Come on over! We’ve got Kegs!

I’m a self-proclaimed foodie. Some people might call me a fatty. Either way, I enjoy food, and I’m not ashamed. When I had cable, my TV was on Food Network at least 80% of the time because I find it interesting, and because it’s relaxing background noise for doing homework. Now, I have to resort to planning my workouts around my TV schedule, and end up being “that girl” who’s watching Food Network while she’s running on the treadmill.

I can't believe I actually found this picture. That's me. Only I'm not tan or brunette.

If you watch Food Network semi-regularly, you’ve probably seen a pretty popular show called “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” It’s one of my favorite shows on the channel, along with “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” That’s probably because these shows pick out awesome little restaurants around the country and feature them for making fantastic food. I’ll totally stop at restaurants featured on the shows if I’m ever near any of them on vacation. (North Dakota doesn’t really get a whole lot of airtime.)

In fact, I would make a road trip out of it to go to some of the nearby places. It’s nothing to me — In high school, we used to drive 45 minutes to get a Whirl-a-Whip in Stanley, ND. (It’s kind of like a Blizzard from Dairy Queen, but known around the state.)

This is an image from Stanley, ND's, website. The Whirl-a-Whip is their claim to fame.

Although North Dakota (specifically, Grand Forks, ND — since that’s where I’m currently living) has never been featured on one of those Food Network shows, we’re home to some spots that are definitely worthy of some airtime. I finally visited one for the first time today, after a lot of curiosity and recommendations.

“Have you gone to Kegs yet?” my parents often asked me. I’d always do the mental head-slap, wondering why I didn’t think of it last time Chris and I were sitting around playing the “I dunno — What do you want to eat?” “I don’t care. What do you feel like?” game.

This is actually a website. The F-word makes it somehow more funny and entertaining than your average recipe website: http://whatthefuckshouldimakefordinner.com/

My dad often told me how he was a regular at Kegs when he was a student at the University of North Dakota, grabbing a monster burger or some onion rings on his way to work. The student-friendly prices haven’t changed. A huge, homemade cheeseburger was around $2.

I probably forgot about Kegs because it’s tucked in the middle of town. It’s plopped right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Kegs definitely takes you by surprise a little when you first approach it. Aside from being a little dilapidated on the exterior, you can’t deny that it’s got a curiosity-sparking gravitational pull.

The Kegs Drive In at three on a Monday afternoon.

When my family and I pulled up, we were the only car in the lot. It’s a true old-fashioned, 1950s drive-in. You press the button on the menu when you’re ready to order, and the waitress brings you your food on a tray. It first opened in the 1930s, as part of a local seven-restaurant chain. This Kegs is the last one that remains.

The Kegs Menu

We were a little unsure it was still open until we saw a fluorescent-shirted worker passing behind the counter inside. We discovered she was pretty disgruntled, to say the least, but I think it added to the whole experience. Besides, the food is worth it.

They’re known for their sloppy joes — That’s what I had. I didn’t think you could really do much with a sloppy joe recipe, but there was definitely just something better about it. They’re also known for their root beer, as you can probably tell by their signature keg-architecture, but they have a whole slew of beverage choices, like homemade vanilla, lime, and cherry Coke and even a chocolate Coke, which I might have to try next time.

Their burgers and onion rings were perfection, too. I had a bite of my dad’s and will definitely be trying that next time. As my brother said, it tasted like 1953. And in the best possible way. There’s just something about a really great cheeseburger that makes everything seem right in the world. Or maybe that’s just me and my foodie-fattiness.

Not long after we arrived, Kegs quickly filled up with cars full of people young and old. Battle Axe Waitress and her younger counterpart remained efficient, although Battle Axe also remained pretty crabby.

There’s just something about places like Kegs — They’ve been around forever because they’ve been doing things right. Grand Forks, like any city, is rich with tradition, but a lot of those traditions stem from the University and its hockey team.

Kegs is a place that hangs onto a tradition of its own.

“You never know. This could be the last time we eat here. They’ll probably tear it down by the time we get back to Grand Forks,” my parents were saying, acknowledging they’d said the same things 20 years ago when they were in school.

