The Sheriff of Grantsburg
Every year in Grantsburg, Wisconsin they celebrate "Big Gust" days in honor of their famous sheriff of the past, Anders Gustaf Anderson--known as Big Gust. He was born in 1872 in Sweden, and as the story goes, he was small for his age and some medicine his doctor there gave him caused his extreme growth. He was a giant in his day--seven feet six inches tall and weighed over three hundred pounds. His sculpture stands in the front of the Grantsburg Village Hall, and those standing there to admire it look dwarfed by the immense, life-sized statue. Big Gust was not only the town marshal, but also the president of the fire department and the town assessor. Before he was a sheriff, he was known as the tallest policeman in the United States.
A Real-Life Hero
There are many make-believe heroes that we read about in stories like Paul Bunyan or Hercules that are known because of their size or strength, but not many true life individuals that were heroes in their day---but Big Gust was truly one of them. He was not known for overcoming any evil villains, but he certainly took care of those that broke the law in his own day. After carrying off two law breaking, brawling men under his arms to jail---just the threat of his strength was enough to keep the peace in town. Big Gust was an example not only of size, but also of hard work. He fought fires with the fire department and at times he was a one-man crew. He also helped install the sewer lines in town and with the building of barns and other buildings, even the Lutheran church that he attended. He educated himself, in the art of science and surveying, and because of his knowledge and creativity, he laid out several roads and thought of many innovative ideas for the town to save money. With his great strength, he could hold one end of a timber while it took six or seven men to hold up the other end. He had even pulled a neighbor's wagon through a snow storm when the horses couldn't manage alone. He also held up a friends car to allow him to repair the tire. Aside from his size and strength, however, Big Gust was a gentle and kind man. Although the mothers in town may have used his name to threaten their children to prevent their bad behavior, he was beloved by all in his town. His pockets were always filled with nuts and candies for the children. Big Gust died in 1926 from Cancer at the age of 54. To all that knew him--he was the "Gentle Giant," and a true hero of his day.
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