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Lillian Crook

A retired librarian, Lillian Crook is an Army child but completed her junior high and high school education while living in North Dakota’s Slope County, where her parents retired to her mother's family farm and ranch. She completed a bachelor's degree in English from Dickinson (N.D.) State University and a master’s of library science from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and was an academic librarian at DSU for 26 years. She later worked for Theodore Roosevelt National Park as a museum technician and volunteered for TRNP in many capacities. She is married to Jim Fuglie, is an avid reader, gardener and birder and enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, photography and writing, is the mother of twin daughters and loves yoga. She and Jim run Red Oak House Books and Publishers from their home. Lillian is the founder of Badlands Conservation Alliance, a grass-roots voice for wild places in western North Dakota. Bullion Butte is the center of her universe, and she is happiest when floating the Little Missouri River. Her blog, WildDakotaWoman.blogspot.com, consists of random thoughts on wild places and musings on life in Red Oak House of Bismarck. She can also be followed on Twitter @WildDakotaWoman. She takes heart from one of her favorite writers, Terry Tempest Williams, who wrote, "If you know wilderness like you know love, you would be unwilling to let it go. We are talking about the body of the beloved, not real estate."

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 41 — Cutworms Get Broccoli, Grill Goes On Fritz

Every gardener experiences successes and failures and must learn to go with the flow.

The first of the Zinnias I planted in April in the basement.
The first of the Zinnias I planted in April in the basement.

Here at Red Oak House, the cutworms killed the heretofore vigorous broccoli. Mr. Green Jeans has replanted broccoli and protected the plants this time with milk cartons. On the bright side, the tomatoes look terrific, as does the rest of the vegetable garden. And for now, the beds are mostly weed free. The walleye are still biting, and, to our delight, we received over an inch of rain in the first two days of the week.

The tall bearded irises are vexing this year. I have only myself to blame as I had forgotten to order special fertilizer in a timely fashion and applied it late. I’m not certain this is the complete explanation, but I know it is a critical piece. I’m also struggling with increasing shade on the beds, a good problem to have I suppose. I’m going to have to decide whether to move all of the sun-loving plants into the two beds that receive (mostly) full sun, and I regret that I won’t be able to scatter these about all of the beds. Probably I’ll give it one more year to see if timing the fertilizer correctly is the trick. That said, I do have lots of irises I need to divide come August.

One large and healthy looking iris (right) sent up many new flower stalks, but they shriveled up without opening. Shade? Too much heat? I just don’t know. Everything around it seems to have had adequate moisture. A bitter pill to swallow.

We ate the first fresh radishes Wednesday and the house wrens seem to be raising a brood in their home on our back patio. Sometimes when I get too close, one of the adult wrens comes exploding out of the house right into my face. Gets me nearly every time. Look closely below and you will see one of the adults peering at me through the top opening of the house.

Today, I turned to the page in my book “Words for Birds” and learned:

“House Wren Troglodytes aedon. Wren is the modern form of Middle English wrenne and Old English wraenna and wraene, which were used not only for the bird but also to mean ‘lascivious.’ Why the Angles and Saxons thoughts this bird to be any more lascivious than others is not all clear. Troglodytidae is formed from the Greek troglodytes, meaning ‘cave dweller,’ and coined from trogle, ‘hole’ or ‘cave’ (literally, one made by gnawing), and dytes, ‘inhabitant.’ The word is thought to suggest the wrens’ constant seeking for cover. The Troglodytes of mythical fame were a cave-dwelling people of Ethiopia. For the house wren (Troglodytes aedon), adeon is Greek for ‘songstress,’ especially a nightingale. In the myth, Aedon, a queen of Thebes, was jealous of her sister-in-law who had many children. She plotted to kill her eldest nephew but by mistake slew her own son. Zeus relieved her grief by turning her into a nightingale. Some may think the call of the house wren is comparable to that of the nightingale. House alludes either to the care with which the wren builds its nest or the ease with which the wren can be attracted to a nest-box.” (pgs. 200-201)

My peonies are also something of a disappointment this year. I wait all year long, each year, hoping it will be better than the last, thus my occasional gardener’s blues. I moved many of the peonies just a few years back and they are taking longer to get established than I would like. I’m trying to be patient, but these take up a huge amount of space in the perennial beds and they’d better carry their weight soon or else. Some large plants have just a few blossoms at most, and a few have none. I’ve read the advice of North Dakota gardening expert, Don Kinzler, and know that at least one of my plants needs to be divided.

That said, peonies are bright color in the time when I await the daylily blossom — and have such heavenly fragrance.

The ninebark and viburnum are also blooming now, as is the large patch of Wood’s rose, although I’ve noticed that the Wood’s rose has far fewer blossoms than previous years. Again, the drought is the likely explanation.

