And the Dead Guy Takes Two

And the Dead Guy Takes Two

In the last half of the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth Hartville, Wyoming was a wide open cowboy and miner town. Main Street boosted several bars, gambling houses and even a few upstairs of ill-repute businesses.

In the spring of 1902 a man only know as, the White Swede, came to town intent on a little drinking and gambling. He drank some, partied some, and died. Not a very good story, not until he was dead anyway.

The town of Hartville had no undertakers and no one seemed willing to make the five mile trip over iffy roads to Guernsey to see if an undertaker could be coerced into making a dangerous five mile trip under pitch dark skies. Because the Swede had no known family, and no close friends, the small group in the bar where the heart attack, or some other natural cause took him, decided to wait for morning and then do something about a burial for the poor guy.

The body was moved, out of respect for the dead, to a more suitable room away from the hustle and bustle of Main Street. Two cowboys and a copper miner volunteered to watch the body until morning and helped carry the old Swede to a room a block away from the main action of the town. It didn’t take long for the three helpers to get bored. And what better way to pass the time than to play some cards, poker to be precise. The three started a lively game but it didn’t seem quite right without a fourth. So they propped up the old Swede, put a cigar in his mouth, poured him a shot, sat the bottle near his right hand and dealt him in.

After each deal they put the Swede’s cards in his ever stiffening hand and took turns betting and playing cards for him each time his turn came up. The foursome played through the night with visitors often stopping by to see how this most unusual game was going.

The next day the Swede was buried and the undertaker was paid from the Swedes all night poker winnings. He didn’t clean his playing partners out, but he came close.

*When I first moved to this area, 80 years after the White Swede was laid to rest, the old timers were still telling this most unusual story. To add either more fact or fiction to this story, they mentioned, the White Swede had dark hair, was short and rotund and looked nothing at all like a Swede.
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