"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Let's celebrate the peace of North Dakota

(image from "pow-wow")
North Dakota is a most unpretentious place. My own familiarity is with the eastern edge. I'm not talking about Fargo, I'm talking about I-29 going north to Grand Forks. I can still remember some of the billboards. We cruised along listening to Garner Ted Armstrong on the radio. This was in the 1970s. "We" was the musical group known as the Tempo Kings.
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":
 
"North Dakota"
by Brian Williams
 
No need to visit Broadway
Medora does it right
North Dakota, North Dakota
We've learned to do it our way
To make it like fine wine
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
We see the long horizon
As we cruise 94
North Dakota, North Dakota
Imagine all the bison
That roamed in days of yore
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
BRIDGE:
The Bakken has the oil that makes us go
The people of the North can make it flow
Just like the gold in them thar hills
The farmers all around can grow the wheat
A shining exhibition so complete
It does much more than pay the bills

A powwow makes it certain
That spring is in the air
North Dakota, North Dakota
And then the summer season
delights us with its fairs
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
Out west there is the grassland
Where Teddy left his mark
North Dakota, North Dakota
He knew it was the best plan
To make it all a Park
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
(repeat bridge)
 
We see the wide Missouri
A mirror to the sky
North Dakota, North Dakota
No need for you to hurry
When you are by her side
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
We feel the love in Fargo
The city not the flick
North Dakota, North Dakota
You can't beg, steal or borrow
The qualities of it
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
North Dakota, North Dakota
 
© Copyright 2017 Brian R. Williams

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