The Gnometown Tale of “Governor Ted”
Governor Theodore Christianson Jr.
Tell the Governor Ted story! Tell the Governor Ted story! Came the shouts from the “little people” seated on the bank of the river.
The gnomes were enjoying one of their very favorite pastimes since they banded together from all over the world and made Dawson their home. The many tiny people were seated in the traditional “gnome moon”, right on the bank overlooking the Lac qui Parle River. The “gnome moon” is a sort of half-circle, with one person on each end and more in the middle, like a half-moon.
The gnomes were excited because on this occasion the story teller was Editor Ken. He was owner, publisher and editor of the Gnometown Sentinel. All gnomes have wonderful memories you know, but Editor Ken was just full of stories he had read from way back in the Sentinel, and had heard told and retold about special Dawson gnomes.
He wasn’t the first editor and publisher of the Gnometown Sentinel, Oh my no! The gnomes gathered here weren’t even the first gnomes in Dawson. The earlier ones had been mostly Scandinavian and, except for a few, were farm gnomes. Now, under the pointed, turned down hats were faces with beautiful, almond shaped eyes—the Asian gnomes. Gnomes with chocolate brown skin were from the African countries. East Indian gnomes had delicate features and thick, shiny, black hair that didn’t turn white until they were 200 years old. Some wore a touch of green to remind them of Ireland, or wore wooden shoes so they wouldn’t forget Holland. Others wore a pheasant feather in their hat to show they had their beginnings as Native American gnomes. Still, the most important symbol was the bright, red heart on their sleeve to show they were ONE and stood for kindness and good.
Editor Ken raised his hand for quiet; a hush came over the crowd and so began the story.
Many years ago in a small, sod dugout near the quiet village of Lac qui Parle, a farm gnome couple shared the joy of their first born son. He was a sturdy, happy child they named Ted. He was to be big brother to eight other children to come after him.
He might have been a quiet little boy alright, when he was going up. But, he dreamed dreams, set goals, and always seemed to sort out what was important to make life better for all gnomes and what was not.
He knew education was important, even though it was a mile walk to school and when it was done, a mile walk back home. That’s a long walk for a gnome! Farm gnomes work long hours too, so on holidays and vacations it was up at 4:30 am to work until 10:00 pm. There is a story though, that a neighbor once was puzzled because he hadn’t seen any activity for a long time where Ted was supposed to be working. When he quietly sneaked over to take a look, there was Ted, sitting on the ground at the end of the row reading a book!
Ted studied hard in school. He was so quiet and shy it was difficult for him to even recite in front of other students. But he was determined to be a great speaker, so he made himself read out loud in front of the class. He liked to discuss public questions with his teachers; they even enjoyed arguing with him because he cared so much and had such good ideas. He could learn whole pages of lessons after just reading them once. Wouldn’t we all like to be able to do that?!
The first time Ted entered Dawson was when he started school in the eighth grade. He carried with him his most treasured item; he had it with him constantly since he was very small. It was a bright, red bandana handkerchief. The first day, and many mornings after that, the school bully delighted in pulling it out of the pocket where Ted tried to hide it. Even so, Ted carried it with him as a constant reminder that his roots were in the farm land of Minnesota. Even when he was a grown man he felt it was a banner that guided his values.
Ted always found a way to finance his education. In high school he cleaned the doctor’s offices and did chores around the hospital. He treasured, and used, the pocket watch the doctors gave him at his high school graduation.
Public speaking contests and debates were popular at that time. Ted entered as many as he could, and won enough cash prizes to pay his tuition to Gnometown State University. In college he worked in stores and sold tickets to events in the area during evenings and weekends. This way he supported himself during these busy years.
His daytime teaching job paid his way through law school at night. Oh, how he worked and studied. His dream was to one day buy The Gnometown Sentinel and be editor and publisher, and to practice law with his own people. His friends told him not to go back to his hometown because everyone would think of him as a little boy, not as a community leader. But, he just knew he could do well, he had faith in the gnometown folks. So, to Dawson he went for the second time and started taking part in community politics and then in state politics.
One day he came home to Dawson for the third time. He was welcomed by 8,000 gnomes, all coming to show how pleased they were that he had won the Republican nomination for governor!
Cooks worked all night preparing a barbeque feast. They served 500 loaves of bread, 900 pounds of beef, 25 large boilers of coffee and 60 gallons of ice cream. Never had there been such a celebration!
The hometown gnomes had planned a parade of 200 cars to meet Ted and his wife, but he fooled them all by not arriving Friday but on Thursday night. No matter, the feast and merriment went as planned.
Everyone worked together to help him get elected as Governor of Minnesota. On Election Day he voted in Dawson, and then waited at the Hanson and Dahl furniture store to hear the election results on one of the first radios in Dawson. When the returns came in he was “Governor Ted”!
As governor from 1925 to 1931 he led the reorganization of the state constitution. As a gnome, he knew smaller was better. He saw to it that all departments were smaller and combined departments wherever he could. He wanted to have the state run more efficiently and to save money.
We think of him whenever we picnic by the river or by Lac qui Parle Lake. He loved picnics, and always had a lunch kit ready to go on a moment’s notice. We remember him when we enjoy the park by the driving bridge in Dawson, named after him. We can’t forget him when we travel on Christianson Memorial Drive, the name given to State Highway 7.
He is ours. His example helps us to dream of better things and work for better things, so we can enjoy better things. “Governor Ted”! Long live his memory.