My front yard hosta garden looks splendid this year. The message is that shade gardens, while subdued, are very pleasing. When I planned the hosta garden, I was looking for a Zen-like woodland vibe and I achieved that. Last week, I purchased more Praying Hands hosta and changed out the dirt in that area completely when I added the new seedlings to the existing plant. A previous owner must have had gravel on much of the front yard. Later, a thin layer of dirt was added and grass planted, so I’ve had to fight the gravel and poor soil, a battle I finally seem to be winning.

On other fronts, I’m very nervous that the city is going to make good on its threats and put a sidewalk across the front of our property. All shown in the photo below will be lost, including the first thing I planted when we moved in, a robust Taunton spreading yew. I sure hope not!

The grill is on the fritz, but Jim is working on it and had a backup in the storage area so all was not lost when it was time to make kabobs.

Oh, and those gazillion elm seeds I complained about. They are sprouting. More weeding, less blogging, I guess. And a stack of good books for summer reading!

Finally, the showstopper right now in the garden is the gorgeous tree peony that burst into bloom today. A Bartzella tree peony, it has become one of my favorite plants, both because of its yellow glory and because it was an exceptionally thoughtful gift from my friend, Bob. He must have known how I love the color yellow.

Now, we will end our week with some great Dakota live music, ala Chuck Suchy, at the Co-op and the Cross Ranch Bluegrass Festival. The good life.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 40 — It Rains!

The days continue to grow longer here in the northern latitudes as the calendar progresses toward the summer solstice, and our garden is proof of that inescapable rhythm.

It finally has rained, although not much. Yet, we are extremely grateful for the precipitation, in spite of the fact that some of it fell as we were conducting our book sale.

I have no doubt that much of the death of perennials and shrubs I’ve observed this year is due to the constant need to irrigate with city water. Treated water is not nearly as beneficial as rain. On the bright side, a few plants I’d given up as dead are starting to show some life and as North Dakota gardening expert Don Kinzler said, one must have patience in a year like this. Sadly, my shrub rose is dead as a doornail.

I’ve resisted the urge to transplant two shrubs I have plans to relocate, given that this is the year our house is on the garden tour. Tweaking and moving is a constant way of life for the gardener. I keep a notebook throughout the year with my tasks for the garden.

Jim proclaims that the vegetable garden looks as good as it ever has and last Thursday we ate the first fresh lettuce. Jim also pointed out to me that the first blossoms are on the Bloody Butcher tomatoes, plants he sprouted from seed he had saved from last year’s crop. Meanwhile, the weeds are thriving in every location and keep us on our knees in removal mode.

Last week, a hellacious wind howled through in the night and blew about a billion elm seeds from the neighbor’s tree two houses over into drifts on our patio (below). Armed with a broom and dustpan, I scooped these up, knowing that next year I’ll be pulling the sprouts from the perennial beds by the thousands.

We’ve also grown very weary of all of the pine pollen in the air, which drifts in through our open windows and coats every flat service in the house (above). Hopefully, the rain of the past few days will take care of that problem.

The dwarf iris blooms have subsided and the remainder of bearded irises show hints of blooms to come. Lilac time has come and gone, except for the Korean lilac we have in (mostly) shade that blooms late and does not bloom profusely. I put it there because I had the idea that the aroma would float into our bedroom and bring us pleasant dreams. And so it does.

In their place are the blooms of the anemone, bleeding heart and violets. In one bed that has increasing shade as our trees grow taller, I’ve allowed the columbine to spread and am slowly moving the daylilies to sunnier locations. Yes, I know that columbine can be invasive; after the blooms are spent, I’ll take some action.

I hit up a neighborhood plant sale this past weekend and added two new daylilies and three new hostas to my collection. When I was weeding Tuesday, I watched a sleek, chocolate-colored vole scamper through the flower bed.

To replace the two vines that died or were killed by rabbits, I’ve planted a Trumpet vine and replaced the Autumn Revolution bittersweet. Shortly after this purchase, I discovered that the bittersweet vine that had been severed by the rabbits is sprouting from the root. It will take about five years for the bittersweet to grow to the size it had been. I’m going to carefully protect these with wire next fall.

Memorial Day has come and gone. We attended this year’s program at the nearby North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, where all of the speakers praised the rain that was dampening attendees. Our priest, Monsignor Chad Gion (left, with Jim, a U.S. Navy veteran) gave a marvelous closing prayer, encouraging us to “lead heroic lives.”

These days, when we sit down for a spell on the patio, the goldfinches on the sock thistle feeder entertain us. Around the back of the house, I heard a robin pitching quite a fit, which tells me that one of its hatchlings must be on the ground. Our resident house wren pair cheers us each day.

