail into the wood. His latest creation, the cattle pot that will be auctioned off during the cattle sale at Valentine, was actually created from three patterns and his own expertise. “Back in the 70s, I drove a truck for a guy up here. I had a pattern for a pot, but the pattern was drawn back in the 60s, and I wanted to make something more up-to-date and modern. I wanted it to look more like the cattle pots that run up and down the road today,” he said.

For the cattle pot, Swede put three axles under it, even though some full-size versions have up to five. “I was afraid it would be too big if I put five axles under it, so I settled for three,” he said. He also took a picture of a deer pusher on a truck a friend has across the street, and used it to design the front of his semi truck. “I didn’t buy any kit other than the wheels for the semi truck. I enjoy making everything myself,” he said.

The cattle pot isn’t the first wooden toy Swede has auctioned off for the Sandhills Cancer Fund. A few years ago, he made a horse-drawn Conestoga wagon that is a scaled-down version of a wagon farmers and ranchers used back in the 1930s to get their produce to town. His next design was a toy single horse-drawn sleigh that ranchers could pitch hay or corn onto, and pull with a team of horses to feed their cattle. “I just designed that out of my head,” Swede said. “When I was a little kid, my grandpa did chores that way. Myki Vanwinkle furnished the Breyer horses to pull it. I made the sleigh and the harness,” he said.

All his creations are either auctioned off or given to family members to enjoy. “I don’t do it for hire because I worked all my life, and if you start taking on projects like that, then it’s just like a job again. I don’t want to be tied down that much anymore. I enjoy helping my son and grandson put up hay during the summer, and if my buddy calls and wants to go fishing, I go out to my garage and get my stuff and we go fishing,” he said.

Swede has made 25 to 30 toys, some of which are displayed at the Farm Service Agency office in White River. Swede’s wife, Charlene, said the FSA office welcomes visitors who want to look at Swede’s creations. Jim keeps some on display at his office at the State Highway Department in Murdo. Their daughter also has one in her office at Scott Peterson Motors in Belle Fouche. “If I kept track of my time, there is no way I could make any money if I charged by the hour for the time I have in it. I do it for the enjoyment of doing it, and helping people out, like this association,” he said.

The cattle pot has drawn interest from all over the country. Swede said people from as far away as Georgia and Tennessee have inquired about it and where they could purchase one. Lisa Bellin, who is the office manager at Valentine Livestock Auction, is hoping to set up a site for people to bid online, by phone or absentee on the day of the sale. She encourages people to contact her at (402) 376-3611 if they are interested in participating in the fundraiser. “This fundraiser has been so well received,” she said. “We have such kind and great big hearts in this area, so it touches a lot of people. It is huge, as far as we are concerned. The community and Valentine Livestock has been extremely supportive in what Swede is trying to accomplish,” she added.

— Clark is a freelance livestock journalist from western Nebraska. She can be reached by email at