There’s a great story in the Rake about the Dakotas—that place just a few miles west of where I’m sitting. This is an odd part of the world, where population is actually contracting and drifting away to leave our rural communities standing rather lonely and empty.
Quite obviously, North Dakota has a problem. Even as some of its cities grow and become more cosmopolitan and diverse, namely Fargo and Grand Forks, which huddle against the border of Minnesota, the rest of the state seems to be returning to nature. It’s a conundrum across the country, this decline in rural vitality, but the matter is especially dire in greater North Dakota, which threatens to empty out completely. Various survival plans have been floated. The more mundane involve tax breaks and other financial incentives for those willing to move to, say, the town of Tioga, in the northwestern quarter of the state. Other proposals are more unusual. One suggests turning the better part of the state into a federal grassland, where buffalo and prairie dogs could roam free. Another would make North Dakota a “four-seasons war games zone.” Proponents of that plan talk of the plethora of abandoned houses and barns and silos that the military could use for target practice. These are the people who refer to North Dakota, with very little irony, as “Dakistan.”
It’s not all bad news, though, and these old empty farmlands aren’t a dreadful place to live, as Tara attests. You have to like living at a slower, quieter pace, and you have to think it’s not such a terrible thing for human residents to move away and other beasties to move in.
You also have to be tolerant of interesting weather. Extremely cold temperatures (which we haven’t had much of this year), strong winds, occasional blizzards, tornadoes, the usual. And sometimes we get spectacular sundogs and weird phenomena I never heard of before, like this recent occurence of snow rollers. When the conditions are just right, high winds and temperatures right around freezing, Mother Nature rolls snowballs on the local fields.
(via MNSpeak, and the snow rollers story was from some lady named Mary Gjerness Myers)