And another three-tenths of an inch of rain Tuesday night is so very welcome. The front yard hosta garden under the Red Oak tree looks marvelous this year. Jim is off to fish almost every day. June just may be the best month.

“If the light is in your heart, you will find your way home.” — Rumi

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Walk On The Wild Side — In The Bad Lands

While life at Red Oak House here on Missouri River is filled with many blessings and much happiness, as frequently as possible we refresh our spirits with visits to the Bad Lands of North Dakota, which we did early this week, joined by our daughter, Chelsea, and Paul and Joe, our friends from Arizona.

We met on the veranda of the Rough Riders Hotel to make a plan. After a quick lunch, determining that Paul had not been to the Chateau de Mores since his southwest N.D. childhood days, we went there to tour. Joe had never been. Thus it was a good way to reflect upon the founding of the town of Medora and the colorful characters who lived there in the 1880s. When Chelsea was in college, she worked at the Chateau for the summer, as part of the interpretative staff, in period costume. I’m pleased at how much she remembers.

It was a perfect late May day and the Bad Lands are very green right now. There is an array of wildflowers in bloom, including Prairie Ragwort and, my favorite, Prairie Smoke.

We spent the remainder of their two-day visit hiking Theodore Roosevelt National Park trails and driving the loop road. It was very interesting to observe the effects of the recent controlled burn, which although it might seem extreme due to the fire’s proximity to the road, close observation revealed a mosaic pattern that mimics the natural prairie fire process, effecting a relatively small percentage of the Park’s total acreage.

We observed many grazers taking advantage of the fresh green native grasses that had quickly sprouted in the wake of the fire, including a fine bull elk.

Day 2 found us taking a four-mile hike to the Petrified Forest on the park’s west side, a place neither Joe nor Paul had seen, and it was another pleasant day with temperatures in the high 70s. I pointed out to my companions that we were in the officially designated wilderness within the park. A couple of bison bulls were spotted and we gave them a sufficiently wide berth.

Although I’m fairly knowledgeable regarding prairie wildflowers, this one (right) had me stumped (although I thought it was likely a vetch). In all of the miles we hiked, I saw only this one large clump of this specimen. Later, I checked with friends, crowd-sourcing this on social media. One of my friends identified it as a Narrow-leaved Milkvetch (Astragalus pectinatus).

The dominant birds of the day were Lazuli buntings, bobolinks, meadowlarks and yellow-breasted chats. While we hiked, I taught the others some about the birds and plants and confessed to being rather a dunce when it comes to rocks.

While we hiked and chatted, we learned that our friends had never been to the Elkhorn Ranch. By Godfrey, this must be solved, we said, and off we went. The ticks were thick there and a very fine specimen of a bull snake slithered across the trail. We were pleasantly surprised to find a few other visitors who’d made the trek.

Then, it was time to return to Medora, for pizza, followed by a farewell to our good friends and trail companions, until their next visit to North Dakota.

“My home ranch-house stands on the river brink. From the low, long veranda, shaded by leafy cotton-woods, one looks across sand bars and shallows to a strip of meadowland, behind which rises a line of sheer cliffs and grassy plateaus. This veranda is a pleasant place in the summer evenings when a cool breeze stirs along the river and blows in the faces of the tired men, who loll back in their rocking-chairs (what true American does not enjoy a rocking-chair?), book in hand–though they do not often read the books, but rock gently to and fro, gazing sleepily out at the weird-looking buttes opposite, until their sharp outlines grow indistinct and purple in the after-glow of the sunset.” — Theodore Roosevelt

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Book Sale

Difficult as it may be to believe, Red Oak House is holding a book sale June 2, starting at 9 a.m.

A couple of winters back, I cataloged our collection and culled about 200 books, mostly duplicates as well as books we’ve read that don’t fit in the scope of our permanent collection. For a while, I toyed with the idea of selling these online, but I don’t want to have to deal with issues like sales tax and such, not to mention that I have much better things to do with my time, like writing the book we are working on!

Our friends Ken Rogers and Kevin Carvell are going to add some of their books to the sale, so there should be some real treasures — that is, if we don’t buy all of these from each other before we open for business. (Could happen!)

So please stop by, under the spreading branches of the champion Red Oak Tree next Saturday at 920 Arthur Drive in Bismarck. Linger to admire the flower beds if you wish. Sip on a cup of cold lemonade.

Help your fellow bookworms make room on our shelves for new books. You’ll be doing a good deed.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 39

The air is fragrant here at Red Oak House because all of the crab apple trees and lilacs are blooming. Thus, it is exceptionally pleasant to work at our gardening chores. The juneberry bush is loaded with blossoms, and our resident house wrens have returned. Their cheerful call makes our back patio an even more pleasant haven.

