Tag: north dakota
The Badlands? They weren’t so bad. In fact, thanks to a premature winter blast that left them lightly dusted with snow, they looked more like cream puffs when Ace and I passed through Thursday, making it as far as Beach, North Dakota.
Forbidding as it sounds, the pockmarked terrain looked more like a bakery shop, as if powdered sugar had been sifted from above, turning buttes into bundt cakes and craggy pinnacles into cream puffs.
We whizzed from on end of the state to the other, sticking to I-94 and stopping only for coffee, gas, bodily functions and to take a picture of Salem Sue, the world’s largest cow.
On a mountain top in New Salem, whose high school sports teams are named the Holsteins, Sue, who was erected in 1974 to honor the area’s dairymen, overlooks the interstate and is visible from miles away.
Tourists can drive up the mountain’s gravel road and, should they so choose, drop a donation into a milk can. They help pay for her maintenance — and a 38-foot-high, 50-foot-long, six ton fiberglass cow does need maintenance now and then.
I-94 also sports what are touted as the world’s largest metal sculptures, created by artist Gary Greff. Greff, a former school teacher, started fashioning as a way to bring people into the small community of Regent, home base of The Enchanted Highway.
Of course, North Dakota’s landscape is art in itself — both before and after harvest. In late summer, there are fields of sunflowers blooming for miles. By then end of October, only their dark brown stalks remain, curled up and shriveled.
Hay bales dot the roadsides, boxy ones and coiled ones, stacked sometimes higher than houses. On this day, they too were sugar frosted — looking like they belonged in a really big cereal bowl. Just add a little of Sue’s milk, and breakfast could be served.
We didn’t pass through any heavy accumulations of snow — mostly, despite predictions of a blizzard, just a light dusting, but it was enough to draw Ace’s attention. Usually, he only bothers to look out the window when he feels the car slow down. On this 300-plus mile leg of the trip, he spent a long time looking at the scenery, and when we made a pit stop, he was eager to traipse through the snow that was left.
We didn’t stop and camp in the Badlands, as John Steinbeck wrote that he did in “Travels with Charley.” In the book, Steinbeck described how the “unearthly” landscape lost its “burned and dreadful look” as the sun went down, and took on a glow; and of how, in the night, “far from being frightful, (it) was lovely beyond thought …
“In the night the Bad Lands had become Good Lands. I can’t explain it. that’s how it was.”
I too didn’t think the Badlands lived up to their ominous name, probably because of the light snow-coating. Instead they left me with the song “Candy Man,” stuck in my head, and with a strong urge for some bundt cake.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 31st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, badlands, buttes, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, enchanted highway, fargo, gary greff, holstein, john steinbeck, landscape, medora, new salem, north dakota, pets, photos, road trip, salem sue, snow, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley, winter, world's largest cow
When I finally pulled out of Fargo, I was certain any visions of fall colors were over. No way, I figured, could any leaves still be clinging to their trees. Those winds, like a heartless gang of thieves, surely stripped them bare.
But, as Ace and I traveled west across the state, there were a few bright exceptions: groves of yellow-leafed trees — birch or aspen — that, by virtue of being tightly grouped together, still sported their fall colors.
The only way I can figure it, they were saved by the copse.
By being huddled together in a group, they – at least those not on the periphery — were able to keep their leaves a little longer. They, like early American settlers, bees in a hive and the huddled masses everywhere found safety in numbers.
You don’t hear the word “copse” that much anymore. In “Travels with Charley,” it shows up a few times. When John Steinbeck camped, it was usually in a copse, alongside a river, which is where you’ll generally find the copse — despite what you might have heard about donut shops.
Driving along, I wondered if the copse might hold some lessons for us humans, or at least remind us of some.
When pioneers set forth across America, they did so in groups, depending on each other, and each other’s skills, for their survival. When Indians attacked, pioneers circled the wagons, recognizing that forming, in effect, a copse, was the best defense. They established towns for the same reason — so neighbors would be close, so that help would never be too far away.
