Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Watford City, North Dakota

I have a soft spot for the prairie, this land gone lonesome. It helps that I don't spend a lot of time here. But if nothing else, if you've got troubles, you can see them coming from a long way off.

I heard on the radio this morning that North Dakota attracts fewer tourists than any other state in the nation.

Inexplicable, I know. I think it's just a problem of perception. You say "North Dakota" and people think blizzards in winter. Tornadoes in summer. Locusts and Dustbowl Depression year round.

Maybe they need to think re-branding. Start with a new name. How about "South Manitoba?" And stop calling them Badlands. They're not bad, they're just misunderstood.

Driving east from Montana, I followed the Yellowstone River for hours, the land opening up, but getting a harder edge, too. I stopped to admire an eroded moonscape near the Dakota border and fell in with a skinny young kid taking his wife and baby out for a Mother's Day excursion. With a mini-bike. He pretty much ignored the two of them, and we looked off into the Badlands all around, dead-end canyons and eroded hoodoos stretching to the horizon. A distant storm cloud spat lightning, but we were too far off for thunder.

He looked around and said, "These are some of the harshest lands on earth. Jesse James, the bank robber, used to hide out here. He hid a whole bagful of silver dollars out there. He came back looking, but he never could find 'em. They say they're still out there somewhere."

He looked like he wanted to take that mini-bike out for one more look around. And if he found the treasure, the first thing he was going to do was buy a bigger bike.

1 comment:

Michael Sebastian said...

Paul, I"m eager to watch this series unfold. You are quite the writer my friend. mike sebastian