Jim has finished planting the vegetable garden, and it appears that this year’s asparagus crop is done. All vegetables have sprouted and there is a promise of fresh lettuce and spinach soon to come.

I’ve been busy planting annuals: 133 zinnias I sprouted in the basement earlier this spring and over a 100 impatiens. I’ve also completed the work I’ve been doing revamping a pathway around the side of the house from the gate to the patio — hard work. While I work, I listen to the brown thrasher, warbling vireo and Swainson’s thrush songs.

First, I dug in the stones, laying each on a bed of sand. Then, I planted 32 creeping thyme all around the stones. I crossed my fingers that these thrive and fill in the open space. My hope is that the dog drags into the house just a little less mud in the long run. I get mighty weary of mopping floors and have so many other things I’d rather do with my life.

While I worked in the flower beds, I found so much winter kill I just wanted to sit and have a cry about it, but Jim reminds me how much is still alive and growing.

The tulip strategy I used last fall, planting a row within the vegetable garden fence in order to foil the rabbits, worked perfectly, a cheerful row of bright colors.

Last spring, I transplanted from the Bad Lands Prairie Smoke (below), my favorite prairie wildflower, and it is blooming nicely so there is a success story.

The iris blooms are waiting in the wings. Any day now.

“The day you think you know, your death has happened — because now there will be no wonder and no joy and no surprise. Now you will live a dead life.” — Osho

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Thinking About Being A Mama

On this Mother’s Day, a big shout-out to these two little bugs who made me a mama — not just any mama. A mama of twins! Here they are (above) in their Minnesota Twins garb, which friends felt we must have. I was a sucker for Oshgosh togs.

Although not apparent in this photo, my house in those days was like a pink-bomb had gone off.

So many stories, which I will write someday. Right now, I’m heading to my sister’s house for a gathering for our Mother. How lucky we are to still have her in our lives. Here is a photo of her, the former Slope County shepherdess, getting some smooches from a new Morton County lamb last weekend. I’ve written about her before, on several occasions.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 38

That Champion Red Oak tree drops a massive quantity of leaves and I’ve just spent much of the last week picking these up, schlepping each garbage can load to the compost pile. Phase two of spring gardening also included cutting back the few perennials I did not trim last fall and transplanting those I’d noted in need of a different location.

I’m happy that I’m home from Texas before anything here has bloomed and just in the nick of time for the always-early blossoms on our meadowlark forsythia.

Jim has removed the straw mulch from the garlic and I’ve removed the leaf mulch from the strawberries. He’s also trimmed back the raspberries and planted potatoes and lettuce and peas and more. I’ve removed the bittersweet vine that the rabbits severed last winter and found more serious rabbit damage to cuss at — will have to do something about that next fall. Lizzie, the springer spaniel, has done a real number on the grass this past winter, something I will need to attend to soon.

The tulips have emerged and will bloom soon, and the aspens are heavy with catkins. I’m relieved their tiny lime green leaves did not unfurl before I returned. It is dry here and we had to bite the bullet and start the sprinkler system.

The seedlings we started in the furnace room are thriving and Jim has given away all of his surplus tomatoes. He was so eager to get these planted and did so —  25 planted Monday. I’m the more cautious gardener and wait until late in May for my flower seedlings. Because these annuals are in an unfenced area, I have to wait until the seedlings are fairly large in the hopes that the rabbits won’t munch ‘em.

We’ve eaten the first of our asparagus and it was mighty tasty.

I squeezed in some birding Saturday morning with the Bis/Man Birding Club. Here at Red Oak House, the white-throated sparrows are passing through and I am listening to the buzz of the newly arrived clay-colored sparrows. Sunday brought the first chu-bek of the least flycatcher. We are eager for the house wrens to return.

I’ve made my first run at a nearby garden center and my list included grass seed for that hammered lawn. I’ve also done damage assessment, and two irises have died in an exposed area where I failed to mulch last fall. I should know better. I also found more damage from the danged rabbits. Jim knows when he hears me cussing out loud that it is likely at rabbits.

These are the days when most of our time is spent in our garden. We eschew meetings in retirement, but particularly during this time of the year.

For my birthday this week, Jim granted my wish and bought me this sweet Buddda for the garden, along with a marvelous trip to Adams County on a blue-sky-puffy-cloud-meadowlark-day. We devoured twist cones at the Hettinger cafe and went down many memory lanes.

“Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.” — David Hume

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — El Paso Redux

I never imagined when my family left El Paso, Texas, in 1970, that it would take me almost 50 years to return for a visit, but it did.

I was an Army brat, and my father’s last posting was Fort Bliss, in El Paso, a gritty city in extreme west Texas. Since then, I’ve been very near to El Paso but never quite made it there.

