Tonight I am sitting in a motel room in Bismarck on my way home after a whirlwind road trip to Minneapolis. A lifetime of accumulating has led to a determined downsizing and part of that requires passing on furniture pieces to family members. In 1945, for a wedding gift, my Dad gave my Mom a cedar chest. The chest accompanied my parents to Lead, South Dakota, then grad school at the University of Colorado in Boulder, to Rawlins, Wyoming, and finally to rest in Glendive for many years. Now it rests in an apartment in St. Paul, Minnesota where ownership has passed to my niece. When I became serious about my downsizing I knew that promise would have to be fulfilled so this was the time to do it. For years the contents were my parents’ wedding clothes — Mom’s suit and Dad’s army jacket (those remain with me and will be boxed up for posterity, i.e. when I am dead and gone someone else has to figure out what to do with them), baby clothes for my brother and me and various other items. Moving the chest from my car to hers as we met at the motel in Minneapolis, I told her she was now the keeper of the history. I think she will do a good job. She has a pretty good sense of family so I am not concerned. The next big job is photo albums and other pictures of family members. I have photos back to my great-great grandparents. I won’t get rid of those, but I am one who has to have them in some order. So it goes! Hence the purpose for the trip.
Driving across North Dakota and into Minnesota is always a trip down memory lane. Both my brother and I graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. We did our student teaching in Minnesota. Later I went to grad school at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud. We have family members in the Twin Cities and friends so there have been many trips over many years. I remember the first time the folks took us to Minnesota. I was excited to see the calendar picture farms with silos full of corn and the white country churches with their spires poking through the trees. We went to Lake Itasca State Park so we could step over the Mississippi River. The folks had family friends in Minnesota they had taught with in Wyoming so we visited them a couple of times and in the process got to see the sites of the big city.
Driving from Minneapolis to Bismarck (7.5 hours) is a geography lesson in changing climes and country. I drove in fog and rain showers from north of Minneapolis until almost Fargo. Around Alexandria, Minnesota, the fog was heavy. From Alexandria west to Fargo you go through not only farm country (the fields are ready), but also through lake country. There are dozens of small lakes which provide an ecology for the birds that fly through the region. In one short space I saw a pelican downing a fish, a heron, a red-winged blackbird and a slow moving turtle about to start across the interstate. I thought about stopping and taking it across, but I didn’t. It still concerns me, but I suppose he has lived there longer than I have. With the fog today the scenery was eerie and I wished several times I could stop and take pictures. Various lakes had dead trees immersed in the water with a few black limbs breaking the surface. Near Fargo upon entering the Red River Valley the soil becomes black it is so rich. The first time I saw it I wondered if it were wet but Dad assured me that was the way it always looked.
The prairies of western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota are not the “big sky” prairies I am used to, but they were green and wooded and reminded me of many stories I had read about these areas settled by the earlier pioneers than came to Montana and western North Dakota. My mother’s parents were from the forests of Wisconsin before moving out onto the short grass prairie of western South Dakota. Today one of their great grandsons raises buffalo not far from where they homesteaded 106 years ago.
It was a nice ride today, although the trucks really take over the highways. The interstate in Minnesota does not have the wide shoulders of Montana and western North Dakota so that made it a little more tiring to drive through. On my way through Medora on Sunday I saw some buffalo in the distance. As I came further west today I appreciated how the land opened up and rolled out in front of me. The trees and forests were left behind.
I am tired, but a little retail therapy always helps.