North Dakota: Très Chic

My Dad, born near Garske, North Dakota, and raised there by a Danish father and a Norwegian mother, would have been astonished and delighted to see his native state booming and even becoming oddly fashionable in at least certain circles:

It makes me want to visit the Dakotas again.  I haven’t been there since I was a teenager, when I went with my parents.

My reaction during that last visit surprised me.  I’ve always lived either in a large city or (whether in California, or Utah, or Switzerland) in a place where there were large mountains on the horizon.  After a few days, the utter flatness of North Dakota, the vast horizon, actually began to make me nervous, and to become oppressive.  I wonder whether it would have that same effect today.

To be fair, when I was serving as a bishop for a singles congregation adjacent to Utah Valley University, one young woman, freshly arrived from a state back east, told me of her oppressive and irrational sense that the massive Wasatch Mountains, looming over Utah Valley directly to the east, were going to fall over on her.

It’s all what you’re used to.

“Ven I first come here from da fjord country in Norvay,” my great-uncle Elias, then roughly ninety-five or so, told me many years ago, “I couldt see a hundert meilss.  I tought I vouldt go mad.”

During my last visit to North Dakota, my parents and I looked and looked for a local landmark that my father knew as The Hill.  Unfortunately, we just couldn’t find it.  So, finally, we asked.  As it turned out, we were right next to it, and had driven over it several times during our search.

When my Dad was a boy, not only did he have to walk ten miles to school each day, uphill both ways, through ten feet of snow even in July, but — and this I actually do believe — they had to run a line from the farmhouse to the barn sometimes in the winter, so that those going out to milk the cows could go hand over hand along the rope and not get lost in blizzards.

He moved to California in his early twenties, during the Great Depression.  So, eventually, did everybody else in his family, including his aged parents.

Posted from Park City, Utah.

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