■ Rob Lindquist / Contributed
I called my Swedish grandfather “Papa.” He was born Ernst Lindqvist in 1879, near the university city of Uppsala, Sweden in 1879, and immigrated to the United States at the age of 23. Eight years later, as Ernest Lindquist, he bought 10 acres of farmland in the newly incorporated town of Hemet. That year, 1910, he helped bury Tommy Rawson’s father in the Dunkard cemetery, planted dozens of palm trees around town and asked Charley Howard for a job with his brand new rose company.
I loved Papa Lindquist. He’d ride me on his knee when I was little and as I grew up he started to tell me, my cousins and our childhood friends the weirdest “yokes.” One was, “What did the ‘yudge’ say after the trial about de empty box?”
Of course, we’d come back with all kinds of answers to which he’d reply, “No… no… that’s not it.” Then we’d jump up and down yelling “Tell us the answer”… “What is it?” Then he’d glibly twiddle his thumbs, lean back in his big chair and say… “Nothing. There was nothing in it! Empty case.” Even, then, it seemed to us, small as we were, that something was lost in translation.
Another joke he enjoyed immensely humored the usually stoic local farmers. Here it is: “What did one empty water hole say to the other?” Stumped by the notion of talking to water holes, the reply was always predictable; “Well… I don’t know.” Then Papa would gleefully say, “Well, well!”
But, the best was the one about the two Swedish immigrants who went to Martin Meier’s Hemet lumber yard and stopped their wagon before the open gate. Ollie got down as Sven said to him, “Go get me two two-by-fours and four 8-foot long vun-by-sixes.”
“Det ska jag do, der Sven!” said Ollie, as he walked away toward the yard entrance. “Hey du, Mis-ter! Ve vant some lumber!” he said to the man standing with crossed arms on office porch.
The lumberman asked, “Whad-dya need, bud? And Ollie replied, “Vell, let’s see here… Hmm…ve got to have two six-foot four-by-twos, and four 8-foot two-by-sixes.”
The yardman scoffed, “Hell! We don’t have no four-by-twos! We’ve got two-by-fours here.”
“Ya sure,” said Ollie, “dat’s yust vat ve really do need.”
“How long on the two-by-fours?” asked the lumberman?
“Yust a minute, I’ll go ask Sven. Dat’s him on de vagon. He’s de big boss.”
The two Swedes argued for a full minute before Ollie returned to the office. “Well, dammit!” yelled the impatient salesman, “How long?”
“Yee, big fellah, vee are goin’ to need’em a long time. Vee’re buildin’ a whole house!”