I’ve got a feeling Kegs isn’t going anywhere.

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The Grocery Store: Part II

If you missed part one, you can catch up here.

—–

“So … how did it turn into this?” I echoed in the empty room, wondering how many times the question had been asked in that same spot.

“Two brothers bought it a few years ago and made it into a house,” said Chris over his shoulder, as he helped Alex measure the room he’d chosen.

The Grocery Store truly disappeared into an “invisible location” for the two years it sat empty after Amazing Grains moved to its new home. According to a Grand Forks County Property Report, Eugene and Olga Fetsch, the Grocery Store’s owners, lived just down the street from the building on a plot of land that spans much of north Grand Forks known as “Alexander and Ives’ Addition” [sic]. No publicly-accessible information explains who Alexander and Ive are, or where their main plot of land is, if that large chunk is merely their “addition.”

Map of the north Grand Forks area, which includes Alexander and Ives’ Addition in the area surrounding the balloon. It’s hard to tell where exactly that plot of land ends through property records.

Through property transactions, cold government documents declare the news of Eugene Fetsch’s passing in November of 2002. After Eugene’s death, his widow, Olga, put the building up for public auction. Still, the Grocery Store sat vacant until March of 2005, when property records show that two brothers, Darren and Kelly Thompson, expressed interest in the Grocery Store. On May 10, 2006, records show that Olga placed the Grocery Store into the brothers’ names. After the Thompsons completed renovations to transform the former Amazing Grains into a residential house, the Grocery Store was open for business. It’s been housing groups of renters who are drawn to the Grocery Store’s bachelor-esque style ever since.

Who else but a bunch of college guys would have a Christmas tree like this?

So, like many others, Chris and his roommates couldn’t resist the Grocery Store’s charm and moved in. The space gave them everything they’d been longing for in a home: a place to entertain, a yard for outdoor activities, and a pet-friendly environment for the future dog they planned to adopt. Even if the Grocery Store had been as dilapidated on the inside as it is on the outside, I think the novelty of living in a Grocery Store would have been too much for the guys to pass up.

But all silliness aside, the Grocery Store has a charm beyond its appearance, a function beyond the bare shelter it provides. There’s no denying the history: it affects everyone who has lived, worked, or visited.  It brings people together in a way that’s even more unexpected than the juxtaposition of its interior and exterior.

Another angle of the Grocery Store’s exterior
A shot of its gorgeous kitchen

“How many people can say they’ve lived in a grocery store?” the guys always ask the skeptics. And there are many.

But, like my dad said on his first tour of the Grocery Store, “You guys are going to remember this place forever.”

Over the past year, the Grocery Store has increasingly become the first place people look to when making their weekend plans. The house’s intimate social circle keeps growing, but somehow remains close-knit. The Grocery Store even has its own Facebook page, boasting 118 followers. Its page provides a brief history of the Grocery Store, along with its “house rules.” There, residents also keep their “fans” up to date with the latest events the Grocery Store is hosting.

When friends and relatives of the Grocery Store’s regulars come to town, they make sure a trip to the Grocery Store is on the agenda at least one night of their visit. Matt, one of the regulars, even got a Grocery Store shirt custom made. He wore it to a party one night, and at least 20 people asked him where they could get one. The guys love entertaining, and the Grocery Store is definitely a party house, but it never gets out of hand. Both the tenants and party-goers have an unspoken respect for the sense of community their home provides.

The one and only official Grocery Store T-shirt

This spring, a small group of friends was gathered around the fire pit in the backyard early one evening before a party. Unable to resist, the next-door neighbor (also named Chris) and his wife stumbled across the street, lugging two lawn chairs. a case of beer, and a bottle of wine.

Although the couple had a few years on us, their arrival came as no surprise. A burly, beard-sporting hunter with the thickest “Nort’ Dakohhhtan” accent you’ve ever heard, Neighbor Chris gets in on as many Grocery Store bonfires and barbecues as his wife lets him get away with.They dragged their chairs near the fire and plopped down, making themselves at home.  I turned toward Neighbor Chris’s wife.

