Showing posts with label mandan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mandan. Show all posts

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Independence Day Belongs To Small Towns

I moved away from my hometown more than twenty years ago. I live in a leafy suburb that has nothing but houses and a store scattered here and there. As I write this on July 4, I am sitting inside my house, listening to the air conditioner kick in. Independence Day is just another day. It could be a generic Monday, or a Wednesday. 

In celebration of the holiday my suburb features live orchestral music on July 10. July 10. Why not July 23? Or August 17? They do things differently here in Minnesota. They also outlaw fireworks, so only the outlaws set them off, generally at two o'clock in the morning outside my window. I'm still perplexed by the irrational fear of fountains and Roman candles -- but then, Minnesotans seem to be afraid of a lot of things. Maybe it's because my big brother sold fireworks from a home-constructed stand for years that pyrotechnics are simply everyday life for me. My little brother and his friends blew all their savings buying bottle rockets and spinners they'd nail to the wall; then beg Mom and Dad for "just five dollars" so they could buy more. Sure, one might have to dodge a wayward rocket shot from a pop bottle occasionally, but so what? No fires ever ensued. Life isn't necessarily risk-free.

The Fourth of July was always my favorite holiday back home. My town did it up right. It didn't matter if the holiday fell in the middle of the week and I'd need to get up for work the next day. Everyday life stopped for the Fourth. The highlight was the parade, a procession that went for miles and miles -- my high school marching band, lines of farm implements, floats upon floats populated with waving riders. Clowns on stilts throwing handfuls of candy to the little kids. Polka bands. Military vets. THE FLAG, which every parade-goer reverently stood for. And every single cheesy display one's imagination could conjure. In fact, the cheesier the better. My family would laugh and mingle, my sister and I parked on the curb, within reaching distance of our kids so they wouldn't wander too close to the action. Snapping action photos with actual cameras. Getting sweat-drenched and sunburned, and not caring. Then, once we were certain the parade was over, peering down the long street to ensure no one else was actually coming, gathering up our kids and our blankets and our lawn chairs and trudging in the hot sun back to our cars wedged in a supermarket parking lot (By the way, business owners were completely, patriotically on board with people claiming their parking spots. They, too, were off attending the parade.)

We'd head back to Mom and Dad's and plop down on tufted chairs in their COOL living room, a couple of the guys stretching out on the carpet. Mom would be in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on her potato salad and arranging her relish tray. Once everyone arrived back at the meeting spot, we'd eat and eat and eat. And drink tons of iced tea. 

As the sun set, we'd gather on the front steps and await my brothers' home-crafted fireworks show. They'd take turns running out to the middle of the street, touching a punk to the latest pyrotechnic. And we'd alternately marvel and continue our gossip session, careful to ensure our kids didn't wander into the dark street.

Then we'd finally head home and flop into bed, red-burned and exhausted.

THAT was the Fourth of July. 

As I glance out my window today, my street is deserted. Everyone is either at the mall or still sleeping. Hard to know. I don't know any of my neighbors. We're not real cohesive here. "Minnesota Nice" is a nice catchphrase that native Minnesotans utter to obviate their true, insular nature. 

But I have my memories of REAL Independence Days. 

Memories will suffice.



Friday, April 5, 2019

Death "Where Nothing Ever Happens"

Indulge me, if you will ~ no music post tonight.

I've heard it for almost my entire life ~ "North Dakota? Nothing ever happens there." When I was eleven years old and I learned that my parents were giving up farming and had purchased a business in North Dakota, I was excited until my best friend's brother said, "Isn't North Dakota another word for 'disaster area'?" (Minnesotans are condescending like that; even the kids.)

I admit, I didn't like North Dakota at first; but that was mostly because I was sorely homesick. It took me at least a year to embrace my new home. It was so different from the rich black soil that I'd sunk my toes into in the Red River Valley of Minnesota. North Dakota was tough; hard-bitten. A spindly tree, if one was spotted, was a benediction.

In the sixties there were still old women there who preferred to converse in German. Kids my age were like first-generation Americans. The slang was odd; foreign. "Come here once." "I have to stop and fill gas." After a couple of years, I spoke the same phrases and thought nothing of it.