This time, I’m back in the Trans-Pecos region as the guest of a friend, Val, who has recently purchased a home here. It was her suggestion that I fly into El Paso and visit my old haunts, and so I did. Great idea. I’m eternally grateful to her. We enjoy birding and hiking together when we get the chance.

She and I visited my elementary school — Terrace Hills Elementary (now Middle) School — which is just a few blocks from both of the houses in which we lived. What a headrush.

My friend loves this kind of stuff,so I couldn’t find a better partner for this lark of a mission. Here at Terrace Hills Elementary, my fifth-grade science teacher, whose brother worked at the Houston Space Center, had us all avidly following the Apollo space program news. Here I took Spanish and with my friends played with my Trolls.

Here I learned how to carefully open a newly published book so that it would not be damaged.

I’m certain these vintage tables were used by my friends and me.

I’m in the blue dress sewed by my mother, front and center, sporting pretty much the same hairstyle I wear to this day, although in those days it was called a “pixie.” I adored this teacher, Miss Buck, who was from Amarillo, Texas. Each day, she read to her third-grade class a chapter of “Charlotte’s Web.” We took field trips to the planetarium, which I greatly enjoyed. Midway through the year, she married and honeymooned in Acapulco, which we thought sounded so romantic.

1968 is big in the news these days, given that it was a pivotal year in the nation’s history and it is the 50th anniversary. This convergence made it extra fun to be in the place where I spent that year, roaming around with my siblings and pals in the nearby Chihuahuan Desert, playing “Red Rover” in our front yard.

We went to the first house in which my family settled, on Mercedes. Memories of trick or treating in the neighborhood flooded back to me. It was in this house that I watched the Apollo news on our small black-and-white TV as well as the horrifying bulletins from Vietnam. We would often visit El Paso’s twin city, Juarez, Mexico, back in the day when it was easy to cross the border. My father would pay a local boy a nickel to watch our Ford station wagon while we strolled the streets and visited the glass factory. Once, President Johnson flew into El Paso, and my older brother and his Boy Scout troop got to go to see him.

My older sister was so chic. Wonder where my older brother was? Maybe off with the Boy Scouts.

As part of this lark, Val and I found the 7-Eleven a few blocks away, to which we kids would walk back and forth to buy icies. Often we would snag on goat head stickers that poked through our thin flip-flops. Once some naughty kid in my class put one on the teacher’s chair. I’m bringing home a goat head for my mother, which will tickle her greatly to show off to her neighbors.

Harcourt Drive was the house in which we lived the longest while in El Paso. When our landlord told us that he had sold the Mercedes house, my parents went off in the evenings to look for another. When they came home with the news that Harcourt it would be, I was jubilant, as my best friend, Debbie, lived just a few doors down. On this visit, I knocked on her door and inquired, but her parents had moved away, just a couple of years ago.

Here I was in ballet, and we Crook kids were all in Scouts. My father also managed the Fort Bliss movie theater, a terrific gig from our perspective, as we got to go to lots of ’em, loaded up on popcorn and soda.

This snow on Thanksgiving in 1968 or 1969 was big news.

Whenever we were out of school and not camping in the New Mexico mountains, we roamed freely in the desert. I routinely kept a horned toad in a cigar box in my bedroom. Roadrunners periodically scooted across our lawn.

Here we watched the first moon landing and read Life magazine and spent long summer days at the swimming pool. Here I listened to “Hey Jude” and “Crimson and Clover,” over and over. Here we watched “Gunsmoke,” “Mission Impossible,” “Laugh-In,” “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and “Gilligan’s Island.”

The Harcourt house had changed so much that I struggled to find it (that’s another story in itself). Lots of superstructure has been added to the front of the house. When we lived there, we had two beagles, Lady and Duchess. Val has a beagle, so we re-created the scene. I could hear an ice cream truck in the Mercedes neighborhood and, boy, did that music take me back.

On my last day in Texas, I toured a lovely Catholic church and we did some more birding along the Rio Grande.

A portion of the border wall, Juarez in the distance.

At Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, we saw this burrowing owl. He eventually flew from this perch and bobbed up and down in his “Howdy Owl” mode.

Our final stop was Chamizal National Memorial, an National Park Service site that commemorates the friendship of Mexico and the U.S. and a peaceful border resolution. President Johnson was here in 1967 to seal this deal. I concluded that this would have been the day when my older brother got to see Johnson.

El Paso was my father’s last posting, and when he retired, we went home to Slope County, North Dakota, to my grandparents’ farm and ranch, and other than a brief time in Nashville, Tenn., for graduate school, North Dakota is where I’ve lived.

