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Fetching the preacher for matrimony

Shady Lane land still cuddles up on one side to the big swamp slough on the east and south. Those who bought solid ground on the west edge were Dr. Babcock in 1905 and Bert Bounds, who sold 15 acres to Fair Oaks Lodge for $100 an acre.

The swamp extends for miles along Wing River. The 15 acres was the site on which Todd and Wadena chose to build a tuberculosis sanitarium as the disease was running rampant, wiping out entire families.

From east and south the view from Shady Lane's windows were of the bogs, hummocks of wild grass, and bramble bushes intermingled with bottomless sink holes. Only the most daring opted to try and cross it instead of going the many miles around.

Stories concerning cozy cabins tucked away among the trees are easy to find. Not so with the unpleasant unforgiving qualities of a swamp, a place to get shut of as fast as possible.

Pioneer Sanderson knew he needed a wife. A wife was an asset. As Sanderson cut wood for a neighbor he watched the neighbor's 16-year-old daughter come and go. The girl had grown up since he last saw her. He would ask her that very evening. Since she had been eyeing him too, she agreed, but with a stipulation. This girl would have none of being married by a justice of peace, actually only a neighbor, or by jumping over a broom handle. She insisted on a real man of the cloth to marry them. The nearest a bona fide preacher could be found was in Verndale, an up-and-coming little place on the other side of the swamp.

Sanderson knew the time folks hoping to make it only crossed the swamp when it was frozen over. This was nigh spring. Water was starting to trickle in streams again. Little green shoots were starting up. The swamp would be thawing out, but what the heck. He really wanted that girl.

Sanderson soon found a sky pilot he thought would fill the bill. The guy was new at it, but the trip excited him, it was a chance to "experience the firmaments," he called it. He couldn't wait to get going.

The first day preacher was like a toe dancer on the bogs, fluttering all over, anxious that Sanderson know the name of every fauna and flora in sight. While not paying attention he fell into a sink hole toward the end of the day, and had to be pulled out. His spirits became suddenly dampened and he wanted to camp right away.

The next morning the preacher could scarcely move, and begged to stay in his blanket longer. It was a warm day that brought out a million kinds of flying objects, all armed with a stinger on one end. When the third snake slid over the top of his shoe, the pastor started to cry and call upon the Lord for deliverance from this awful place. He would not be convinced that in Minnesota it was probably harmless -- he said a snake was a snake.

Sanderson looked at the reverend, soaked and muddy, red from bites and scratching, quivering with panic. In one motion he slung preacher over his shoulder and floundered on.

Finally, on the sixth day after leaving home, Sanderson dumped the reverend on the back stoop of the bride's cabin and collapsed in a pile, unable or caring to move another inch even to get married.

This is where the story leaves us. Let's assume Sanderson got rested, that the wedding took place once the preacher's bites were tended, and somehow he got back to Verndale.

Hopefully more swamp stories will emerge.