The thing about living in western North Dakota was, it formed calluses. I shudder to think what a simpering wimp I would be today had I not spent my formative years in North Dakota.

Nothing happens in North Dakota? Like what, exactly? Do people in other states have riotous backyard parties every day? I'm not sure what the opposite of "nothing" is. I live in a large metropolitan area today and I come home from work and flip on the TV. I could pretty much accomplish that in a North Dakota small town. Sure, there are concert opportunities, but I had those in North Dakota. In fact, I could leave my car tucked inside my garage and walk to the concert hall if I chose. It took me ten minutes to drive to work on a slow day. None of my workplaces had such a thing as security...

This past Monday morning as I took my regular instant oatmeal ten-minute breakfast break, I scanned the latest news. I saw, "Four People Murdered In North Dakota", and naturally it peaked my interest. Somewhere in the oil fields, I thought; or maybe Fargo. When I clicked on the story and saw "Mandan", my spine prickled. Reading on, it said, "near The Strip". I grew up on The Strip! My mom and dad's motel was on The Strip.

"The Strip" is the swipe of highway between the capital city of Bismarck and its tiny sister, Mandan. Mandan was actually my designated hometown because we were in the Mandan school district and that's where I attended my last year of elementary school through Central Junior High and ultimately Mandan Senior High School. Mandan is where I made friends. It's true that nothing ever happened in Mandan, and that was a good thing. I tramped its streets and cracked sidewalks for about a thousand miles ~ from the bus stop to the school; from my brother and sister-in-law's pint-sized apartment to the downtown business district with the Ben Franklin store to Dahmer's Music. My best friend Alice and I giggled through Sunday matinees at the Mandan Theatre. I took devotions at St. Joseph Catholic Church during my short-lived religious period.

I've been gone from North Dakota for twenty years now, but it's never abandoned my heart. Mandan's population was about 15,000 when I left. It's 22,000 now; and things have changed. My parents' motel was callously demolished a few years back, According to Google Street View, it's apparently been replaced by a strip mall. The only businesses still alive on The Strip are the livestock barn and Midway Lanes, where I spent many a languid Saturday in rented shoes, rolling a nine-pound ball down a slippery varnished lane.

There was no such thing as RJR Management when Mandan was still my home, but through the years I worked in small offices throughout Bismarck and Mandan. During my employment at Farm Credit Services I was the direct target for any stranger who strolled through the front door. But murder was not even an imaginary illusion. Even if we didn't know each other, everyone was simpatico.

I spent eight years at the largest medical center in western North Dakota and the facility employed zero security.

Today I'm tucked safely behind security doors that require a key card to unlatch. Even the receptionist's alcove requires a licensed swipe to broach the inner office sanctum. (I've been a receptionist, and that's not exactly a comforting notion). Even at my most vulnerable, no one ever even raised their voice to me, much less tried to kill me.

Somewhere out on The Strip at seven o'clock in the morning, four people showed up for work like they did every day, and a psychotic fiend with a simmering grudge burst inside and butchered them.

Nothing ever happens in North Dakota? Well, one thing that never happened (until now) was mass murder.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

There Goes The Rest Of It

October 29, 2008

The remaining two-thirds of the Bismarck-Mandan Memorial Bridge were "dropped" (destroyed).

Ahhh, there goes the neighborhood. In the video, I caught a glimpse of the new bridge. It looks really boring and generic. That's progress for you.

If you missed my first post, here's the first one-third being dropped (destroyed):

Wonder if that's how they take us out, too. You know, when we get too old and outlive our usefulness.

Monday, October 6, 2008

They Blew Up The Memorial Bridge Today

Well, they blew up one third of it. Of course, the other two thirds aren't worth much now - ha.

The Memorial Bridge was 86 years old, and it was only built to last 50. It spanned the Missouri River between Bismarck and Mandan. Its official name was Liberty Memorial Bridge, but no one called it that.

When I was a kid, we lived on the Mandan side, on the "Strip", which was actually about a five mile stretch between the river and the actual city of Mandan. So, we didn't really live in Mandan or Bismarck. Of course, if we wanted to shop, we went across the river to Bismarck (no one shopped in Mandan, unless you were looking for western wear or really needed to go to Ben Franklin, because basically those were the only two places to shop in Mandan - Neuen's Western Store and Ben Franklin - sorry, Mandan!)