Wednesday, from my airplane window, I looked down on Juarez and my last view of the Franklin Mountains, and I read several issues of my New Yorker magazines. This story about canoeing the Rio Grande had special resonance for me.

As the final leg of my journey ended, it was so good to look down at the Missouri River and the green hills of Burleigh County, my heart filled with new and happy memories of West Texas adventures. My husband and daughter wrapped me in their arms and took me home, where the work of the garden awaits.

“Our plans never turn out as tasty as reality.” — Ram Dass

New lifer past two days:

Mexican duck (subspecies of Mallard)

Total new lifers in Texas: 14 (No Colimas or Montezuma quails, but great birding nonetheless)

Total birds on this adventure: 112. This might be a record for me!

  • Mexican duck (mallard).
  • Blue-winged teal.
  • Scaled quail.
  • Gambel’s quail.
  • Black vulture.
  • Turkey vulture.
  • Osprey.
  • Northern harrier.
  • Common black-hawk.
  • Gray hawk.
  • Swainson’s hawk.
  • Red-tailed hawk.
  • Virginia rail.
  • Sora.
  • American coot.
  • Killdeer.
  • Spotted sandpiper.
  • Solitary sandpiper.
  • Lesser yellowlegs.
  • Wilson’s snipe.
  • Rock pigeon.
  • Eurasian collared-dove.
  • White-winged dove.
  • Common ground-dove.
  • Greater roadrunner (Paisano).
  • Great horned owl.
  • Elf owl.
  • Burrowing owl.
  • Common nighthawk.
  • Common poorwill.
  • White-throated swift.
  • Black-chinned hummingbird.
  • Broad-billed hummingbird.
  • Acorn woodpecker.
  • Golden-fronted woodpecker.
  • Ladder-backed woodpecker.
  • American kestrel.
  • Least flycatcher.
  • Say’s Phoebe.
  • Vermilion flycatcher.
  • Ash-throated flycatcher.
  • Brown-crested flycatcher.
  • Cassin’s kingbird.
  • Western kingbird.
  • Eastern kingbird.
    Loggerhead shrike.
  • Bell’s vireo.
  • Plumbeous vireo.
  • Western scrub-jay.
  • Mexican jay.
  • Chihuahuan raven.
  • Common raven.
  • Violet-green swallow.
  • Northern rough-winged swallow.
  • Bank swallow.
  • Barn swallow.
  • Black-crested titmouse.
  • Verdin.
  • Bushtit.
  • Canyon wren.
  • House wren.
  • Marsh wren.
  • Bewick’s wren.
  • Cactus wren.
  • Blue-gray gnatcatcher.
  • Black-tailed gnatcatcher.
  • American robin.
  • Curve-billed thrasher.
  • Crissal thrasher.
  • Northern mockingbird.
  • European starling.
  • American pipit.
  • Lucy’s warbler.
  • Common yellowthroat.
  • Northern parula.
  • Yellow warbler.
  • Yellow-rumped warbler (both Magnolia and Myrtle).
  • Townsend’s warbler.
  • Yellow-breasted chat.
  • Green-tailed towhee.
  • Spotted towhee.
  • Rufous-crowned sparrow.
  • Canyon towhee.
  • Chipping sparrow.
  • Clay-colored sparrow.
  • Lark sparrow.
  • Sagebrush sparrow.
  • Lark bunting.
  • White-crowned sparrow.
  • Dark-eyed junco (gray-headed).
  • Summer tanager.
  • Northern cardinal.
  • Pyrrhuloxia.
  • Black-headed grosbeak.
  • Blue grosbeak (lots!).
  • Lazuli bunting.
  • Varie bunting.
  • Red-winged blackbird.
  • Eastern meadowlark.
  • Yellow-headed blackbirds.
  • Brewer’s blackbird.
  • Great-tailed grackle.
  • Bronzed cowbird.
  • Brown-headed cowbird.
  • Bullock’s oriole.
  • Scott’s oriole.
  • House finch.
  • Pine siskin.
  • Lesser goldfinch.
  • House sparrow.
  • Red-breasted nuthatch.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — The History of Highland Acres, Part 5

MOVING IN

Here are the first 21 residents of Highland Acres, gleaned from the files of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Notice they are all just men’s names, the “heads of households.” We assume they all had wives as well. And probably children. I don’t have the dates of the purchase of each of these homes, but I’m pretty sure most of them were in late 1948 or 1949. See if you recognize any of these, or are related to them.

  • Horace Muller.
  • Earle A. Larson.
  • John R. Sarumgard.
  • Waldemar C. Johnson.
  • Glenn E. Brekke.
  • John P. Reinert.
  • James E. Long.
  • Elmer Herbramson.
  • Roy Schimer.
  • Homer B. Golden.
  • Roy G. Melby.
  • Harold J. Yeasley.
  • Ernst J. Pohlig.
  • John C. Neibauer.
  • Charles H. Wing.
  • Robert M. Howie.
  • Walter P. Buck.
  • Walter C. Engel.
  • Henry T. Brown.
  • George Haugarth.
  • Kenneth J. Kucera. 

