Bismarck: My Mom's Hometown
Bismarck is a pleasant and friendly city with streets lined with leafy
trees that are now somewhere between green and gold. For the past month
I've been staying at nearby at Fort Lincoln State Park, camping right on
the Missouri River in a campground that's virtually deserted every night.
Each afternoon as I eat my fried chicken dinner, I watch the geese fly south down the Missouri
River valley and later I fall asleep to sound of crickets. At only $7 a night -- with a hot shower
included -- I think it's the best deal in North
often associate events in our lives with the music that's popular
at the time. Here's the #1 country
song during the fall of 2001. For years to come, whenever
I hear it, I'll think about the time I spent in Bismarck.
This is Carolyn Dawn
Johnson singing Complicated.
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The weather so far has been
pretty nice here. Of
course, this is September when the weather is still fairly pleasant, but I guess it starts
deteriorating rapidly in October. And, as I've been learning, the weather here can change on a dime (see
in the Midwest), more so than probably any other place I've ever
For instance, I was wearing shorts one sunny morning about a
week ago and the
temperature was hovering around 75 degrees, and I walked into the Bismarck
Public Library and spent a few hours there updating my website. When I walked out a
few hours later, though, the temperature had plunged to 49 degrees and I shivered in the
cold, cloudy, windy weather while scurrying to my truck. If this had
happened in California, folks would talk about it for months, but here in the
Midwest, rapid weather changes are standard fare. You know the old saying,
"If you don't like the weather, just wait a few minutes." Well, here
in North Dakota, they really mean it.
are two things here in Bismarck that seem to be big problems: hail damage
and head lice. Back in the pioneer days, hail used to decimate wheat
fields; today, it decimates car roofs and hoods. I've seen about a dozen
places around town that advertise something called "paintless dent
repair," which I hope I never have to learn about. Then a few days ago
while driving around Bismarck, I heard my very first radio ad for getting rid of head lice. Head lice
isn't a problem out in Oregon -- or at least no one discusses it. The policy
that Oregonian's have about lice is, "Don't scratch, don't tell."
I don't know how much longer I'll be here in Bismarck, though, since the
leaves are changing color and fall is definitely in the air. Now
that I've updated my website, it depends on how long it takes to finish my family
research. I plan to visit the Colorado Rockies next and, from my
experience of working there as a ranger many years ago, I know that heavy snow can start falling down there anytime now. At least I won't have
to worry about hailstorms there... or, hopefully, head lice.
Above left: Bismarck's "Folkfest" parade. Held only a few
days after the September 11 attack in New York City, there were a few
tears in the crowd.
Above center: The empty campground at Fort Lincoln State
Park, my home in
September. Each night on my way back to the campground, I stop at Dan's
Supermarket in Mandan and get some fried chicken and potato salad, which I eat
here at Fort Lincoln. I've been here so long that I'm on a first-name basis with the
Above right: The Missouri River at Bismarck. Lewis and Clark paddled
through here in October, 1804 on their way west.
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Bismarck: My Mom's Hometown