“Chris and Alex were saying there’s a lady down the street who owned the Grocery Store when it was actually a grocery store – back in the 50s. Is that right?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah. Olga lives right next door to us,” explained Neighbor Chris’s wife, whom Chris didn’t introduce to me. I later learned her name is Tania. “She’s the nicest lady, but she’s at least 90, so she doesn’t get out much.”

“Nooo,” Neighbor Chris quickly objected. “She’s only like … 83 at most.”

Tania turned toward me, silently rolling her eyes and shaking her head in objection, mouthing, “She’s 90.”

“Anyway, ever since Darren and his brudder bought the house a few years back, dere’s been a group’a guys rentin’ it out,” Neighbor Chris said between swigs of his Keystone.

“So it’s always been guys living there?” I asked.

“Yah, dey’ve always been a lot like these guys, too. Loved to entertain,” Neighbor Chris said, looking into the fire. “Some groups are a little rowdier than others, though. A lotta times they ended up on the roof. There was even a bullet hole from a BB gun in one‘a tha front windows for a while there. But der’s always a really close group’a guys livin’ here.”

A logo Alex’s girlfriend made for the Grocery Store

As more people started arriving for the get-together that evening, the group around the bonfire slowly dwindled, as everyone began to head inside for the main event.

The falling-in screen door swung open. I heaved my way through the thick wood door behind it. No matter how softly I try to close it, it always makes an unmistakable thunderous slam. The hardwood floors were sharply cold on my bare feet as I slipped off my shoes to join the party.

The sickeningly sweet scent of peach shisha tobacco from the hookah lapped at my nostrils. A small group was congregated around its spot on the stove, leisurely passing the hose during a friendly competition of “who can blow the best smoke rings.” I wonder what the Fetschs would think.  The scent of the hookah wrapped itself around the thick smell of beer that hung in the air like a hefty fog. It causes an instant headache, but the positive connotations I associate with the smell keep me from disliking it.

I photographed one Grocery Store party for a school assignment in a photography class — The theme was “Party Time.”

The competing smells choke each other out at different points during the evening, but are amplified when they introduce themselves to the stale scent of bad decisions the next morning. The guys always wake up to find at least one or two friends have spent the night on one of their lived-in dusty blue couches. Sometimes an ambitious partier will even unearth the squashy denim futon in the entryway from underneath its pile of jackets, backpacks, and everything else people toss onto on it as they enter.

I make my way to the middle of the living space, where the table Chris and I have dinner dates at has been converted to a beer pong table. A perpetual game of beer pong always goes on during Grocery Store parties. I greet the players, noticing that the spills from the game have caused the wooden table to take on a wavy, warped texture.

The night is just starting, so almost everyone in the Grocery Store is wearing a jacket or sweatshirt to combat the slight draft in the building. Once a larger group arrives, though, the temperature will quickly rise in what quickly becomes a cramped space. The regulars know to dress in layers. The more distant acquaintances know not to complain.  I bet the members of Amazing Grains followed the same system.

As more friends arrive, I head toward the group that’s beginning to congregate around the portable bar in the entryway. Made of dark wood and vinyl-like burgundy faux leather, the fully-stocked bar is the first thing you see when you come in the door, much to the chagrin of some of the tenants’ parents.

“What’ll it be, little guy?” my friend Kevin asks Elliot from behind the bar.

The group around the bar laughs as Elliot, a guy of average height, struggles to see over the bar top.  It’s a difficult feat while sitting in the barstools that are about two feet too short for the purpose they’re meant to serve. Even if the stools were an acceptable height, Elliot’s view would be obstructed by bottles, glasses, junk mail, keys, and a red revolving police car-style party lamp, which all clutter the bar top. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my friend Kristina make a face after resting her hand on the bar top, which is sticky with a thin layer of spilled drinks.

