Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More News From North Dakota

News from North Dakota? What? Did someone's car fall through the ice again? Happens every year, I tell ya.

My family lived in North Dakota for a year and a half back when I was in Junior High. Dad was of course in the Air Force, and we were briefly stationed at Minot Air Force Base. Many nights I fell asleep to the sound of B-52s running up their engines late, late at night. Sound of Freedom, I tell you.

Now, you might think to yourself: Geez! North Dakota? Congratulations on only living there for a year and a half before moving someplace sensible!

Well, you might think that way, especially given that it's January there now. (And I should know: the year and a half that I lived there included two winters.) But you know, my family really liked the place.

Part of this is due to my Dad, who always goes out of his way to find the nice bits of any place he lives. If Fate drops you down in Wyoming, well--there are things to do in Wyoming that can only be done there. So you go to the Rodeo (Cheyenne Frontier Days!) and you go to Yellowstone and you go to the Green River Lakes and you go to the Grand Tetons and you go fishing in the mountains and you see moose and elk and antelope and missile silos and not many people. (As you can probably tell, we lived in Wyoming too for a while there).

Dad's the kind of guy who, if you dropped him down in the middle of Greenland, would find the best places to go sledding.

Well, one may think there's not much to see in North Dakota except for all that flat, but you'd be surprised. There's a natural, rural beauty to the state. There are some decent-sized lakes with very good fishing. There are several lovely little river valleys that traverse the state.

But most of all, the people you meet in North Dakota are some of the nicest you could hope to meet anywhere. The pace of life is slower up there--perhaps not as slow as in the Deep South, but a whole lot slower than out here in California. People are generous and trusting--and, by and large, worthy of that trust. We left our doors unlocked all the time, because we just didn't feel like there was any danger that anyone would do something, well... unsociable when we were out. Besides which, if there's a sudden snowstorm (could happen!) and a stranger happened to be outside in it, we wouldn't want him to freeze to death through inability to come into our house and make himself a cup of hot cocoa....

I like the way my fellow blogger Roger Z put it in a recent post of his, in explaining what a "White Christmas" means in various states. Here was his entry on North Dakota:
North Dakota: A white Christmas means friends and families and guests and a big dinner that will involve hogs and turkeys and cows and oh our neighbor Jim started with emus a few years ago so we're gonna try that too! Hey, you seem like a nice enough fellow, why don't you bring your family up here and we'll all have Christmas together, eh! Then we can sing Christmas carols on Main Street because it's only 42 below zero, that's not cold enough to keep a bunch of happy go-luckies like us inside , no sir! Say is your son single? There's a cute girl up the street (note: in North Dakota, "up the street" means "our next neighbor, 12 miles away") who needs to get hitched and it'd sure be nice to have a new neighbor farming the Fallow Tract (note: in North Dakota, a "tract" is what other states refer to as a "county").
Yup. You betcha. As a former resident of the state, that's about right on target.


So what do I mean by "More News?" Well, in order for there to be more news, first there must be, um... the first news. That would be this post I did from a few weeks back, aboot how North Dakota supposedly has the most corrupt government in the Union, dont'cha know, according to a totally bogus metric and some sloppy analysis that doesn't take into account that there are only about 12 people in the whole state.

So the "More News" part is a little something I saw a few days ago: The entire state, with a population (ok, I lied about the 12 people) of 680,000, had a grand total of two murders in 2008. In the entire state! That's down from an average of about 11 in a typical year.

To put that in perspective: The United States has a murder rate of 5.7 for every hundred thousand population, which is a little on the high side in the industrialized world. Most European nations have murder rates of between 1 and 3 per hundred thousand, and a few have fewer than 1. (Germany, for example, is at 0.99).

North Dakota has them all beaten. At two murders, that works out to 0.29 per hundred thousand. That's even lower than the Scandinavian nations from which the North Dakotans' ancestors came.

Guess this is proof of the American Melting Pot: Swedes and Norwegians living in peace. :-)


Oh, and one other fact about the above that has caught the attention of various political bloggers: neither of these murders were gun crimes.

That's right, North Dakota, with some of the most lax gun laws in the nation, with extremely high gun ownership rates, had zero gun murders last year.

There's a point to be made there, of course, but I'm not going to make it here. I'll let you follow the link and read all the gloating yourselves, if you're so inclined.


So there you go. News from North Dakota! Who'd have thought it?

I didn't live there very long, but in some ways I still think of North Dakota as my state, and when I hear any kind of news about it, it makes me perk up my ears. I still root for North Dakota, because heaven knows, so few people do. And when I hear news like this, it makes me sit back, smile, and say, Yessssssssssss....

Maybe, as we used to say, 41 below really does keep out the riff-raff.

1 comment:

Roger Z said...

Tim- you missed the "other" news from North Dakota this summer (yes, apparently there's summer up there nowadays, must be global warming) about the "instant millionaires":


The closing of the story is fantastic. People are very unassuming in the midwest, and really in the rural midwest they're almost embarrassed by wealth. I am so thrilled that a couple like this is now rich. Wish it happened to more people like them more often!

ps- you should look up the Bakken oil play, too.