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Bismarck:  My Mom's Hometown

(Reprint from News: September 30, 2001)

September 21, 2001

 

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 Dakota.

 

We 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 Weather in the Midwest), more so than probably any other place I've ever visited.

 

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.  

 

There 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 rangers.

Above right:  The Missouri River at Bismarck.  Lewis and Clark paddled through here in October, 1804 on their way west.

 

 

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