FINANCIAL PROBLEMS

But by late 1949, 21 residents was far below projected progress, and the co-op found itself in financial trouble. The nationwide postwar housing boom had caused prices for building materials to “skyrocket,” according to a letter to the Cooperative League of the USA from Association secretary Virgil Luyben, and as a result, “About a third of the families could not make the additional cash payments required and had to lose a considerable amount on forced sales.”

So the association’s cash was gone, and bills were mounting. That created a problem for the association, which was paying to build the homes but found themselves still owning a number of them. The cost of the materials and labor for the homes had begun driving up the prices from what was expected to be at most $11,000 to $12,000 to $14,000 to $15,000, and not all prospective owners could afford these, or get financing.

Problems also arose with the FHA guarantees, after the first 21 homes had been completed, so the association’s officers turned to their representatives in Washington, D.C., for help. Sens. William Langer and Milton Young and Reps. Usher Burdick and William Lemke sought legislative help from their colleagues, to no avail. Without the loan guarantees, the development stalled.

The association kept working with the congressional delegation throughout 1949 and 1950, but the delegation’s frustration was as great as those back home. In a letter to Virgil Luyben, the association’s treasurer, Congressman Lemke (an isolationist who had opposed the United States’ entry into World War II) wrote that he had introduced an amendment to provide funding to the FHA for North Dakota’s veterans but didn’t sound optimistic:

“Whether that amendment will be accepted when the bill comes up, I do not know. You may rest assured that I shall do all I can to assist the veterans who are interested in this matter and who, I feel, did not get a fair deal.

“I am fully aware that when the war drums began to beat for World War II, nothing was too good for the boys who we sent again to fight and win the war that other nations started.

“But since they have returned, our government has been more interested in furnishing homes and squandering money over in Europe and forgetting the real protectors of our nation and the winners of wars that other nations started.”

Lemke’s efforts were unsuccessful. The Farmers Union-owned Central Credit Union was left with no choice but to foreclose on the association. At a meeting on March 30, 1951, the association’s board and the Credit Union reached an agreement that “the property known as Highland Acres should be transferred immediately from the association to the credit union by quit claim deed.”

Richard Joyce, secretary-treasurer of the credit union, wrote in a letter to the association dated April 11, 1951, that the credit union had devised a marketing plan for the remaining homes and lots in the subdivision and would begin offering them for sale, in an attempt to recoup its investment.

In a truly magnanimous gesture, “If and when the indebtedness to Central Credit Union is completely retired, all remaining lots will immediately be deeded back to the association and Central Credit Union will immediately retire from any further interest or activity in the association’s affairs,” Joyce wrote. And in another important show of good will, much to the association’s relief, he wrote “Central Credit Union will not in any way tamper with existing covenants during the promotional campaign.”

It was a bittersweet moment for the association’s board of directors. The agreement meant that the Bismarck Veterans Homeowners Cooperative Association, which had been conceived, born and existed as a mostly all-volunteer effort for five years, by veterans wanting to take care of other veterans, no longer had any stake in its plan. But it would not be disbanded and would continue to exist on paper, with the hope that the credit union could recover its investment and put the cooperative association back in business at some future date.

Within just a few weeks, the credit union began its marketing efforts with a huge, two-thirds page ad in The Tribune:

*  *  *  *

FOR SALE

Lots — Lots of Lots

“Highland Acres addition to Bismarck is recognized as probably the finest potential residential area of any city in North Dakota, if not in the entire Northwest. This property is in the northwest section of the city, southwest of the capitol, just north of Avenue C and just west of the old country club.

“The project was originally conceived and sponsored by the late Ken Simons and other public spirited citizens of Bismarck shortly after World War II to expand and improve living conditions in this city.

“The 127 ½ acre area was purchased and platted. Streets were laid out. Special covenants were approved to keep this strictly a residential area of one family dwellings. Shopping and community centers are reserved, as is an area for school and playgrounds and parks. There are no alleys. Eleven “tot park” (playground) areas are set aside. Sixty-four of the 312 lots are sold. 27 homes have been built and are occupied. 72 lots are on city water and of this number, 28 lots are not sold. Water can easily be extended as other lots are sold and improved.

“North Dakota Central Credit Union made advances to the Association for purchase of the land, for surveying and platting, for filling and driveways, for water installation, for appraisals and for initial promotion and operation. The credit union was to be repaid as lots were sold.

