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Neighbors: Remembering WDAY’s ‘Texas Ranger’

Lars Birklid once was called "Gangle Shanks." But he was best known as the Texas Ranger. The Ranger was a hit on WDAY radio, Fargo, and in area communities where he and other WDAY entertainers performed. A while ago, his nephew Richard Birklid, N...

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A co-worker at WDAY radio referred to Lars Birklid as the Texas Ranger, and the nickname stuck to the North Dakota-born performer. Special to The Forum

Lars Birklid once was called “Gangle Shanks.” But he was best known as the Texas Ranger.
The Ranger was a hit on WDAY radio, Fargo, and in area communities where he and other WDAY entertainers performed.
A while ago, his nephew Richard Birklid, Nome, N.D., wrote a biography of his Uncle Lars. It appeared in the annual show book published by the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers’ Reunion. Larry Gauper then ran a story based on Richard’s story in the WDAY publication “Mike Notes Reprise,” which Larry edits.
Thanks to all these people, here’s a rundown on Lars “The Texas Ranger.” Birklid.
One tall guy
He was born in 1904 in Ransom County, N.D., and joined WDAY in 1931 as an entertainer, playing and singing western songs.
When the 6-foot-4 Lars walked into the WDAY studio, the station’s Lem Hawkins said, “Here comes the Texas Ranger.” And that became Lars’ moniker the rest of his career, although when he left WDAY for a job with a station in St. Joseph, Mo., he gained a new nickname, “Gangle Shanks,” due to his height and long legs.
Lars, a self-taught musician, had been performing since he was a teenager, playing and singing at school parties, PTA meetings, weddings, dances and parties. He also participated in many fiddle contests.
He married Helen Huseby, of Nome, in 1933.
In 1935, he joined WCCO radio in Minneapolis, but two years later returned to WDAY.
There he sang his western and Norwegian songs and joined the station’s Jack Dunkirk and Jack’s wife, Mary Lou, in singing hymns.
Tex and Helen and their three children, Leon, David and Andrea, bought a small farm north of West Fargo in 1947, from where Tex drove to the WDAY studio in the Black building in downtown Fargo each day. He later sold the farm and moved to West Fargo.
“He more or less retired from radio in 1965,” the Mike Notes story says, adding that, “he wasn’t too keen about going on television, but did go on (WDAY’s) ‘Party Line,’ occasionally, singing hymns with Mary Lou.”
Lars died in 1980, Helen in 1998. Two of their children, Leon and Andrea, also have died, while David lives in the Twin Cities.
But memories of the Ranger live on.

Opinion by Bob Lind
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