Don’t dis the bison

An article in the latest National Geographic has North Dakotans fuming, according to today’s Star Tribune. It says the state’s small towns are declining, farms are being abandoned, etc. North Dakotans are mystified because in fact the state’s economy is doing pretty well, and the bigger cities are flourishing. North Dakota always gets a bad rap because it’s so cold and flat.

It really is cold and flat, but it has a kind of austere charm, and I think the critiques of the Nat Geo article are right that it’s a cliche created by people from other states. Rural towns in Minnesota and Oregon and Arizona are suffering the same fate. There’s nothing unique about North Dakota’s rural decline.

I spent two years getting my master’s degree in English from the North Dakota State University of Agricultural and Applied Sciences in Fargo (better known as NDSU, home of the Bison), and I’m here to tell you that Fargo is one of the friendliest towns I’ve ever been to. “Minnesota nice” is another one of those stupid cliches. North Dakotans are nicer, and not nearly so pretentious.

Diane and I spent a few nights camping in the North Dakota badlands with our friends Jim and Debbie back in the early ’90s. I recommend it. Not quite as breathtaking as the South Dakota badlands, but less crowded and touristy. We were hot. It was hard to find shade.

I got a NDSU Bison sweatshirt for Christmas. I wear it with pride.


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