Goodbye North Dakota

Oh, North Dakota. How I will miss you.  Yes, the time has come to move back to Texas. You have defined and refined and changed me forever. This adventure with you has enriched my life so much that I will probably forever be driving my southern friends crazy with, "when we were in North Dakota" stories.

We came for work in the boom towns of your Bakken Oil Fields. We got here in June when the crops were lush and green, and some of the roads getting here were closed because of the record breaking Mouse River Flood where 12,000 of your neighbors were washed out of their homes. Oil workers were living in tents in the parks and sleeping in Walmart parking lots. When we found housing for rent, it was crazy expensive.  Things have leveled out a little now. Your town now feels like my town. Our little town of 1250 (2010 Census Count) has new houses, apartments, and hotels for all us new people in town to lay our heads. Because of low oil prices, budgets are cut and some workers (like us) are going home - it they have one elsewhere.

We were here for your first man camps, your first traffic light, and your rail terminal. We saw in your little peaceful valley town, a new grocery store, a new swimming pool, a new convenience store, and new pastors. We celebrated your Fire Department's centennial - "100 years and still making house calls", they said. 

I am sad that we (the oil industry) have destroyed your rolling prairies. However your canola fields of brightest yellow, the purple flax blooms, wheat harvest, hay fields, sunflowers, and corn rows have amazed us. You have a short growing season and long days. In July your sun rises at five and is not completely gone until eleven. Your Fourth of July fireworks celebration get started at my bedtime!

You native North Dakota sons and daughters are so close to your roots - as in knowing that your grandparents were Scandinavian immigrants. I have loved the stories of your grandparents coming over on boats to settle on free land and learn a new language when they got here. Your folks homesteaded land, built houses, built churches, and grew families. Some of their homes are still around. Yes, I have noticed how you proudly hang on to the family farms. You farm their land, live on their land, and love their land.  I've wondered away lots of traveling hours thinking about how life must have been in those tiny homes, especially in winter.

Oh, yes. winter. Your first snowfall (usually October) is exciting and beautiful and breath taking. Then your last one seems like it will never come. You taught us to shovel the white fluff, warm the cars, walk like a penguin, and bundle up.You have taught me more than I ever wanted to know about coats, and gloves, and scarves. You have shown me how to be stylish and warm at the same time, but all I really ever wanted was a nice warm hoodie - nine months out of the year. You don't let the cold and snow stop you - not your work, not your church meetings, and certainly not school. I  learned that it doesn't really matter how far below zero your temperature is - it's just cold. You are amazing, tough, resilent people (even those of you who go south for the winter!)

When your spring thaw finally comes in mid-May, so do your robins and your flowers and your road construction. You say there are really only two seasons - winter and road construction. I believe it.  After a long hard winter - yards and flowers explode in beauty. I have certainly enjoyed the fruits of former owner's labor in my yard. You have shown me how to fully enjoy those few months of warm weather.

Then there's your food - lefse, lutefisk, knoephla, borscht, meatballs, and slush burgers. Some I love. Some I like. And some I leave untouched. You have inspired me and stretched me. Thank you for your recipes and your cooking classes!

Some report I read has said that you have more churches per capita than any other state. I don't know if that is accurate since the population explosion, but you have a lot of beautiful, historic churches in North Dakota. You in the Lutheran church on the next block have welcomed and loved me since my first Sunday. From you, I have learned the apostles' creed, about Ladies Circle Group,and hot dish dinners. . You precious ladies I've been in Bible studies and circle groups with gave me a wonderful going away bash - and you brought your husbands along. You Baptist and Assembly of God girls have loved me more than I deserved, too.  You've welcomed me into your Bible studies, even when I talked too much. Your community church services inspire me to believe that we are not all that much different. And thank you for tolerating me when I tried to sing in the church choir

More than anything you have taught me "North Dakota Nice". That's when you say things like, "Oh but we were so glad to have you in our choir", even though the girl can't carry a tune in a milk bucket - bless her southern heart. I'm sure you would never even think such a thought. You stop your car a block away when I am crossing the street. You have brought me homemade bread, juneberry jelly, chokecherry jam, pickled beets, and have taught me how to harvest rhubarb for pies. You gave us your extra snow blower and loaned me your sewing machine pedal when mine broke and you hardly knew me. You closed our garage door when we left it open, you raked the sticks out of the yard, you hauled off our broken tree limbs, and you invited us over for holiday meals.

My man and I will love you forever, and our time together will always be etched in our memories.

The LORD bless you and keep you.
The LORD make His face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn His face toward you
and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26)

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