|(image from "pow-wow")|
I-29 north to Grand Forks seemed such a peaceful world unto itself. Such is the nature of North Dakota. It might easily be known as the state of wide open spaces, except that Montana seems to own that distinction.
North Dakota? It doesn't seem to seek notoriety at all. It's a state where small towns are sprinkled along the countryside. The town of Rugby is at the exact center of the North American continent. ND is a rather celebrity-starved state that feels a big deal can be made of Lawrence Welk coming from there. Welk's music was a bastion for the older folk during the years of the "generation gap," remember?
So, ND doesn't much care if the likes of Manhattan-ites diss them a little.
I recently decided to pen a little song in recognition of North Dakota. It's simply called "North Dakota" and that's its refrain: "North Dakota, North Dakota." I hope it can make a positive impression. I don't have it recorded yet. This may be done in the near future, using the singing talents of Debra Gordon.
In the meantime, let's think further about the wonderful if understated assets of the state. I'm pleased to make reference to the rich Native American culture by including the powwows of springtime. The very first words refer to Medora as a place that fulfills artistically just as well as Broadway in New York City. I have sent my mother on two motorcoach trips that included a Medora show. Audience members are treated to the sight of elk grazing atop a nearby hill. Nothing like that in NYC.
Nor does the metro have anything like the grasslands to the west that have Theodore Roosevelt's name attached to them. Roosevelt first came to the North Dakota Badlands to hunt bison in the fall of 1883. It is said he "fell in love" with the rugged lifestyle and the "perfect freedom" of the West. He invested in a ranch south of Medora. He launched a second ranch north of Medora. He wrote all about this for eastern newspapers and magazines.
TR became a crusader for sound conservation practices. The crusade became part of his eventual presidency. I'm not sure our current president is attuned at all to this. A National Park commemorates Teddy Roosevelt and his legacy. Theodore Roosevelt National Park comprises three geographically separated areas of Badlands in western North Dakota. The grasslands predominate.
The Park's larger south unit lies alongside I-94 near Medora. My song has a reference to I-94 which goes east-west straight across the state. The Park received 753,880 recreational visitors in 2016, an increase of 30 percent from the previous year.
I'm pleased in my song to also acknowledge the wide Missouri River. The Missouri River in its whole is the longest in North America. More than ten major groups of Native Americans populated the watershed. They were mainly nomadic in lifestyle. The huge bison herds sustained them.
Long as the river is, it was not found to be that mythical (as it turned out) "Northwest Passage." Lewis and Clark were the first to travel the river's whole length. Passage or no, the Missouri turned into one of the main routes for the westward expansion of the U.S. in the 19th Century.
Trappers blazed trails in the early 1800s. Pioneers headed west en masse beginning in the 1830s. The covered wagons rumbled. Steamboats explored the river. Settlers worked to take over lands that had been occupied by Indians, leading to intense conflicts. The Missouri River became a resource for major hydroelectric power in the 20th Century.
Development has loomed as a threat to the kind of pristine environment that Teddy Roosevelt celebrated.
Here are the lyrics I have penned for "North Dakota":