And long before that, cavemen and cavewomen learned — apparently from sources other than reality TV — that, by forming alliances, they could better protect themselves from the elements, evil-doers and scary creatures.
For long time Americans lived a copse-like existence. We established a home. We dropped our seed. We watched it grow. Once it did, it stayed around, mingled with other hometown trees and dropped its own seed. Children lived where parents lived. The apple didn’t fall, or roll, far from the tree; it stayed in its parent’s shadow, at least until it ended up in a pie.
Somewhere along the line, that went by the wayside. Children grew up and ventured off, carving their own paths. Mom and dad, once on the periphery of the copse, shielding us from the nasty winds, were relocated to places they can get some assistance with living.
The copse-like closeness has diminished not just in the family, but in the family of man. We’re less inclined, I think, to help each other out. Rather than thinking we’re all in this together, rather than the stronger helping the weaker, the richer helping the poorer, the franchised helping the disenfranchised, we look out for No. 1.
And the more insular we’ve become, the more we fail to stake up those in need of support, the more we turn away from those stuck out in the cold, the more robbers we produce.
In the 21st Century, when it comes to protection, we rely on the cops.
But maybe the real answer is the copse.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 30th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aspen, assistance, autumn, birch, colors, compassion, cops, copse, crime, criminal, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, fall, foliage, groups, grove, help, insular, john steinbeck, leaves, north dakota, numbers, pioneers, robbers, safety, security, shelter, society, thicket, travels with ace, travels with charley, trees, winds
He kept Rocinante rolling another 40 miles until he stumbled upon a more idyllic setting — yet another riverside camping spot, this one along the Maple River, near the sleepy little farming town of Alice. There, he just so happened to run into what would turn out to be one of the book’s more colorful characters, an itinerant Shakespearean actor.
Steinbeck would break out the coffee, and the whiskey, and listen as his flamboyant fellow camper explained that he performed Shakespeare around the country, in tents, in high schools … “wherever two or three are gathered together … With me there’s no question of doing something else. It’s all I know — all I ever have known.”
Steinbeck recounted the meeting in great detail — including how the actor unfolded a packet of aluminum foil to reveal a note he once received from John Gielgud. After that, explaining the importance of a good exit, the actor makes one.
Was the Shakesperean actor a dramatic invention in Steinbeck’s classic work of non-fiction? We’ll probably never know. But indications are, just maybe, something is rotten in the state of North Dakota.
From all existing clues, it appears Steinbeck didn’t actually sleep in the town of Alice on the night of Oct. 12, which can only lead one to wonder if the actor was real, or if, like Tom Joad in ”The Grapes of Wrath,” he was artfully concocted by the author, most of whose works were fiction.
If so, it wouldn’t be the first discrepancy between Steinbeck’s account in “Travels with Charley” and what his papers and other sources reveal about his 1960 trip.
Many of those are now being brought to light by blogger Bill Stiegerwald as he retraces Steinbeck’s route. (Bill, who we met at the begining of our trip is a good two weeks ahead of me.)
“Contrary to what he wrote so nicely and in such detail in ‘Charley,’ Steinbeck didn’t camp overnight near Alice on the Maple River or anywhere else on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 1960,” Stiegerwald concluded on his blog, Travels Without Charley. “He stayed at… in Beach, N.D., some 300-plus miles to the west.”
This, along with some of the recent stops on our own retracing of Steinbeck’s travels with Charley, brings us back to our discussion of the truth in fiction, and the fiction in truth.
We’re all for the former, but have some problems with the latter. We have nothing against using the techniques of fiction writing in non-fiction – in portraying the innate suspense of a situation, or the turmoil raging inside characters; or in skipping over the boring stuff. (Otherwise, a writer might end up boring readers with something as mundane as tossing french fries to his dog.)
But we’d argue that a reader of books, even a reader of blogs, deserves — like an eater of food — to know what he’s consuming. What sort of liberties an author of non-fiction has taken in processing the facts is information to which a reader should have access, much like a diner should be able to find out what sort of oil a fast food restaurant uses to cook its french fries.