 

Since the party is growing, Matt (the Grocery Store shirt guy) takes the initiative to bring out a blanket to cover the large window facing the street. The regulars know all the precautions that keep the Grocery Store a safe place to hang out, free from complaints by neighbors and police visits. The blanket darkens the already dim room, casting shadows on the heather gray walls. Playing off the house’s name, a small, reversible “Open” and “Closed” sign sits between the blinds and the glass on the windowsill, still visible from the outside. The sign almost always reads “Open.” If it ever says “Closed,” the guys are bombarded with texts asking why there won’t be a party that weekend.

As the night rages on, party guests sink into the three couches that make square living room area around the 47-inch flatscreen mounted to the wall. They’re singing along to every song that plays over the surround sound, toasting to the night and each other. With their coordination blurred from drinks and lethargy, the obstacle course of mismatched coffee tables in the center of the living room becomes increasingly difficult to maneuver.

As I sit on the middle couch cushion, between a group of close friends, I wonder what it is about the Grocery Store that has made it a haven for friendly gatherings both historically and today. The Grocery Store certainly owes a lot of its popularity to its inherent strangely homey and inviting atmosphere. I don’t know if any place Chris could find in those classifieds on Craigslist would be able to compete.

It’s incredible that this odd little building has served as a grocery store, a natural food market, a gathering place, a home, and a party hot spot. It provides a place to develop old friendships and cultivate new ones. No drama ever erupts. No one ever leaves without a safe ride. No one is ever left out.

Friends comment that the guys have effectively breathed new life into a place that seemed to have passed its prime long ago. But the atmosphere of the Grocery Store may not entirely be because of the people who make it a home. The Grocery Store has a history of housing niche groups. First it provided a haven for those who care about eating organically-grown food in a town that offers virtually no resources for them. Now it’s housing college students:  young people who are displaced, together – yet isolated, living on their own for the first time. The Grocery Store provides the sense of community and the place to call home that all of these people need. It brings them together, providing stability amid stress, support in the face of solitude, a home among friends, and a place to house it all.

Early on

What happens if the guys move out? I wonder silently despite the noise of the party and the presence of my friends around me. Will the friendships survive? Is the Grocery Store what’s keeping all of us together? Will the parties pick up and move to the new location?

I don’t know. But I’m confident that even when the party’s over, even when our group of friends has moved on and left this place, certainly the Grocery Store will endure, its charm intact, as it has for so many years – a shell waiting for its next inhabitants.

—–

Some things have changed since I wrote this about a month ago. Some tensions have surprisingly risen. I guess “nothing gold can stay.” The guys did decide to move on — and not all together. Today marks the beginning of their last full week in the Grocery Store together. Whatever happens after this, none of the people who called it home, whether their names were on the lease or not, will ever forget the place.

Oh, Those Summer Nights

To me, it’s a summer tradition. Summer nights just wouldn’t be the same without being crammed into the bed of a pickup with friends eating popcorn and battling mosquitoes. Growing up in Williston, ND, I had the luxury of going to a drive-in theater whenever I felt like it. Williston boasts the last remaining drive-in theater in North Dakota, the Lake Park Drive-In. It gets its namesake for nearby Spring Lake Park, a popular outdoor recreation location north of Williston.

Spring Lake Park provides Willistonites with a walking and biking trail, frisbee golf course, two "lakes" for canoeing and fishing, a dog park, a playground, picnic areas, and more.

After moving to Grand Forks for college, the lack of a drive-in theater has left a noticeable gap in my summer evenings. It just doesn’t feel the same not to pack up on a whim, sneak half of the group in hiding under blankets in the backseat, and grab an overpriced “Chilly Dilly Pickle” from the snack bar.

Driving into town from my house on the north end of Williston, I passed the Lake Park Drive-In daily. I didn't take this picture, but it's a familiar sight.

As a little kid, I called the Lake Park Drive-In “The Popcorn Dances,” because of the short cartoon the theater played between the double-feature. Looking back in my childhood diary, my excitement was evident every time the drive-in opened for the summer and every time my family got the treat of popping popcorn, packing up in our pajamas, and heading to the drive-in for the night.