“High building costs, lack of support, inexperience and some opposition prevented the Association from achieving its worthy goal. It finally became necessary for the Credit Union to acquire the property. This was done voluntarily by the Association.

“This Credit Union is not in the real estate business by choice. Therefore the Credit Union is disposing of the property by offering lots for sale at attractive prices without disruption of any of the original plans of the Association. Any lots remaining after the Credit Union has recovered its investment will be returned to the Association.

“This is our plan for selling this choice property. First, all members of the Association living in Bismarck have been given first chance of purchasing their choice of unsold lots during the period of May 1 to date. Second, this ad for residents of Bismarck and surrounding trade area offers people who live in this section of the state second choice of the remaining lots. This same information is being sent by letter to a select rural mailing list in Emmons, Burleigh, southern McLean, Mercer, Oliver, Morton, Grant, and Sioux counties. These are people who, when and if they retire, are likely to choose Bismarck as their new home. This offer is being made from now to July 15.

“Third, sale of any remaining lots needed to retire remaining indebtedness to Central Credit Union after July 15 has been guaranteed by individual members of local credit unions throughout North Dakota which have funds invested in Central.

“Appraised prices of these lots range from $285 to $920. Whatever your choice of a lot or lots, they may be had for 75 per cent of the original appraised price—if purchased by July 15. These are big lots and good lots. Our representative in Bismarck is Mrs. Mary E. Owens, Great Plains Real Estate and Housing Company, 319 Seventh Street, Bismarck. She has maps, plats, prices, and all other necessary information. See her at once for your choice of property. All taxes are paid. Good title will be furnished.

“BISMARCK IS ONE OF THE FASTEST GROWING CITIES IN NORTH DAKOTA. IT IS THE STATE CAPITAL. IT IS NEAR GARRISON DAM AND ITS POTENTIAL DEVELOPMENTS. IT MAY BE THE CENTER OF OIL AND OTHER INDUSTRIES IN WESTERN NORTH DAKOTA. BISMARCK’S PLACE IN THIS PROGRESSIVE GROWTH, LIKE OTHER CITIES IN THIS AREA, IS CONTINGENT UPON ADEQUATE AND DESIRABLE HOUSING. THERE IS NO MORE PROMISING NOR ATTRACTIVE POSSIBILITY THAN HIGHLAND ACRES.”

*  *  *  *

Association members hoped against hope that the credit union, with its advertising, would succeed in selling enough lots to recover its investment and return the remainder of the addition back to the cooperative. But with a debt of more than $60,000, it was going to take the sale of a huge number of the remaining 250 lots.

As the credit union said in its ad, it was not in the real estate business by choice. And it was not the credit union’s forte. The idea that the credit union could sell enough lots to retire the debt and return the unsold lots to the Association was not to be.

Its marketing effort brought a trickle of interest, but within a year, the credit union decided it needed to recover its money and get out. The solution was to sell the whole development. And for lucky developers, the price was right because the credit union was not involved to make a profit — it just wanted to recover its investment.

Next: Final installment. Oil to the rescue. Highland Acres today.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — The Stars At Night Are Big And Bright

Monday’s West Texas expedition was to the Davis Mountains area in search of Montezuma quails. The Davis Mountains are what is known as a “Sky Island,” rising high above the Chihuahuan Desert and are one of the most beautiful places in Texas.

In addition to birding, our destination was the famous McDonald Observatory. On my last visit to Texas, we visited Fort Davis National Historic Site but had to force ourselves to drive on by the observatory due to time constraints. We were acquainted with it because of the StarDate daily program on public radio and thrilled just to have seen it.

Val and I ate lunch and then took in a program on the sun, which included views of the solar orb in real time. After the program, we loaded into a tour van and up we went, on what we learned was the highest highway in Texas, to tour two of the huge research telescopes. Our tour guide was funny and knowledgeable.

A couple of websites the tour guide recommended are Solar Dynamics Observatory and Space Weather.

One of the most interesting things I learned is that the moon is moving away from the earth 3 centimeters a year, something that was discovered at this observatory. That and Jupiter causes the sun to wobble ever so slightly.

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered, the point is to discover them.” — Galileo Galilei

Our birding destinations of the day included the Davis Mountains State Park. Here they offer two specially designed buildings from which one can observe feeders and water features, loaded with birds. Both the state park and the observatory offer great scenic views of the area.

It was a great birding day. We “bagged” 47 different species of birds. The highlights were lots of blue grosbeaks, a broad-billed hummingbird and a new lifer for me — a western scrub-jay. But no Montezuma quails. Oh, well.

We capped off an eventful day looking at the full moon flirting with Juniper. And almost stumbled over a nasty looking giant desert centipede. Always walk in the desert night with a flashlight.