Earlier this week, our “Travels with Ace” took us to Sauk Centre, or as Sinclair Lewis called it in his 1920 novel “Main Street,” Gopher Prairie. “Main Street,” while labeled fiction, exposed many truths about small town life — more, at least initially, than some Sauk Centre residents cared to be exposed, proving that not only does the truth hurt, but fiction can as well.
Our next, and latest, stop was Fargo, which most people know through the Coen brothers movie of same name. The movie starts off with the words: “This is a true story … At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.”
But “Fargo” — whose characters were mostly portrayed as dull-witted sorts, living in a frozen wasteland — wasn’t a true story at all; rather it was a concoction of the wonderfully degenerate minds of two brothers from neighboring Minnesota.
Both the movie “Fargo” and the book “Main Street” brought some unflattering notoriety to the towns they were depicting — much like Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” offended some Oklahomans.
In addition to criticism that “The Grapes of Wrath” was too political, didn’t accurately describe the migration of farm families from the dust bowl to California, and some nitpicking that Sallisaw, the town it opens in, was not actually part of the Dust Bowl (a fairly major nit), there were those who thought the novel portrayed “Okies” as illiterate hicks.
(Possibly, that’s why when he was traveling with Charley, Steinbeck sidestepped the state of Oklahoma.)
In each case, though, once the dust settled, there was something close to a happily-ever-after ending – some acknowledgement of the truth beneath the fiction, or at least some evidence that any perceived slights were forgiven.
Sauk Centre, where Main Street now intersects with Sinclair Lewis Boulevard, has embraced Lewis, its most famous son, with an annual festival.
In Fargo, chamber of commerce types proclaim there has been “a renaissance” — not so much due to the movie itself, maybe, as to the efforts to show the world there was more to Fargo than the movie portrayed. In 2006, on the movie’s 10th anniversary, it was projected on the side of the Radisson Hotel, the city’s tallest building as part of the Fargo Film Festival.
And even Sallisaw, on the 100th anniversary of Steinbeck’s birth, started a “Grapes of Wrath” festival, though it was short-lived. It has since been replaced with the annual Diamond Daze Festival, which isn’t Steinbeck-related at all.
All of which, in addition to just being interesting, serves as proof that — as the maybe real, maybe not Shakespearean actor in “Travels with Charley” might have said — all the world really is a stage.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 29th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, actor, alice, all the world's a stage, books, charley, coen brothers, fargo, fiction, john steinbeck, liberties, license, literature, main street, minnesota, movies, non-fiction, north dakota, novels, rocinante, sauk centre, shakespeare, sinclair lewis, steinbeck, the grapes of wrath, travels with ace, travels with charley, truth
There’s the Celebrity Walk of Fame at the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, where Garth Brooks, Neil Diamond, Debbie Reynolds, Jesse Ventura and others have left their signatures, handprints and footprints in cement.
There’s the Plains Art Museum, the Fargo Air Museum, the Red River Zoo, and just across the way from my motel, a big mall.
Yes — despite the stereotype of it as a place where boredom reigns, where temperatures lean toward the bitter extremes (and we won’t even go into woodchippers) — there are things to do in Fargo.
We’re just not doing any of them. Instead, we’re holed up in a Motel 6, where I’m flinging french fries into Ace’s mouth.
Why? Because it’s so damn cold.
Just as John Steinbeck, on his trip west with Charley, worried about getting across the northern states before winter set in, we’re beginning to fret as well; only we have ample reason — predictions of a October blizzard.
All night long, the wind rattled the windows of my motel room. The three-to-five inches of snow the local weatherman predicted hasn’t fallen — at least not here, not yet — but the warnings were enough to get me to book another night.
Just walking to the Burger King next door yesterday was bone chilling. Ace thought so, too. As eager as he was to get outside, he was even more eager — once experiencing it — to get back in.