In recent years, with the influx of oil traffic in Williston, rumors have raged that the Lake Park Drive-In will close for good in favor of selling the land to the oil field. Facebook groups sprung up in protest. Just this summer, rumor had it that the Lake Park Drive-In would be demolished and a new 12-plex would be built in its place. Thankfully, none of these rumors have come to fruition — The drive-in is open for business for yet another summer this season. Because it’s such a big part of summer tradition and memories for the residents of Williston, and because it’s a piece of history and the last remaining theater of its kind in the state, it would be an absolute shame to lose it to the oil field.

The view from the inside

If you can’t make it to the Lake Park Drive-In, there are still a few drive-in theaters in surrounding states. Minnesota has six remaining drive-in theaters, including the Sky-Vu Drive In — the closest drive-in theater to my current residence of Grand Forks — located in Warren, MN. South Dakota also has six drive-in theaters. Montana has three drive-in theaters clinging to life, located in Billings, Plentywood, and Silverbow.

If you’ve never been to a drive-in theater, you’ve really got to find your nearest one, pack up your friends or family, and go at least once. The memories I have of my experience at the Lake Park Drive-In are treasured, dating all the way from my early childhood to my last summer at home before heading off to college.

Things North Dakotans Like

I never realized how marketable an upbringing from North Dakota can be. Until very recently, I thought that my whole life, no matter where I go, I’d be plagued with having to say, “I’m from North Dakota,” and getting the looks of disbelief and the 20 questions:

“So it does exist!”

“Oh, so you’re from Canada?”

“Oh my gosh! Say “roof” again! Haha! Now say “flag” or “bag.” Haha!” (I still don’t hear that I say “flag” and words that rhyme with it weirdly.)

“What’s it like to live without electricity?”

Or just plain:
“Oh wow, you’re far from home.”

We exist!

I got my first taste of the world outside the Midwest when I was 16 — I took a 36 hour bus trip to Atlanta, GA, for the National Catholic Youth Conference. (Mhm. Go ahead.) I got all of the questions I mentioned earlier and more. I was honestly really embarrassed by it. I even began working on reducing my “Nort’ Dakohhtan” accent. (By the way, I’m fascinated that link exists.) I distinctly remember starting to dream about living in New York City (but I wasn’t opposed to the idea of any big city outside of the Midwest) at age 8. At age 16, I still thought I’d have to get rid of all traces of my roots (pronounced rhyming with “foot,” the way it should be) to make it anywhere else.

But now, I totally embrace my background. Sure, I still can’t wait to move somewhere “big” and see what the world has to offer me. But come on, what’s a better conversation starter anywhere else in the country than telling someone you’re from North Dakota? My boyfriend is originally from the East coast (first Pennsylvania, then Maryland, now his family is living in Virginia) and on my first visit to his family’s house, his mom used my background to our advantage. During the long wait for a table at a restaurant, she mentioned I had come all the way from North Dakota to visit. Here’s something I’ve learned: People who are not from North Dakota are generally fascinated to meet someone who is. It’s like we’re mythical creatures or something. We talked with the hostess briefly about what the state is like, and I answered her questions about it. It may have just been that the conversation made time pass more quickly, but it seemed we were seated shortly after.

Ha. Ha.

This wasn’t the only time something like this has happened. I recently learned that a North Dakota background is not a bad thing to bring up when applying to universities or jobs out of state. So, in an effort to bridge the gap between the “North Dakota doesn’t exist” jokes (Very funny. Can we be any more unoriginal?) and the roughly 640,000 North Dakotans who feel like the rest of the country wouldn’t care if we didn’t exist, here are a few things you can bring up on either side of the issue to get the conversation started.

