Dale Leingang known locally as gardener, good neighbor—who lived life on his own terms
A classic 1960s father-son standoff over long hair brought Dale Leingang to the rural Pelican Rapids area 40 some years ago. In February, the “old hippie” died at age 70.
Leingang was one of those local characters that lived an “off the beaten path” lifestyle. A small cabin was his home, in the Crystal Lake Hills area—where neighbors kept an eye out for him. “When the smoke didn’t roll from his chimney, neighbors would always wonder if he was OK,” recounted one Crystal Lake area neighbor who knew him for nearly 40 years.
His time in the Pelican Rapids area started in a tent—in the winter—but ended at Pelican Valley Senior Living Feb. 14.
Folks came out of the woodwork with their memories of Dale Jams Leingang, who was known as “Pardo,” though the origin of the nickname is unclear.
Pardo’s path to Pelican Rapids was a winding one, but apparently began when he and his father got in a dispute over the length of his hair.
“He hitchhiked his way across most of America and even made his way up to Alaska to work the canning factories. He would show up at the house periodically but I was never sure where he was spending most of his time,” recounted his brother Dave Leingang. “From what people shared it seems like Dale showed up in Pelican Rapids in the late 1970s to work at the turkey plant. He was able to buy his little cabin up in the Crystal Hills area during the mid-1980s when his grandmother passed away and left him a little bit of money.”
Leingang was a familiar sight, riding his bicycle with his long hair and beard blowing in the wind, added his brother.
“He would ride his bike all the way from Crystal Lake to Larry’s,” said Jim Fletcher, who got to know Leingang. “We’d visit if I walked by his place, and shared a beer on a few occasions…He was a nice guy, very intelligent. Everybody liked him —very personable, never imposing.”
An expert gardener by most accounts, Leingang lived on a small parcel where he burned firewood.
Numerous social media comments were posted following his death.
At the Larson Funeral Home website, a comment from Natasha Isaman, reflected other thoughts of Leingang—young and old.
“I’ve known Pardo/Hippie Dale since I was a little girl. I enjoyed riding in the car through town and seeing him riding his bike. We would always stop and talk to him since my parents knew him well. He will be missed by many. Fly high Dale,” wrote Natasha.
When an Otter Tail County deputy would find him with a broken down bike or if it was in Dale’s best interest not to be on the highway he would give him a ride home, according to one Crystal neighborhood account.
Brilliant by many accounts, Leingang also had an athletic background—paying catcher in baseball, and wrestling for his Mandan High School squad.
Following is some of Leingang’s background and history, excerpted from an email from brother Dave.
“He was born in 1950 and lived in Mandan, ND. He had an older brother and younger sister. In 1960 he and his older brother Dennis watched their mom and sister die in a drowning accident, two other people were saved, but they didn’t reach them in time.
The only two living family members are his two brothers, Duane and Dave, along with their immediate families and his brother Dennis’s family.
During Dale’s senior year in high school he won a state science fair and trip to the West Virginia Science Camp. He was also selected to be the International representative for the camp. Dale was very intelligent and constantly read. He also played the guitar.
When Dale was in college, during the early 1970s, he drifted away from his academic studies and elected to live more of a carefree lifestyle. After a dispute with his dad about not cutting his hair he left we didn’t hear from him for years…
He lived on the bare essential, and when his water pump broke, he went without running water, he stayed warm with the use of a wood fireplace and was a ‘collector.’ I was always fascinated with the way my brother chose to live, he could have gone into any science field he wanted, and he chose natural science, and enjoyed living as close to it as he could and kept weather diaries and logged when seeds sprouted and flowers bloomed.”
In the true spirit of a guy who lived life on his own terms—with an interest in nature—his family asked that trees be planted in his memory.