Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sodbuster Days

This Saturday we went down to Ft. Ransom, North Dakota, population 70 for the annual Sodbuster Days.

That population figure is a bit deceptive. The town boasts a very nice cafe, a tavern across the street, and a guest house with what they claim is North Dakota's only guest yurt - and who would contradict them?

It's a tourist town of course. There is a ski run and a nearby state park with very nice camping and fishing facilities.

It's in part of the Sheyenne River Valley where the valley floor is quite deep below the plain, and has a lovely view all around the town.

Sodbuster Days is held in a part of the park that used to be the Sunne family farm, founded in 1886 I believe. There is a charming little farm house I think I could live in very comfortably (I'd like a bathroom installed though) and which my wife felt immediately at home in.

The farmhouse looks not very different from the one near Wroclaw her grandmother lives in, down to the wood-and-coal burning stove.

There are also a couple of huge barns full of vintage farm machinery and two blacksmith shops.

I did have to explain to her what a "sodbuster" is.

We had a marvelous time. There were demonstrations of spinning, cooking and horse drawn reaping, plowing and haying.

There was a horse wagon taxi service from the parking area which the kids loved. When we hopped off, the two-year-old wailed her protest.

We had a wonderful time. Yet, we also came away with an appreciation of what they must have gone through to establish this spread.

Monika just finished "Giants in the Earth' by Ole Edvart Rølvaag, a Norwegan immigrant who wrote about his people in North Dakota - in Norwegan.

She says the thing the early settler diaries remark on was, how silent the prarie was - except for the sound of the wind.

It seems strange, but they say that until large parts of the prarie had been tilled for a few years, there was no bird or insect noise. Only the eerie howling wind.

In the first years of settlement, the lunatic asylums filled with people who went mad from the loneliness and strangeness of their new environment.

North Dakota still remains a state with a very low population density. The biggest city is Fargo, about as large as Norman, Oklahoma, our last home.

In our present town of about 7,000 people, the hospital just announced they're shutting down their obstetrics unit. That doesn't bode well for the place.


  • At 7:43 AM, Blogger dchamil said…

    I remember Giants in the Earth by O. E. Rolvaag as required reading from my high school years (1952-6). The wife of the leading character did indeed go mad from the contrast between the windy prairie and the fjords and mountains of her native Norway.


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