Things North Dakotans Like:

  1. We like talking about North Dakota.Especially in places where North Dakota is nonexistent in the minds of the residents. The first time I ever saw the ocean, I was 19. I was wading and splashing and getting knocked over by waves alongside little kids at the beach. I was silently competing with a five year-old to dig sand fiddlers from the shoreline. Nearby sunbathers must have thought I was just a weirdo, but if I had yelled out, “It’s ok, I’m from North Dakota!” all would have been understood. Striking up conversations with vendors on the boardwalk, it seemed they thought I was from another planet, but in a good way. They had a lot to ask about and say when they found out where I was from.
    Oh, yes. There’s documentation of my first experience with the ocean. Notice the little boy effortlessly bobbing in the waves in the background. Ugh.
  2. Our cuisine. You may not have realized North Dakota has a cuisine. I didn’t fully realize this either until I was having a conversation with a few professors of mine.
    Hotdish: We like hotdish. (You may know this as a “casserole” in other parts of the country.) Hotdish is funny and delicious simultaneously. Even the word alone can provoke giggles. There is, however, a strong divide between those who support corn in their hotdish and those who despise it. Peas, however, are almost always taboo.

    Gooey tater-totty goodness

    Pie: North Dakotans have an appreciation for a good slice of pie. We often make pies out of ingredients that sound like they’re made up: juneberries, chokecherries, rhubarb, buffalo berries, and crab apples, to name a few. (Fun fact: The chokecherry is North Dakota’s state fruit, thanks to some kids from Williston, ND.)
    “Ethnic” Food: Ethnic for us is German and Norwegian. Some desserts we like are krumkake (kroom-cacka – kind of like the cone part of an ice cream cone), lefse (potato flatbread smothered with butter and sugar), and my personal favorite, kuchen (koo-kin – the German word for cake — There are a lot of varieties, but the link shows one closest to my Grandma’s neighbor’s secret recipe, which is to die for).

    We’ve also been known to love knoefla soup, (nef-la, not ka-na-ful-la, as I’ve sometimes heard it pronounced) a creamy potato soup with dumplings.

    A controversial part of North Dakotan cuisine is lutefisk — Cod soaked in lye for several days until it becomes gelatinous in texture. Williston, ND’s, First Lutheran Church holds one of the largest lutefisk dinners in the country every February. (I’ve never been one to partake.)

    Melts in your mouth?

  3. Nice weather. And talking about the weather every day, good or bad, for that matter. Don’t assume that just because we live here we all love arctic temperatures. The summer is just so hot and full of storms that it distracts us from how terrible the winters are. Then it starts snowing again in October, and we wonder why we live here. But we also take pride in our hardiness.

    This is what we do for entertainment at UND -- It's on several graduation bucket lists.

  4. County fairs: We don’t have amusement parks around here. (Can you imagine why, with our winters?) I think the closest one is either Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America or Valleyfair in Shakopee, MN, which are both anywhere from 4-12 hours away, depending on where in North Dakota you live. So, as kids, we lived for the county fair in the summer. I can’t believe I ever trusted the rides they put up, sprayed puke off of, and took down in the course of 3 or 4 days, but it was something my friends and I looked forward to all year. I think parents like them, too, because it gives their kids something to do in the summer besides sit in front of the TV and drive them crazy.

    Attractions at the fair I attended yearly growing up

  5. Hunting and fishing: Kind of a given. The weekend of deer season opener especially is a statewide holiday. The school system used to plan “fall breaks” around it, so kids would have an extra day to go hunting. Kids in North Dakota have been around guns since they’re small. (My younger brother would tag along on hunts when he was 4 or 5.) Yet, there’s never been a school shooting in the state. Kids here are raised to respect the danger of firearms.

    My boyfriend, Chris, my dad, and my brother, Tanner, with my dad's buck this past season. (The sun was in their eyes -- Not the most flattering picture.)

Bringing up any of these things will ensure an enriching conversation between North Dakotans and non-North Dakotans. I’m sure there are countless more things we North Dakotans like, and maybe I’ll talk about those later on, but this will do for now. Anything particular you’d add?

Four and a half hours and a tank of gas

I just made the absolutely dreadful drive across North Dakota from my hometown of Williston to my current residence in Grand Forks. It’s supposed to take 5 or 6 hours, but I made it in four and a half on 3/4 of a tank of gas. I know that’s not something anyone particularly cares about, but it gives you some idea of the sheer boredom this drive causes. That achievement is the biggest excitement I can get out of that many hours in a car on the same highway with only the company of my boyfriend’s dog and nothing to look at but flat prairie as far as the horizon. It’s a beast of a drive — Not for the faint of heart.

