I am from the most forgotten state in the union.
People from around the country literally have no clue of my home state’s location. Once people find out where I’m from, I am bombarded with questions. Some of these questions are downright stupid. I don’t fault them, though. They are just curious. Where am I from you ask? I am from the great state of….
Yup, you read that right. North Dakota is considered to be part of the United States of America. No, we are not located in Canada. Most people I encounter have very little knowledge of this state or its location. I actually spoke with a woman from New York City, Brooklyn to be exact, and she had no clue where North Dakota was. I tried to jog her memory with the expectation that she took U.S. geography class in her primary schooling years. I mean surely her mind went blank, right? So, I started naming surrounding states. Minnesota? No. Wisconsin? Nope. South Dakota?! No, sir. She shook her head, half-shrugged her shoulders, and calmly replied with, “I’m from Brooklyn.”
So, yeah. That’s how important ND is to people outside of it. Knowing this, I took to Facebook to inquire about ND from a homegrown native perspective. What are the pros and cons to living in this seemingly forlorn state? We’ll explore these reasons and more.
This one is all about North Dakota.
People Make the Place
When I asked for feedback from fellow North Dakotans (or people who have spent an extended amount of time here), the one reason that was consistently addressed was the kindness of people. Where else will you meet a random stranger that will help pull you out of the ditch during a blizzard? They may not say a word, but they’ll pull you out without you lifting a finger in some instances. That’s what we do. We stick together during hard times.
During the Minot flood of 2011, the entire community came together in a way I personally have not seen before or since the disaster. This flood was the biggest in the city’s history. It was enough to put us on national news. Take a quick look.
Yup, that’s a row of houses with water halfway up the side. To say the 2011 flood was devastating is a gross understatement. More than 4,000 homes were flooded causing people to pack and move out for long periods of time. When the waters receded, homeowners were met with mold, grime, dirt, and destruction. It was a very trying time because the entire city was affected. Through it all, this is where I saw people come together.
Of a personal nature, I was helping one of our church families move before the waters breached the dikes. Several church members were working diligently to move belongings out of harm’s way. We packed all of our vehicles full, but there was more that needed to be moved. Out of nowhere some random guys with trucks asked if we needed help.
The rest was history.
We packed the rest of the trucks and went out to the storage unit. This is a phrase we like to call North Dakota nice. This is a community environment where people are there for each other. This could be a simple smile and hello to having a benefit dinner for a sick family member.
We care about our neighbor.
On the subject of people, I have met some of my best friends right here in my home state. Whether it’s the Air Force, church, school, or random public gatherings, the people are usually pretty laid back. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but that’s anywhere you go.This type of peaceful environment is great for raising a family. In addition, low crime rates, a strong economy, and a top-tier education system make North Dakota an attractive place to live.
A personal reason why I dig North Dakota is the summer time!!
Summer is already my favorite season, but there’s something special about summer in ND. I remember being a kid and staying outside until 9:30 at night with daylight surrounding me. At the peak of summer, the sun stays up until almost 10 pm. This made for long days of throwing rocks, playing baseball/basketball/football, riding bikes, and skateboarding. I even tried to play a broken version of golf with my baseball bat. I dug a hole in my parents yard for the cup. Don’t tell them, though.
For others, the lake is the place to be. I’ve had a lot of friends whose childhood memories revolve around pontoons, waterskiing, paddleboats, jet skis, and bonfires. I was never one to go to the lake much because my grandparents didn’t own a cabin. The times that I did go, the lake was pretty fun even with my fear of large bodies of water. The lake also makes for a beautiful sunrise and a gorgeous sunset. Aside from the activities mentioned, the lake is calming and the scenery is majestic.
These are just a few reasons why North Dakota is a great place.
I’d Rather Not
With pros come cons, and ND is certainly no exception. There are many knocks on ND, but the biggest criticism is the winter.
We’ve established the awesomeness of the lake. Well, part of the reason it’s so awesome is because it’s inaccessible for over half of the year. Why is that? Snow. People say ND has nine months of snow, and in some cases that’s true. It usually starts snowing in October (sometimes September), and the final snow melt could be in June. Trust me when I say ND winters are not for the faint of heart. I’ve been here for almost 30 years, and I still have to get acclimated to the cold.
During the harshest of winters, snow paints the once green grass solid white turning the vast prairie into a blank canvas. On Christmas in 2008, it snowed for three days straight. When I opened my garage door the snow was at my waist. I’m 6’3, so that should give you an idea of how much snow can gather at once.
When it’s not snowing, temperatures can hit -60 or lower with the wind chill. So, yeah. It’s cold. While that’s a drawback for some, it’s welcomed by others. I personally can’t see not having a white Christmas because that’s how I grew up. Snow completes Christmas for me. Aside from having a white Christmas, it’s fun to play in the snow IF you want to go outside. Snowboarding. Snowmobiling. Skiing. Sledding. Other snow activities that start with S. There’s plenty to do which brings me to another drawback of North Dakota.
There’s nothing to do here. I hear that all the time. I was once a proponent of this statement. I have since changed my views. Let’s look at the truth in the statement, though.
There aren’t any major theme or water parks like Six Flags Over Texas/Hurricane Harbor in Arlington, TX. They closed the only roller skating rink we had in Minot (Shout out to the Skatium!!).We don’t have a major sports team. So, to catch a professional game we have to travel to Minneapolis which is 8 hours away. This is just in the way of entertainment. Selections in big chain restaurants are limited as well (although we still get to watch the commercials). Basically, those that are accustomed to a vast amount of options may have a hard time adjusting.
Speaking of options (or the lack thereof), clothes are a WHOLE different story. Big name department stores are only on the east side of the state. Even at that, these stores cater to the clientele that is in the area. Thus, anything Ralph related is pretty much a wash. They JUST started selling Ralph Lauren in Bismarck two years ago, and they STILL don’t have my size. So, if you’re into a certain brand of clothing, then you may have to shop online or travel out of state to get it. So much for cutting edge fashion, huh? Whatever the popular trend is elsewhere, I can guarantee one of two things will happen in ND.
- The trend will become popular in ND five years after it’s died down elsewhere.
- That trend will never see the light of day in this state.
ND is totally behind the times, and I will admit it.
What Say, Ye?
I can’t encompass all that is North Dakota in one post. Truthfully, the positive outweighs the negative. And your life here is what you make it. If you ask me, North Dakota is just fine. I wouldn’t be who I am if I wasn’t raised here. Some people may not like living here, and I understand. ND isn’t for everyone. All I know is North Dakota is home.
And I kinda dig that.
[Image Credit Flickr via Jonathan Miske]
[GIF Credit Giphy]