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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Proud to be an American

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I am the grandson of immigrants.

My mother's parents came to the United States from Norway and settled in North Dakota before it became the 39th State in 1889.

My grandfather, Andrew Tangen, came to America with great hopes and dreams for a new life and he bought land on the vast prairie of the northern Great Plains.

He came here ahead of my grandmother. She stayed back in Norway until my grandfather could establish a homestead. When he was able he sent for her, and she joined him in their new home.

My grandparents settled near the small community of Pekin, N.D., and in time they became quite prosperous farmers. Their large place, called Evergreen Farm, was a welcoming station for many other families that came from Norway to find their place in the American Dream.

They helped to start a little school that sat on a piece of land directly across the road from their farm. That school served the families who had set up farming in that area. The children gathered every day that they could in that one-room school house and they learned English and Arithmetic and American History.

Those children came from homes where Norwegian was spoken, but many of them were born in the United States, and they were Americans now and they learned the English language.

My grandparents never learned much English, and neither did most of their generation of Norwegian settlers. But, all of them wanted their children to learn about their new homeland and to speak the American language. It was all part of the dream they had for their families and the children they hoped to raise in America.

My mother and her brothers and sisters learned about Norway from their parents, and they ate all of the Norwegian favorites that my grandmother and the other women would cook, such as lutefisk and lefse and klepp supa. They in turn fed those dishes to their children.

My mother was the youngest of 8 children, and I was the youngest of 5. By the time I was born my grandparents, Andrew and Sena Tangen, had died. I never had the privilege of meeting them.

As a child I remember visiting Evergreen Farm, a place that was being farmed by my uncle Einar at that time. He had bought the home place from my grandparents before they passed away.

I have fond memories of the big white farm house surrounded by evergreen trees to the back and lilac hedges in the front.

As kids we would run and play in the fields and in and out of the barns. We would ride on the big green tractor with Uncle Einar, and we would watch him care for his cattle.

The little school house that my mother and her siblings learned in as children sat unused there at the end of the road when I was a child.

I remember when we would pry the door open on the school house and take a peek inside at the room my mother's siblings and cousins and friends spent their school days in. It was a room rich in history; a room that held many memories for childhoods long gone.

My mother and my uncles and aunts are all gone now too. All I have to remember my Tangen roots are my memories, some stories that have been passed on to me over the years, a few old pictures, a little wooden plaque with a drawing of Jesus on it that belonged to my grandfather, and an old Norwegian Bible that he brought with him on that trip across the Atlantic to his new home.

I am proud of my heritage, and I am proud to be an American. You see, that's what my grandfather wanted.

I am the grandson of an immigrant, and he was proud to be an American too.

-- Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at dougmdezotell@yahoo.com.

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Doug Dezotell
Memories and Musings
Doug Dezotell is pastor of Cannon United Methodist Church and a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette.