Showing posts with label north dakota. Show all posts
Showing posts with label north dakota. 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.

Thursday, December 21, 2017


I'm not a native Minnesotan. Well, I sorta am, in a roundabout way. I lived in Minnesota for the first eleven years of my life; northern Minnesota, which is different from "Minnesota" as most people know it. Then I moved to North Dakota and resided there for around thirty years, so, yes, I'm a North Dakotan.

I moved back to Minnesota eighteen years ago, and it was strange for the longest time. I know residents of other states are conceited (see: Texas), but I've never seen such self-lauding as I've found here, and frankly, for so little reason. Guess what? Minnesota has brutal winters -- just like North Dakota. Granted, Minnesota has trees, which most of North Dakota doesn't have, but trees are hardly a reason to pat oneself on the back. I mean, they're trees. Not exactly a scant commodity.

And if I hear the term, "Minnesota nice" one more time, I'm gonna puke. Apparently, in addition to trees, Minnesotans pride themselves on being nice. What's interesting is that the people here aren't actually nice (though some are, just like everywhere). What Minnesotans are is "passive-aggressive". Just venture out on the roads.

"Nice" is a loaded term. Some people might call me "nice", but what I am is "polite". That doesn't make me nice. I'm not Mother Theresa.

My first week on the job, as everyone I encountered made a point of ignoring me, the term "Minnesota nice" kept rifling through my head, and I thought, well, no; these people aren't nice. The people in North Dakota are nice.

Once, in the mid-1990's, feeling compelled to attempt to drive in to work, even though we'd just been umbrellaed by a monster snowstorm and the snowplow drivers were too scared to venture out on the roads, I (naturally) managed to get my Ford Taurus mucked inside a snowbank somewhere between the main thoroughfare and the tiny side street I normally motored down to get to Master Insurance Office. It was six o'clock in the morning and cell phones had not yet been invented. I pushed my car door open and mushed through the snow drifts (in my heels) until I spotted a house with its lights on. I rang the bell and a stranger whipped open his front door. I explained to him that I was a complete idiot, and he offered to drive me home (I only wanted to use his phone).

That's nice.

I felt guilty forever for that favor. That's another component of "nice". You feel like a jerk for putting someone out.

I don't know about other states and how their residents refer to themselves. Maybe everyone is boastful (except the Dakotans -- because bragging would be...well, impertinent).

I'm not big on self-aggrandizement. If you have to tout yourself, a big lie lies beneath.

Don't get me wrong -- I like Minnesota now. Not as much as I love North Dakota, but it's okay. I had to get used to Minnesotans' worship of local TV newscasters, but I solved that by just not watching the news. And the seasons are nice; at least two of them. However, give me a rural county road any day. Much more aesthetically soothing than a battle-ram freeway.

And "nice"? That's a loaded word.

(Thank you, Zal.)

(Thank you, Brian.)

When you look at it that way, nice is kind of "nice".

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Very Nice Video About My Home State

I found this video on Facebook (Thanks, Ghosts of North Dakota, for recommending it).

I love it because it's an affectionate view, for once, of my home state.

(I also love the "dragging Main" part ~ because I did that!)

Thank you, Kristina.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Red River Video - TRIPLE SERVICE

I originally did a video for this song, and hated it.

Triple Service was the second song I ever wrote, so it's got that traditional country thing going on, which is okay. What's wrong with that?

When I first began writing, I was heavily into capturing snapshots of my life, and Triple Service is a true story. You can read about it here.

I do also have something to say about being the Keeper of the Stories, but I'll save that for another post.

The first song I wrote was a tribute to my best friend from childhood, who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. I had never even contemplated writing a song before I wrote that one, and though I had been urged by my husband, I was never inspired...until I got that phone call. Then it all came pouring out.

Anyway, I've talked about that before. My point now is, I think I AM the keeper of the stories, which is a valuable thing. If I don't do it, who will?

If you don't want to read the true story of Triple Service, in a nutshell, it was a place that could never exist today. Because that time is gone and will never return. We're all too jaded now.

It was a time of jukeboxes and three songs for a quarter, and small towns, where everybody knew everybody. And they all got together on a Saturday night to brush off the dust from the fields and kick back with their neighbors, have a beer, and listen to a three-piece country band.

My uncle Howard ran that place, with the help of my mom (Millie) and my aunt Barbara. And my cousins and I lived it, and endured the scorn of the nuns who ran the Catholic school that we attended by day.

I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. I was lucky.

So, being thoroughly dissatisfied with the original video I came up with for this song, I finally hit on the right theme, I think. "Everybody knows and everybody goes".

Here, thence (?) is Triple Service:

Since I'm Posting Videos....Here's One For North Dakota!

I did this one for my North Dakota friends. It's kinda cheesy, but I wanted to celebrate my home state. I wasn't going to share this video, but it actually turned out to be fun.

I was strict with myself when creating this one ~ all the pictures had to be authentic North Dakota pics. There are two photos that are generic, only because I needed them to match the storyline. The rest are from North Dakota.

Yes, North Dakota does seem to revel in kitschy monuments scattered across its prairies, but that just adds to its charm.

You should visit one day. It's not all blizzards and floods, you know.

Here is Let's Go To Town:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

God Bless The Folks In The Red River Valley

Red River is proud to be from the upper Midwest, where people take care of their own. I haven't seen anyone interviewed on the news, whining about how the government needs to come and rescue them. Instead, they're too busy fighting to save their homes and their neighbors' homes.

RED RIVER VALLEY - As the Red River of the North rose toward record levels and evacuations mounted, the mayor of Fargo, N.D., vowed Thursday that exhausted residents and volunteers would continue to fortify the area and "go down swinging if we go down."

Forecasters increased the river's crest projection, saying that by Saturday afternoon, the Red could reach 43 feet, an all-time record in Fargo-Moorhead and 3 feet higher than the historic 1997 flood.

To make matters worse, the river is expected to remain above 40 feet for several days, threatening to overwhelm the protections put in place by thousands of weary residents, city workers and volunteers working in gray, subfreezing weather.

"At elevation 42, that creates a lot of challenges and serious problems," said Dave Sprynczynatyk, adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard and the state's emergency operations director. "Our intent is to ensure we have mustered every resource that we physically can to support this community."

Said Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker: "We do not want to give up yet. We want to go down swinging if we go down.

"I want to make sure we commit every resource and every volunteer to do what we can do," he said. "Then, if we fail, we'll fully understand what's happened."

The people of North Dakota and Minnesota don't grab a lot of headlines. Upper Midwesterners are used to taking care of themselves and each other. Instead of standing around, wringing their hands, they're in there fighting.

Too bad the good guys get very little recognition.

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.




Friday, June 6, 2008

Taking A Vacation This Year?

Are you taking a vacation this year? I know I'm not. Who can afford it? Dang, it costs me $30.00 to fill half my tank with gas, and that's just to get to work! And who wants to go there? Not me!

You know how it is. You get to work, and the day starts out fine. Of course, it's 6:00 a.m., and only a few people are actually there. No wonder it seems so nice.

Then, around 7:30'ish, people start straggling in. And you slowly start getting irritated.

I actually sent an email to HR today, because I was fed up with the state of the refrigerators. Here I was, just trying to retrieve my lunch (an apple and a can of Diet Coke), and, in order to get it out of the fridge, I ended up knocking a couple of half-filled bottles of water on the floor.

So, there I was, crawling around on the floor, trying to catch the rolling water bottles, all the time muttering, "give me a break!".

People are so rude.
In the fridge, I noticed that someone had stored a DOZEN EGGS!, a container of sour cream, a LARGE tupperware bowl of "something", a carton of (sour) milk, and various unknown foodstuffs, and I just reached the point where I'd had enough! There's approximately 350 employees in our company, and, I'm estimating, THREE refrigerators to handle all the lunches.

Who, pray tell, needs to bring a dozen eggs to work?? Are they frying up eggs for lunch? All we have is a microwave, so I don't know if they're whipping up omelets in the 'wave or what, but, c'mon!

So, you see, work can be annoying.

Of course, I digress (as usual).

I started out ruminating about vacations, and here I am, grumbling about rude and inconsiderate morons.

But tonight, since I get these ideas in my head, and I feel like I have to act on them, I went through some old photo albums, and scanned some of my vacation pictures from years past.
It sort of calmed me down. So, I thought I would share some with you.















Saturday, January 12, 2008

New Feature - "Whatever Happened To This Guy?"

From time to time, I will include a feature I like to call, "Whatever Happened To This Guy?"

Back in 1992, a lot of people I knew loved "In This Life" by Collin Raye. Me, too.

Was it really 16 years ago? Where does the time go? I was working at US Healthcare then, in Bismarck, North Dakota (not that this is pertinent information; I just thought I'd add a personal note).

Anyway, I haven't heard much (okay, anything) from Collin Raye for a long time.

But I still like his songs.

So, whatever happened to Collin Raye?

"In This Life" isn't available on YouTube, but here's another Collin Raye song:

"Little Rock" was written by Tom Douglas, and it's a really well-written song. I wasn't familiar with Tom Douglas, but in reading his bio, I found that he's had cuts by other major artists, including Martina McBride.

It's always a treat to find a very well-written song.