*Dun dun dun (ominous music)* I didn't take this, but I have pictures that are exactly the same.

The drive is generally one of those times in life that you wish you could fast forward through. I faintly remembered reading an article once about a writer from a big city (I think he may have been from the New York Times) who had to drive across North Dakota and considered the solitude to be almost a religious experience from the chance for pure introspection.

…Yeah. My drive usually consists of pumping myself full of as much caffeine as possible and singing terribly to my iPod to keep myself awake. (In all honesty, it was a really great article — I can’t seem to find it right now, otherwise I’d link to it.)

I usually spend the entire time thinking about what I could be doing if I wasn’t struggling to stay awake and keep the death machine between the painted lines. So, instinctively, for the first 30 miles, I started making a schedule in my head of everything I needed to do as soon as I got out of the car. But soon, I started to notice the countless fields and ditches that were flooded. I don’t delight in natural disasters, but I did find it relieving to have something new to look at on the uber familiar ride. (I can tell where I am by “landmarks” like old, abandoned tractors and the occasional hill.) Like my dad, those farmers won’t be able to put in a crop this season. (Yeah, I’m a farmer’s daughter, too. Can I fulfill anymore stereotypes?) Although it was shocking and saddening,  I realized that there are some things we can’t control — like a long, boring drive you’ve taken far too many times.

image

That's suppoesed to be prairie as far as the horizon. This area four miles west of Towner, ND, was one of the most severely flooded areas visible from the road.

As I surveyed the flooded land, spanning most of the Highway 2 area in northern North Dakota, I took the time to relax for once. I thought about things I like to think about instead of worrying about things I can’t control. I listened to my iPod for more than just background music while studying. I belted out everything from Bon Iver to Backstreet Boys.

I usually hate the inherent isolation of North Dakota — As if the state isn’t isolated enough from the outside world, you have to drive hours to get to the next major city. But I think I finally learned how to use that time wisely. I’ve spent most of my time being a miserable ball of stress lately (more so than usual even), so it seems like the drive I usually dread was just what I needed.

Apocalypse with a View

image

This moose seems a little displaced on the side of the highway southwest of Williston, ND, but he's not in the middle of a lake. All that water is supposed to be prairie.

Flooding seems to be a problem this year for every area of North Dakota where high water is usually the last thing on residents’ minds. Everyone expects the Red River Valley in eastern North Dakota, including Grand Forks where I’m attending school, to experience some stage of flooding, but central and western North Dakota generally dry up pretty quickly. Visiting Williston, ND, the place I call home, I’m getting a firsthand view of the unusually marshy basin.

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised. This is the year of psychotic weather phenomena. I hate to admit it, but come on, there have been so many uncharacteristic weather catastrophes, it’s getting a little hard to ignore. And that was the one and only reason that I did think twice about  the whole Rapture scare last weekend. I’m enough of a weenie to always have that faint idea in the back of my mind that crazy end of the world predictions could happen. And if there’s anything that could place some validity behind that, my worrywart self will continue to consider it possible. I’m sure Harold Camping didn’t mind the validity it appeared to place behind his claim either.

Got Raptured?

But, you’ve gotta admit, the false Rapture predictions gave us all the ability to make Rapture jokes, have Rapture parties, and make Rapture playlists. I kind of wish people would predict the Rapture more often. Unless there’s another random doomsday prediction (Camping says he’s moved the doomsday date to October 21, 2011 — can’t wait) or until December 21, 2012, the inhabitants of Earth are supposed to be in the clear, somehow hanging on by the thread.

All jokes aside, though, tornados, earthquakes, mass bird and fish deaths, and flooding are all sobering and ominous events. For those who are affected by the disasters, it likely feels like the end of days. The rest of the world can only look on in empathy and apprehension. Personally, all these events keep me a little on the edge of my seat.