Back in the room, for entertainment, I set aside half of my French fries and, in what’s become a habit during our travels when I get fast food, tossed portions to Ace. He gets the discolored ones, and the pointy ended ones. For some reason, I don’t like my fries to have pointy ends. Though he was on the bed, four feet away, he missed but one fry, snagging each of the rest with a snort.
So far I haven’t seen much of Fargo, and that which I have has been through fast-flapping windshield wipers. The night I arrived, after checking in, I went off in search of downtown Fargo. On my only other trip here, three years ago, I didn’t explore at all. I did, during a stop for lunch, ask a waiter where downtown was, and he informed me there was no downtown. Maybe he was new here, or it was his way of saying Fargo’s downtown didn’t meet with his standards. Maybe he was having fun with tourists.
But I can report there is a downtown, and that the road to it, at least from my motel, is lined with pawn shops. Once there, I couldn’t see much, because it was so dark and rainy, but I sensed tall buildings.
It has remained grey since then. That alone normally wouldn’t keep me inside, but the wind is downright cruel, and the rain is a stinging one and the one time I did go out in the car — to buy dog food — my car door, powered by the wind, attacked me both when I got out and when I got back in.
Even the wildlife thinks it’s too cold. Tonight, when I went downstairs for ice, I saw a rabbit huddled between a trash can and the wall by the motel’s side door, seeking shelter from the wind and rain.
I was going to offer to share my room with him — invite him up for a discolored French fry, maybe suggest he consider relocating to warmer climes – but he ran off when I approached the door.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 28th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, blizzard, boredom, burger king, coen brothers, cold, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, downtown, entertainment, extreme, fargo, french fries, harsh, john steinbeck, motel 6, motels, movie, north dakota, pets, rain, road trip, snow, stranded, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley, walk of fame, weather
Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Dakota are the five best states in the country to be an animal abuser — making them the five worst states in which to be an animal.
Based on an analysis of more than 3,800 pages of statutes, a new report by the Animal Legal Defense Fund recognizes the states where animal law has real teeth, and calls out those like Kentucky – the single worst in the nation again this year for animal protection laws – where animal abusers get off the easiest.
The annual report, the only one of its kind in the nation, ranks all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories for the comprehensiveness and strength of their animal protection laws. Maryland falls in the bottom 15 states.
The legislative weaknesses seen in the states at the bottom of the animal protection barrel include severely restricted or absent felony animal cruelty provisions, inadequate animal fighting provisions, and lack of restrictions on the future ownership of animals for those convicted of cruelty to animals.
Many state laws have improved since ALDF’s last state rankings report was released in 2008; Arkansas, for example, was one of the worst five states last year, but jumped up to 25th overall in the country in 2009 due to a host of statutory improvements.
On the other end of the spectrum, this year’s “best five for animals” list remains unchanged from the 2008 list, with California, Illinois, Maine, Michigan and Oregon demonstrating through their laws the strongest commitment to combating animal cruelty; Illinois was ranked the best for the strength of its laws protecting animals.
“This year we see many states and territories that are continuing to make outstanding progress with their laws. Unfortunately, there are still many places where the laws are incapable of providing the legal protections that our country’s animals need and deserve,” says Stephan Otto, Animal Legal Defense Fund’s director of legislative affairs and author of the report.
“Even in those jurisdictions that have today’s best laws, there remain many opportunities for improvement. Especially important during our country’s current recession are laws that help to save limited community resources by reducing the costs of caring for abused animals and ensuring that those who are responsible for such crimes shoulder this burden instead of taxpayers and private interests. While animals do not vote, those who love and care about them certainly do, so we encourage lawmakers throughout the country to take heed and commit to working to improve these critical laws.”
ALDF was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, including a copy of the state rankings report, visit www.aldf.org.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 17th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, aldf, animal, animal fighting, animal law, animal legal defense fund, best, cruelty, cruelty to animals, dog fighting, dogfighting, dogs, felony, hawaii, idaho, kentucky, law, laws, legislation, legislatures, map, mississippi, north dakota, protection, provisions, rankings, report, state, states, welfare, worst