The best thing about North Dakota?My boyhood memories of living in North Dakota are not entirely related to the wind, but certainly I can remember the warm gales that swept down off the prairies back then. Nobody could forget the howling blows that cried out as they came screaming across the land from Montana. If you’ve ever been there you know what I mean; the winds are epic.
By: By Darrell Pendergrass, For The Telegram, Superior Telegram
My boyhood memories of living in North Dakota are not entirely related to the wind, but certainly I can remember the warm gales that swept down off the prairies back then. Nobody could forget the howling blows that cried out as they came screaming across the land from Montana. If you’ve ever been there you know what I mean; the winds are epic.
In fact, a soundtrack to North Dakota life wouldn’t be complete without the moans and groans of wind in the background. Those same winds, when they’d come careening through our neighborhoods in the summer, even made new houses whistle loudly in the early evenings. It’s constant.
But we’d make the best of it, as kids we’d use the wind to sail our bicycles down the streets and avenues near our homes, reaching speeds far greater than those attained from simple pedaling. We’d end up at the store and, while drinking sodas, comment about how easy was to get there thanks to the wind. We loved the wind.
Of course, once you’ve sailed your Schwinn a dozen blocks from home you aren’t likely going to be heading back nearly as fast on the return trip. You’ll have to work at it and you’ll have to pedal hard, bucking the wind all the way. There wasn’t going to be any coasting. We hated the wind.
Indeed, in the mid to late 1970s I lived near Grand Forks, about 15 miles west of there near the little community of Emerado. You can’t blink as you pass or you’ll miss it.
But I didn’t live in North Dakota on purpose; I’m not sure why anybody would. Stationed at the air base my dad had no other choice than to live there, and since I was 10-years old I had to as well.
I remember scorching summers back then. We lived on Sunflake Circle in a housing development just outside the gates of the base. There isn’t any shade to speak of in North Dakota since trees are a luxury not enjoyed by many residents there. The heat sort of settles in across the flat lands when July and August roll around. Homes will bake, automobiles will overheat and dogs will suffer. It isn’t good.
There was a small creek that flowed nearby; it was so small, in fact, most of us could easily jump across it. But there were high steep banks that led down to the creek, and when new families moved into the development in the summer, we’d take their discarded cardboard moving boxes and use them like sleds, riding down those same banks. Sometimes two or three of us would fit in a single box.
I remember giant fields of towering sunflowers surrounding our homes. Gangs of children would wage wars in those fields, laughingly smacking each other with sunflower stalks, pretending to be pirates and British knights. I believe Bobby Hockaday actually was knocked out once, but we all survived somehow.
On the way to school one autumn, I remember looking out the school bus window and seeing a jackrabbit the size of a shepherd rocketing across a field. It was huge. And quite truthfully, it sort of scared me to think a bunny could get that big. Still does.
We didn’t fish much in North Dakota as I recall. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was because we were so close to Minnesota; we did go fishing there quite a bit. By chance that might be the best thing that can be said about North Dakota fishing — it’s near Minnesota.
I left a long time ago, and only on a few occasions have I gone back. But I’m going back soon on a duck hunting trip. I can only recall one time ever having gone hunting with my dad in North Dakota. I don’t believe we got any.
I’m not sure what I’ll find in North Dakota when I get there this time, obviously I’m hoping for a lot of ducks. The people I knew have most likely left. The homes are probably different.
But I’m sure there will be wind.
Darrell Pendergrass, of Grand View, is a Wisconsin Newspaper Association outdoor writing award winner. Read more of his work at outtherewithdarrell.blogspot.com.