Telling jokes is a customary pastime when the fish aren't biting, but it's not as easy as it used to be. Most of us have become more aware of the feelings of the ethnic groups among us, and we've stopped telling and appreciating jokes that are mean-spirited, or that debase and denigrate people. Jokes about Jews, Polish immigrants or Rastus and Liza are rare nowadays, an encouraging sign that some of us are becoming more civil and understanding.
However, "Ole and Lena" jokes remain acceptable, or some of them, anyhow. Ole and his wife, Lena, are typically Norwegian in these jokes, and Ole's friends, Lars and Sven, are typically Swedish. Most of the time, these jokes are told by Norwegian-Americans, who are known for having a keen sense of humor.
Norwegians like to laugh at themselves. Garrison Keillor, of Norwegian stock and known as "America's Favorite Storyteller," has told Ole and Lena jokes for years on his Public Radio program, "A Prairie Home Companion." Being one-quarter Norwegian myself, I've always liked a good Ole and Lena joke. Following are a few old favorites.
Ole and Sven go deer hunting, and Ole shoots a nice buck. After tagging and dressing, it, they grab it by its hind legs and start dragging it back to the car. No sooner do they start out, when a game warden stops them. After checking their tags, he says, "Fellas, you're dragging that deer wrong. When you drag it by the hind legs, it's hair gets full of dirt and snow. Try dragging it by its antlers."
So they grab the deer's antlers and start out. After a half-hour, Sven says, "Boy, dat game varden vas right. It sure is easier dis vay."
And Ole says, "Ya, but ya know, ve're gettin' farder and farder from da car."
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Ole and Sven go to the lake, rent a boat and go fishing for walleye. They eventually find a good spot and catch their limit. On the way back to the dock Ole says, "Dat sure vas good fishin', but how vill ve ever find dat spot again?"
Sven says, "Don't vorry. Vhile ve vere dere, I put an X on da side of da boat."
Ole says, "Dat von't vork! How do ve know ve'll get the same boat next time?"
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Ole died, so Lena goes to the local newspaper to put a notice in the obituary column. The man at the counter gives his condolences and asks Lena what she would like to say about Ole.
"Yust put 'Ole died,'" Lena says.
The man says, "That's it? Just 'Ole died'? Surely, there must be something more you'd like to say. If it's money you're concerned about, the first five words are free."
Lena thinks awhile, and says, "O.K. Put 'Ole died. Boat for sale.'"
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After hunting moose for years without success, Ole and Sven hatch a foolproof plan. They find a female moose costume at a party store, and learn the mating call of a cow moose. The plan is to hide in the costume, lure the bull in close, then come out of the costume and shoot. Comes the day of the hunt. Ole and Sven set themselves up on the edge of a clearing, climb into the costume and start calling like a love-sick moose. They go at it for about 15 minutes, and a big bull moose crashes out of the forest and comes toward them.
"Okay!" Ole says. "Let's get out and get him!"
Sven in the back shouts, "Da zipper is stuck! Da zipper is stuck! Ole, vat are ve gonna do?"
Ole says, "Vell Sven, I'm yust gonna start nibblin' grass, but you better brace yourself."
Les Palmer lives in Sterling.
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