So, my friend, Alice, and I would either walk across the bridge or take the bus. It was a long walk, though.

When I grew up and lived in Bismarck, ironically, I worked in Mandan, so I drove across that bridge many, many times between 1974 and 1976, and again from 1988 to 1990.

In the early days, I was driving a '66 blue Chevy Impala with no power steering or power breaks. The bridge at that time had a metal grid, so when you drove over it, you felt like your car was swerving around. I didn't care for that. Later, they replaced the metal grid with concrete.

I happened to have the day off today, so I watch the demolition live on the net. I didn't even know they were taking down the bridge until I read about it yesterday on the Bismarck-Mandan Blog.

It was a jarring experience, watching a big part of my personal history go BOOM! Just like that! And sad. I guess if and when I ever go back for a visit, I'd better watch my P's & Q's, or I might accidentally head for the bridge to get over to Mandan, and oops! I'm in the river!

Here's a video I found of the implosion. I notice they did the Mandan side first. I'm pretty sure it wasn't to keep Mandan people from going to Bismarck. (ha! I kid Mandan, but I actually graduated from Mandan High.)

So, bye bye to yet another memory. Everything changes, and unfortunately, usually not for the better.

Oh, I almost forgot. Here's a picture that my son, Chris, took of the bridge for a photography class. I love this picture.

(Another view, from the program, The Detonators)


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Looking For Friendly People? Go To North Dakota!

Josie on the Capitol grounds, Bismarck (FRIENDLY!)

"New York is home to the most neurotic and unfriendly people in America, while North Dakota is where the nicest people live, according to a Cambridge University "personality map" of the USA."

Cambridge University Survey

Key findings:


Personality traits: Sociable, energetic and enthusiastic
High scoring states: North Dakota, Wisconsin, District of Columbia, Nebraska, Minnesota, Georgia, South Dakota, Utah, Illinois, Florida

Low-scoring states: Vermont, Washington, Alaska, New Hampshire, Maryland, Idaho, Virginia, Oregon, Montana, Massachusetts


Personality traits: Warm, compassionate, co-operative and friendly.

Highest-scoring states: North Dakota, Minnesota, Mississippi, Utah, Wisconsin, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Nebraska.

Lowest-scoring states: New York, Nevada, Wyoming, District of Columbia, Alaska, Maine, Rhode Island, Virginia, Connecticut, Montana.


Personality traits: Dutiful, responsible, self-disciplined.
Highest-scoring states: New Mexico, North Carolina, Georgia, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Florida, Arizona, Missouri.

Lowest-scoring states: Wyoming, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Maine, Alaska, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York.


Personality traits: Anxious, stressful and impulsive.

Highest-scoring states: West Virginia, Rhode Island, New York, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Arkansas.

Lowest-scoring states: Alaska, Oregon, South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska, North Dakota, Nevada.


Personality traits: Curious, intellectual, creative.

Highest-scoring states: District of Columbia, New York, Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington, California, Vermont, Colorado, Nevada, Maryland.

Lowest-scoring states: Wisconsin, Alabama, Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, Hawaii, Kentucky, Nebraska, Iowa, Delaware.

State Capitol Grounds, Bismarck

As a native North Dakotan, therefore, I guess I am extraverted (hey! how ya doin'?), agreeable (I agree with that!), apparently not too conscientious (oh, whatever, I don't care), and not very neurotic.
I am apparently also not very open (meaning, not curious, intellectual, or creative......hmmm....why'd I take the time to read this stupid survey then?)

Maybe I actually am neurotic, because one way to interpret these results would be to say that North Dakotans are nosy "yes-men" who are, in essence, stupid, and wouldn't know how to paint a picture unless it was one of those paint-by-numbers kits.

Of course, I know that's not true.

North Dakotans are, in fact, open, empathetic people, who are quick to welcome newcomers. Yet, we value our privacy and honor the privacy of other people. We are, by the way, curious, intellectual, and creative. North Dakota students have some of the highest test scores in the nation, so that shoots down that theory. The pioneers who settled the plains of North Dakota were required to be creative. They, after all, built something out of nothing but prairie grass, rocks, and wind.

