Remembering the ballad of Rudy and Bill

If it's history told in song it's some fine Minnesota history.

With a recession and sagging state economies of 1983, former governor Rudy Perpich of Minnesota and Bill Janklow of South Dakota battled with a barrage of personal accusations about each other and their fair states, as the New York Times reported then.

The dispute between the Governors began when Mr. Perpich, a Democrat, asserted that South Dakota was ''50th in everything'' among states. Mr. Janklow, a Republican, said in response that Mr. Perpich ''doesn't know what he is talking about'' and that, in fact, South Dakota ranked first among states in many areas.

Mr. Janklow traces the feud to the waning days of Minnesota's last gubernatorial campaign. ''Rudy spurred it,'' he said. ''Somebody from Sioux Falls bought ads in Minnesota touting the advantages of South Dakota. Some reporter asked him what he thought of South Dakota and he responded that it was last in everything, that no matter what we had, you still wake up the next morning in South Dakota.''

Mr. Janklow said he was nettled by such unkind remarks from a neighbor but that he had been willing to dismiss it as ''political chest-pounding'' in the heat of a campaign. Debate Over Debate

But Mr. Perpich continued his gibes after the election, and Mr. Janklow concluded that he could no longer remain silent. ''We were willing to forget it,'' he said, ''but, oh, no, he kept shooting off his mouth.''

''I suppose they'll claim they have major league baseball in Minnesota,'' Janklow said when the Twins were in last place.

Finally, the Ortonville Independent newspaper tried to convince the two governors to meet in the middle of Big Stone Lake and throw a 15-foot hatchet into it.

Janklow agreed. Perpich said he had other engagements.

For the record, when Perpich died in 1995, Janklow gave one of the eulogies. The two became pals when they went to China with other governors in 1983.

There's probably a lesson here somewhere for today's politicians, but that will have to wait for another day.

All of this comes up today because Randy Kjelden, the Hendricks, Minn., man who immortalized the feud in song, was laid to rest yesterday, our friend, Jay Nelson, reports to us.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.