And, not to knock the big metropolitan areas, but maybe one reason North Dakotans aren't neurotic is because we don't have to deal with congested freeways, morons, left-wing kooks, a daily newspaper that considers local newscasters to be some order of "celebrity" (when the local weatherman loses his job due to budget cuts, it's the subject of multiple news articles and speculation - see what I mean by "morons"?) I'm just generalizing, of course.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that I have a high regard for North Dakotans, and I guess this survey validates my opinion.

Fort McKeen, Mandan

Overlooking the Heart River

Yes, we do have some lakes.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Small Town Life

If you come from a small town, that doesn't automatically make you a rube. It's not Mayberry RFD, after all.

I always sort of resent the way people make fun of people from a small town. It's as if "population equals intelligence".

Well, I came from a town of about 50,000 residents, and moved to an area of about a couple of million, and I'll attest to the fact that the intelligence level has only diminished as the population has soared.

Yea, maybe we didn't have a lot of stuff to do in our small town, but what do you do? Do you go out to dinner once in awhile? Well, hey! We could do that, too! Do you go to concerts? Or is it just too much hassle to maneuver through the traffic, pay for parking, fight the traffic on the way home; so much so that you figure it's just not really worth it?

Well, I lived about 6 blocks from our concert venue. I could walk there, if I wanted to. If I chose to drive, the parking was free. There wasn't a lot of entertainment options, so I saw a lot of acts that I wouldn't normally have seen. I can count on one hand the number of concerts I've been to, here in the "metro".

Do you go out to happy hour with your co-workers? Or is it just too far to drive? I drove 3 blocks to get to Paradiso. We all met up there. We had free appetizers, a bunch of laughs, and a short drive home.

How long does it take you to get to work? Do you take the freeway? It took me 10 minutes, maybe 15, if we'd had a snowstorm.

What did you do for fun as a teenager? Did you go to parties? Guess what; we had parties, too!

How's the job market? In my town, even someone like me (a rube with no education) managed to work my way up. I started out as a motel maid. I ended up being a manager of a department with 150 employees.

They were willing to give people a chance, because the talent pool was smaller. The experience and knowledge I gained in that small town enabled me to get a job here in the "big city", albeit for less pay.

How often do you visit friends? Do you choose your friends based on the suburb in which they live? Well, we all lived within 15 miles of one another, so we could intermingle at will. Going to someone's wedding dance didn't require making umpteen arrangements. We just went. It was basically 5 to 10 minutes to get home, after all.

When you're out and about, do you ever run into anyone you know? I could go to Kirkwood Mall at any time of the day or night, and always run into a familiar face.

Where do you shop? Target? Home Depot? Wal-Mart? Guess what! We had those, too!

Do you ever go out for a late-night breakfast, after your night on the town? How much does it cost you? Where do you go? Denny's? Perkins? We had a place called the Drumstick Cafe. It was off the beaten path. You got home-made meals there. I think the pancakes were something like 89 cents. Two people could stuff themselves for less than $5.00. Their hot turkey sandwiches, with mashed potatoes, were real turkey! You know, not that pre-fab sliced stuff, but actual turkey carved from an actual bird.

Do you worry about crime? I could walk around in the dead of night and never have to worry about my personal safety. We had a little neighborhood bar that was about 3 blocks from my house. It had a juke box and sometimes some karaoke stuff going on. We'd sit there and make fun of people, and have a few drinks, then walk home. I didn't worry about the number of drinks I'd had - I wasn't driving.

The Dakota Lounge had live acts. I saw some great bands there. One of them went on to get a major label recording contract. But I knew them first. The Dakota Lounge was a half-mile from my house.

And you know what? Everybody who lives in a small town isn't itching to get out. Get out to what?

Don't get me wrong. I love where I live. I actually have one or two people who I would actually consider "friends". But we don't socialize outside of work. One of them lives in St. Paul, the other one in Richfield. Sorry, it's just too far to drive.

I like my little neighborhood. I live here with my husband and my "kids". I drive to work and I drive home. A couple times a week, we stop at Holiday in the morning to fill the tank, and I get a nice cup of coffee. On the weekends, I sometimes go to Target or to PetSmart. They're close by. I don't go to malls. Too far; not worth the bother.

It's an insulated life, really. I think my world was larger when I lived in a small town.